crescent moon scarification

for about two years now i've been considering having crescent moon designs on my wrists. i knew pretty quickly that i didn't want them done as tattoos. the idea of having a needle shoved into my skin lots of times, the expense, trusting another artist, and the look achieved all worked together to help me realize that i did not, in fact, want these moons done as tattoos.

what are my other options? well, i was used to having scars, and i like the way they look. my nails are really sharp even when they're trimmed short, and so i thought maybe i could just carve the designs with my nails. that turned out to be hard even at the best of times (i tried to create the designs in short spurts over those two years), and didn't seem like a very sanitary method, nor even as precise as i would have liked.

then last fall i met two friends who had burned beautifully shaped hearts onto their torsos. they looked really nice - like a white tattoo or a very clean scar. i asked my friend how he had done it, and he said they had just bent a wire clothes hanger into the shape they wanted, held it over the burner on their stove, and burned each other. ouch! their heart designs were pretty big (i'd say 3-4" across), and that looked painful.

but i wanted my moons to be very small. and i'm used to shaping wire and working with wire, so that made me feel more comfortable with the idea. if you get this done professionally it's called branding, and the alternative form of scarification is to have a professional cut the design into your skin and then peel the top layer of skin off to cause a noticeable scar. OUCH! no thanks! besides, i had tried to cut myself a few times before to make these designs, and could never bring myself to break the skin. too hard.

so last week i finally did it. i went back and forth in my head for a long time about whether i should cut the design out of metal or just shape the outline with wire. i tried cutting a metal jar lid, but it proved too thick for my wire cutters. then i tried sketching the designs out on the inside of a soda can, but quickly scrapped the idea when i held a lighter to the can and watched the metal curl and burn. that definitely would not have been safe!

ultimately, i decided to go with the wire that i'm familiar with - 20 gauge galvanized steel, carefully shaped as close as possible to the moons that i wanted. once i had the wire shaped, i heated it up with a lighter and tested the design on a poor wilting basil leaf to see how it would look. it looked great! next, i heated it up again and tested it on the bottom of my foot, on the super super callused part below my big toe. i didn't feel a thing, and the shape was perfect.

okay. time to face the music. i positioned my arm so that it was stable and not flexed or stretched in a weird way. i flicked on the lighter, held the shaped steel wire in the flame for a good few seconds, dropped the lighter, positioned the wire... ouch! damn, it is hot when you burn yourself! ha. no kidding! i got okay coverage from that first burn, but placed it back on the exact spot (for very brief moments!) a few more times to make sure it really got burned in there.

then i did it all over again on the inside of my wrist. the moons were puffy and white that night, and red all around. even though they scar better if you don't treat them with anything, i did put some of my burn salve on them to help them calm down. over the next few days they went from looking irritated and red, to scabbing. i don't know yet how well they'll scar - we'll see. i may choose to burn them again, either to make the scar more visible or to shape the moons more carefully. and i want to do my right wrist as well at some point.

but for now, i'm pretty happy. i think they'll look good when they're all healed up. and more subtle than most tattoos, which was my goal. hooray!

side note for concerned friends: please do not worry. i am not a cutter or self mutilator. i didn't do this because i want to hurt myself, only because i wanted a specific design, just like folks who get tattoos. promise.
the 'stuff to post about' list:
-herb harvesting/infusions/use of fresh, wild herbs/tinctures
-making pants/making clothing
-growing herbs in the garden
-growing veggies, garden details
-my work vs. hogwarts
-burn salve
-the view from laundry day
-awesome natural builder blogs
-the search for land/money/building credit
-dental health/sustainable toothcare
-sustainable clothes washing
-sustainable home/dishes/cleaning
-embroidering project (jeans)


Anonymous said…
May I ask you if you achieve the permanent result you were looking for?
I have a similar "problem": having a permanent design on my skin but not a tattoo.
Tara said…
Hey, did you ever post pics of how they turned out?
hennalion said…
i have not posted pics - i can in the near future, though. they're pretty faint, same as the ones i scarified before trying to burn. a friend who has also done branding told me i should have gone deeper and kept the wound moist instead of letting it dry up.