A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By C. D. Olano
In the United States, it can be difficult to land a “good” job when you are covered in ink and your face can set off a metal detector at an airport. There exist a multitude of dress code policies banning “unusual” jewelry, exposed tattoos and “unnatural” hairstyles. In a society where breast augmentation, fake nails, hair color in a bottle, spray on tans and bleached teeth reign supreme, who can really dictate what is natural? Court cases have been fought on behalf of young Rastafarians who were turned away from schools because their dreadlocks were “unnatural.” One young woman must keep all her tattoos covered in the hospital where she is a secretary. Her body art is extensive; covering most of her back, chest, and arms with religious symbols and icons that mark her spiritual journey through life. If the work stretched on to her hands or up onto her neck, she would never have been allowed to work there and would find great resistance keeping her from advancing in the “real world,” even though she may be just as intelligent, caring, and qualified. Body art, modification, and mutilation are not just modern trends. Pierced nostrils, which has become so popular that even soccer moms that do yoga on the weekend are catching on to the craze, are quite normal in India. In fact, as young girls here may rebel by getting their nostril pierced, young girls in India are considered rebellious if they do not get it done. There is a Hindu ceremony called Kavadi, worshippers drive thick skewers through their skin. The skewers are removed by holy men, reportedly, with little to no bleeding. Hindus believe there is a great strength to be gained by facing and overcoming pain. Needless to say, this religious ceremony has been banned by the government. There was an ancient Okeepa ceremony, outlawed in America and Canada. The northern tribe of Native Americans would ritually suspend young willing men from the rafters of holy buildings. Large hooks would be stuck through the back and the young men would be suspended for hours. It is believed this was a rite of passage for young men. It is also believed it mimicked, and was meant to honor, the torture and murder of a great warrior from their tribe. Coptic Christians, a sect located in Egypt, cover their bodies in black tattoos that mark their religious journeys. Some tattoos are considered so sacred that they must be put on by priests. Lip disks stretched necks and stretched ears have spread across Asia, Africa, and South America for many centuries.
For some strange reason, man has been filled with a desire to be punctured, sliced, ripped, burnt, stretched, hung by hooks, dyed and so on. Now, here in America, there is a recognized church devoted to followers of this driving force. In this church, the altering of the body is not secondary to the religion but is the basis of it. The leaders of the Church of Body Modification have little to say on the subject of God. Much like Buddhists, they do not disavow His existence or hold Him with any lack of regard. They believe the altering of the body is a way of showing ownership of the body, and so, over life. They believe that the marks they leave on their bodies tell the story of a spiritual journey. It expresses a desire for society to return to its roots. They believe that humans need to listen more to their bodies. One could view this church as a response to prejudices the members have faced because of their physical appearance, and offer a social group for people with like-minded views. There has been a trend of people moving towards more nature-based lifestyles. Neopagan, Wicca, Rastafarian, and Buddhist traditions are becoming more admirable as people notice the down-sides of the Industrial Revolution Era. American society seems to be crying out for more primitive pleasures of our human past, such as whole foods, organic farming, drum circles, and yoga. Piercings and tattoos are another part of that heritage reoccurring. Greek gods, Celtic designs, Egyptian and Taoist symbols are all ancient religious symbols that have become rather popular for tattoos. People are yearning to denote themselves as a part of a more exotic tradition. The rise of the individual in this country has also been a driving force for the rise of body modification. More and more people want to express that they belong to a religious sect that is uniquely formatted to suit them.