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My First Branding Experience

My first experience with branding was about five years ago now, and have chosen to write about this experience rather than one of my positive, successful body-mods, as a deterrent for all those who are around the age I was and considering home body mods as a viable option.

A bit of info on the my mental state at that time. I had ran away from home a year earlier, and was going through a tough time where I didn't have any idea where I would be or how I would be surviving each day. I was also interested in anything that would alter my appearance and make me harder for my parents to find and drag home. I had given myself MANY self-inflicted scars by that time, and was fairly self destructive and uncaring about my future. As such, pain was nothing new to me, and research and proper sterilization really didn't enter my mind before I undertook this.

It took place at a friend's house, whose single mother was never home. We fancied ourselves best friends for life at that time and thought it would be cool to brand each other's initials into our heels, and something personal on our ankles.

We assembled candles, a half ying-yang shaped jewelry finding, pliers, and a key ring. I bent the key ring until the protruding part we would brand with was in the shape of a half circle, stretched out till it was a curved section roughly four inches. I wanted a five point star, she wanted the ying-yang. We drew each other's initials on each other's heels, and our respective symbol on our ankles with blue ball-point. After deciding she would go first, as she figured she wouldn't be able to go through with it otherwise, we proceeded to heat up the ying-yang, holding it with pliers.

When it glowed bright orange directly where the flame was, and a dull red everywhere else, I quickly pressed the narrow side of the metal finding to her heel to form the first line of the four I would need to do to form my initials. It was much harder to do this to another person than it was to cut myself. I kept asking her if she was sure. She bit her lip and nodded furiously as I continued. These small sounds kept escaping her mouth, almost like little gasps, but with little moans as well. I remember looking into her eyes and seeing her excitement. She was really getting off on the sensation, and a little bit of that started to rub off on me, and I relaxed a lot. The initials done, I again confirmed she wanted the symbol on her ankle as well. She told me that it really wasn't that bad, and after the first mark hadn't really hurt that much at all, so I went ahead and after heating it again, I pressed the flat part of the ying-yang down into the inside of her ankle. This time she definitely DID jump, and we heard this odd popping sound. Scared, I looked at her but she just nodded, so I re-heated and reversed, and pressed it down to form the other side.

Next was my turn, and I had now gotten over any fears I had, and without speaking, we began to heat the ying-yang again to brand her initials on my heel. I stretched my leg out, and dug my fingernails into the inside of my arm, just in case, but to my surprise, there was only a split second of this very.. defined pain, then absolute numbness. The closest think I can relate that pain to is the feeling right after being hit square in the face. That kind of shocking 'blast of cold air' pain that brings reality into focus suddenly with a fierce rush. Looking down I saw that my skin had turned the same dead white color that hers had, and curious, I poked it with my finger. It felt very hard, and I couldn't feel my finger touching me. We continued, and when the six strikes her initials required were over, she now started to heat the bent key ring till it glowed. My star was going to be roughly three times the size of her ying-yang, and by this time her hands had really star ted to shake despite the fact that she said mentally she felt fine, so I took the pliers and ring from her and told her I would do it.

Using the side of the ring I kind of rolled it across my ankle slowly to form each line. The first line hurt like nothing else, and the pain really lingered, which I wasn't expecting after the relative pleasure my heel had brought me. After taking a few deep breaths I started again, and this time there was no pain whatsoever, just that weird little noise, and this sudden release of tension, both physically in my skin, and mentally in my head. After the five strikes for the star I inspected my work, and realized that some of the lines had gone past the others slightly. I decided to encircle the star to cover this, and so proceeded to set the curved portion of the ring down around it, containing the points. Again, there was some pain as now in some places I was far enough from the previous marks that the nerves hadn't been burnt out yet.

This whole time I was re-heating the ring between strikes and taking deep breaths. I didn't think I would have passed out, but I wasn't about to take any chances. Your body doesn't always respond the way you think it will. We just kind of sat there for maybe twenty minutes after that, holding hands and not saying anything, thinking to ourselves, then got up and put everything away. By this time the marks had kind of puffed out and filled with fluid, so we popped them with a needle, and sponged them down with cold water.

About a week later, we were both at the 'yellow pus scab stage' and when the scabs fell or were picked off, the tissue underneath kind of had this unhealthy-looking white-red speckling. At two weeks the fluid was still accumulating and the wounds would bleed when bumped or pulled. Areas also started to look green. I believe this was probably due to the fact that it was rather hard to find convenient places to clean it as much as it needed it, and so I mostly just kept it bandaged and tried not to touch it too much. At that time branding wasn't really commonplace at all as a body-mod, or at least not discussed, and not having any knowledge on the subject, I did nothing to treat it, and nothing to irritate it to make it scar more, other than the perhaps less-than-perfect sanitary conditions had/were doing.

At about a month we really started to get worried, as we were both getting these red welts leading up from the area, and it was VERY warm to the touch, as well as feeling very sore in a horribly itchy way. We finally marched ourselves down to one of the few walk-in clinics that would treat you without any identification. It was frequented by a lot of the street kids, but we still got asked a LOT of questions when we showed up with our particular first-aid dilemma. Needless to say, infection has found a home, and we were soon loaded down with topical antibiotic creams, as well as oral medications, and fresh rolls of gauze. After about another month it finally started to heal a little, and didn't hurt very much, though the fact that the whole area of our legs in and surrounding the brands had no feeling was disconcerting to say the least.

Now five years later, I am left with a huge, perfectly round, and rather hard to discern scar. It never popped out as is desirable with scarification, and is a wimpy pink color, not the nice flushed purple I now know I would have preferred. The experience, while very intense mentally, didn't cement the friendship. I haven't talked to that girl in years. I now have my life on track at the ripe age of nearly 21, and have a hell of a lot more common sense. I have 12 professionally-done piercings, a few self-stretched safely to gauges ranging from 8 - 0, and three professional tattoos. Those are all different stories of course. I know the value of having a professional perform or at least guide you with your body-mods, and only wish that I had waited till I was older or at least been more careful. If I had left the infection too long I probably could have lost my leg.

As for the future, I have a bunch of professional scarification in the planning phase, a tattooed sleeve in progress, and many other exciting plans. I urge anyone who has a desire or need for body modification to find a skilled professional you like and trust to do it for you, or at least to offer sound advice and maybe talk you out of making a stupid mistake. Trust me, the last thing you want to hear upon close inspection is 'Wow, a pentagram, how original....' (especially when you had meant it to be something else).


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 17 Sept. 2002
in Scarification

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Artist: Self
Studio: Home
Location: Alberta%2C+Canada

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