Q. What does Judaism say about tattooing?
A. In ancient societies, tattooing was an indication of slavery or of worship of an idolatrous god. Judaism opposed such practices. The Torah describes it as k’tovet ka’ka, “imprinting a mark” upon one’s person, and prohibits it together with other forms of self-mutilation (Lev. 19:28).
In the Mishnah Makkot 3:6, the halachah rejects the view of Rabbi Shimon who limits culpability to a person who actually imprints upon his flesh the name of an idol, preferring the view that any tattooing which consists of writing and is done with indelible ink is prohibited.
Whilst it may not be idolatry which motivates the desire to have a tattoo these days, Judaism would strongly advise against the practice.