3 of the many cultures that prove septum piercings are more than just a recent Western trend

By Monica Athnasious

Published Mar 13, 2022 at 09:30 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

As nose piercings continue to grow in popularity, it is vitally important that we acknowledge and understand the roots of the practice amid the fashion moments that often wipe clean its historical origins. Septum piercings are more than just a wonderful nose accessory or trend—certainly not one birthed by the likes of Western Vogue—it is an aesthetic, cultural, spiritual and even sacred tradition for many cultures and it’s about time we learnt a bit about them.

India

Historically, nose piercings in India have held not just cultural significance but are greatly tied to spiritual meaning too. Nose piercings found on either (or both) sides of the nose are perhaps the most prevalent—with the left side being more popular among women, with many following Ayurvedic medicine teachings that it is the location associated most with femininity. One Tiktoker, who goes by Mal, has thoroughly educated her followers on the matter.

“Nostril piercings in the septum are also of Hindu origin though I don’t think the cultural practice has been kept up. This is also where I want to talk about the reasons sometimes people will give when it comes to nostril piercings that it’s done to honour the goddess—and that’s why I got the middle of the nostril done too because the goddesses I worship have this nose piercing and I find that it really helps connect me to that presence of them within me,” she explained.

@re.spite

Reply to @sugyani1437 about the nosepiercing! #hindutiktok #ayurveda #chakras

♬ original sound - mal 🕸🍯

Septum piercing is also a practice found popular among South Indian dancers of traditional dances like Kuchipudi or Bharatnatyam as well as in numerous rural communities of the country. The name given to this piece of jewellery is known to many—such as the Banjara and Adivasi groups—as ‘Nathori’ and “because of the dangling effect of this small piece of jewellery, it was sometimes also called a ‘jhoolna’.”

Nathori is also something traditionally worn among Bengali women as a sign of marriage; however, the practice seems to be on the decline with a preference toward nose studs growing.

Nepal

The south of Nepal still heavily honours the practice of septum piercing with many, especially older women, still adorning their noses with both septum and nose ring piercings. The jewellery showcased is often a visceral gold to symbolise their religious, tribal or social status in society.

Indigenous Australia

A recent discovery made in 2016 and reported on by NewScientist uncovered a Kangaroo-bone nose piercing that is said to be the oldest known piece of bone jewellery ever found. So you can forget Vogue or Cosmo suggesting it’s a here-to-stay-trend of the 2020s—this ornate piece is aged at 44,000 BC and reflects the incredible cultural significance behind the piercing practice.

According to Aboriginal Art UK, this still holds special spiritual importance today with Marrapinti—a rockhole site located in Western Australia where many believe their nose bone ancestor resides—which is a vital site for ceremonies. Often, women will gather at the sacred space and create nose bone jewellery to honour said ancestor, a practice that still continues to this day.

The art house—a member of the Indigenous Art Code—also cited references to a ‘nose bone ceremony’ that occurs in a young boy’s life when he begins his transition into adulthood whereby he is painted with sacred symbols and pierced in the septum with the relevant bone to tribe or ancestor. Bone piercings are worn by both men and women.

Michelle Langley, who was part of the team to discover and identify the oldest piece of bone jewellery, also added that the meanings behind such a piercing differs between the diverse Aboriginal groups. “I’ve met Indigenous Australians who remember their granddads wearing nose bones for special occasions,” she added. “In some groups, nose bones were only worn by elders, but in others, there were no restrictions, so all men and women could wear them to look more appealing.” Others have documented that the bone piercing was historically used to make the nose flatter—a feature deemed more desirable.

These are but a few of the cultures around the world that have an historical and significant attachment to septum piercings—there are indeed many more—to show just how far back the practice goes. To show that it is more than just the latest superficial trend in the Western world but a sacred home for jewels, gold and bone.

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