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Piercing the ears, mouth or nose to place ornaments or jewelry is an ancient practice that continues to be present in most contemporary societies. This custom, which is associated with aesthetic factors, has its origin in the rituals of initiation into sexual or adult life in tribal societies.

The transition from adolescence to maturity is also related to the ability to tolerate pain , which is why this transition was sometimes commemorated with piercings. In some tribes in Borneo, for example, piercings were done in the region of the male genitalia and young men wore bone implants in the glans.

In some cultures, piercing is associated with decorative techniques, such as tattoos, the placement of rings in the neck or rings and tapes to compress the genitals, or with religious practices. Thus, followers of certain traditional Asian religions perform a ritual piercing on their cheeks and tongue to bear witness to their trance state. Similar piercings have been documented among Sufists, a mystical current of Islam and some variants of Hinduism.

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But these rituals or ceremonies were also common among Mayan nobles, who pierced their tongues and genitals as part of a bloody ritual , while faithful devotees pierced their skin during religious festivities. Through these practices they intended to break the limits of the ego and transcend, reaching other states of consciousness. The American Indians shared the same mystical concept and performed ritual dances suspended by devices that were pierced through the skin.

These practices survived the passage of time, although with notable variations. In the Victorian era, some newspapers already mentioned the existence of piercings with jewels in the nipples and penis. In fact, one of the most popular piercings is named after Prince Albert, who was the husband of Queen Victoria of England since, according to the chronicles of the time, he wore a ring on his penis that allowed him to properly position his genitals. right or left inside the narrow pants of the uniforms of the time.

Although little is known about these techniques in the 19th and early 20th centuries, there is evidence that tongue, nipple, and lip piercings were common in Germany after World War II.

The rebirth of some decorative techniques, such as tattoos, made piercing become popular among the punk movement in Europe in the 70s, which adopted this practice as a means of provocation and to express its disagreement with society. Thus, piercing was passed on to other groups, such as homosexuals or sadomasochists, and reached the upper echelons of fashion and cinematography.

In the last thirty years, the status of piercing has changed and those who wear them are no longer marginalized characters in society. In fact, the piercing and tattoo industry is one of the fastest growing.

The appearance of new decorative modalities, such as the implantation of objects under the skin to modify the surface and decorative burns or scars, predict a prosperous future for this type of practices.

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Types of piercing and their origin


The ring passes through the tissue beneath the nasal septum. Originally from India, Africa, Polynesia and South America, its objective was to symbolically close the respiratory tract to prevent evil spirits from possessing the individual.

Superior lip

Called Madonna in the United Kingdom and Marylin in the United States, this type of piercing comes from the South American Indians, some areas of Kenya, Zambia and northern Cameroon.


It began to be practiced for the first time in Europe and North America in the 20th century.


Tongue piercing was already a common practice among the Mayans and is part of the traditions of some religions, such as Hinduism.

Belly button

It began to be practiced in Europe and the United States in the 20th century, although it is believed that it was common among Egyptian aristocrats and priests, who used them as a symbol of their nobility.


Women in Victorian society used them to enhance their figure and increase the size of their nipples. For a long time it was thought that Roman centurions used them as a symbol of courage and virility, but there is no evidence of this.

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