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The Ankh and The Eye

On the 26th of April this year I got branded. As this is the most extreme body mod I have had to date (tame by BME standards, I know!), as well as one of the most intense experiences of my life, I thought I'd share my experiences with BME readers with the hope that someone out there might find it interesting / useful. I hope to have an IAM page soon so I can bore the pants off anyone who might want to read what I have to say about all things body mod...and if no one does, well at least it keeps me off the street! Self depreciation aside for a moment, and on to my experience. A little back ground first - I have been aware of branding as an art form for around 8 years. When I was 15/16 (am now 23) and spent my summers hanging around my local piercing place, I read everything and anything I could, including BodyArt mag. In one issue there was a profile of an incredible woman called Falcon who was a full time slave to her mistress. As well as being permanently manacled at ankles and wrists, she had her hips, bottom and midriff branded (by the strike method). The brands were well healed, and I thought them beautiful: just raised white skin bearing tribal - esque patterns. I though that one day I'd like some of that and pretty much forgot about it. Years later I started considering it semi seriously, but found there was very little information available (I had yet to discover BME and the Internet in general). I thought I would have to go to America to get around the UK's ridiculous laws, and thought that strike branding was the only method. Thus, again I put it to the back of my mind. But then about 18 months ago, I got a very excited phone call from my elder brother saying he had not only found someone who could perform branding, but had a completely different method AND had branded him! He had part of his chest branded with a tribal design, and again, I thought it wonderful and KNEW I had to get my ass in gear and get this done. Time passed though (as it has a habit of doing), and it was only last Christmas that I finalised my designs and approached the studio with a view to getting this done. Unfortunately the guy who was to perform the brand was on holiday, so again, the moment passed. But God bless the Internet! I mailed him in early April, reminded him of who I was (he performs branding strictly by recommendation/word of mouth) and booked an appointment for the following week. Then, the panic set in - I was going to do this at last! Before I describe the branding itself, I'd just like to say that I'm not naming the studio/artists because branding is such a grey area in UK law, and to respect their privacy...I wouldn't want to get any one in trouble! I can't believe I live in a so called civilised society which permits boxing, blood sports etc, but forbids consenting adults to do what they like in the privacy of their own homes...But that's another rant entirely! My fiance Luke spent absolutely ages drawing designs for me (I have the artistic ability of a cornflake), and at last I decided on the Ankh and the Eye of Horus. I had decided on the Ankh years ago, but was afraid that with strike branding it would be impossible due to the enclosed loop (I believe that with strikes the skin inside would just die too and drop off...). I found out that my brands would be performed with a cautery pen, and loops were fine - hurrah! For some reason, I've always been attracted to the idea of having the base of my spine branded so the location was decided immediately. It kinda fits in with my tattoo plans too. I chose the Ankh for many reasons. As a kid, and then as a teenager, I spent ages in the British Museum and always loved the Egyptology parts the most. I read mythology from all over the world (yeah, I was a sad little nerd kid!) and again, loved Egyptian mythos the best. The Ankh -symbolising life- just felt RIGHT, I can't explain it any other way. It fits in with my personal beliefs too, in particular a quote taught to me many years ago "Living is the best revenge". Some one very special to me gave me a silver Ankh for my 21st birthday too, which I will always wear, so for all these reasons and lots more I can't explain, the Ankh it was. However, when Luke drew it on my back it kinda looked odd and lonely - like it needed something else! He suggested and drew an Eye of Horus for me which just looked so right on the back of my neck. Again, it FELT right too...To have the Eye for protection and to watch over me, and the Ankh to remind me that life is precious. As someone else on this site has said, I guess I was burning my beliefs into my flesh. OK, fast forward to the day in question (cos I think I might be rambling now!). To say I was highly strung was the understatement of the century. Thankfully I was at work on my own (I am a PA to a managing director, who was thankfully on the other side of the globe that week!), but I have no idea how I made it through the day. I went to meet Luke, and we eventually got across London in the rush hour, my nerves fraying to the point of breaking. I think it was just the fear of the unknown - would I be able to do this? We arrived at the studio just as it was closing (he only performs the branding after hours because of the smell, obviously), and the wait was agony. There was a guy waiting who was going to be branded too, and thankfully he let me go first - he already had some branding work, and I think he knew if I had to wait / watch his I would have chickened out! Finally the time came and everything was ready - by this point I thought my heart would burst it was beating so fast...The branding was to be performed in the piercing studio, with the guy I knew actually branding me and his assistant anaesthetising (using ethyl chloride solution). I got myself comfortable in the chair and the brands were drawn on. this was one of the weirdest parts - everyone seemed to be talking around me and over me...not actually to me. Probably best - I don't think I would have made much