Piercing Questions

A: That’s a pretty sharp question, Needling (sorry, Ace couldn’t resist). But seriously. Ritualistic piercing has been a part of the “body modification” menu since at least 1979, when Fakir Musafar, known in some circles as the “father of the modern primitive movement,” presented his personal piercing work at the first International Tattoo Convention. On his Web site at www.bodyplay.com (featuring lots of…interesting pictures), Musafar explains that he had been practicing his hobby of “body play” for decades, an act his “inner spirit revealed to him as a valid but non-sanctioned way to reach the spirit through the body.”
    That’s the crux of ritualistic piercing: It’s an approach that involves the spirit and mind just as much as the body part about to be spiked. If that definition seems nebulous, that’s because it is. According to Lyons Hardy, a nursing student at Virginia Commonwealth University, sometimes-Charlottesville resident and body piercer who studied under Musafar through his San Francisco-based courses, ritualistic piercing is by its nature a very fluid, personal practice.
    “A piercing that’s done as part of a ritual is being used to symbolize or influence something in the [piercee’s] life. It’s intended to serve a specific purpose for them, and there’s a conscious intent by the piercer and person being pierced to meet that goal,” Hardy says. For example, Hardy performed a ritualistic piercing for a young woman whose father had recently died. She wanted to get her nipples pierced to help relieve some of the feelings surrounding her loss, and move forward. After the piercing the client experienced strong emotional reactions, from laughing to crying.
    Although those kind of reactions can happen following more conventional, non-ritualistic piercings, they are the intended results of ritualistic piercings. “Piercing affects people’s energy fields, so there can be changes made to push things in a certain direction,” Hardy says.
    Any piercing can be performed ritualistically, Hardy says, from earrings to navel piercings to more unwholesome holes. The only difference is the approach, which varies greatly from person to person and piercer to piercer (one Internet diary of a ritualistic piercer details his regime of fasting and meditation prior to having his nape pierced).
    Hardy prices ritualistic piercing the same as more traditional piercings ($35 on average for a piercing above the neck, for instance, and $45-60 for anything from the neck down). She says she doesn’t know of anyone else in Charlottesville who performs ritualistic piercings (and Ace couldn’t find any others, either) and that demand hasn’t been high for the practice, but she does the deed part-time on weekends at Acme Tattoo, 9 Elliewood Ave.

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