Traditional Body Modification Amongst Aboriginal Australians

You may be scratching your head and wondering just what does the term ‘Aborigine” mean. The term simply means “original inhabitant” and has become the accepted title of Australia’s Native People. While even as a whole, they see themselves as separate people with their own traditions and histories from state to state, and, in some cases, regions within each state.

It is estimated that Australia’s indigenous people have resided in Australia between 60,000 to 100,000 years and during this time, have evolved their own body modification practices. These studied practices are by no means universal to all Aboriginal modification and are certainly seen as unique to humans.

The early origins of body piercings began with Aboriginal Australians who practiced penile sub-incision and extension of the labia. The objective of this ritual ceremony was believed to hold the power to transform the nature of the profane to the sacred, therefore evoking the radiant presence of a supernatural power.

There is another belief that the ritual ceremony is for the children, between the ages of 10 -16 years of age are initiated and begin the responsibility of adulthood. This ritual is only for those who have proven themselves worthy enough, both mentally and physically.

There is a significant age range because the age of the child is decided by specific members in their language group. This is often considered as “one’s right to passage”. This simply means that the child is given the right to pass from childhood to adulthood. For those being initiated, they are given proper instruction and prepared for their roles within the ceremony and later in life as an adult. These teaching preparations are taught over a period of many years by significant people within the language group.

During the ceremony, everyone is given a different role. The initiates are decorated with body paint and ornaments. Initiated members may either have a tooth removed, their ears pierced, their nose pierced or even flesh cut with particular sacred markings. Other family members would also carry special markings to commemorate the special event. Knowledge and effective skills are passed on through initiation ceremonies. These skills enable the newly made adult to function in a new way within the language group.

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