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As the Blade Penetrates

Hurricane Katrina has truly affected so many people. For me, it seemed rather "apocalyptic" and fatalistic that just days before she came I was in celebration, performing what would be for me a cathartic show right on Bourbon Street. It was during my evacuation from my home that I began to feel a yearning for some way to express my reaction to this disastrous event. Scarification was something quite new and also a big step for me. Although I have not a single ink tattoo, I was ready for scarification which spoke more to me; I see it as the bodies own response to stimuli. The body reacts by creating raised scars and keloids to varying and unpredictable degrees. I appreciate this unpredictability the most. My friend, Joe Keck, and I decided together that the best place would be my shoulder and that the image would be a spiral-- nothing else would be more fitting, as I have felt a deep connection to the spiral for sometime. Joe suggested creating a pattern of small and numerous cuts rather than just a singu lar line, inspired by the traditional markings of certain native tribes, and I was excited and inspired by the idea. We didn't rush into and waited several days to sort of test eachothers commitment and intention which is great, and I had some time to get to know Joe and have him practice drawing on my shoulder to see how large it would be and how specific it would need to be. He was prepared with a scalpel and soon was gathering all the other materials that I felt were necessary and also that made me feel comfortable; gloves, towels(paper and cloth), natural and chemical antiseptics. We also took the time to discuss aftercare methods, Joe preferring the chemical methods, while I preferred the more gentle and natural methods. For me, the body, and my body specifically, does not react well to the harsh chemicals that are usually recommended, and I like the body to be supported where it is doing the work, not the chemical. I told him that I would probably use witch hazel, lavender, tea tree oil, and vitamin E, and he consented to it. He also suggested that I use a toothbrush to agitate the wound with hydrogen peroxide, which seemed scary at first, but actually not as painful as I thought it would be. We decided that the bathroom was the best place to do this procedure, since there was running water nearby and enough light to see properly. Joe brought in a comfortable chair for me to sit in so that I could relax as he worked the blade. Prior to making any cuts my skin was cleaned and marked with a surgical marker. The skeletal design was a spiral drawn in a singular connected line, and the cuts were to be made "perpendicularly" away from the line, following its shape only as a guide and not actually cutting into the line at all. This would bring in a bit more chance and less exactness.

I made my own preparations in a sort of ritualistic fashion and I had plenty of water nearby to drink. I burned sage and wafted it around the space and myself. I chose music that was personal to me and I used alot of breath control to follow each incision of the scalpel blade as it penetrated my skin. After several endorphin rushes, it became more important and necessary for me to follow my breathing and to maintain deep and slow breaths. I could feel my body temperature rising significantly and sweat breaking out in several places on my body, too. I am not a heavy bleeder, but there was a significant amount of blood which I caught on a towel that I had wrapped around my arm. After each cut was made, paper toweIs moistened with a solution of witch hazel and lavender were used to remove excess blood that was covering the "skeletal" design. I also felt that I guided Joe well throughout and let him know how I was feeling. He needed to adjust to my flesh and to cutting into someone elses skin rather than

his own. It seemed to him that I had tough skin to break through, so he was acclimating to this gradually I suppose. At times I thought about the hurricane, meditating on the way that I have been affected by this disaster, and grateful that I had found someone who was skilled enough to create a way for me to process the whole ordeal.

After an hour and a half or so, we took a break-- I ate a bit and then I felt the draw towards my muscles and began stretching deeply, which was very rewarding. I released a surge of euphoric energy and intensity after choosing to take a break from sitting so long, but Joe did not have the same energy. I presume that in our exchange, I was drawing alot of his energy, and so rather than continue working on the piece, Joe wanted to get some rest. I showered and washed the fresh wound with soap twice and decided to wait on the toothbrush until the next day. Then Joe dressed my shoulder neatly and securely using large gauze pads and medical tape. Concerned about how restless I might be during sleep I put on a sleeved shirt to further protect the shoulder and the dressing from possibly getting out of place. We continued the next night after a lengthy discussion on how we each felt about the whole exchange and what we were doing for each other through this scarification. We also discussed how I was so focused
on the spiritual experience I was having, while he was feeling more involved in the execution of a task. It was good to acknowledge this difference between us so that our connection could remain as clear as possible throughout the session. It definitely has brought up alot of emotion, which I am glad to say was brought to the surface quickly and been worked out. Rather than continue in the bathroom, we decided to move into a more comfortable space with less of a medical atmosphere, where I sat facing a window.

This session was a beautiful one. I had no grasp of the size of the spiral and in some ways it didn't seem to matter because the spiral is endless. I was having images of it someday wrapping around my entire body. It was interesting that each cut with the scalpel was so different in sensation from the next. While some gave me more of a bright searing sensation, others gave me the clarity of all the individual fibers being slowly and "gently" broken and torn apart. Some were felt only in the very fibers of the skin, and fatty tissue, while others felt that they penetrated to the bones and were reaching small connective points that could be felt in my fingers and my head and neck, and then some were just covering my whole body, especially the head, with shivers and chills. I found that it was helpful at certain times to focus on my third eye, or ajna, opening up certain energetic centers in my body, and again, deep focused breath was also very good for the vibrational flow of energy. At one point the se

nsations I felt were so intense and overwhelming that I was instantly moving and dancing and undulating with music alongside my internal rhythms. It was wonderfully exhilarating to be in that moment, be with the intense sensations and nurture them though movement and hugs. As the blood flowed down my arm it took on many different forms, from dried, to bubbly, and even stringy. The sight of my own blood almost gave me a slight feeling of nausea at one point, but I recovered instantly. Joe was good about keeping a light heart because my energy became so intense. He was making me laugh a bit, too, which was great, but also nerve racking, as it seemed he would attempt to slice right into me while I was shaking with laughter. Every little wrong move was instantly righted, thanks to my continual criticisms!

The spiral has SO much history and myriad explanations, symbolism, and ways to manifest it. Upon much reflection, I have made some interesting associations through astrology and the mayan calendar as to the more esoteric significance of all this. One, the year of the hurricane also happened to be that of a blue crystal storm which is my exact day in the mayan calendar. Also, the elements air and water are pretty strong for me astrologically. In combining these elements with the subterranean, destructive, and transformative energies of Pluto, you would surely have a storm of sorts, and a powerful one at that. Finally, hurricanes naturally form a spiral shape, or whorl which has now manifested itself on my right shoulder. It will always serve to remind me of all these things...


submitted by: LuNaVoiD
on: 23 Aug. 2006
in Scarification

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Artist: Joe+Keck
Studio: in+home
Location: jackson%2C+MS

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