A tattoo is made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. Tattooing, primarily the face, is a custom used frequently in some of the cities in Essos where slavery is practised, like Volantis and the cities under its rule.
It is custom in Volantis to have the faces of slaves tattooed, to mark their status. It also prevents slaves escaping on the constant flow of ships. Such tattoos are often designed to reveal the slaves role. This custom is similarly practised in the cities under the control of Volantis, like Selhorys.
Facial tattoos can sometimes protect slaves. For example, if chattles of the Lord of Light are on board a ship captured by slavers, such as in the Selaesori Qhoran's case, the fiery fingers could count on being bought back by some red temple as the flames tattooed upon their faces were their binders.
Some tattooed characters
- Benerro - slave tattoos of flames cover his cheeks, chin and shaven head, as the priests of R'hllor have.
- Moqorro - slave tattoos of flames covering his cheeks and forehead.
- Patchface – slave tattoos of motley covering his face.
- Webber - spider tattoos covering his head, chest and arms.
- Sunset girl - slave tattoos of tears beneath one eye.
- Jorah Mormont - slave tattoo of a demon's mask on one of his cheeks. 
- Cragorn – his broad chest tattooed with a bird of prey.
- Steelskin - his cheeks, brow, chest and arms are covered with intricate tattoos in green and black, ancient Valyrian sorcerer's signs.
- Tiger Cloaks - have green tiger stripes tattooed across their cheeks.
- Shadow Men - known for covering their bodies in tattoos.
- The Selaesori Qhoran's - fifty slaves bound to the ship, each with a crude version of the cog's figurehead tattooed upon one cheek.
Ex-slaves sometimes remove their tattoos. Scar tissue covers the cheeks of the widow of the waterfront, from where she had the slave tattoos cut off upon being freed. Ser Marq Mandrake has a hole in one cheek where a slaver's mark had been burned away.
Known slave tattoos of Volantis
The following slave tattoos are known to be used in Volantis and her associated cities:
- Squares of motley, from neck to scalp: fools and jesters.
- A wheel tattooed upon one cheek: driver of an hathay.
- A mask of blue feathers.
- A lightning bolt that ran from jaw to brow.
- A coin upon the cheek.
- A leopard's spots.
- A skull.
- A jug.
- Flies on the cheeks: slaves collecting elephant and horse dung.
- Flames across the cheeks: members of the Fiery Hand.
- Flames across the cheeks, chin and forehead: priests of the faith of R'hllor.
- A horsehead on the cheek: workers in stables.
- Tiger stripes, green as jade, across the cheeks: slave soldiers.
- A single tear beneath the right eye: prostitutes.
- A cog's figurehead upon one cheek: slaves bound to a ship.
Slave tattoos, the captain knew. Marks of evil.—Victarion Greyjoy's thoughts
References and Notes
- Wikipedia: Tattoo
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 6, The Merchant's Man.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 22, Tyrion VI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 27, Tyrion VII.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Volantis.
- A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
- A Game of Thrones: d20-based Open Gaming RPG.
- A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 47, Tyrion X.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 33, Tyrion VIII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 56, The Iron Suitor.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 63, Victarion I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 25, The Windblown.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 57, Tyrion XI.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 19, The Drowned Man.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 67, The Kingbreaker.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 54, Daenerys VI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 24, The Lost Lord.