August 7, 2011

Question of the Week

How does tattooing and/or body modification allow you to Be The Ritual?

History of the Tongue Piercing

By Seven Wolfe

Piercing the tongue has been around for many moons. It has been traced back to the Mayans of Central America and Ancient Aztecs. Mayan people pierced their tongues regularly by bloodletting for ceremonies and rituals. To increase the blood flow, they would draw a string back and forth through the hole (McNab). It is has also been discovered that Mayan women would pull a thorn covered rope through a hole in their tongues in a ritualistic fashion. This was done as a blood sacrifice as an offering and to honor their Deities.

Tongue piercing has also been practiced by the Haida, Kwakiutul, and Tlinglit tribes of the American Northwest. The shamans would pierce their tongues to create altered states of consciousness in order to communicate with the powers that be and was considered a very holy practice.

In the Middle East Fakirs and Sufis also pierced their tongues as a sacrifice and to induce trance states.  Fakirs are Holy men in India that are believed to have supernatural powers. They can walk on burning coals, pierce their body parts, and other acts without harm to their bodies. It is in a trance state that makes this possible for them. It is in this trance state that Sufis are also able to pierce their tongues and other acts to the body without bleeding or harm done. Further East, Asian Spirit Mediums also pierced their tongues for the same purpose. In Australia Aboriginal holy men also pierce their tongues though the reason has not yet been recorded.

During the turn of the twentieth century western carnies learned to pierce their tongues from Fakirs. They brought this practice to a sideshow performance setting. It was the American and European folk’s  first sightings of such practices.

During the Ecstatic Penang Thaipusam Festival in Thailand one can see ritual tongue piercing on the streets as well as many other piercings. This festival is a major Hindu festival and it is a day of consecration to the Hindu deity, Lord Murugan. During the festival those that are pierced enter a trance state. In this state next to no blood is spilled and no pain is felt.

In the modern historical sense, the piercing was “first” done on Tattoo Sammy, a German artist, using a 10ga Dermal Punch in 1978 (documented in PFIQ if memory serves). In addition, the Ripley’s Archive contains photos of sideshow performers not long into the 20th century wearing barbells in what appear to be healed tongue piercings (Tongue Piercing).

Paul King believes Elayne Angel to popularize the tongue piercing in modern day culture. She is recognized as being the first person with a tongue tip and multiple tongue piercings.

Tongue piercing today has quite the following with celebrities such as Janet Jackson, Keith Flint, Mel B and Malcolm Jamahl Warner from the Cosby show.

In today’s culture the popular tongue piercing is very provocative and is mostly practiced to enhance* oral sex and other sexual acts as well as making a fashion statement.

*Note: It may only enhance. It cannot improve someone’s sexual skill. The piercing cannot do for you what you cannot do for yourself.


McNab, N. Body Bizarre Body Beautiful. new york: simon & schister.

Tongue Piercing. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2008, from BMEZINE.COM Encyclopedia:

History of the Nostril Piercing

By Seven Wolfe

The nostril piercing has a long and surprising history. It dates back 4,ooo to 5,000 years ago when it was first recorded in the Middle East. In fact it was brought up in the Bible which is said to be written around the same time. It (piercing the nostril) is mentioned in The Bible in Genesis 24:22 Abraham requested his oldest servant to find a wife for his son Isaac, the servant found Rebekah, and one of the gifts he gave her was a “golden earring” the original Hebrew word used was Shanf, which also translates as “nose-ring” (Morrison).

It was brought to India in the 16th century by the Moghul emperors. The Moghul Emporers most likely spread piercing the nostril from the Middle East deeper into Asia in the 16th century as well. Ever since, piercing the nostrils has become popular with Indian girls and women. In some instances the ring in the nostril is linked, by chain, to a jewel in the ear or jewels in the hair. It is also said that women in India pierce the acupuncture point on the nostril to induce submissiveness.