sense! I decided to have the neck brand / Eye done first because I thought it would be the worse of the two pain wise (oh, how wrong I was!). The design measures 4" across and 3" wide, and looking at it in the mirror I realised just how big that was...Nevertheless, once it was drawn we began. I have to say that I couldn't have picked a better person to brand me. He is kind, intelligent, reassuring, professional and totally understood my fear. His assistant was great to - keeping me smiling and helping me through. Which is just as well, because NOTHING prepared me for what it actually felt like. Before getting branded I read everything I could, contacted as many people as I could to find out about their experiences and really researched what I was about to do. Still, that first touch of electricity was like nothing I could have ever imagined. As I said, my brands were to be performed using a cautery pen, but I'm afraid I'm a little hazy on the actual physics of how it works! The 'pen' itself is fairly harmless looking, no bigger than a biro. A metal plate was placed down the back of my trousers - I think to complete the circuit? I think then the electricity 'arcs' across and earths with the skin, producing the heat/burn...Kinda like arc welding...If someone can explain this to me a little more technically I'd be grateful! We had decided on a scheme to determine how quickly the anaesthetic was wearing off - I would say 'low' if things were OK, 'mid' if the pain was starting to increase, and 'high' if it was unbearable. Let me tell you, there was no low or mid! I still can't quite find words to describe the feeling...Other people have said it feels like a heavy handed tattoo artist but I just can't relate to that. It felt like a red hot 'tooth' almost, searing through my skin. My head seemed to be filled with a bright white light and the pain expanded to fill my whole body, then the room, then the world, then...It stopped. The moment he took the pen from my skin it all stopped and that was the most curious, disorientating thing. The first line was done. I was so glad I couldn't see it - I'm not sure I could have gone through it it if I could have. Apparently there was lots of smoke! At that point I knew I was committed and there was no going back. The adrenaline was going and I felt a bit better, but I knew this would be hard. I made Luke wait outside with the other guy because I didn't want to have to worry about what he was thinking, seeing me like that. He could still watch, and I have to say he was brilliant. A lot of men would have been 'Oi! You're hurting my girlfriend!' but he really supported my decision to have this done and believed that I could do it, even when I wasn't sure. Anyway, we continued, and again the pain was just so intense - and this was with anaesthesia! I'd like to think I have quite a high pain threshold - I'm tattooed and fairly heavily pierced, and have broken a lot of the bones in my body / gone through some painful stuff - but this made me think otherwise. Reading other people's experiences before and after made me think maybe its just me who thought it exquisitely painful! By the time we were around 35% done, I was crying and had lost the power of speech, and boy, did I squeal! Like a girl! I felt so awful, especially since the moment he stopped the actual process I felt fine and had the most wonderful rush of euphoria! But as I said, both of them were great and really helped me through it. The ethyl chloride application was bizarre too - I could hear it sizzle against the branded parts for a start! Going from the extremes of cold to heat so quickly is an incredible sensation. Towards the end I told them just to do it, whatever I was saying at the time - they did, and responded well to my squeals, stopping when it truly was too much. I tried to keep breathing and stay still and calm but it was so hard...It was like the physical pain really was pushing my mind to the edge...I don't know what is beyond that edge, but I certainly feel like I was being pushed, and forced to accept this new sensation. About 25 - 30 minutes after we'd begun it was finished. I couldn't even bear to look at it, I just let him cover it over. He was amazed that I actually wanted the Ankh done too - he thought I was coming in another day for that! But I knew I had to do it right then, else I'd never come back. We took a break, I got some fresh air, and then I was ready. I guess its obligatory in branding write-ups to mention the smell. I actually didn't find it that bad. Very very strange though; its like, we've all smelt burning meat or hair before, but this is slightly off key from that. For me, it was like it linked to a forgotten part of the human brain that isn't used anymore, the message being,"Something is badly wrong! Something is badly wrong!" Yep, that'll be your skin on fire! It certainly wasn't as bad as I thought it would be... After the break, it was then that I was told that the Ankh would probably hurt more because of the location (bottom of my spine). It measures 3" across and 6" in length. Slightly too late to do anything about it, I climbed back into the chair, this time kneeling up facing the back of it. This was a much more unstable position, and resulted in me having bruised knees for a week afterwards! And it hurt like HELL. Much, much worse than before. The brander had to hold me down because I was shaking so bad, and I really was sobbing by this time. It was like the sharpest, hottest pain, tearing through my back, up into my throat, my brain...I tried to breathe but my teeth were clenched and I found out later I actually chipped a tooth! As it was a more simple design it only took around 15 minutes - thankfully. Everyone was really nice and when it was over the rush was ENORMOUS, like nothing I have ever felt before. I was so happy! I HAD DONE IT! I was still too scared to look, but Luke told me they were perfect. I got dressed and couldn't stop grinning like a loon! It was so weird - I'm used to tattooing and feeling bruised and battered afterwards, but