When most of us stumble across the word branding, the first thought that comes to our mind is identifying livestock by branding so as to identify their owners. Apart from branding livestock, wood, steaks, leather, even humans go through this painful procedure. This Historyplex article will provide you with all the information you need about human branding.
Did You Know?
On 2nd October 2012 (World Farm Animals Day), protesters in Israel went through the process of human branding to protest against animal cruelty in dairy industry.
Organizations often mark their respective products with either some initials or a name. This is a common practice followed by companies to ascertain that a particular product belongs to them, commonly known as product branding. These days tattoos are becoming extremely popular with almost everyone planning to get inked. People are discovering newer ways to adorn their bodies and one such method is human branding. The main goal of all types of branding is the same – to establish a personalized identity and/or be recognized for an association with something.
Human branding is a type of scarification. It is a procedure in which a symbol or an initial, number, or a mark is burned in the skin of an individual so that the scar remains permanent. Human branding has become an art of making ornamental scars by applying extreme heat to one’s skin.
This act is executed using a hot or a cold iron rod; the techniques therefore are similar to livestock branding. Human branding can be forceful or with consent. It was practiced before as a punishment. It is also practiced as a ritual of Rite of Passage like maybe entry into some group, or a tribe. Human branding generally involves heating a particular design and putting it on the skin. The burn inflicted by human branding is a third-degree burn, and many people claim to experience excruciating pain during and after the process.
This process is being adopted by many countries, although human branding is not legal in many parts of the world. This particular fashion sounds bizarre to many, but individuals who get it done have their own reasons to impose such pain on themselves. Many African people don’t have suitable skin to get a tattoo done, they have dark pigmented skin. So they need to resort to such methods. To be accepted in a certain group, many use this tactic to test their ability to bear pain. Many colleges use this activity to select their group members.
Branding is generally done with the help of branding irons such as:
It is sort of a medical tool used to control blood loss. It was pretty famous back then among the scarification artists. However, their demand has fallen out of the market because they are not deemed to be reliable enough for body scarring.
Imagine the pain when a really hot metal touches your skin, so hot, that you can see the steam rising from the skin. A small piece of shaped metal is heated in appropriate temperature and placed on the skin for a second or two. It can be used to strike once or multiple times. It is one of the commonest methods of branding.
Similar to electrocautery, it is a device which passes electric current directly through an individual’s skin causing it to burn.
In this type, a device is used that transfers electric current via an electrode which becomes insanely hot. This method is used to create detailed and intricate patterns which is not possible using strike branding.
This type of branding is seldom used, very less people get their skin sizzled using liquid nitrogen. A dry ice can leave a mark just by touching it, like how heat would do. Freeze branding uses liquid nitrogen and dry ice.
■ Healing of a branding can take several months and it has two stages. The initial healing period when the skin is open and scabbing takes around two to six weeks to heal. The second period, which is pretty long because the scar tissues slowly form and stabilize, this takes around three to twelve months.
■ During the initial healing stage, make sure to keep the area clean all the time. Third-degree burns are quite severe and you are more likely to be affected by various infections. Do not touch the branded area with dirty hands, do not scratch, rub, or pick the area to make things worse. Don’t let that area come in contact with anything including your friends, family, and pets. Let the surface heal and seal over.
■ Clean the portion twice a day with an antibacterial soap, or liquid. If you are planning to use a soap invest in one which is mild, won’t irritate your skin, and has less chemicals. Before washing the area, make sure your hands are washed, lather up gently and take precautions to remove any loose discharge. Pat dry with a clean towel.
■ Refrain from using any sort of ointment, peroxide, or rubbing alcohol on the scar. These will not only bother your scar but will also delay the healing process. You can apply cold aloe vera gel to the scar.
■ In the first day or two, you will notice your scar excreting yellowish or clear fluid, which is normal but wrap it lightly with a sterile cotton gauze all the time. But do make it a point to change it every now and then. Wear clothes that are preferably loose and made of natural fibers, which won’t irritate the skin.
■ Once the surface skin has sealed over, you can stop worrying about the infection. However, you still have to keep the brand clean. Do not rip or scratch the scar before the skin has completely healed. Doing this will spoil the edges, also the skin is prone to contracting infections.
■ It may take several months or years for your brand to finish scarring. Some people’s scar gives them a dramatic look with very less efforts, and for some they hardly notice a change in the color. The aftercare followed will not only save you from the infections, but also enhance your scar.
■ Origin of human branding can be traced back to history when people were enslaved against their wish as livestocks. During Trans-Atlantic enslavement, millions of slaves underwent branding procedure inflicted by Europeans, Americans, and other colonial countries.
■ Slaves were marked by their masters because they can easily escape and marking meant that a particular slave belongs to some master. In criminal law, marking with a hot iron was a form of punishment.
■ Convicted criminals were branded along with physical torture. Criminals were publicly humiliated by marking them on visible body parts also so that they don’t escape criminal records.
■ Ancient Romans used to brand runaway slaves with the letter ‘F’ as a punishment. Toilers in the mines, convicts who participated in gladiator shows were scarred on the forehead for ease of identification. Under Constantine I rule, branding was done only on the arm, hand, and calf.
■ In the 16th century, Romans marked German Anabaptists with a cross on their forehead, because they refused to participate in Roman Catholic church.
■ In the 17th century North-American Puritan settlements, men and women convicted of adultery were marked with letter “A” on their chest.
■ In Louisiana, American slavers went a step ahead and branded their slaves’ cheeks, shoulders, or buttocks with a branding iron.
■ Branding can affect the vital organs in the body causing septic shock.
■ The purpose of branding is to burn the skin and leave a permanent scar, but many individuals who underwent the procedure suffered fatal third-degree burns. Third degree burns are really painful and may cause permanent nerve damage.
■ Many people fall prey to Staph infection after the procedure. At times even antibiotics do not help, which leaves the person to deal with it for a longer period of time.
Human branding certainly is the most painful procedure of scarring your body permanently due to the health risks involved that can even be fatal. Though cosmetic surgeons claim to remove any branding, it is very expensive and next to impossible, not to forget removal operation may leave a new scar. So before planning to go for human branding, do ample research on artists who are good at it and make sure the tools used are clean and infection-free.