Bert Grimm´s sun dancer

sun dancer

Another classic in the Old School tattoo world is Bert Grimm´s sun dancer. In the original flash, as the native American girl raises her left knee, her right hand holds a spear while. Her left hand holds instead a shield with an eagle emblazoned on it. In the background you can spot a red sun and traditional roses.

The ritual

As the title itself suggests, in the painting Grimm depicts a sun dancer. Male Indians from southern Canada to North America usually performed this ritual dance. It consisted of piercing their chests with a wooden stake, attached to which was a rope. On the other side the rope was attached to a pole that was danced for 4 days from sunrise to sunset without shade, food or water. Finally they let themselves hang with all their weight against the rope, until the pegs ripped out of their skin. In many tribes horses pull out the pegs, or the dancer pulls a buffalo skull behind him until the skin tears or he is hung from a tree for a certain time.


The purpose of the piercings was to give men an idea of the suffering that women experience during their fertility phase. A sun dancer learns to understand a woman’s pain when giving birth to a child, to sort out the mystery of blood and pain without having to go to war. However, piercings were not a custom common to all tribes.

The goal of this trance dance is to achieve a “death-like” state through torture. During this other state of consciousness, dancers can have visions that give them answers to important life questions or that raise new ones.

Bert Grimm

Alongside Christian Warlich and Gus Wagner, Bert Grimm was one of the most influential tattoo pioneers. At the age of 11 he already tattooed in shops in Portland and at the age of 12 he bought his first tattoo machine. His life was a constant adventure. He was an important part of the Buffalo Bill’s show. During the 50s and 60s he tattooed in The Pike, an amusement zone in Long Beach, California. In addition to Bert Grimm´s sun dancer, his sun, tiger and crying heart are still extremely popular as well. Before he died in 1985, he worked in Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Honolulu and China.

Feel free to pass by the shop if you want to learn more about classics by Bert Grimm and other tattoo pioneers.

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Your Good Old Times Tattoo Team