this time I couldn't feel anything, just a slight tightness. I could hardly catch my breath, and I couldn't stop jabbering either - probably all nonsense too! I got dressed and we left the studio, and about 10 minutes later I just burst into tears. I wasn't in pain - just shock, I think. I got very cold and shaky afterwards too - all the classic symptoms, really. We went for something to eat (it happened to be Luke's birthday too that day!), and let me give you a little piece of advice: don't go to a steak house immediately after branding. The smell of cooking meat still turns my stomach occasionally nowadays. I felt better after eating and we did the two hour journey home. I know it sounds bizarre, but I really felt like my senses had been heightened. Colours seemed brighter, images sharper...It was such an great sense of achievement. All these years of waiting and I had done something I believed in... Once home,I decided I would have to be brave and look at what had been done to me. We removed the dry dressings, and the first surprise was that there was no discharge whatsoever. The brands weren't as black as I thought - more vivid brown. Strangely, there was no inflammation around them either. Luke washed them for me (plain water and Savlon Wound Wash), dried them off and we left them alone. Still, there was surprisingly little pain. I have to say at this point that if it wasn't for Luke I would never have been able to do this. Because of the positioning he had to look after them for me, but he also supported me, loved me and cared for me through out. I had been waiting for the right time in my life to do this and he provided that for me, for which I am eternally grateful. I've kept a diary since then about the healing process - here is the edited version! DAY TWO - Slept well, and woke up to find that the skin on my back feels like it no longer fits. Bending is difficult, but there is no great pain. Luke denies it but I KNOW I can still smell it...Keep catching glimpses of it and thinking 'WOW!' Just using water and Savlon Wound Wash to heal. Filmed on digital camera tonight so saw them up close for the first time - they appear 'gouged' into the skin, and are blackened in parts. Look fierce! DAY THREE - Area around brands inflamed - painful! Taking multi vitamin, zinc and arnica to accelerate healing and continuing with Savlon washes. DAY SEVEN - Frustrated. Can't bend, can't exercise and body is diverting energy into healing brands (skin/hair look crap). Skin around brands very tight. DAY TWELVE - Almost wish I'd never had them done. Sore all the time and inflamed around both. DAY FOURTEEN - Scab starting to lift, feels a bit easier. Had a salt bath, and almost 80% of the scabbing came off the Eye! All lines very straight, even and pink, about 5mm wide. Ankh still completely scabbed. DAY TWENTY ONE - All scabbing off, all lines clear and straight and even, darkish red in colour and around 5mm wide. Slightly tender to the touch and itchy, but no restriction in movements now. And now (two months on)? I LOVE THEM! I love them to pieces and think they are fab! They are still dark red in colour, and I know I still have a long way to go. As I am pale and scar outwardly, I am hoping for white, raised scars, ultimately. I know lots of people advise you to pick the scab and irritate it, but I'm far too much of a coward for that and just didn't think that encouraging infection was a good idea. The Eye is still sore sometimes and I am trying to find ways to relieve it (Savlon antiseptic cream, Vitamin E Cream, etc). I have learnt the hard way to keep them out of the sun and / or totally sun blocked, and also to avoid swimming pools/saunas etc for any length of time. I am still getting used to people's reactions to seeing them and have only actually told a few like minded souls about the whole experience. You know it's going to be pointless explaining when someone asks 'What is that?', you reply 'Do you know what branding is?', and they look shocked/repulsed/etc or worse completely blank! Those who do know about it have been remarkably positive, and have loved the designs. For me personally one of the nicest things is that both brands are incredibly sensitive to touch. I thought that I would LOSE sensation but instead it has quadrupled! It is very nice having them stroked, and hopefully nice for the person touching them to as they are raised (you'll have to ask Luke on that one but he is agreeing as I type!). I really feel like I have achieved something, and in a way they have changed my life, as corny as that sounds. I feel stronger - like I can deal with physical pain, and I'm not scared of pushing myself now and seeing what I can over come. And they remind me in dark times that life IS precious and I DO have someone to watch over me now. I am happy to answer any questions any one might have about my experience - you can e mail at witchwoman@onmail.co.uk. I have also submitted some photos, so they should be lurking in the scarification section. General advice? Read all you can about whatever body mod it is that you want. Talk to as many people as you can, approach as many practitioners as you can - you can't gather too much information! Take someone with you on the day for reassurance, look after your body afterwards and follow the advice of the experts, not the bloke down the pub who's mate's wife once heard of someone with that done! And believe in yourself. Push the boundaries in your head and you can get through pain barriers - it really is more mental than physical. Oh, and support sites like this one, so safe body modifications can continue, we can share our information and experiences with like minded people and beautiful pieces of living art can be created! Thank you for taking the time to read this (all 3500 words of it!).


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 03 July 2001
in Scarification

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Artist: Un+-+named
Studio: Un+-+named
Location: London%2C+UK

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