I'm a ritual magickian and I am going to share some of the technology of ritual piercing here. Piercing in this context is not an act of fashion, whim or rebellion. It is part of an ongoing process of perfecting the self.
Not that the other reasons are bad. You may read this and take as much or as little of it as you desire. Every man and woman has the fundamental right to do what they want with their own flesh.
Piercing for another reason can even lead you to the same end, but I am interested in getting results by design rather than accident.
It saves precious time.
Think of this as a gift from me to you.
What I am interested in specifically is engineering self-transformation through the application of ritual technology.
I will endeavour to keep this piece free of jargon and give you some clear, precise, and tested techniques to add to your own lists of possibilities.
Like the needle, let's keep this direct.
Piercing for magickal gain is not new. We can all nod about the Mayans and Sundance rituals and even regard the crucifixion as examples of piercing as magick.
But why did they use it?
Very simply, piercing as a magickal technique works.
In these given examples the piercing is an ordeal. A method of entering the spirit world by duress. Often this is a reflection of a theology that postulates a division between spirit and flesh. This was the worldview of the Gnostics who saw the body as a prison. For them the world is a 'rotten place' we must escape from. This attitude informs much of Christian thinking and can also be found in Buddhism with the corpse meditations and proclamation that the world is sorrow. These beliefs can push the believer towards self-abnegation or harm. The body is seen as transient, a cause of suffering and is denied.
In contrast the magickian sees the world as pure joy. The flesh is not seen as evil, or something to be mortified. The body is not to be abused but is to be used as a tool. The flesh is subject to the control of the Will, it is not to be punished, but rather celebrated.
This healthy, passionate and vibrant approach has lead some magickians to avoid using piercing as a way to transform themselves. Certainly there are notable exceptions such as the pioneering work of TOPY, but many still confuse the use of the needle with bodily denial and negative conditioning.
This is where the 'does it hurt' question comes up. My piercer aptly describes piercing as a sensation that is in itself neutral and you can call what you want. That matches my experience. The sensory overload of piercing can put you into a perfect void state. It is a massive shortcut (or short circuit!) in the same way that the ego annihilating orgasm of sex magick can be. Having a needle pushed though your major nerve clusters is a radical way to BE HERE NOW. But if you'd prefer to do it the hard way and rely on asana and mantra yoga alone, then be my guest.
So what can we use this experience for?
The possibilities are infinite, bounded only by any limitations that you bring to bear.
As the state is neutral it is up to us to provide the setting which gives it meaning, just as Leary advises with psychedelics.
The timing, location, preparation and motivation is where the Art comes in.
The needle is the end point of the ritual.
I'll give a couple of hypotheticals for you to consider.
Let's take play or temporary piercing first.
This is ideal for sigil or results based magick.
First you need a statement of intent. Something you want to occur, phrased as a positive statement. Formulate a single precise idea, and sharpen it to a single point.
Then you sigilise the idea. That is, you condense the desire into a symbol. Options include a simple picture, a word, or even a sound. You are using this to bypass your conscious awareness and communicate directly with your unconscious mind. Methods for doing this can be found in the work of Austin Osman Spare, and have been summarised by Phil Hine, Frater UD and many others.
Meditate on the sigil that you have constructed until you can hold it unwavering in your mind. You wouldn't go to a shaky handed piercer or tattooist, so why do magick with a shaky focus. This preparation is vital for success.
Create the setting, remove all distractions, cast circle if appropriate.
Now you are ready to pierce, or be pierced.
Hold the sigil in your mind's eye. Needle goes in.
Shout the word, or hear the sound, or see the picture.
At the moment of crisis your unconscious takes an imprint of the sigil. You are programming yourself at the point of peak experience.
When you remove the needle forget the sigil. Dispose of the needle. If you have a copy of the sigil, destroy that as well.
The unconscious mind is accessed, activated and seeded by the use of symbol, the language of dreams. It then endeavours to make that happen.
That's a very simple explanation of sigil magick with a needle based 'launch', powerful direct and effective magick.
If piercing for you is taboo, or like me you have an aversion to needles, then you will get better effects through the heightened tension. The breaking of taboo releases energy. If on the other hand you jam needles through yourself on a regular basis you may find that this technique gives you diminishing returns.
The altered state of play piercing can also be used for possession work with the blood forming a key to enable a specific force to manifest through the worker, or as part of a ritual drama re-enacting the story of a God.
Suspension rite for Odin anyone?
Permanent piercings are better suited to rites of passage, dedications, or initiations where you want to have a constant reminder or time marker.
This approach would not be suitable for sigilic magick where there must be no 'lust of result'. The reminder of a permanent adornment would foil the procedure.
First you need to choose the appropriate location and piercing.
Let me give you a personal example. One central hermetic concept is that of the divine androgyne, the perfect synthesis of male and female, God and Goddess. You can see this depicted in the works of Alchemy, Eliphas Levi's Baphomet et al. This figure represents perfection, the goal of the Great Work. I used the ritual act of being pierced through my nipples to connect with my lunar feminine side. The symbolism of being pierced with a lance seemed very apt. My nipples had never really 'worked', before the piercing they were fairly inert. Now I have new erogenous zones and a physical reminder of my commitment to self knowledge.
Witches may wish to consider the witchfinders method of searching for a point where they do not react to a pinprick as a test of guilt. Piercing a point found that way could be part of a process of reclamation.
Second, consider the jewellery and even symbolic value of the gauge. There is a difference between a BCR and a smooth segment ring, a bar and a stirrup.Your jewellery can also be charged. With a sympathetic piercer you may be able to place it in the autoclave yourself as part of the purification/banishing.
Third, decide on the setting. Most magickal piercings tend to be done outside of sterile environments. This will be less hygenic and there are more risks. You may need to find a sympathetic assistant and this is all part of the ritual.
Fourth, to squeeze every drop from the experience think about what you want to use the piercing 'high' for. Pathworking is an obvious choice.
Fifth, the blood and even the needle itself can be used talismanically rather than discarded. Again there is an infection risk here, be careful with used needles.
I've said very little, but hopefully it is enough to spark some thoughts on a rarely discussed area. You are welcome to email me if I have not been clear enough or you have something to add.
My best regards, wishing you all Knowledge and Conversation of your Daemon, Genius or Angel depending on how it appears to you.