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Most of us know by now that various types of body modification have existed for thousands of years, but there may be something even more amazing that links all of the cultures on this earth to each other: piercings amongst our religious icons.

 pierced goddess icon

Deities and prophets across several cultures all have this in common: they’re often depicted with piercings, tattoos, or other forms of body modification.  So just how many are there and how significant are they?  Well, it would take way too long to list it all here, so we’ll start by throwing out a few names that you might be familiar with.

First off, there’s obviously Buddha.  It’s said that the stretched ears often depicted on the Buddha (usually without earrings in them) represent the weight of Siddhartha Gautama’s wealth prior to giving up prince-hood in favor of the search for enlightenment.

 Buddha statue depicting stretched ear lobes

Several of the common Hindu deities are depicted with piercings as well, including Krishna (who wears jewelry in his ears) and Parvathi, the goddess of marriage, who is traditionally depicted wearing a nose hoop and chain.  Indeed most of the Hindu gods are painted as wearing ornate earrings, and that includes both male and female.

 Hindu goddess shown with nose piercings

Many gods of the ancient Mesoamerican tribes are also depicted with either piercings (often in the nasal septum), tattoo art, or both.  Some of these include Tezcatlipoca, Ometeotl, Xipe-Totec, and Xiuhtuecuhtli of the Aztec and Maya.

 Mayan statue depicting pierced deity

Even Christian iconography has seen its fair share of modification references, like in the book of Genesis when Rebecca is gifted with a golden nose earring, or in numerous depictions of the magi.

 biblical gift of piercing jewelry

Perhaps most interesting is that the other common thread holding these civilizations together is a history of modification amongst their peoples, which as we’ve just seen came to effect not only the way they view themselves, but also how they view their gods and creators.  Pretty interesting stuff, right?

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