Artists and front-desk staff alike are all too aware of the countless myths and misconceptions surrounding body modification. Because it was, for so long, a “behind closed doors” industry, there was not a lot of opportunity to put good information out there. Until now. The internet has allowed a sharing of facts, stories, and information that was completely unheard of just a couple of generations ago. While this exchange can help us in combatting myths, it also leaves the door open to them – seemingly everyone has a friend that has a friend that has a cousin whose face was permanently paralyzed after getting a piercing, or was refused an epidural because of a tattoo on their back. It can be hard to tell which of these stories are true, and which are urban legend. Of course, the ideal solution is to talk to both medical and body mod professionals about any concerns you may have, but this article aims to clear up at least the most common of these misconceptions.
#1 : PIERCINGS CAUSE NERVE DAMAGE
This is perhaps the most pervasive of mod myths. Countless stories have been told over the years about paralyzed faces, developing migraines, even going blind or deaf, as the result of a badly placed piercing. “Nerve damage” is a very frightening sounding term, so it’s understandable that people take this concern seriously. No one in their right mind would risk blindness just to get their eyebrow pierced. But is there any truth to it?
To date, not a single medical case of blindness or deafness as a result of a piercing has been recorded. Doctors that have spoken on the subject do include nerve damage as a possible complication, but also stress that this is incredibly rare, and generally due to dirty equipment or poor aftercare, not the piercing itself. Going to a clean, professional shop and taking proper care of it afterwards reduces your risks of such damage to almost zero.
#2 : TATTOO INK IS MADE OF (INSERT SOMETHING GROSS HERE)
From cow’s blood to urine, we’ve heard every possible rumour, myth, and legend about the ingredients found in tattoo ink. The truth is much less exotic. Tattoo inks, just like most other inks, contain numerous ingredients, but the majority of them are plant and carbon based. Even in Ancient Rome, long before FDA regulations or knowledge of allergies, tattoo ink was made of pine bark, vinegar, and leek juice. No cow’s blood necessary.
#3 : IT IS DANGEROUS TO GET AN MRI OR X-RAY IF YOU HAVE A PIERCING
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that the magnet in an MRI machine will rip out your piercings, or that an X-ray cannot be performed on someone with piercings. High-quality piercing jewelry is most often made of non-magnetic metals, such as stainless steel or niobium. And, common sense should be enough to tell us that X-rays can still be performed – afterall, people with metal pins or plates in their bodies not only can, but often have to, get them. The reason you are asked to remove all piercings before these procedures is not that it is dangerous, but that the piercings can obstruct vision – that piece of jewelry will show up on the X-ray, and if there is anything beneath it, your jewelry may hide it.
#4 : NIPPLE PIERCINGS CAUSE CANCER/ LOSS OF SENSATION/PREVENT BREASTFEEDING
Nonsense. While some of the other myths and misconceptions are at least based on some tiny kernel of truth, this one is just straight-up wrong. There is absolutely no correlation between piercings and cancer, breastfeeding is still completely possible, and it is actually more likely sensitivity will increase, not decrease (though, even likelier is it that your sensitivity won’t change at all).
#5 : YOU CANNOT GET AN I.V. OR EPIDURAL WHERE A TATTOO IS PRESENT
A few reasons have been offered for this myth: the ink will seep out, the tattoo blocks entrance to the veins, the ink will get into your bloodstream and poison you, your pores are covered, etc. All untrue. There is absolutely no medical reason why you cannot get an I.V. or an epidural, nor is there any truth to ink “seeping” when such procedures are done. The ink in a tattoo sits under the epidermis – it is well beneath your pores, is not “blocking” your veins, and will not just spontaneously start to travel if pricked.
Pointillism and sacred geometry may seem, to those in the know, diametrically opposed. The former – the use of many small, distinct dots to create an image – can be said to move from the abstract to the more concrete; a single dot has very little meaning, but string enough of them together, and a picture begins to emerge. The latter – applying sacred and universal meanings to geometric symbols – can be said to move from the concrete to the more abstract, using objective mathematics to seek a deeper understanding of the universe as a whole.
When I-Kandy’s newest family member, Crystal, told me a bit about her art, however, I was not struck by the differences between the two, but the similarities. In telling me about her style, she had this to say:
“The style is pointillism, mixed with sacred geometry and heavy blackwork. I love the symmetry and order of geometry – it feels like a dichotomy mixing it with creativity, and I like the challenge of putting them together.”
Both the order of geometry and the tedious nature of pointillism seem to contribute to that dichotomy – taking something structured and distinct and using it in a manifestation of the creative and symbolic. Indeed, it is that dichotomy and precarious balance that inspired these styles and movements in the first place. Pointillism was born from the post-impressionist movement – the combination of a strict, tedious technique and an abstract, divisionist philosophy was understandably appealing to impressionists – it was a new way to create a realistic image while obscuring the details. Sacred geometry, on the other hand, has ancient origins. Plutarch, a 1st century Greek essayist, made several references in his writings to God constantly “geometrizing” – a belief he attributed to Plato. And as we get a firmer grasp on science, we do indeed see mathematical and geometrical constants emerge, adding a curious dimension to our cosmic understanding.
Applying these artistic, geometric, and cosmic concepts to tattooing seems the logical, and yet rarely taken, next step. The style Crystal has created is truly unique in its combining of two artistically opposite, yet philosophically similar, concepts. The pointillism, she says “really calms me down – something about the presumed tediousness of it really resonates with me”, while the sacred geometry “is found in everything – in nature, architecture, our dna…I feel putting it on our bodies is a way of connecting with something deeper and older than ourselves”.
With so much history behind these styles and symbols, one has to wonder what the artist is hoping to pass on to clients. “I hope that people feel empowered”, Crystal explains, “Getting a tattoo is one of the few times in our lives that we have complete control over our pain and our body. We make a conscious choice to endure and rise above. We make a conscious surrender to the fact that all of this is temporary. That this skin is just a vessel that will diminish and eventually turn to ash. Tattooing allows us to remember, to heal. To surrender and forget. It allows us to feel a part of something, to fit in, to be original. To express ourselves in the way that feels most comfortable to ourselves.”
To this end, the blending of discipline, art, geometry, and spirituality seems more than apt.