Body Art vs. Self Mutilation.

Essay by ravingangel2501University, Bachelor'sA+, April 2003

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For centuries body art such as tattoos and piercings have been practiced all over the world in almost every culture. Both practices have different meanings and multiple levels from religious rites to pure decoration. Often times throughout the history of western culture, these practices have been shunned and outcast as the marks of Satan. In the last few centuries however, these fallacies have subsided to the thoughts of mere loathing of any permanent defacing of a person's body. It has been argued that body art is no more than just attention seeking self-mutilation, in which only heathens and criminals engage. These often painful practices usually marked a rite of passage or indicated an act of bravery and courage in warriors. The art of tattoos have existed for more than 5300 years, appearing on all continents that have been inhabited by human civilizations. Piercing, however, is the most ancient form of body art, existing since the ninth century B.C.

in Iraqi cultures. The common functions of piercings throughout the world were religious ceremonies and enlightenment, to show social wealth and standings, beauty and fashion, sexual enhancement, and the marking of criminals and slaves. Tattoos and piercings have been around for millennia, and for the majority of that time, they have always been accepted as a form of art, not mutilation, and as an honor of immeasurable wealth.

Tattoos can capture an inordinate amount of beauty and complexity with each stroke from the artist's needles. It is an art that has been widely spread on almost every continent and was practiced at one time by virtually every culture. Some tattoos are self-motivated expression of personal freedom and uniqueness, while in ancient cultures they usually marked a person as a member or nonmember of a local group, or express religious, magical, or spiritual...