Roland Loomis was raised a Lutheran. In 1944, at age 14, he pierced his own penis. In 2021, piercing your penis is considered extreme. In 1944, it would have been considered institution-worthy. But that didn’t stop Fakir Musafar, who went on to make experiencing, performing, and teaching what he called “body play” his life’s goal.
Through his early experiments with body modification through piercing, corseting, suspension, branding, and tattooing, Musafar learned that “the body is the door to the spirit” – and you can’t get through a door if you don’t open it. Citing ancient practices of attaining spiritual experiences through ritual shamanic body modification and suspension, he eventually became a performance artist and body modification advocate.
Musafar ran the San Francisco location for the first body piercing business in North America, the Gauntlet, where he was certified as a Master Piercer. He coined the term “Modern Primitives” in the 1970s to describe these taboo practices, stating that there was a way to engage in body modification “where it is magic, where actually something happens on the inner side of life when it’s done.”
When he saw piercing rise in popularity with punks in the 80s, he opened a school of body modification in order to teach others how to safely and even shamanically pierce each other. Otherwise, he claims they were doing it with “rusty safety pins,” something I also did in 1995 because I couldn’t afford a real piercing shop.
In 1992, he launched Body Play & Modern Primitives Quarterly magazine, dedicated to the growing community of practitioners.
He died in 2017, but luckily, his body of work lives on in the freaky internet.