Tongue Rings, A History

February 25th, 2010

In the last two decades, there has been a great resurgence of popularity of body jewelry.  People are developing a much greater interest, especially in Western cultures.  The most popular piercings are likely the navel and tongue.  However, these are not a new form of expression at all.  Body piecings have been a away to express oneself or identify oneself for thousands of years.

Historically, the Aztecs, the Haida, Kwkiutul, Mayas of Central America and the Tlinglit tribes in the American Northwest had customs of body piercing.  It was often used as a form of self sacrifice or for religious reasons in these cultures.  Tongue rings were thought to be especially holy during these times because it was a way to draw blood to please the deities.

In Native American tribes, tongue piercings and other body jewelry were considered a way to bring people nearer to their gods through bleeding.  Aztec and Mayan tribes reportedly pierced their septum, a part of the nose, to appear fierce and intimidating to their enemies.  Rather than the modern day steel jewelry, they used bones, tusks and feathers as body jewelry.

Today, the tongue ring, as well as other body piercings are primarily for decorative reasons.  They are a means of self expression and personal decoration. The jewelry used is typically made from surgical steel and while it is often referred to as a tongue “ring,” it does not resemble the circular shape that it might imply.  In reality, it is a straight or curved barbell with a ball screwed to each end.  The ball on the bottom is often much smaller and used only to prevent the barbell from slipping out.  The ball on the top is used for decoration and expression

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