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Ritual vs. Non-Ritual Body Modification
Topic Rating: +8 (8 votes) 
March 8, 2012
11:37 am
vampyremage
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Is there a difference between the two?  If so, what is that difference?  Is it possible to insert ritual into a modification that is traditionally not about ritual?  When someone says ritual body modification, what do those words mean to you?

 

I am curious as to the answers people might have.  I'll post my own views on the matter once I've gotten a few replies.

March 8, 2012
2:50 pm
Jamesryan
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I feel as though all body modifications are non-ritual but all can become ritual-based depending upon the mindset and intent of the individual on the receiving hand. I turn getting tattooed into a ritual even though my tattoo artist does not participate in that side of things. The ritual is internalized for me. I need not make any audible affirmations, light a candle or incense, or anything else pertaining to physical acts to create a ritual. Everything you do physically merely sets the internal part of yourself up for ritual and, after practice, is not needed in my opinion.

So, when someone says "ritual body modification", those words mean, to me, that the individual(s) partaking in this have taken a step deeper, to internalize those modifications and not use them simply for aesthetics but for mind and spirit altering changes.

James R. Somers ModernPrimitivism.com
March 8, 2012
3:12 pm
vampyremage
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For a modification to be ritualistic, then, do you think that the ritual must be in the act itself?  What I mean to say is, do you think the process itself has to be linked to that lasting change?  Or, as in the case of tattooing or wide scale body modification projects, do you think a modification whose intent is lasting self-transformation can be considered ritual even if the actual procedure doesn't have those ritual elements to it?

March 9, 2012
2:17 am
Jamesryan
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I have to say yes and no to your inquiries. By this, I mean that the ritual is generated through the intent of the person being modified. I feel anything can be set as a ritual, including multiple session pieces (such as what I'm going through with my left arm, which will branch across my torso, down my legs, and eventually over my right arm). This is a transformation for me, a marking of my journey and each session is ritualistic in the fact that I intend it to be one large ritual, the entire process, simply broken up into multiple bits.

James R. Somers ModernPrimitivism.com
March 9, 2012
3:26 am
Oakbear
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I think intent is key, however for me this ritual entails some kind of pre-planning regards the intent.

Having said that most procedures follow a prescribed order or pattern, which in itself can be viewed as a 'ritual'. This can readily be used to put oneself in the mindset to incorporate your intent in a ritualistic manner.

Without the preparation or prior intent one can still have a powerful or transformational experience, or even harness energy for a purpose, but i think i'd put that in the bracket of mysticism rather than ritual.

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." - Nietzsche
March 9, 2012
4:19 am
Jamesryan
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Oh, I absolutely agree. Every ritualistic body modification I undertake is preplanned and I plan out specifically when, how, and why I'm going to enter my meditative and shamanic states of mind.

James R. Somers ModernPrimitivism.com
March 9, 2012
9:45 am
vampyremage
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All of the above makes a lot of sense to me.  In my personal instance, I think one of the major reasons I haven't viewed most of my body modification experiences as ritual in and of themselves is that, for myself, ritual is something to be done in private which is not a judgement on any rituals done in a less than private session.  A tattoo shop, as welcoming and friendly as the one is that I most commonly frequent, isn't the right environment for me to get into the mindset needed for ritual.  Thus, my body modifications have a profound spiritual and transformative impact for me, but are largely non-ritualistic and any ritual I engage in is outside the context of the actual procedure itself.

March 9, 2012
5:16 pm
Jamesryan
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Ritual for me must just be, somehow, different. You see, I began studying occultism under a mentor at the age of merely eight, and I began performing, at least assisting in, rituals about six months after my studies began. I've done a lot of rituals in my short time here on earth, so perhaps the fact that I internalize it so greatly gives me that sense of privacy. Other people don't hear the words I "speak". They don't see the things I "see" or feel the things I "feel", et cetera. 

James R. Somers ModernPrimitivism.com
March 9, 2012
5:59 pm
vampyremage
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I have never had any sort of formal training when it comes to occultism or sprituality.  Almsot everything I do in that arena is done through intuition and trying things out until I find those things that resonate strongest with me.  I'm only just starting to explore the realm of ritual in order to discover those sorts of rituals that do resonate with me.  I believe in doing what feels "right" or "natural" for each individual.

March 9, 2012
9:36 pm
Jamesryan
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You should always trust your intuition in these matters. I feel it's pertinent to do so because your higher self, whatever that may be can guide you through it.

James R. Somers ModernPrimitivism.com
March 9, 2012
9:55 pm
vampyremage
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Everyone seems to pursue their spiritual development a little differently.  Some are more focused on learning from those more experienced and/or those who are further down their chosen past.  Some are more self taught, largely going by feel.  I consider myself to be much further in the second category, taking bits and pieces from here and there and piecing them together in the way that works best with my own personal spiritual mindset and goals.

March 14, 2012
10:03 am
Chris Carter
Pennsylvania
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I agree with James and Oakbear and think they did a fantastic job in explaining it. They both took the words right out of my mouth.

Church of Body Modification, President

March 16, 2012
2:46 pm
midian2000
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I believe that while we intentionally ritualize many acts, at times we ritualize other acts unintentionally.  I have often been struck by the fact that many aspects of body modification, while not considered ritual, have a certain "feeling" to them that rings of ritual (e.g., the set up reminds me of setting up an altar, the "bedside manner" involving breathing techniques to get through the pain reminds me of ritualized breathing involved in some magic, and the cutting/tattooing/branding/piercing/etc. simply RINGS of ancient rituals).  However, that does not mean that the simple act of body modification IS ritual.  There is just an ritual "finish," as they say in the wine tasting world.  I have had and witnessed many non-ritual body modifications, where afterward the person getting the mod or even the practitioner has mentioned that it was like being closer to God or some kind of religious experience, whether it was intended or not.  I am FASCINATED by this factor.

