The History and Cultural Significance of Body Piercings

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Piercing has long been an integral part of human culture and expression. From ancient rituals and spiritual practices to contemporary expressions of individualism, its cultural significance spans generations and continents alike. Here we explore this vast history, unveiling its many traditions worldwide and unravelling its profound meanings – this art form continues to thrive around the globe!

Body Piercing Practices in Ancient Civilisations

Piercing body parts is an ancient practice which can be found across cultures worldwide. Ancient Egypt used body piercing as a symbol of royalty and status; only members of his immediate family were permitted certain types of piercings; in South America Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas employed lip and tongue piercings during religious ceremonies to connect with idols.

Here are a few popular piercings that have historical and cultural significance that have become popular in modern times.

tribal septum piercing

Septum Piercing: This piercing originates from various indigenous tribes around the world, including those in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and North America. The septum piercing was traditionally used as a symbol of strength, status, and beauty. This piercing is in the soft tissue between the nostrils. Today, the piercing is common amongst today’s society because of its ability to be easily concealed and also expressed using various jewellery. Learn how to pierce the septum on our piercing course!

tragus piercing

Labret Piercing: Generally Labret piercings are placed below the lower lip and above the chin. Traditionally practiced by African and American tribes (such as the Aztecs and Mayans), labret piercings were commonly chosen due to their unique appearance and versatility when it came to jewellery selection. Popularised in most recent times by celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Cara Delevingne.

Piercing in Western Culture

Piercing has its origins in Western culture dating back to explorers and sailors encountering indigenous people during their travels. Over time, piercing began becoming more accepted within society as an expression of self-expression or rebellion against conventional standards of beauty and propriety; today it’s widely accepted across societies as a personal decision used to express oneself or express identity. In recent years, the body modification industry has experienced a boom in its popularity, now being widely accepted in society. 

ear lobe piercings

Earlobe Piercings: By far the most widespread and universally accepted type of piercing, earlobe piercings have long been part of Western culture. Though often associated with young girls as part of their rite of passage experience, people of all genders and ages choose to have their earlobes pierced as part of their journey toward adulthood. More people now also choose multiple piercings which allow for multiple jewelry styles or arrangements to suit different situations.

belly button piercing

Belly Button Piercings: Also known as navel piercings, these became particularly popular in the 1990s and have remained a common choice, especially among women. Belly button piercings are often associated with fashion trends and can be easily concealed, making them a personal choice of piercing that doesn’t typically conflict with professional norms.

Piercing in Western Culture

Body piercings hold deep cultural, spiritual and symbolic meaning beyond aesthetic appeal. They often mark important life milestones or represent spiritual beliefs – reflecting diverse traditions and values across societies worldwide. Piercings take on different cultural meaning depending on where they are performed – some cultures celebrate them while others view them simply as body decorations.

Modern Piercing and Education

With body piercing becoming an increasingly popular industry, professional training and education in this area is more important now than ever before. At the Tattoo Piercing Academy, we recognise both its historical and cultural significance; therefore providing comprehensive piercing courses which not only teach technical skills necessary for safe piercings but also emphasise cultural appreciation of rich traditions associated with body piercing around the globe.

To Round Up

The history of Body Piercing’s and cultural relevance across the world attests to its power to transcend time, geography and cultural barriers. As we continue to learn more about its many meanings and practices, it’s important that we approach this art form with reverence and understanding – whether you are newcomer or professional body piercer alike; understanding this timeless yet constantly developing practice will deepen your appreciation of it.


Learn to pierce under the supervision of our experienced piercing instructors with over 15 years experience.