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 jewellery 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 prestigous 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 jewellery has to be lifted up during meals. In Rajasthan in Himachal Pradesh these Bulak are particularly elaborate, and extremely large.
Septum piercing was widely practised 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 Australia 1983
The Septum piercing is done through the small ridge of skin just underneath the middle of the nose between the Alar cartilage (outer) and the Quadrangular cartilage (separating the nostrils). There is usually a small depression in this area towards the front of the nose, this is the best place for the piercing.
The initial piercing is usually performed with either a ball closure ring or a septum keeper. A septum keeper is shaped like a small horseshoe and can be hidden by pushing the neds up into the nose, it's ideal if you have a job where they don't approve of facial piercings. Another option is a circular barbell, a ring with two balls on the ends; this can also be flipped up inside the nose although it's not as comfortable as a septum keeper.
Once the piercing is healed the hole can be stretched easily and a variety of different jewellery can be worn, tusks, spikes, curled tusks, ball closure rings, curved barbells and circular barbells.
Septum piercings usually heal within 6-10 weeks, they can be very tender (even painful) during the first few weeks of healing. You can tell when the piercing is healed by pressing under the tip of the nose, if there is no pain it's generally healed. However, you shouldn't start changing jewellery or try to stretch the wound until it's fully healed (usually 8-10 weeks). Once the septum piercing is healed it always stays open, however, it may require a taper pin to insert the jewellery but the hole never closes up fully.
DO's & DONT'S TO HEAL YOUR SEPTUM PIERCING
THE NUMBER ONE REASON FOR INFECTION IS TOUCHING AND PLAYING WITH THE PIERCING, ONLY TOUCH THE PIERCING WHEN YOU ARE CLEANING IT!