Tag Archives: Sacred Debris

Phases of Healing: Branding


I used to run a feature on the Scarwars blog that showed the phases of healing that a cutting or branding went through over a several year span. This branding was one of the most dramatic- a reminder that even when performed by a professional modification artists, sometimes the finished scar can radically change over time.

The initial strike branding (top left) was done in approximately 2005/6. The scar grew significantly over the years- bottom right is 2009 and shows and extreme change in size. The flower cuttings were done in 2009.

The variables in any scarification procedure- past picking a qualified artist- can include genetics, location, aftercare and luck.  The Scarwars blog always did it’s best to give people interested in their first scar a realistic expectation of what could be expected during healing.

(The small ‘dot’ scars next to the Pisces were from a chest suspension. In the four years between the first and last photos you can see that the client’s scars are still very pronounced.)



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I first started seeing Efrain Gonzalez’s portraits of pierced fans/NYC fetish scene in the PFIQ magazines of the 1990s. We met for the first time at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City almost fifteen years ago. Through the years I’ve never seen him not enjoying himself, always ready with a smile and never without his camera. Photographer Atom Moore snapped this portrait of Efrain at the 2007 Philadelphia SCARWARS3 event.

You can see Efrain’s photographic work here: Hellfire Press.

Sol Lucet Omnibus


The first time I watched my friend Neeko suspend it was out by a campfire in the woods of Vermont. The fire only provided so much light, so we parked a Jeep up the hill and used it’s headlights to illuminate the area.

That was in August of 2003 in Burlington, VT.

In June of 2013, Neeko invited me to join him for another suspension; this time found us, along with Orb of Anchors Aweigh and Mike Coons of Hooked, driving into the Nevada desert in the wee hours of the morning, racing against time to get everything set up for the Morning Sun to rise along with Neeko who would also be branding himself with the Sun’s rays.

Neeko is one of the few people who could have convinced me, on no sleep, to head out into Bat Country at four in the morning with nothing but a pocket knife and the flashlight on my cellphone, but by the time I made a mad dash to the airport several hours later I was glad to have spent the morning with him, Orb, Mike and the rest of the crew.

Remembering Josh Burdette

This article originally ran on BME’s MODBLOG on 09/02/2013.
It has been edited slightly. I still miss Josh.

“i had a dream a while back. in it, i met myself. the me that i met greeted the dream me in a way that i often greet people, with hands raised together as if in prayer, a sign of coming in peace. in this dream, the other me had scars shaped like arrows on the heels of his hands. one pointing up, one pointing down. i woke from the dream with this image burned into my mind. over time, the symbolism became clear to me…
….as above, so below. the sacred and the profane. heaven and earth. good and evil. black and white. brain and body. what goes up, must come down. there are a million examples and ways to describe the idea, but it all comes back to balance. none of these things would exist without the other. they may occupy opposite ends of a spectrum, but they are inextricably linked to each other. my goal is to maintain that balance in my life. to have one foot in each world. these scars will remind me of that.” – Josh Burdette, Scarwars.net

The first thing most people thought when they met Josh Burdette was usually “that’s one big mother fucker.” OBMF. That’s how I first got to known Josh, back in the glory days of the late 1990s Body Modification scene of rec. arts.bodyart and the IAM.BME community site. Josh was a larger than life presence all around- a fixture in the D.C. Music scene as the Manager and head of security of the 9:30 Club since 1997, he stood as the WALL OF BEARD at countless shows. An imposing figure, Josh could have relied on his size to intimidate people, instead, in 2006 he had this to say about ‘bouncing’ to the Washington Post:

“A bouncer is looking to bounce people. It’s a reactive way of doing things. We’re the face of the club, and we have to do our best to be as friendly, polite and accessible as we can. Some of us look big and scary, but we’re just people, too. We’re just working our jobs.”
I saw him, not too long ago, at the Stay Calm memorial we held here in Philadelphia for Shannon Larratt; we hugged like we always do, gave some colorful commentary on the state of the world and the Body Modification community, and finally getting to the point of why we had all come together that day as a community- remembering our friend- he laughingly told me that we were going to have a moratorium on any of our friends dying till at least 2015, to spread the word to the people we love that they’re to stick around for a while.

I wish Josh would have been able to keep up the pact.

