My "Test" Brand
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A few months ago I decided I wanted to get branded for religious reasons. I'm a Satanist, following some of the ancient demons of Babylon and Sumer (a la Necronomicon), and have been since I was 15. In these last five years I've suffered insults and a lot of bigotry, and have felt my beliefs burned into my spirit as I have held on to them despite my experiences. I have wanted an outward expression of my "orthodoxy", a mark that I could show and be proud of. A physical scar to represent the pain I've endured and survived, with the emphasis on my persistence and survival. I originally thought of tattooing, but since they can be removed these days, and since I consider them to be works of art, things of beauty, I felt a tattoo wouldn't quite fit the bill. The mark had to be ugly and kind of gruesome.
I also considered cuttings, but I must confess to being squeamish about knives.
I settled on the idea of a brand.
The demon I hold allegience to is Cuthalu, associated in the Necronomicon's Urillia text with necromancy, sorcery, and also the "fire of the earth", so burning felt right. I planned to brand the Sumerian phrase CUTHALU ZAMI on to my flesh, originally planned for my left shoulder blade.
The next step was to find a professional brander here in Vancouver. Easy enough, right?
Yeah, right. A few of the body piercing studios I contacted for information refered to one artist in town who apparently does brands, but none knew how to contact him, for reasons I didn't record in my notes, and therefore can't recall. And I didn't want to go to Seattle.
I decided I'd just have to do it myself. This ruled out placement on my back, since I'm not double jointed.
I therefore thought about doing the brand on my left forearm with preformed wire letters.
As I went snooping through my father's cache of copper electrical wire in his garage, I realized that doing this myself was going to entail a big problem. What if I wimped out only a couple of letters? No way did I want to be stuck with "C U" on my arm.
I decided to see just how plausible my plan was by doing a small test brand. Something quick to test out my threshold for burns, and fairly innocuous looking so I could explain it away as an accident if it got spotted by my very conservative parents, whom I still live with. I decided to use my soldering iron, which a 5/8" tip, kind of u shaped. Since I had already decided to document the experience for writing up for this website, I also grabbed a sheet of loose leaf and a pen to write my thoughts whilst attempting this. I then went to my dad's workshop (as you can guess, I was the only one home).
Here's what I wrote, starting with waiting for the electric iron to heat up:
"Feb. 3, 33 anno satanas. 
"I can see the smoke coming off the iron, smell the burning air. I must be nuts to do this. But if I can't take the pain, best to find out now than in the midst of the real design. Oh Cuthalu, ancient fire of this rock, give me the strength to do this, to carry through with my plan!
"I am sitting, but shaking. I try to tell myself it won't hurt. Be brave. You endured filings without Novacaine before [by choice], how bad can this be? My hand hurts from clenching the pen so hard with dread. My body wants to hyperventilate, but I force myself to take each shaky breath deeply. I look out the window at this morning's freak snow flurries. I test the iron, it sears this paper, but I procrastinate to leave more time for it to heat more. And to put off the inevitable.
"Funny, I felt so unafraid a few minutes ago.
"I wimped out of my hand, lightly touching it to a hard callous on the heel of my foot for a split second. The stench is horrid. The skin on the callous is charred black from such a minute touch.
"I've unplugged the iron but it whistles still. The pain was intense and to the bone for a second, but it was delayed from the contact time.
"I somehow think the iron is laughing. You coward!
"I take another deep breath and invoke Cuthalu again. I feel I must do this, and the iron is still very hot and burns through the paper. Maybe I shouldn't have tested it on the paper, I think the visuals make the fear worse.
"I hold the iron very close to the heel of my hand, not quite touching it. I take a very deep breath, and as I exhale, I quickly strike my hand with the iron. The reflex cannot be overcome, the iron only burned for a second. owwww! Not as bad as feared though.
"Another deep breath. the iron again on the same spot, for a couple of seconds longer. It hurts. The reflex again kicks in, too soon I fear. Breathe again, and owww! that touch of the iron was the worst, the pain from the first two taps having built up. I don't think I can take a fourth, and hope that's done the trick. I put the iron down to cool.
"It's not so much the sharp, to-the-bone heat of the touch to my foot's heel was, but maybe this stinging is worse. Certainly is lasting longer. A minute or two later, the whole area hurts. I look at the little brand and I think I can see the beginning of tiny blisters.
"I've gone upstairs. The pain branches in a jagged throbbing way across my hand, into my wrist even. Tiny pinpoint bubbles are forming at the edges, roughly a circular wound. It's bright pink/red from the blood rushing to the site.
"I tell myself that those who've had real brands would think this ridiculously petty, but so do I, intellectually at least. The entire area is red now, and it's still throbbing. I do nothing to cool it other than blowing on it a bit, which doesn't help. "Fifteen to twenty minutes later, it still stings in waves, not as bad as earlier. At least I didn't faint like I thought I would. Maybe I should just get it tattooed on, I can't brand the whole phrase myself. Or reconsider the design to something much smaller and simpler, a one shot design.
"Later still, it feels almost kind of itchy rather than painful, but when touched it hurts like Hell, with a halo of lesser pain surrounding it."
So much for that day's notes. Writing this in May, I recall that it was covered in a big blister for a week or so till it burst on its own. Mostly clear water came out, but there was a tiny bit of yellow pus. When it burst I flushed it out with Bactine, then patted it dry. It was a noticeable pink scar for a while, but now it's more like a raised flat bump, almost like a callous. Reading the notes and seeing the various burn marks on the paper I wrote them on has brought that queasy dread feeling back to my stomach, and I swear I can feel a little nerve twitch on the palm, flesh does have its own memory.
I have decided to do the actual brand myself, but have wisely chosen a simpler design. Cuthalu was associated with snakes, and so I'll make a "stamp" out of wire of a stylized snake (read: a wavy coil) heat it over a flame, and hold it to my forearm, one application, held for a a bit longer. I'll do better research on that and will no doubt do it this summer sometime when I'm feeling brave. I'll keep BME posted.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 15 June 1999