In Northern India the outside of the left and in Southern India the outside of the right nostril is the preferred position of the piercing as this is supposed to make childbirth easier. This is because Ayurvedic medicine associates this location with the female reproductive organs (Nose Piercing). Sometimes the women of India today pierce both nostrils (DeMello, 2007). though, the left side is most likely to be seen. Having the nostril pierced is also said to make the pain associated with moon time (menstruation) easier to cope with.  It is also associated with beauty and social standing. Piercing the nostril honors Parvati, the Hindu Mother Goddess and the embodiment of the total energy in the universe.

Nostril piercing is still followed today by the nomadic Berber and Beja tribes of Africa and also by the Bedouin in the Middle East.  The size of the ring is indicative of the wealth and stature of the family. The husband gives the ring to his wife at the time of marriage; this is her security if divorce follows.

Large -gauge nostril piercings are seen in the women of the Apa Tani tribe in the Apatani plateau Jiro in India. The Apa Tani are of Tibetan origin. The dress of the Apatanis is elaborate and colorful, yet simple in style. Tattooing and the stuffing of large nose plugs were once popular among the women, although this practice has gradually fallen into decline in recent years. Originally, this practice started because the women wanted to look unattractive to males from neighboring tribes. Apa tani women were considered to be the most beautiful among all the Arunachal tribes (Encyclopedia > Apa Tani).

By the late 19th century, the Victorian era had made its indelible mark upon society and women’s fashion. Ethel Granger, who was born in 1892, epitomized this look. Except for the native American population of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, women were not pierced (Perlingieri, 2003). Ethel had double nostril piercings as well as many other piercings!

The nostril piercing was brought to the States, in large part, in the 1960’s by hippies coming back from India in search of spiritual enlightenment. From the hippies that came back to the States the punk rock scene picked it up in the late 1970’s as a form of rebellion against dominant culture and conservative values.

It is said that the nostril piercing “made a come back” in the 90’s though it never fell out of the goth/punk subculture. Nostril piercing became more mainstream due to celebrities having the piercing. Janet Jackson and Dennis Rodman popularized the nostril piercing which made more people in the US fond of the piercing. Music videos in the 80’s and 90’s were very popular and with celebrities having the piercing it exploded into our mainstream culture.

Today nostril piercings are worn by all genders, all sexes and is not largely defined by class. Nostril piercing is popular in the U.S., UK, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia and Europe with piercings being performed on either the left or right nostril (Nose Piercing). Next to the earlobe piercing, it is the most popular form of piercing today (DeMello, 2007). Nostril piercings are often seen on both sides of the nose and sometimes more than one piercing per nostril. Large nostril piercings have been picked up by the body modification subculture as well.

The nostril piercing, by today’s standards, is very much a classic. Its popularity is obvious in our culture among celebrities, music singers, and the business executive.


DeMello, M. (2007). Encyclopedia of Body Adornment. Greenwood Press.

Encyclopedia > Apa Tani. (n.d.). Retrieved october 25, 2008, from Nationmaster:

Kuchinsky, C. (n.d.). A history of Piercing. Retrieved october 25, 2008, from the Beauty Biz:

Morrison, C. (n.d.). Body Piercing History. Retrieved october 25, 2008, from Painful Pleasures:

Nose Piercing. (n.d.). Retrieved october 25, 2008, from wikipedia:

Perlingieri, B. A. (2003). A Brief History of the Evolution of Body Adornment in Western Culture: Ancient Origins and Today. Eugene, OR, USA: Tribalife Publications

History of Nipple Piercing

By Seven Wolfe

Nipple piercing has a rich history in antiquity. It has been practiced throughout the world for centuries. Nipple piercing has been practiced by the Karankawa Native Americans in the 1800’s, the Kabyle from Algeria, British and American sailors, as well as upper class women of the 14th Century. Its popularity was renewed in the 1960’s when sexuality and self-expression started blossoming. Its recent popularity has even been trickling into mainstream society.

Lets begin with the Karankawa. Nipple piercing has been recorded as being practiced by the now extinct Karankawa Native American males. The Karankawa were located at the Gulf Coast of Texas from Galveston Bay in the present-day Greater Houston area, then southwestward to Corpus Christi Bay. Genocide made this tribal people extinct before 1860! In non-western culture female nipple piercing is still practiced today by the Kabyle, originally from northeastern Algeria.

