woman with scarification body art along the right side of her neck and face

The Beautiful, Ancient Practice of Scarification

While I talk a lot about tattoos and piercings, I have failed to venture into some of the other incredible creative examples of body modification and body art that are out there.  The ancient art of scarification is currently making a major comeback, and the result is fascinating!

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For those that aren’t familiar with the term ‘scarification’, it refers to the act of purposely scaring the skin tissue in order to create lasting, permanent marks. While your thoughts may first go to the concept of self-harm, the two are incredibly different due to the motives behind your actions. Much like the process of getting a tattoo, scarification is done for the purpose of creating lasting body art.

Looking back throughout history, this is certainly nothing new. In fact, it’s a traditional practice that has been traced back through various Native American tribes, the Maori of New Zealand, and other ancient peoples. It was used to create fierce battle marks, memorialize important events and to appear more attractive to the opposite sex.

While the practice certainly did die off significantly over the years, today’s society is seeing a resurgence. The popularity of tattoos and piercings and the fact they are becoming increasingly mainstream has opened the door for other forms of body art, allowing people to express themselves in incredibly creative ways.

The process itself isn’t for the faint of heart. The skin is carefully cut, etched, branded or burned in order to create a deliberate scar, allowing one to create what can be described as an inkless tattoo. However, much of the fear is unfounded as many people actually report the practice is often less painful than that of getting a tattoo.

Practiced around the world by professionals in piercing and tattoo parlours, careful attention is paid to ensuring that environment and tools being used are sterile, and any cuts are kept to the same level of skin affected by a tattoo. If done correctly, the fatty tissues and muscles of the body will never be touched.

Scarification is far less common than tattoos and piercings for a number of reasons, a major one being that the practice is actually banned in some countries and many states in the United States. Citing the risk of blood-borne infections, hemorrhaging and ‘psychological trauma’, officials believe that the risks are too great, outweighing the opportunity for creative expression.

Furthermore, there is great stigma still associated with the practice. In fact, many professionals who do practice the art refuse to discuss the topic with members of the media due to the fact that so many people see it as ‘disgusting’ or ‘perverse’.

woman with scarification body art along the right side of her neck and face

I challenge everyone reading this, however, to take a step back and consider this for a moment. We, as a society, regulate and ban the act of scarification citing the risks and the fact that many, at the end of the day, simply can’t wrap their head around why someone would want to scar themselves on purpose. However, are the risks really greater than that of the tattoos and piercings that are seen all around us? Both of these, when done by a sketchy, subpar or questionable “professional” (I use quotation marks to highlight this because I use the term loosely, they are anything but) can also result in complications and infections.

At the end of the day, this is merely another form of body art. Those who seek scarification pieces are making a conscious decision to decorate their bodies in a way that they connect with. This is a consenting adult, not something that is being forced upon someone who doesn’t want it.

Ultimately, the choice to ban this practice may be doing more harm than good. Those who want a piece are likely going to seek someone out to get what they want regardless of the rules. With professionals banned from doing the work in clean, sterile and professional locations, people will settle for underground work or even trying to do it themselves, resulting in a higher degree of complications.

I do believe that, in time, less common forms of body art will slowly gain the acceptance that we are starting to see with tattoos and piercings today, however, we have a long way to go! It starts with education and communication, openly talking about the facts as opposed to incorrect myths and unfounded claims. People ‘don’t know what they don’t know’.

What are your thoughts about scarification? Would you ever consider getting work done? If you do have a piece, what was your experience?

10 thoughts on “The Beautiful, Ancient Practice of Scarification”

  1. I personally think scarification is beautiful and I would love to have it myself. However, I don’t think I could go through it just yet haha. It really is not for the faint of heart! Thanks for sharing this! You don’t see much about scarification. 🙂

    1. I think it’s a beautiful work of art as well. Personally, I prefer my tattoos, but I won’t write off the idea of getting something done, that’s for sure!

  2. I had actually never heard of this until reading this post. I think people should be able to do what they want with their bodies as long as it is safe to do so. Like you said because it is being banned in some places people will go get it done anyway and isn’t it better they do it somewhere safe and sterile, rather than risking it somewhere quite the opposite!

    Vikki | http://planetvikkiblog.wordpress.com

    1. It’s not like it’s being forced on anyone. If you don’t want it, don’t get it done. But I firmly believe there should be a safe, regulated and sterile environment for those who do.

  3. Wow, really interesting to hear… I’d never really thought about the “practice” of scarification, even though I recently got my first tattoo 🙂

  4. I’ve always loved the idea of scarification but personally, don’t think I have the pain threshold! Tattoos I can stand, but any other form of pain and I run the other way.

    Very interesting post despite the fact I’ll never do it!

    1. It’s always intrigued me but not something I see myself doing at this point – that may change some day, I just haven’t envisioned something I ‘need’ yet lol!

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