Kayan Neck Stretching

Wikimedia CommonsThe practice of neck stretching begins at the young age of five for the female population of this northern Thai tribe. They start the process with four-pound coils around their necks, which is gradually increased up to 25 coils. The idea is to stretch the neck out and that’s what the coils appear to do, however, the weight of the coils is actually pushing the collarbone and shoulders down.

The Kayan women say it feels as though the coils are just another part of their body. The possible reasons for this practice vary. One reason is that women with longer and slimmer necks are more desirable in this culture. Another is that it makes the women appear more dragon-like and these mythical creatures are very important throughout Kayan folklore.

Teeth Sharpening

Farandulaya.comVarious cultures take part in the tooth sharpening practice. Mayans would sharpen and carve designs in their teeth, distinguishing them as members of the higher class. The Mentawai people, who live in Indonesia, believe sharpened teeth are a standard of beauty. The sharper and more narrow the teeth, the more desirable the woman is.

It is not mandatory in their culture, but many Mentawai teenage girls go through the painful process of having their teeth chiseled to attract the opposite sex. It’s considered a rite of passage.

Scarification

WikiMedia CommonsThough many cultures are embarrassed by scarring and go through procedures to reduce their appearance, some cultures actually scar themselves on purpose and consider them something to wear proudly. Many African tribes participate in scarification as a rite of passage.

The Dinka tribe of South Sudan practice facial scarring, etching patterns into girls for beauty and three lines across the faces of boys to represent manhood. The Sepik River Tribes in Papua New Guinea spend weeks performing scarification rituals. The elders slice the pattern of alligator scales into the backs of young men. They believe the alligator devours boyhood, leaving behind only a man capable of protecting his tribe.

Ear Stretching

PinterestEar stretching is an old custom still practiced in modern day all across the globe as a statement. Tribal cultures have used ear stretching not only as a symbol of beauty and a rite of passage, it also has religious meaning, and was believed to ward off witchcraft and various forms of evil.

Mursi Lip Plating

Wikimedia CommonsLip plating or lip stretching is one of the oldest body modification practices. It can be traced back to 8700 B.C. It’s been practiced throughout various parts of the world, like Africa, South America, and Europe, but it’s the people of the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia that still practice it today.

Prior to marriage, as young as 13 years old, the females of the tribe get a lip piercing and fill the hole with a small stick. Then they spend anywhere from six months to a full year adding clay plates in the hole. Each time the plate gets bigger and heavier, stretching the lip out as far as it will go.

Nose Plugs

Wikimedia CommonsThe original goal of nose plugs for the women of the Apatani tribe in India was to become unattractive. They did this as a form of protection, believing if they were undesired by the men of other tribes, they wouldn’t be kidnapped or sexually assaulted.

Feet Binding

The Sun.co.ukFor almost a thousand years, the little girls of China would have their feet tightly wrapped in bandages in hopes of stopping the foot’s growth. This caused their toes to curl and the feet to shrivel in on themselves and creating the illusion of petite and more attractive feet, when they were actually just causing deformities and crippling themselves and their children.

Feet measuring no longer than three inches and crescent in shape were the most desired. In addition to being a symbol of beauty, smaller feet reflected a higher social status and wealth. After all, women who didn’t need their feet to work must have wealthy families. Foot binding was banned from China in the 20th century but there are still elderly women alive today, suffering withdisabilities because of this painful, old custom.

Victorian Corsets And Tight Lacing

PinterestThe most well-known body modification tool is the corset. The Victorian-era corset was basically the same concept as foot binding, just on a larger part of the body. Women would tightly bind their entire torso, just to squeeze their waists and create an hourglass figure. This practice altered the shape of the rib cage, it constricted airflow and put women at risk for liver displacement and heart and lung damage. Tight lacing techniques and corsets still exist in modern society, they just aren’t as widely used as they once were.

Breast Ironing in Cameroon

Veronique De Viguerie/Getty Images News/Getty ImagesBreast ironing is a mortifying technique used to stop a young woman’s breasts from growing. Women in Cameroon will use hot spatulas and pestles on their daughters’ chest in hopes of melting the fat and flattening the breasts.

Prior to puberty, around the age of eight or nine, girls are tightly bandaged, keeping their chests flat. Anything that grows later in life gets treated. This is to make women more undesirable to men and so they can focus on school. Not only does this technique not stop breast growth, it actually causes severe physiological damage and can lead to health issues like cysts, breast cancer, and trouble breastfeeding.

Skull Elongation

Wikimedia CommonsThe act of skull elongation can be traced back as far as 45,000 years ago and was practiced by several ancient cultures. Skulls have been excavated from Iraq, Egypt, and Peru and evidence suggests they started in infancy when the skull is still soft and not fully formed. They would wrap cloth and sometimes use boards for support to direct the head up and backwards into an elongated shape.

It’s believed to be a sign of higher ranking in social status and is directly tied the images of their gods. These findings have led to numerous theories centered on the possibility of ancient alien contact.