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"Do You Smell Something Burning, Or Is It Just Me?"

I've been into body modification for quite some time, having nine piercings myself, several of which i've stretched, and constantly doing research on various forms of mods and the people who perform them and have pioneered the field of the modern primitive. I'm especially a follower of the Fakir Musafar's school of thought of doing all modifications shamanically. I have quite a few tattoos planned out, but alas i have a great shortage of money and can't afford mods very frequently. I had been considering getting a branding or some sort of scarification for quite some time, though not nearly as seriously as my various piercings; after all, this was quite a bit more permanent than a hole which closes up if you take out the jewelry. But last night, my friend Chris and i were at a bar and were chatting it up with a fellow patron who was quite intrigued by our piercings and tattoos (and the fact that i could perform the human blockhead trick, a la Jim Rose and other sideshow greats). We talked to him at some length about them, and he was rather impressed, but as usually happens when i talk about mods, I get bitten by the modification bug, and just need to get something done. So i casually asked Chris if he felt like branding me later that evening, and he seemed rather enthused by the idea. So we decided to do it.

After stopping by the local dorms where some of our friends live to pick up some people to take photographs, we got home around 11:00 that evening (we were sober, our drinks at the bar were nothing harder than cola, so this decision was not sparked by inebriation) and set to work. Before I go any further, I should stress the fact that Chris and I have both done extensive research on this before and were not going off half-cocked. I had a design that i had been saving for some time, a simple 13-dot pattern that consists of a center dot and then three inner lines of two dots and three outer lines of two dots. The piece is of three parts, three being a perfect number, two of which are reiterations of the number three and the third being single, a symbol of a unified whole.

We began by building an apparatus to use to do the actual brand; we decided that a a wire hanger would be perfect, the tip being a nice circle that would be ideal for my design. Chris clamped a clipped-off piece of the hanger in a pair of needle-nose pliers and wrapped it up with electrical tape to hold it in place. We were very deliberate about everything we did, disinfecting the area of the kitchen we were going to do the actual branding in, doing everything as clean and sterile as is possible in one's kitchen. Chris set up some Green Champa incense in the corner of the room (for those of you who don't know, that's an Indian temple blend) and put some Enigma on the stereo. We cleansed my arm, washing it with anti-bacterial soap and then swabbing it down with Betadine, marked the pattern on my arm using a Genetian Violet marker, lit the gas stove, and began to prep ourselves mentally and spiritually.

Chris and I both began breathing rhythmically, one of the best ways I've found to prepare for an experience like this. Chris washed his hands in anti-bacterial soap and put on sterile latex gloves, continuing the breathing. We had our photographer in there as well, standing well out of the way, but documenting the whole procedure. Chris held the end of the brand in the gas flame until it was glowing, and asked me if I was ready. I voiced the affirmative and he brought the metal over. I closed my eyes, inhaled, and as I exhaled he pressed the hot metal to my arm. I felt an instant rush of endorphins and adrenaline, and surprisingly, the pain was nowhere near what I had expected it to be. Now don't get me wrong, it hurt, but it certainly wasn't excruciating. We were pretty satisfied with the initial strike, it seemed to go through all three layers of skin and was a nice clean circle. So we continued.

Chris repeated the procedure for each dot until the pattern was complete. We were both very satisfied with the results, although I thought the first strike could have been done a little deeper. We decided to strike it again, to get it right, and did so following the same procedure as all the other strikes. After doing that, I decided that we ought to re-strike each dot, to make sure we hit the proper depth. For none of the strikes had I actually watched Chris do it, knowing that most of the pain is psychological and worried that seeing the metal hit my skin would be too much, but for the last strike I decided to watch. I knew that in order to do it without pain (even though I was doped up on endorphins at this time), it would be best to do it totally shamanically, and that would mean essentially removing myself from my body. I have done this before, though honestly it was usually not something I consciously decided to do, but more something that just happened. But I figured that I would have to learn how to do it willfully now. I began breathing in rhythm, allowed my consciousness to expand and ignore the external stimuli, and then I slowly felt my awareness leave my actual body. This is something that is very hard to describe. I still had control over my body, and was receiving all sensory input from it, i.e. i was seeing through my own eyes, but I wasn't IN my body; I was only aware of it. Chris brought the glowing metal over and placed it against my skin. I heard the signature pop of the flesh as the water vaporized, and knew that my body felt the slight burning sensation, and smelled the odor of the skin burning. Knowing that it was done, I allowed my awareness to shift into my body again. I looked down at the burned holes in my skin, all surrounded by red, and was extremely satisfied.

It's now about 24 hours later, and there is only a slight redness around each mark. It doesn't really hurt besides a slight soreness of the surrounding skin. In fact, the conch piercing I got a few days ago hurts a great deal more than the relatively fresh brand. I assume that in a few days when the nerves start to work there way into the area as I heal, it's going to hurt a great deal more, but isn't that all part of it?

-Jaalyn

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 01 March 1999
in Scarification

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