Josh Burdette passed away in Washington DC on Sunday September 1st. He was 36 years old. I’ll miss running into him backstage at LUCERO shows, chatting about our lives instead of watching the opening acts. I’ll miss bitching about ‘these kids today’ with him, reading his latest ‘Wall of Beard’ comic strip adventure and getting one of his epic bear hugs. I’ll miss Josh.




This post originally ran as a diary entry on my personal blog on 03.28.2013 and has been slightly edited for content.

This is a true story. I haven’t thought about it in years, but a conversation earlier with my friend Christy brought it back, and I figured since I’m still in a ‘those were the days!’ kind of mood I’d get this one down for posterity even though it’s a quickie.

For me, Body Modification has always had a root in sexuality. I don’t really talk about sexuality that much here on SD, which is odd given how important it is to my life. I think that there’s still that feeling that I have to limit or censure what I say here because it’s so ‘public’ but for today we’ll just pretend that we’re all adults and that a dirty anecdote is perfectly acceptable.

It was either at ModCon2 or ModCon3 in Toronto Ontario (which would have been 2000 or 2002) when Shannon an I first started joking about the idea of ModCocks. The plan was to get a handful of DIY penis molding kits, send them out to our practitioner friends and have them send the molds back for us to go into production on dildos based on our penises. Subincised dildos, dildos with implants- very niche items for the modification community.

In the middle of trying to orchestrate a full scale underground surgical modification event, we found ourselves laughing hysterically on the phone to friends who couldn’t make it up for the convention, asking if they’d consent to being turned into a sex object. You’d be surprised at how many people readily agreed to do it; then again, probably not.

Like a lot of our hairbrained schemes, we had a full marketing plan laid out- which included sending a few samples to more active contributors of BME/HARD for field testing and documentation- but sadly it never went anywhere.

Remembering Keith Alexander


As I get older, nostalgia has become much more important to me. I didn’t get it as a kid; holidays with my parents and Uncles invariably led to annual recollections of since passed family and friends. By the time I was a teenager I could have told some of the stories verbatim; a collection of anecdotes about people who had passed away before I was born but who held a place in my Mother’s heart that was so special that stories were retold again and again for fear of losing them forever.

Eight 1 years ago today Keith Alexander passed away. Out for a bicycle ride on the Shore Road Path in Brooklyn a child cyclist riding ahead of him swerved, causing Keith to swerve quickly to compensate, his front tire hitting a pothole in the path causing him to ride full-speed into the guard rail.. The accident cost him his life. In the years that have passed I’ve found myself telling stories about him; sometimes to mutual friends who’ve heard them a million times, sometimes to people who never had the pleasure of meeting him but who listen intently as I share the “this one time” stories of one of the most dynamic human beings I’ve ever known.

When Keith was around I was always aware that I had to try harder. Not to impress him really; he never made any bones about being proud of me when it was warranted, offering me advice when I asked and kicking me in the butt when I needed it. I’m infamously critical of modern body piercers because piercers like Keith spoiled me. So many practitioners in our community consider themselves Shamans but offer nothing more than the promise of a straight piercing or a sterile suspension. They talk about Rites of Passage, but they’re not self aware enough to realize that it’s not the modification that’s the Rite- it’s the paths we walk. Keith saw the bigger picture, realizing the incredibly personal role a modification practitioner can have in the lives of his clients.

When I posted a teaser of this article on my Facebook page the other day, a friend responded that she didn’t know who Keith was. So. Let me tell you about my friend Keith.
Continue reading


  1. July 11th 2014 marks nine years since Keith’s passing.

Happy Birthday, Jim Ward!

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It’s such a rare thing in the Body Modification world to be able to legitimately claim to have been the inventor of anything; we take for granted that some things have no definable origins and that if someone says they were the first at anything, there is probably someone somewhere who did it years before them.

Except for Jim Ward.

While Jim didn’t invent body piercing, it’s impossible not to think of him as the architect of body piercing as an industry. Before Jim and his Gauntlet there was no such thing as Professional Body Piercing. It was an underground thing with some practitioners knowing more than others, working discretely out of people’s houses, T&P parties, hotel rooms and the back rooms of Leather shops.

