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Septum piercing has recently been on a meteoric rise in popular Western culture, with the trend of smaller gauge septum piercings for women being fed largely through music culture and celebrity piercing publicity.  For native and tribal cultures all over the world however, piercing of the septum denotes much more than a proper fashion sense, and has been in practice for hundreds, or even thousands of years. Stretching of the septum as well is prevalent and meaningful in these societies, and many ritualistic practices are still in existence today, like that of the Bundi tribe of Papua, New Guinea.

It was the various tribes of New Guinea and their commonly worn nose tusk made out of bore bone that popularized the traditional view of septum piercing as a tribal practice.  Indeed if you’ve ever seen a photograph of a tribesman wearing feathers and shells with a bone through the septum, it is likely a native Indian from New Guinea.

Amongst the Bundi, the septum piercing is a social ritual for young men, representing their ascension into adulthood, and is usually performed around the late teens.  The piercing itself is done by a tribal elder with small pieces of bat bone and tuberous sweet potato, and afterwards it may be stretched to accommodate pieces of tusk or bone plugs up to an inch in diameter.  For many tribes indigenous to the same region of New Guinea, septum piercing may be done younger, along with ear piercing, nostril piercing, and stretching in various stages.  Often the painting of the face or body and letting of blood that naturally occurs from the piercing are thought to represent the boy’s separation from the world of women in general and particularly from his mother.

Other New Guinea tribes that practice ritualistic piercing of the septum include the Kiman, the Kangi, and the Asmat.

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