The history of nose piercings

Updated April 17, 2017

In modern times, nostril piercings and other nose piercings have come to represent individual style and identity. However, the history of nose rings features religious and cultural significance to the piercing. Nose piercings have been a major part of history since Biblical times. Nose rings date back more than four centuries, with a rich history and culture behind them.

Biblical Mentioning

The Bible mentions a nose piercing given to Rebekah in Genesis 24:22. This piercing marked the marriage of Rebekah to Abraham's son Isaac. Abraham requested that his older servant go out and find a wife for Isaac. The servant, upon finding Rebekah, brought her to Abraham, who then gave Rebekah several gifts, including a nose ring. The Hebrew word found within is "shanf" and is translated by some scholars as "golden earring." This word also means "nose-ring," according to piercing website, Painful Pleasures.

Tribal Nose Piercing

Nose piercing was also practised by Middle Eastern tribes such as the Bedouins. In addition, African tribes such as the Berber and Beja followed the practice of nose piercing. The males of these tribes gave their new brides a nose piercing upon marriage. The larger the nose ring, the wealthier the family. If the couple divorced, the wife would keep the nose ring as security.

Indian Nose Piercing

During the 16th century, Middle Eastern emperors from the Moghul empire brought the tradition of nose piercing to India. Studs, known as Phul, or rings, known as Nath, are worn in the left nostril. The left nostril is favoured in Indian culture because the left side is associated with female reproductive organs. A left nostril piercing is said to relieve pain from menstruation and labour. Many Indian women choose to wear a chain connecting the nostril piercing with an ear piercing.

The 60s and 70s

During the 1960s and 1970s, nose piercing moved from religious significance to that of a rebellion against mainstream society. Hippies visiting India brought back the custom of nose piercing to the United States and western Europe, where the practice spread. During the 1970s, nose piercings came to be equated with the punk culture.

Modern Nose Piercing

Modern times have seen a dip in nose ring significance. Many people choose to pierce their nostrils simply for fashion purposes. The side of the nose pierced has less significance as well, with people choosing to pierce whichever side they feel will look better on them. In addition, nose piercings have expanded from nostril piercings to the septum and, in some cases, bridge piercings.

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About the Author

Ticara Gailliard is a college graduate with a degree in communications/film and video production from the University of Memphis. She has been a writer for over 15 years and has been published in local writing magazines such as "Grandmother Earth." She also edited two books for her high school.