Encyclopedia of Body Adornment

By Margo Demello | Go to book overview

D

DANCES SACRED AND PROFANE

Dances Sacred and Profane is a 1987 film directed by Mark Jury that not only documented a number of extreme body modification and body play techniques, but helped to popularize and promote these practices to a wider audience.

The film features the work of fetish and body modification photographer Charles Gatewood, and covers a whole host of extreme and nonmainstream practices that Gatewood had been documenting. Shot over three years, Dances includes footage of Mardi Gras festivities, New York BDSM clubs, nudist events, and a tattoo convention.

The film introduced Fakir Musafar, known as the Father of the Modern Primitive movement, to the world, and showcased his philosophy and body modification practices, including branding, piercing, play piercing, suspensions, and the use of encumberments for emotional and physical transformation.

The highlight of the film is the performance (and evidently the first filming) of the Sun Dance ritual in South Dakota with Musafar and piercer and Gauntlet founder Jim Ward. The Sun Dance is a ceremony once practiced differently by several Native American groups, but known especially among the Sioux, which usually include dancing, singing, and drumming, as well as fasting and in some cases, self-torture. Lasting for days, the highlight of the dance (at least as interpreted by modern primitives), has the dancers attaching themselves to a pole (similar to a May Pole), via ropes attached to bone or wood skewers, which are inserted into pre-pierced holes in the chest. Then, dancing around in a circle to the beat of drums and prayers, the particpants pull against the pole to tear the skewers out.

Dances also includes a scene of Fakir taking a Kavadi. The Kavadi is a lengthy, ecstatic trance-inducing dance ritual done while enduring some form of physical hardship. Generally, the hardship involves carrying heavy weights up a steep hill. The form of Kavadi that is of most interest to the body modification world is where a steel frame is held (supported by the shoulders and/or hips) by the participant, through which long weighted skewers are passed, which are then pierced into the skin of the back and chest. In the film, Fakir has eighty steel spears piercing his torso.

The Kavadi is a Hindu ritual normally performed during the Thaipusam festival in India. Bearing Kavadi means to bear a large basket or other container filled with items to be offered to the god Muruga, as a form of penance. Some participants wear a spear inserted through their tongue and others through their cheeks, and still others on other parts of the body, and some also walk through burning coals during the ceremony. The form of Kavadi that Musafar reenacted was

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Encyclopedia of Body Adornment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Guide to Related Topics xi
  • Preface xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • A 1
  • B 23
  • C 55
  • D 91
  • E 93
  • F 109
  • G 125
  • H 139
  • I 155
  • J 167
  • L 175
  • M 181
  • N 197
  • O 207
  • P 211
  • R 229
  • S 233
  • T 255
  • W 291
  • Y 295
  • Z 297
  • Resource Guide 301
  • Bibliography 305
  • Index 319
  • About the Author 327
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