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The turian on the left is barefaced. We don't trust her, as she will not stand by her affiliations. The turian on the right is correctly honest and we know where she stands.

In the Turian Hierarchy, and in many smaller turian societies (not that the Hierarchy particularly likes the idea of those, but they exist in the Terminus), facial tattoos are used as a means of advertising personal origin. A turian's native planet or outpost, to which they hold affiliation, is displayed openly on their face. While the tradition dates to the time preceding the Unification War, with members of warring colonies daubing themselves in nationalistic markers, the modern Hierarchy has assimilated the tradition.

In the colonies, some have diversified their markings to show affiliation to the region of their birth or to the camp where they underwent boot, while others have only one mark per planet. On Palaven, different regions often have distinct tattoo patterns. The general rule is that each planet tends to have a base pattern. From that, individual regions, cities, or even clans may put on their own variations. They usually take the form of an alternate colour, or a change in the fringe or mandibles portions of the design, though that's not a hard and fast rule. 

It’s somewhat ingrained in the turian collective psyche to preserve history wherever they can -- for example, every action of every legion is recorded, with no discrimination between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. As such, even turians who hate their colonial upbringing are likely to keep their markings, simply because it’s a part of their personal history. Removing the markings would be akin to deleting part of one’s history, which many would consider to be equivalent to lying about one’s past -- and turian society frowns on lying, encouraging an individual to "own" their actions.

Most turians distrust those who go "barefaced"; no tattoos means (in most turian eyes) a lack of trustworthiness and/or reliability.

Examples

  • Aephus: Pale blue.
  • Citadel: One common Citadel pattern is a stroke on the forehead and brow, with a broad stroke on the mandibles and a chin stroke.
  • Gothis: Red, black and yellow.
  • Invictus: Common tattoo designs involve three diagonal stripes. These stripes are a common element of facial camouflage, meant to break up the natural outline of one’s features. It saves the wearer the trouble of having to apply paint whenever they go down to the infamous Invictan jungle to hunt, which the early settlers did frequently. The look caught on, and nowadays every district and municipality on Invictus has its own variation on the theme.
  • Palaven: A common Palaven marking is a white band running across the cheeks and over the bridge of the nose. In the Taccaeus region, the pattern is several small streaks on the mandibles.
  • Pulan: A horizontal line across the centre of the face which branches downwards along the mandibles, and upwards to wrap the eye in two lines, one tracing on the high cheek plates, the other on the brow ridge. It’s supposed to suggest the shape of the early colonizing ships. On the northernmost continent of Pulan, locals connect the upper brow line to a bunch of criss-crossing strokes along the fringe which represent the landscape.
  • Silona: As this world is a direct-line colony from Palaven, the running joke is that their simple tattoo design was just taking common Palaven design and dropping it lower onto the mandibles, as a way to show the planet’s lower status and the “working” nature of the colony.
  • Solregit: The original founders adopted a full-face solar-burst tattoo design. As time went by, they began placing solar-ray patterns on their fringes, starbursts on their forehead plate, etc. Later, separatist northerners dropped the top half of the rays entirely, so they'd stand out from the loyalist south. They typically have one horizontal red ray over the cheeks, and one from the eyes to the upper lip. This gives them their name of "Sundowners".
  • Thracia: An unusual concentric ring pattern, coloured yellow and black.
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