“I want to be a piercer! How do I get an apprenticeship? Where do I learn to pierce?”
This desire has been expressed by thousands of people over the recent past. What was once something barely thought ofas a viable career blossomed into a huge, multifaceted industry in the last few decades. As if out of nowhere, piercing became a legitimate job one could make a comfortable living at. But the path to get there has been as ever-changing as the industry itself. You don’t go to school to become a piercer, there’s no classes or degree you can hold in body piercing. Traditionally, like many other crafts, piercing has been trained by masters, to apprentices. Someone already skilled at the craft takes a beginner under their wing and shows them the craft one on one. But how did we get there? Where did the first piercers come from? How did the apprenticeship evolve to what it is today?
O-Kee-Pa is the name given to a religious and spiritual rite among the Mandan tribe. It was done yearly when the willow trees along the rivers were in full bloom. It recalls a time when a great flood killed all the inhabitants of the world, and the first Mandan survived on a great canoe. A bird came to them with a willow branch in full bloom and showed them back to land, where they settled and lived out the rest of the tribe’s life. Each year, they recreate this ceremony, and welcome warriors into the tribe after a ritual of fasting, and body suspension, as well as pray to the gods for food, fertility, and fortune. This us one of the most well documented and known ritual practices of suspension, although even still documentation is scarce. Few outsiders were lucky enough to witness this ceremony, however, those that were published some records of it to keep these traditions alive. The book O-kee-pa was originally authored by an American painter named George Catlin in 1867. It covers his month-long stay with the Mandan Indigenous Peoples in 1832. Catlin, formerly a lawyer turned painter, spent years living among Indigenous peoples, painting them and documenting their unique way of life. He quickly realized war and disease were encroaching on the western tribes and rushed to document their lives. It is this book, referenced by Fakir Musafar in Dances Sacred and Profane as one of the inspirations for him to do the O-Kee-Pa and meet the Great Spirit. Continue reading →
Stick ’em with the pointy end: A brief history of the piercing needle.
How is a piercing done? With a needle. It seems like a pretty easy, straight forward answer. But it hasn’t always been that way. While modern body piercing has access to some of the best, most well-crafted needles we could ask for, such wasn’t the case twenty or thirty years ago. In fact, just having access to needles was unheard of for a bit. The needle is one of the most important factors in a safe, correctly done body piercing. Without a good needle, the entire piercing experience can go sideways (or crooked). So, let’s delve into the history of the piercing needle, and how we got to the modern design we all use today.
In the ’60s and ’70s piercing was still very much underground. We were a few years away from the opening of the gauntlet in 1975 by Jim Ward. Piercing was primarily a fetish in the Leather/BDSM scene, practiced in the darkest corners of already forbidden back rooms and clubs. Since this was being practiced by people who wouldn’t dream of going out and trying to get supplies for their extracurricular activities, they made use of what they had. Sharpening wire, and using modified ice picks and nuts and bolts was common.
“There was nothing available at the time so it was crude. I’m not sure about the years, but in the ’60s and ’70s, that’s what they would use. The material was the same LVM surgical stainless steel but they would polish with diamond dust on a wheel to get rid of any porousness it had called orange peel. By the time they were done, it looked like a mirror! I can’t imagine the level of determination these people had. The ice pics were solid of course, and I never saw use of any of it. I came after that, but I imagine it was horrible.” –Ken Dean, Silver Anchor.
1600-1800’s France was an interesting and wild time, historically speaking. Everyone was partying at the palace of Versailles, a symbol of all the opulence the world could offer. King Louis was regularly drawing the ire of the church for the debauchery his palace and it’s infamous parties were known for. Fashions were getting outrageous and necklines on gowns were getting lower and lower till it was fashionable to show a whole breast at court. 1 This style was sometimes referred to as “Garments of the Grand Neckline” referencing how low the neck of these dresses would dip- sometimes to the navel.Continue reading →