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Modification History

Body modification is a universal art form that has been practiced for thousands of years. It is done for such motivations as sexual enhancement, a rite of passage, aesthetic reasons, denoting affiliation, trust and loyalty, religious or mystical affiliations, shock value, and self-expression

In our section of Modification we discuss the action of Scarification, Beading and Splitting

Scarification has been used for many reasons in many different cultures:

  • Scarification has been used as a rite of passage in adolescence, or to denote the emotional state of the wearer of the scars, such as times of sorrow or well-being. This is common among Australian Aboriginal and tribes in New Guinea, amongst others.


  • Scarification, by deliberately burning skin, is called branding and has historically been used to mark slaves and criminals, usually with the brand being visible and often letter-coded to reflect the crime.
  • The Māori of New Zealand used a form of ink rubbing scarification to produce facial tattoos known as “moko.” Moko were considered to make the body complete as Māori bodies were considered to be naked without these marks. Moko were unique to each person and served as a sort of signature. Some Māori chiefs even used the pattern of their moko as their signatures on land treaties with Europeans.
  • In some cultures, the willingness of a woman to receive scarification shows her maturity and willingness to bear children.
  • Scarification is fairly common in West Africa and New Guinea.
  • Facial scarring was a popular practice among the Huns.
  • Facial scarring resulting from academic fencing is regarded as a badge of honour among the European dueling fraternities, this tradition originating in the 19th century.

Facial Scarification


There are many reasons why people may turn to scarification. Aesthetically, scarifications are usually more visible on darker skinned people than tattoos. Also, unlike tattoos, scarifications are a product of one’s own body

Lines are cut with surgical blades

Extended cutting techniques include:

Ink rubbing

This is where tattoo ink (or another sterile coloring agent) is rubbed into a fresh cut. Most of this ink will remain in the skin as the cut heals, and will have the same basic effect as a tattoo. As with tattoos, it is important not to pick the scabs as this will pull out the ink. The general public often interprets ink-rubbings as poorly done tattoos. (see Wings of Desire/ pin-point piercing by Christiane)

Skin removal/skinning/peeling

Cutting in single lines produces relatively thin scars, and skin removal is a way to get a larger area of scar tissue. The outlines of the area of skin to be removed will be cut, and then the skin to be removed will be peeled away. Scars from this method often have an inconsistent texture. (see PBA scars by Ryan Ouellette, Sicklove = Ron Garza and Art-Kor by Lukas Zpira)


The common opinion on healing a scarification wound is that it should be treated with irritation


Generally, the longer it takes a wound to heal, the more pronounced (the darker or more raised) the scar will be. Therefore, in order to have very pronounced scars, the goal is to keep the wound open and healing for the longest time possible. This is done by picking or scrubbing away scabs and irritating the wound with natural irritants such as sugar and citrus juice. Some practitioners recommend the use of tincture of iodine which has been proven to cause more visible scarring (this is why it’s no longer used for treating minor wounds). With this method, a wound may take months to heal; however the scar may be inconsistent.


Keloids are raised scars. Keloiding can be a result of genetics, skin color (darker skin types are more prone to keloiding), or irritation. Keloids are often desired for the visual, 3-D effect they provide and for the way they feel to the touch.

If an enclosed space –such as a circle — is cut or branded, it is possible that the skin inside of the closed space will die off and scar due to a lack of blood flow to the area.


If a scarification does not heal in the desired fashion, secondary scarifications may be done to help achieve the desired effect, such as even scarring, or detail. Ususally you will have to wait at least 6 months before the skin is ready for a touch-up


Masaai people get their huge ears by cutting away the antitragus. This is not only practical but looks really beautiful. Other cultures with big stretched ears also cut their lobes or pierce them big at a very young age.

Stretched Ears


For centuries various kinds of cultures have practised beading.
In almost all Asian countries they occur, in Japan the Yakuza uses mostly real sweet water pearls (they do it in prison to ease their body of their sexual urge temporarily and to show their loyalty to their yakuza boss by inserting 1 more for every year they are in prison). If they cannot get pearls, they will make a ball of a part of their toothbrush. Actually it is such a common ritual in Japan that the ward in jail will count the balls before they go in and again when they leave. If there is more than 1 extra in it, they supposedly have to pay a fine!

In Indonesia they put cillinder-shaped beads in the shaft while in prison.
Also South America is familiar with genital beads as well as the Antilles and in Surinam.

Nowadays not only men are doing genital beadings but also women.
(see pictures in the modification gallery)


Not only genital places are beaded but almost everywhere on the body beads are being placed.
The generator of this practise is Steve Haworth. (


The first stories about getting your tongue split were from 1997..then there were 3 people who did it, without knowing from each other and all doing different techniques. One got it professionally done by a plastic surgeon using a laser. The 2nd did it himself by cutting and cauterization and the 3rd also did it herself using a teflon tie-off method. This was on the cover of the magazine Body-Play back then. Since then many different methods have been practised. The tongue will try to heal together again for at least 6 weeks. So usually the tongue will grow back abit.

Split Tongues

If you check on BME you can also see different body parts being split. (

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