Jim changed everything when he opened the Gauntlet’s first retail location in West Hollywood in November of 1978. He invented the concept of the Body Piercer as a profession. Through trial and error he and his staff which would go on to include such luminaries as Elayne Angel, Paul King, Keith Alexander (Gauntlet NYC) and Jon Cobb (Gauntlet NYC) contributed techniques and standards that would revolutionize the culture of body piercing. His PFIQ would be the blueprint for those of us who document our community (my use of Who’s Who is a direct homage to my favorite section in PFI) and his book RUNNING THE GAUNTLET has become an indispensable tome for people interested in the roots of our culture.

Jim is also a damn nice guy who is very kind and patient to the scores of people who’s influenced, always taking the time to help out when he can by answering our many questions and offering presentations at the APP conference in Las Vegas.

So happy birthday Jim, and thank you for all you’ve done for us.

Evolution of a Subculture: ROP BBQ 2013

ROP BBQ 2013 way back when style.

ROP BBQ started about thirteen ago, when founding member of Rites of Passage Suspension Group Emrys Yetz had some friends come into his backyard at his aunt’s house where he lived in western MA and BBQ some food and do some suspensions off of the trees in the backyard.The next year we did it again, and some fellow BME freaks flew out and helped us and we had a lot of members of all of the best suspension groups at the time come and camp out and play with hooks.

Those were the early days. SO MANY people did their first suspensions in that yard, from those trees. Emrys and some of the boys (none of them active in ROP anymore) built this fucking tower that we were all so proud of. That tower has seen a lot of blood.

T_k87mdtjesNL3nvu9QVVDp3U4MexsZeZLz-_K4Kh1wWe continued doing ROP BBQs and campouts every year, they grew bigger and bigger, more and more people came from all over the world. They got so big eventually that we had to move them to a different location, which is how we all ended up on a state forest in berkshire county. We continued to have yearly events, which grew bigger and bigger. Lots of beautiful suspensions happened there as well. People who had been coming to our events continued to show up and for some of us, it was the only time in a year where we’d all be together. We used to bang out ALOT of suspensions in a day. It was always the same people working their asses off year after year, not eating pulling fourteen hour days, doing suspensions at night with the aid of headlamps. We had spots to hang over a beautiful pond, off in the woods very private, and a solid ground spot that we even managed to get a spinning beam rigged on.

Of course, it became a tradition, being that we’re in western MA in berkshire county in the mountains, that it would rain EVERY single year at some point. So, it became really important to Me to secure an indoor location. First it was My attic which was an AWESOME space and saw lots of great suspensions and first times too, then it was the copperworks, in Pittsfield, MA which has seen it’s share of blood and carnage and emotion and hooks, but then that got closed down.

60mSJNDXogfLx59HpnMlE4ZXEOJypGQ3X4HOHABI28E,jQyocdu8EBGnknphLM6jCbUyeyWL3hdkmQZ4LD0teN8During the years that we were at the state forest Emrys found another location close by that had a waterfall, and we started (for two years) taking a little sidetrip during the bbq to this location and everyone would swim, and we would hang people over the waterfall! The fascination to find new waterfalls to rig had begun.

A lot of shit went down over the years, people got married, people died, people had babies, Emrys moved away, the bbq was a lot of work, everyone had sort of drifted apart and one year we didn’t even have a bbq. Then Emrys moved back to western MA, we started working together again and doing suspensions and it was feeling awesome. Last year Emrys and I had Allen Falkner fly in and a small group of us went and had a very tiny mini event where we hung each other over a NEW waterfall that we had found in a completely different part of the county. I’ve had one of the best suspension experiences of My life over that waterfall, and some other people have as well! We decided to resurrect the ROP BBQ. To do it old skool style. Way back when style. We wanted those feelings back when everyone was family, when we did a few really great suspensions and everyone came from all over the world to just hang out and have a wonderful time. We were both SO excited to share this awesome waterfall location with everyone!
he techniques, equipment, knowledge has all changed so much in the last 13 years that we have the ability to rig even more advanced outdoor settings than ever before. And so : we planned the ROP BBQ 2013. We planned it NINE months in advance. I had forgotten how much work it is to plan a suspension event. Emrys and I did it all ourselves. Having him back here and working with him has been such a pleasure. Emrys, a pleasure to work with, imagine that! We get along like a well oiled machine, we can communicate without using words during suspensions and planning the BBQ went really smoothly. I wanted it to be as lax as possible for the crew so I was very intent on limiting the number of suspensions. I wanted it to be a bbq, and a campout, with some suspensions. I had invited all of My most favorite people from BBQs past and some new friends we had made in the last few years and new crews I had just begun exploring working with. Allen Falkner from TSD came in from TX, John and Dia from IWASCURED came in from Canada, Havve Fjell from Wings of Desire came in from Oslo, Jason Shaw from Ihung came in from Canada, Orb, Genne, Jeremy, and Mel from Anchors Aweigh came from NY, and of course we had ROP from just about every chapter of the suspension group represented: MA, NY, CT, RI, NJ, NY, TX we run deep!

x2l6XzQs7lcis1E3IuxLa6LC5l-KAi_Ma3sDWbYj9HcWe were under budget and ahead of schedule. I was so organized I was turning Myself on. We had been pretty vague and secretive about the exact location of the waterfall. I even made an old skool zine with ALL the information one could want about crew, food, hotels, schedule of suspensions, etc etc. I had a crew dinner planned for friday, Emrys was doing an advanced outdoor rigging class at noon, I had planned a yoga class for early saturday morning at the base of the mountain, I had crew dinner as a separate event for sunday and a day of suspensions JUST for crew, without a schedule so we could fuck around and do the crazy shit.

Really it was multiple events all rolled into about a four day period.
Of course tons of people waited til the very last minute and made My life more difficult, and I got stressed out to the absolute max and I took a lot of unpaid time off to do all the work which also stressed Me out. But the day came, we were on time, we had three locations at our new spot out in the woods rigged perfectly. People were excited to suspend, the first suspension was a girl for her first suicide for her bday and I had made cupcakes. Everyone was overjoyed!

And then a park ranger came, and asked what we were doing. We explained, I showed him a zine. He spoke to the man I had designated to be the liason if the cops came. His name is Jeff, aka BrutalMaster of www.brutalmaster.com he’s a paramedic and a rescue diver and a generally awesome amazing person to know. Let Me also add that Emrys and I had previously asked the authorities TWICE if we needed a permit to be on this land and if so what kind etc, and the general consensus was, we weren’t charging admission, it was public land and we weren’t hurting anything and had all safety bases covered and it was fine. Where we live here is a very tiny county, it’s a hilltown, everyone knows everyone. You best believe EVERYONE knows the guy with his face tattooed and the chick who makes porn and the fact that we were doing suspensions locally was not a secret, everyone has been cool with us and we have been respectful and cool to them. So anyway: the park ranger, he thinks what we are doing is cool, he just wants to check with his higher ups and make sure.

-pN49UzC7bTpGPveEpw9WFj18bBXVv72TYnUhqgromgThrough all of this I never had a bad feeling, no sense of impending doom no pit in My stomach. I was happy and positive. The park ranger comes back with his boss lady on the phone and she is right pissed. She’s saying we can’t be there we don’t have any insurance policy we don’t have any permit she’s sending the cops and we better leave right away. Jeff tries talking to her a bit but it was clear that she did NOT approve of what we were doing and was having no part in it.
SO: Months of planning, perfectly placed beautiful rigging, about 30 people and 20 more on their way..all of it was dissolving before our eyes. We had no choice, but to break everything down and come up with another plan……

Lucky for everyone I HAD a backup plan. Lesson Number One: always have a backup plan or worst case scenario!

We headed on over to a warehouse space that was being rented by a friend of the family, and Emrys and some other members of ROP had taken a lot of time to really clean up and get useable. But, it had 23 foot ceilings and we had had a lot of great suspension times in there as well, and it was also perfect for spinning beams. It was a crushing sadness because no one was going to be able to experience how fucking awesome that waterfall was or being able to jump off the top of it, or being able to be lowered right into the rushing water. A big part of why I stay in western MA is how beautiful it is outside, there’s mountains and waterfalls and forest all around you here. I almost never want to hang inside now, not when there’s all this nature around Me. I’m spoiled. I want to spoil other people too.
But, everyone was happy, they were just happy that they could hang from hooks and hang out with each other.

Everything was going so well. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I’ve been on this earth long enough to know that if something CAN go wrong, it will eventually.
And so it did. We had put up a beautiful resurrection and were preparing to do a spinning beam with some old friends who hadn’t hung with ROP in many years. The lady who owned the warehouse building came in like a tornado screeching and hollering about what the fuck did we think we were doing and what if someone gets hurt and who gave us permission and wheres some money and she’s called the police and they were on their way. Apparently we had gotten permission to be there from the wrong person. So the police showed up, everyone broke down equipment in record time and retreated back to their cars and waited for Me to tell them what to do next.

At the time My head was a mess, and I tried to just stay calm, a lot of people were relying on Me to have a magical plan, which brings us to lesson number 2: Have a backup backup and backup plan. I had about three backup backup plans swirling around My brain. But, Emry’s Aunt Lisa is the one who saved the day. She agreed to let us all go in her backyard and throw the bbq. Way way way back when style. It was like looking at the yard with new eyes. Some of the trees we used to hang from had been cut down. A decade ago we weren’t doing tree to tree rigging and tension lines, we suddenly had new options, and a bunch of top notch riggers to make it happen. In the end we had three spots, two tension lines and the old
skool tower.

t0F70G06a0iRSkQbq4-6JvBmeiuUt3tIqK6_C5snUaIEverything had come full circle. So many of us had hung in that backyard for their first time twelve years ago, ten years ago, over a decade ago. And here we were again all together, on private property. Fuck yes. The group suddenly seemed smaller than it did before. Maybe some people got scared off by the cops, a lot of people said they were coming and then didn’t make it, and despite our best efforts at keeping everyone up to date about the location changing, some folks got lost and ended up not making it because they didn’t know where the fuck we were. But it was just perfect, a really old skool bme vibe that I loved. And even though there were enough new folks from around the world (literally) who had never been to one of our events, everyone just fit in perfect. Like family. The exact mentality that I was going for. Hugs and love and hooks and blood all around.

I think this year showed Me that in our efforts for bigger better faster more, as more and more people become involved with and have an interest in suspension, we’re losing some of the parts that made Me love it so much. The intimacy, the family, the bonds. There’s so many big huge suscon events around the world now, it’s ok to keep the ROP BBQ small and intimate. A nice relaxing vacation for the heads of some of the best teams in the entire suspension community to come and relax and try new things.

To NOT work so hard.

Speaking of working so hard, since I was the organizer of course I worked too hard and was running around like a maniac sort of stressed out and dealing with cops and food issues and locations and rides and places to stay and supplies and the list just went on and on. So I sort of had a chip on My shoulder the days after the BBQ, so much awesome stuff had happened and I didn’t get to be a part of it or even get My hands too dirty because I was doing the behind the scenes work. But then, as the photos started to emerge from the suspensions that happened over the weekend, carrying over into monday and even tuesday when crew was still hanging and there was only a few of us left…..Damn did I feel good. Even if I didn’t get to have My hand in every suspension, I still did all the hard work to pull of an event that had to run from the cops…twice. That thought gets Me almost as high as doing a suspension Myself.

If you are interested in booking a suspension with ROP please email Bella: [email protected]
visit our facebook page for more info:

1013254_202957883197958_1616095856_nBella Vendetta is a founding member of Rites of Passage suspension group and an active member for the last 13 years. She is also a professional Dominatrix, international fetish model, award winning adult film star, B movie starlet, burlesque performer and sex educator. Sometimes She even moonlights as a rock and metal journalist as well as interviewing tattoo artists, UFC fighters, pornstars and writers for websites and magazines. Aside from all that She is also currently the head of Rites of Passage Massachusetts chapter.

From the SPC: Boys Club?


The documentation of the early western Body Piercing scene isn’t exactly filled with diversity. Piercing was something enjoyed by a very small percent of the population and in that circle  gay white males were the most active, but by no means only, participants. Early PFIQs frequently featured female (to the horror of some)  piercings/models, but in the grand scheme of things it was males documenting males. Sailor Sid’s shop, for instance, advertised itself as being for ‘gay males only’ though obviously exceptions were made like in the case of this rare photo of Sid doing a female nipple piercing.

I’ve heard about entire collections of photos being destroyed after a piercing devotee passes away; Will executors wanting to ‘tidy up’ a person’s belongings before family members arrive; whole lives worth of documentation being lost to the world. It makes me think about the people in the early piercing scene who weren’t able to come out publicly as piercing and modification fans and what happened to all of their memories and how that possibly leaves certain groups underrepresented.

This photo originally ran in 1998 on the SPCOnline site, and is dated approximately 1980.