Male nipple piercings are not as popular in history as the female nipple piercing is. Though it has been understood that American and British sailors, while sailing the high seas, would pierce their nipples after crossing a certain longitude or latitude. Perhaps this gave the sailors something to look forward to during the  long days and nights on the sea; maybe it even increased moral.

Female nipple piercings, in western culture may have been dated as far back as the 14th century. Women of wealth would wear low cut dresses to show off their adorned nipples.  It is believed that Queen Isabeau of Bavaria was the first to pierce her viewed nipple for the purpose of decoration. This would lead one to consider that pierced nipples were seen as a work of art and the dress was a mere frame for this art.

“In the late 1890s the ‘bosom ring’ came into fashion briefly and sold in expensive Parisian jewelry shops. These ‘anneaux de sein’ were inserted through the nipple, and some women wore one on either side linked with a delicate chain. The rings enlarged the breasts and kept them in a state of constant excitation . . . The medical community was outraged by these cosmetic procedures, for they represented a rejection of traditional conceptions of the purpose of a woman’s body.” (Greenblatt) This was called “Victorian extremism” by Bernhardt Harwood in his book The Golden Age of Erotica (Paperback Library, 1968, p. 264).  Even today the medical community has a reluctance to accept piercings as healthy expression.  A great many doctors and nurses have a tendency to reject piercings and shun them with a vengeance. A note on “the rings enlarging the breasts”, this was once believed to be the case because they brought attention to the breasts via the enlarged nipples and jewelry. therefore, appeared to make them larger.

The 1920’s found Ethel Granger, a very modified woman for her time. She was born in 1892 and she too had pierced nipples among other modifications. She was very outstanding for her era and has been an enduring figure throughout the ages. She is used as an example time and time again of a very modified woman. Even by today’s standards, Ethel is heavily modified.
Fakir Musafar (Roland Loomis) and Jim Ward also pierced their nipples in the 1950’s and 1960’s. These practices were the foundation of some of what one may see in the BDSM, fetish, and body modification cultures of today. In these subcultures nipple piercings are prevalent.  People may have a single nipple pierced or have both nipples pierced. In some cases, an extra third nipple can be pierced.

In the BDSM community a dominant may pierce their submissive’s nipples as a sign of ownership. The Dom may also choose to attach bells to these piercings to act as a form of humility for the sub involved. It was also to hear every move and the location of the sub at all times. The submissive may also be lead by a chain/tether attached to these piercings. Some folks in the BDSM subculture pierce the left nipple as an outward sign of dominance and the sub’s right nipple would be pierced as an indication of being a submissive.

Womyn/women have used nipple piercings as a way to reclaim their bodies from sexual assault, emotional suffering, a sick society, family disturbances, etc.  Chances that a woman will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being raped are between 50% and 95%. (Population Information Program, 1999) (statistics) In this society women are still, in many ways, second-class citizens and are treated as such. Most women have been the target of sexual misconduct in some way, shape, or form. There is much internalized sexism and external sexism prevalent today. For a woman/womyn having pierced nipples can mean taking back their bodies, being empowered by their bodies, and taking sexual stimulation and making it their own again. It is self- expression. Having pierced nipples can set a new mode for the subconscious mind and can mean healing and acceptance of the mind and of the body. For some women having their nipples pierced is contradicting what our society sees as being a “beautiful female body.”  It is a direct subversion to the dominant paradigm in operation today.

Once again celebrities can hold the responsibility of popularizing this piercing as well. Tommy Lee and Lenny Kravitz confessed to having nipple piercings. Dennis Rodman is photographed having nipple piercings. One may even see them under sheer fabric on models sauntering down runways giving the piercings more appeal for the general public.

Piercing the nipples has been around for a very long time and will continue to be. Whether it is for the purpose of adornment, heightened sexual stimulation, power play, reclamation, or pissing off “the norm” piercing the nipples is powerful magick.


Greenblatt, A. (n.d.). 8.1a History of the Nipple Piercing. Retrieved 02 03, 2009, from

Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved 02 04, 2009, from PCAR: