When I was a kid and used to read about and see photographs of tribes who used scarification as a rite of passage in all of my grandfather’s National Geographic magazines, I never thought the procedure would come to the US.
However, as you might expect, it did.
Scarification is said to have fully emerged in San Francisco in the mid-1980’s as part of the growing body-modification movement. Taking after the Maori men of New Zealand and tribes living in Papua New Guinea, people began using surgical knives to chisel intricate (and sometimes ridiculous) designs into their flesh to mark their identity. Victoria Pitts, a professor of sociology at the City University of New York, said that these etchings were originally embraced by gay and lesbian subcultures.
Not only does it involve hundreds of cuts and hours of excruciating pain (reduced slightly by topical anesthetic spray), but the uncertainty of this form of body modification is quite scary. It is one of the only modifications where your own body has complete control over how the scar will turn out. Depending on “how” a particular person scars and/or heals pretty much determines the outcome of what the design will look like.
If the wound is not cared for properly following the cutting, infections also become a major concern. Staph infections, such as MRSA, are a common consequence of negligence.
Back in the day, these raised tattoos strengthened people physically because it required a tremendous amount of discipline to complete the ritual. Scarification made men look fierce during battle and was allegedly a turn-on for women. How do you think it makes men and women look today?
Check out the slideshow above for 15 extreme scarification tattoos.