Stigmata are bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus. The term originates from the line at the end of Saint Paul's Letter to the Galatians where he says, "I bear on my body the marks of Jesus." Stigmata are the plural of the Greek word stigma meaning a mark or brand such as might have been used for identification of an animal or slave.
Reported cases of stigmata take various forms. Many show some or all of the five Holy Wounds that were, according to the Bible, inflicted on Jesus during his crucifixion: wounds in the hands and feet, from nails, and in the side, from a lance. Some stigmatics display wounds to the forehead similar to those caused by the crown of thorns. Other reported forms include tears of blood or sweating blood, wounds to the back as from scourging, or wounds to the shoulder as from bearing the cross. In addition, lashes on the back can be witnessed.
Some stigmatics claim to feel the pain of wounds with no external marks; these are referred to as invisible stigmata. In other claims, stigmata are accompanied by extreme pain. Some stigmatics' wounds do not appear to clot, and stay fresh and uninfected. The blood from the wounds is said, in some cases, to have a pleasant, perfumed odor, known as the Odour of Sanctity.
Individuals who have obtained the stigmata are many times described as ecstatics. At the time of receiving the stigmata, they are overwhelmed with emotions. In more recent times an individual's stigmata is reported to heal within a few hours of its reception. Blood, which is believed to be a combination of Christ's blood and the stigmatic's, pours from the individual's wounds for unspecified amounts of time and suddenly dries up, and the wound is healed. Some individuals with stigmata in the past sought medical attention, but neither remedies nor medical treatment of any other sort could cure their wounds. Some famous stigmata were found on St. Francis of Assisi and Francesco Forgione.
Stigmatic tattoos, whether showing Christ as he was crucified or simply mimicking the stigmata on the wearer's body, represent the wear's Christian faith and identify them as being a follower of Jesus Christ.