March 16, 2012
6:29 pm
strommer
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well said midian2000

March 16, 2012
7:16 pm
Ignacious
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I believe James pretty much said it for me.

Every modification to date has been done with no outward show that what I am doing is ritualistic, but my being buzzed with a sense of what I was about to do.

For many of my elongated plans for mods, ones that will take many sessions and many hours to complete. I wish set the dates as a day for my Self.  Bring my body and outer world into a state of being that the modification itself will bring to the inside.

March 20, 2012
10:41 am
indi
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every modification for me has always been ritualistic in the ways i go about it. i don't modify to just modify..it is very spiritual for me. i obtain a modification when i enter a new state of mind set that i believe will change my life. i want to remember and mark that. every tattoo i have tells a story even different than what it appears. i believe the engagement ring ignacious and i share tattoo'd on our fingers is ritualistic in a way and for me it was probably the most spiritual. there isn't a modification that doesn't help me in some way inwardly. 

March 26, 2012
1:56 am
karateskunk
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According to Merriam-Webster ritual is defined as

1 of or relating to rites or a ritual :ceremonial <a ritual dance>
2 according to religious law <ritual purity>
3 done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol<ritual handshakes> <ritual background checks>
 
So based on those definitions almost anything can be turned into a ritual.  Take for example your morning routine, or my morning routine, of showering, brushing my hair and teeth, dressing for the day.  Everything I do every morning.  They fit in with the 3rd definition listed up there, at least here in the US.
 
While none of my modifications have involved what I would consider a ritual, having been pagan and participated in (as well as led) several rituals, they do have a spiritual significance to me.  Like Jamesryan said it's internalized for me.  I go inside myself to my own special place whenever having a modification done.  With tattoo's it's deeper, just because the process is longer, than with a piercing however both experiences have a ritual piece to them for me.  Even if I'm the only one participating in the ritual
 
I'm rather boring for other's when having anything done because of this meditative state.  I am very frequently not "reachable" during these times.
May 7, 2012
9:06 pm
Starshine
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This topic hits close to home as I've been blessed with the opportunity to perform ritual piercings within the Pagan community here in South Florida and I just got back from Ocala where I taught a workshop on the sacred art of body modification. As was mentioned earlier intent is the most important thing. You could walk into any tattoo/piercing shop with the intent of getting something done ritually, but more often than not it's usually all within you. There is no community to support unless you bring a friend who has agreed to be in that state with you, doubly awesome if your modifier is on the same page too (which usually they aren't…maybe it's my own experience but I find a lot of people in our industry are jaded by these spiritual experiences).

However, if given the opportunity I would HIGHLY recommend a ritualized modification ceremony. The way I run mine is geared to the Pagan community as I mentioned above, however I tend to view my practice as more shamanic than anything else (oh language how you are useful yet lacking).

At this point I'll be describing some things within a specific set of beliefs, if you don't believe the same that's A-OK, just sharing the process as to give you a better idea of how I view ritualized piercings:

For example, a friend came to me asking for a ritual piercing for Odin, out of the respect he has for Him, somewhat of a dedication/thanksgiving to this deity. He gave me his ideas of how he wanted the ceremony run and then let me handle the reins. I proceeded to do a tarot reading regarding the ceremony, asking Odin what exactly he expected of the ceremony. What I got was a FLOOD of energy and requests. This was no longer a dedication but an initiation into his priesthood, his place as an Elder in our community. He entered the circle as the Wanderer, was pierced as the Warrior and left the Father. I was reminded that in our blood there is power, and memory…the energies remember a time when worshipers shed blood, sweat, and tears for their gods and they are quite insistent that the same energy be created even in a modern setting.

My friend, J, was then asked to fast for 9 days prior to the ritual piercing (as Odin hung upside down for 9 days in order to learn his magic). However, as things tend to work out in our lives I found out he had broken that agreement, and thus had to pay the price for it. Working as Var, the Norse Goddess of contracts, he was given a pretty hefty punishment which included the slap heard round the world, the actual ripping away of Mjollnir by Loki who challenged his manhood because he wished to learn of magic which was considered to be "woman's work" and the inability to show any reaction during the simultaneous piercing just as Odin did not flinch when he ripped out an eye to give to Mimir in exchange for wisdom. The entire time there were valkyries circling around chanting "broken bone, splattered stone. we search, we fly, we bring them home."

However bravery is rewarded in sacred space and he had the blessing of his community, his son was present as was his mother and he was given the gift of runes by the community as well as various other items that were added into a small medicine pouch to carry with him in case he needed a reminder for why he did it to begin with.

And that is just paraphrasing the experience as a whole! Ritual is recreating ancient myths in modern times, we become Jason of the Argonauts and go on our own "hero's journey". Leaving the the known world for the unknown, receiving a gift and returning to the community whole and loved. Best of all I wrote the ceremony specifically for him…These are powerful transformations and the energy and magic that occurs is VERY real (within 3 weeks the piercing was entirely healed. Seriously.)

Each and every ritual is different, some are for celebration, others for grounding, some for strength and other as the above for initiation into higher mysteries, dedicating one's self to a cause or goal etc. etc. etc.

When we modify ourselves we aren't just changing our bodies, we are adorning our temples and empowering our spirits.

whew sorry if that was kinda long xD happy hunting and hope my response was of help!

_Jess

June 7, 2012
6:42 am
jamidownard
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Some sources of controversy stem from the notion of attempting to artificially beautify the natural form of the body  often leading to charges of disfigurement and mutilation  extreme forms of body modification are occasionally viewed as symptomati of body dysmorphic disorder.


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