The piercing of the septum is
probably the second most common piercing among primitive peoples after
ear piercing, it's even more common than nostril piercing. It's
probably so popular for the same reasons as nose piercing, with the
added attraction that the piercing can be stretched and large pieces
of jewelery can be inserted, i.e. pig's tusks, pieces of bone,
feathers, pieces of wood, etc.
The septum piercing is particularly
prevalent among warrior cultures, this probably has to do with the
fact that large tusks through the septum give the face a fierce
appearance. The use of septum tusks is very prevalent in Irian Jaya,
New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, pig's tusks being the most
popular. Among the Asmat tribe of Irian Jaya the most prestigious
septum tusk is the "Otsj" this is a large bone plug, which
can be as thick as 25mm. They are usually made of the leg bones of a
pig, but occasionally they are made from the Tibia bone of an enemy
slain in battle.
The Septum piercing was beloved by
the Aztecs, the Mayans, and the Incas. They wore a variety of
jewellery, but jade and gold were the most popular because of their
religous associations. The
modern day Cuna Indians of Panama continue this practice by wearing
thick pure gold rings in their septum.
The piercing is also popular in
India, Nepal, and Tibet, a pendant "Bulak" is worn, and some
examples are so large as to prevent the person being able to eat, the jewelery
has to be lifted up during meals. In Rajasthan in Himachal Pradesh
these Bulak are particularly elaborate, and extremely large.
Septum piercing was widely practiced
by many North American Indian tribes, the name of the Nez Perc, tribe
of Washington state, stem from their practice of piercing the septum,
Nez Perc, is French for Nose Pierced, and was given to the tribe by
the French fur traders. Australian aboriginals pierced the septum and
passed a long stick or bone through the piercing to flatten the nose,
they believed a flat nose to be the most desireable.
Among the Bundi tribe of the
Bismarck Ranges of Papua New Guinea the piercing is performed using
the thin end of the Sweet Potato plant (Ogai Iriva), usually at age
18-22. The age at which the piercing is done varies greatly between
different tribes, some tribes perform the rite at age 9-10.
"You were lost in the bush and
now you have come back. You have come back mature; you are men. When
you return to your hamlet many girls will come after you. But if you
have lived well, and if they come after you, all the well. You will
now have your noses pierced to allow you to sing with girls and lead a
life like that of your elders. Your (Kangi Poroi) caused you to go to
all this trouble, now it will be over."
Source: Address by tribal elder to
young men undergoing the (Kangi Poroi) manhood ritual. Source: Field
notes of David G. Fitzpatrick 1977 in "Bundi, the culture of
Papua New Guinea people" Ryebuck Publications, Nerang Queensland