Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Bit More Chopping And Cutting

Trudy very kindly left a comment on Nip, Tuck, Chop, Hack (Oct. 27th) in which she gave us the word for dueling scars. This useful information and a bit of free time on my part has allowed me to find images of two types of ‘body modification’ that had previously eluded me – head binding and cheek cutting. Many dueling scars were genuine but an interesting wed site on this weird subject has this comment. ‘For a student and all of German society, the badge of courage was the Schmiss, the dueling scar, or sometimes called the Renommierschmiss, or bragging scar, mostly on the left side of the face, where blows would fall from a right-handed duelist. This was borne by a generation of doctors, jurists, professors and officials, certifying the owner’s claim to manly stature. The dueling scar was certain to attract attention because it signified courage and breeding. There are stories that students would resort to self-infliction with a razor. Those who received their Schmiss in this less honorable way would frequently enhance it by pulling the wound apart and irritate it by pouring in wine or sewing horse hair into the gash.’ God! If that’s what the doctors, jurists, professors and officials were doing, imagine what the criminal class was like! This practice and head binding are of particular interest in telling us about the human psyche. It would seem to be innate to find injury and deformity ugly and to avoid them if at all possible. But cheek cutting at least, shows that the desire to appear ‘manly’ could override this natural feeling. As for what desires or ideas gave rise to head binding I have no idea. What a pity people don’t take more interest in changing their minds.

From tomorrow my blog will host a Tibet Month in which most of the posts will deal with matters related to Tibet, including my impressions of and experiences in that country.


Ben said...

One more comment on the "Schmiss". You wrote: What a pity people don’t take more interest in changing their minds.

Actually this way of dueling still exists and is still practiced in Germany and as well as also in Austria.

I think it is more about the mind then about anything else. When you do a duel you are not successful when you get a scar, but taking the risk of getting one proves that you are an honest member of the club. You haven proven your courage that you don't back up when it gets serious. The group which has past this ritual is unique and the bonds within this group are strong such as in any other group where the cost of joining are very high. The same holds for some religions where you have to pass an entry rituals which shows that your interest is real.

The scar is a symbol of a strong mind of course different from a mind a buddhist would consider to be good.

Ben said...

I forgot: That is how a duel looks like.

You can see that the combatants do not move much, only their right arm which also follows certain rules. The worst you can do is to duck down. So it takes a lot of mental discipline to stand there even if you know that the next hit will hit you. (You can this see in advance) If you get a scar this proves that you have this discipline.

Herminator said...

Now I must say something in defence of german students!

There still are fraternities who expect their members to "duel" but many don´t!
I personaly am a member of a fraternity that forbid all duels in since our founding in 1842!

Ben said...

This wasn't ment to be an attack. I am also a member of a student fraternity which does practices academic fencing, but on a voluntary basis. About one third of us does it.

Actually duel is the wrong word, as the combatants are rated independently according to how they fought, so there is no winner. A main point of evaluation is moral.

Herminator said...

Yes, I know it´s not really a duel, but is there an english word for "Mensur"?