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A marked man (at last)

When I was about 14 I was given a copy of Modern Primitives and was really inspired by all the interviews, particularly the one with Fakir Musafar. From that time on I experimented with a little bodyplay, in the form of corset training and some play piercing, as well as getting my left eyebrow pierced (which didn't last long due to a collision on a dancefloor). At that time I was waiting to be old enough, and have enough money, to get a tattoo. As time wore on my experiments with bodyplay ended and I moved on to other things, though still hoped to one day scrape the money together for a tattoo (the money always seemed to get eaten by bills).

In more recent years my explorations of spirituality and magick have led me back to manipulating and changing my body. The years of ignoring my body had had the curious effect of making somewhat scared of pain and particularly the pain of getting tattooed. Two months ago my wife, who has various tattoos and piercings, decided to get branded with a fleur de lys. She told me that she felt no pain during the branding process so I decided that it would be a good stepping-stone to dealing with the pain of a tattoo, it also looks great. I was also going to use this as one of a series of "Willed Brain Change" experiments. The theory being, and it's by no means an original one, that if I change my body I'll create changes in my mind.

One of the tattoos that I had wanted for a long time was a 17th Century alchemical symbol for brimstone on my chest. It seemed perfect for branding due to the whole sulphur and burning connection. I took the design along to Holier Than Thou, here in Manchester, one Sunday morning and Louise said "When would you like to have it done? Today?" Leaving the design with them to transfer it to carbon I went off for an hour's nervous wandering around the city centre. By the time I returned to the shop my heart was racing. I knew my wife had said it didn't hurt but there was the possibility she was just putting a brave face on. Louise and the other woman working in the shop (who's name I didn't catch) were both astounded that I was getting a brand because I was "too wussy" to get a tattoo. They both seemed as excited about it all as I was and Louise said to shut the shop so that the other woman could take photos while it was being done.

I got taken into the back and Louise used some kind of carbon paper to put the design on my chest. I nervously climbed onto the surgical bed and waited. Almost as soon as the process began it was painful. Not unbearably so but enough that made me want to have words with my wife. As the brand moved further towards the outside edge of my chest, into the fleshier parts, the pain increased. I tried my best not to flinch and I even managed not to swear, which is amazing for me. The pain was very strange in that it hurt but was pleasurable at the same time. Louise stopped when the outline had been done and asked if I wanted it all burnt out or leaving as an outline. After looking in the mirror I decided to press on and have the whole thing done. The pain got slightly worse during the next bit and it seemed like she had to go over the most painful parts again and again. Thankfully the three of us were chatting all the way through so there was something else to focus on. The whole process seemed to take hours but in reality it was about half an hour to 45 minutes.

Eventually it was done and both Louise and the other woman told me how great it looked. I sat up and looked down at the perfect shape of my upper torso in sweat on the bed. I was feeling a little bit shaky and in a real altered state. As I stood up from the bed I could feel a change in myself already. The first really perceptible change in my mental processes that I experienced was looking in the mirror and actually being happy with my body. Now I've had many "body issues" and have never felt happy with my physique but today I felt that for the first time. My body was tingling and I was hyper-aware of the air moving past my chest and the feel of my shirt as it covered me up. I paid my £45, thanked them both very much, and left the shop.

I spent most of the rest of the day in a real altered state due to the endorphins. I felt both incredibly connected to, and hyper-aware of, my body and at the same time felt this almost spiritual, floating, disconnection from consensus reality. Rushes of ecstasy made huge smiles tear across my face as I wandered around the busy city centre. My ego was also inflated by my wife and the people at Holier Than Thou telling me I was hardcore for going for a brand as my first permanent body mod.

Another effect of having this done was walking through my city on a Sunday afternoon and feeling more alien than I ever have in my life. The majority of the people around me were just going about their weekly shopping and I had been through this intense and, not to sound too dramatic, life changing process. I felt like I was a different species from them, not better, just different. My altered state had calmed down by the evening. My brand gave the occasional twinge, which gave me little rushes but my brain state was much more "normal".

Four days after getting branded and the real pain started. I had seen my wife going through having her brand de-scabbed and lemon-juiced by me and despite having Louise say it probably isn't necessary I felt I had to go through it to complete my experience. To remove the scab I sweated it off under a damp cloth and cling-film. The pain of applying the lemon juice with a cotton-bud was the worst I've ever experience, even worse than having my finger mangled in a van door last year. My chest felt like it was on fire for about 10 minutes before going back to normal. I repeated this about 4 or 5 more times over the following two weeks until the brand had healed enough that there wasn't much point in continuing.

I went back to Holier Than Thou to get it checked and to see if the edges needed "re-cutting" or anything and Louise was slightly disappointed to find that it had healed really neatly and didn't need anything doing to it.

The whole experience has had quite an impact on me. I've already got the idea for what I want next (scarification) and I can't wait. I was very lucky to have had my first major body mod experience at such a professional and friendly place. Everyone that works there are as enthusiastic and passionate about their art as I'd hoped they'd be. They really made my process feel as special as I thought it was.

I went into this hoping it would be part of my "Willed Brain Change" experiments and I think it's been successful. I'm definitely a very different man than I was the day before having it done.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 17 May 2006
in Scarification

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Artist: Louise
Studio: Holier+Than+Thou
Location: Manchester%2C+UK

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