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bifurcated forked tongue modification

In recent years, the splitting or bifurcation of the human tongue has become a popular body modification in many countries.  The reasons for this practice are widely varied, but in many cases, social indications are as present today as they were fifty years ago, uniting those that practice tongue modification across generation, gender, and cultural lines.

In the past, many tribal societies were known to engage in the piercing, stretching, or splitting of the tongue, including several Aboriginal societies, Epi-olmec tribes, and eastern hill tribes from India and Thailand.  In Aboriginal society, a pierced or split tongue indicated status as a ritual leader within the tribe.  Those with an abundance of sacred knowledge and an insight into tribal history are still considered of higher station today, and may be seen wearing tongue plugs, septum discs, or other piercings.

In India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, Tamil Hindu populations continue a generations old tradition known as Thaipusam festival.  During this celebration, religious observers often engage in ritual piercings of the tongue, back, or cheeks, as they exchange these devotions for favors asked of the gods.  The more difficult the favor, the higher the level of bodily mortification, with extreme devotees sometimes piercing through the tongue with thick barbs or even swords that may cause the tongue to split.

 ritualistically piercing, skewering, or slicing tongue and mouth

In 1997, American performer and body art enthusiast Erik “the lizardman” Sprague added a surgically bifurcated tongue to his list of tattoos, piercings, and implants, becoming one of the first celebrities to show off a split.  Subsequent methods of non-surgical forking began springing up in the following years, including scalpelling, cauterizing, suturing, and tying off.  By the 2010s people were splitting their tongues at home or with their modification artist.

Healed Modern Split Tongue

Today, tongue splitting is still growing in popularity amongst the western nations, riding the coat tails of the resurging Modern Primitives movement.  Whether spiritual rite of passage or rebellious fashion statement, tongue mods are definitely here to stay.


  • S

    What idiots!!!

    Stymie Quatros on

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