lichtenberg figures/lightning tattoos

as an impressionable, romantic teenager i came across a haunting, poetic novel, fugitive pieces, and a passage struck me:

Sometimes, when lightning passes through objects and then through human tissue, it imprints the objects onto a hand, an arm, a belly – leaving a permanent shadow, a skin photograph. Whole landscapes have appeared on the sides of animals. Across the courtyard, I imagined Petra had the divine tattoo: in the middle of her back, a Lichtenberg flower. I imagined she’d been imprinted as a child, that the rubber tiles of her bicycle had saved her.  In the small of her brown silky back, past an invisible down of hair, the faint breath of electricity remained.  A flower so faint you feel it could be washed away or, like a frost flower, vanish with your gasp. “From your lips to the ear of God.” But your adoration will not have the slightest effect.  The flower is ghostly and permanent’ maddening stigmata.

at the time i first encountered these words, i searched the internet for photo proof of such things, cows with landscapes tattooed by lightning, but i didn’t find anything and indeed forgot about it until seeing these photos last week.

to be clear, a lichtenberg figure is not just a fractal pattern left by high voltage on skin; the fractal can be seen in acrylic blocks, plates coated with reactive dust, on grass that’s had a lightning strike.


One thought on “lichtenberg figures/lightning tattoos

  1. ah, i remember this from fugitive pieces too!! these are so magical. terrible, but amazing. i’ve never seen a picture until now, either! they look so much like the intrusions in crystals, like moss agate, or dendritic opal…

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