Sunday, 1 March 2015

Painful beauty – 1. part

They sang about it in songs, described it in poems and novels. Beauty. In different times and cultures, people were and still are able to perform incredible and often painful rituals in order to achieve honor, marriage, social status and so on. Today, we present some of them...

Foot Binding


Probably one of the most painful beauty tradition was foot binding, which is also known as Lotus feet. This procedure, which was based on applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls and stop the growth of feet, began in 10th century. All this process start at very young age of girls, when the bones and cartilages were still flexible. First were girl´s feet softened in hot water, decoction of monkey bones or hot animal blood. Then was scrubbed off dead skin, clipped toenails and feet were sprinkled with alum, which served as a powder preventing perspiration. Then were feet bounded with cotton bandages, which were soaked in hot water. It should be also noted that as these bandages dried, they also shrinked. During binding were four small toes wrapped towards the heel. Thumb remained free to create a spike. Over the years were feet bandaged tighter.

Although foot binding was expanded in the higher classes and peasants didn´t make this procedure because it will be harder for them to work, through the time has this trend spread also to the lower classes, because "Lotus feet" could help young girls to marriage. As stated Zhou Guizhen, one of the last women with binded feet, "I regret binding my feet. I can´t dance, I can´t move properly. I regret it a lot. But at the time, if you didn´t bind your feet, no one would marry you."

There are different stories, which are trying to explain it. Probably the most popular is talking about emperor Li Yu, who ruled between 961 - 975 and had a concubine, who with bounded feet performed a "lotus dance." Other ladies imitated her and this tradition has gradually spread.

Even there were efforts to stop this painful tradition, the final stop brought in 20 century missionaries from the West countries, who launched the campaign and disseminate informations mainly about the health risks.


Nose Plugs of the Apatani Women


Apatani tribe, also known as the Tanni, may on the first view look like typical group of people, who we can find all over the world. They have patriarchal community and women are carrying out the household chores, cooking, fetching of water, nursing, taking care of children and other typical works at home or in the garden, but they are also controling the internal family income. Women are also skillful weavers, men are farmers, fishers or practicing basketry and similarly to other tribes or nations have brightly colored dresses, traditional dances and faith that misfortune or bad luck are caused by evil spirits. They believe in the oneness of all living creatures, every living creature has a role to play in life. During special ceremonies they are also sacrificing domestic as chicken, cow or mithun.

First interesting thing on this tribe settled in the Ziro Valley in central Arunachi Pradesh, India, is that they have intesting techniques of the conservation and cultivation. These people are using several methods of wet rice cultivation without use of machinery or animals. They also recycle waste and have irrigation system.

Second interesting thing is tradition of nose plugs, which are wearing women of this tribe. The stories say that the women of this tribe were the most beautiful in the area and therefore were often kidnapped, so they took action and started to give plugs in their noses and tattoos on their faces with a horizontal line from the forehead to the tip of the nose and five lines on their chins. But, interesting is also that the older men-folk tie the hair in top-knots and tatto the faces. It is therefore possible that tattoos were rather for decoration or to attract the respect and fear in the eyes of the enemy.

In modern times are wearing these plugs and tattoos mainly elderly women and men and probably from the middle of the 20th century this custom began to die because girls and boys born after the 1970s have not been practicing this tradition so often as before.

Mentawai Teeth Chiseling


For modern world are one of the ideals of beauty wonderful teeth. Although the modern world mostly focused on how to achieve the whitest teeth, in Indonesia are female Mentawaians of Sumatra undergoing Teeth Chiseling Ritual, during which are their front 6 teeth sanded to sharp, narrow and pointed shape. Teeth Chiseling Ritual is rather based spiritualy and sharpened teeth represent the balance between body and soul. People also believe that sharpened teeth will please the spirits the tribes believe in. Ritual in Mentawai tribe represents practice to beautify the appearance.

Usually were young girls undergoing this ritual during puberty, or in their later years if they were asked on it by their husbands. Although is this ritual gradually declining, it is still regarded as a practice to enhance the beauty and maintaining partner.

Today we can say that it is rather voluntary, although the  mayor´s wife is required to perform this procedure even it is painful and woman is given nothing to numb the feeling in mouth. Woman can only bites on green banana. Shaman of this tribe is during ritual using chisel, bamboo poles to move woman´s tongue out of the way and banana leaves to bite for the pain.



It should be also noted, that this ritual has been for more than 2 000 years alive in different parts of Indonesia. Although is in decline, there are still many places where you can during July and August see both men and women undergoing this procedure, because teeth are considered as the symbol of lust, greed, anger and other negative emotions. Ceremony perform member of the highest caste, the Brahmin (priest) or shaman with use of simple tools like file, small hammer and carver, which are purified with holy water.

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