Example of Vallaslin tattoos

When the children of our people came of age, they earn the privilege of wearing the vallaslin, the blood writing. It sets us apart from the shemlen, and from the elves who have thrown their lot in with them. It reminds us that we will never again surrender our traditions and beliefs.

Vallaslin, sometimes referred to as blood writing, is what the Dalish call the intricate facial tattoos worn by all adult clan members. The ink used to do so is considered sacred. Many young Dalish receive their vallaslin when they are around 18 years of age[1] or younger.[2] When a Dalish elf comes of age, they prepare to gain the vallaslin by meditating on the gods and the ways of the Dalish, and by purifying the body and the skin. When the time comes, the Keeper of the clan applies the blood writing. This is done in complete silence. Cries of pain are taken as signs of weakness. If a young elf cannot tolerate the pain of the blood writing, they are deemed unready to undertake the responsibilities of an adult. The keeper may stop the ritual if they decide that the one gaining the vallaslin is not ready. Blood writing is at least in part a religious practice, and there are different designs representing deities in the Elven Pantheon. There is no design for Fen'Harel.

Worshippers of the Forgotten Ones were seen wearing brilliant crimson vallaslin.[3]

This section contains spoilers for:
Dragon Age: Inquisition.

The use of vallaslin during the time of Elvhenan is a much more controversial concept than believed by the Dalish. In the days of Arlathan, the tattoos were not signs of patronage to the various elven gods but, in fact, slave markings--signs of ownership--when noble elves enslaved the lower classes; they were representations of the gods that the nobles favored.[4] Abelas and the Sentinels of the Temple of Mythal have vallaslin dedicated to Mythal etched on their faces.

Through cultural reappropriation, vallaslin is now something entirely different for the Dalish, who utilize the markings as something positive for their people.

A text on the carved tablet found in the Temple of Mythal tells of "the eventual failing" of elven markings.[5]

This section contains spoilers for:

Lifting the Vallaslin

The Dread Wolf removes the vallaslin of the false gods from fleeing elven slaves

During the time of Elvhenan, the rebel god Fen'Harel, who was opposed to the practice of slavery, called fleeing elven slaves to him and lifted their vallaslin with magic, to break the bonds of the Evanuris who oppressed them.

Designs Edit

Blood writing vallaslin designs dao

All designs available to the Dalish Warden in Dragon Age: Origins.

Thus far, three groups of Dalish have been encountered: those of the Dalish Elf Origin, those of Zathrian's clan in Nature of the Beast, and the ones found in the Exalted Plains in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Various designs of blood writing can be seen on their faces. There appear to be eight main designs, each of which comes in a simpler and a more complex version. Though similar to the main eight there are two unique designs that are used by Velanna/Seranni in Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening and Merrill in Dragon Age II.

Design 1 Edit

Design 2 Edit

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Unique Designs Edit

Dragon Age: Inquisition Edit

The designs found in Dragon Age: Inquisition and their corresponding deities are pictured below.[6]

References Edit

  1. Dragon Age: The Masked Empire
  2. Valorin's Journal in Something to Prove
  3. Sylvan Raids
  4. Mentioned by both Solas and Corypheus in Dragon Age: Inquisition.
  5. Where Willows Wail from Dragon Age logo - new Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol. 2, p. 201
  6. Tumblr icon Matt Rhodes"Dalish Tattoos" . Tumblr.
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