1,000 Degrees and Ready to Strike

Dear Brother Blakey,

I will never forget the night you branded me, standing in the kitchen of my Line Sister’s apartment after the step show which Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated took first place. I’d been thinking the idea over in my mind for a few weeks and you had just welcomed into your chapter three more Sigmas who were all wearing the mark of Neophytes. My LS and I spent a huge amount of time poring over their brands and watching them heal and the pride that they had in the mark of association with something important. My sorority sisters and I sat down in the basement for about an hour discussing my future branding before I finally marched upstairs to you and demanded you to get the branding iron ready.

For the next hour you and Jason bent a number of wires into different configurations of Z’s. Different sizes, different variations of straight and curved until I finally fell in love with the one I wanted on my body. Another 30 minutes was spent with me deciding the part of my body I would be branded on. Then the iron was heated to the correct temperature, I was flanked on all sides by fraternity brothers who held me in place so I wouldn’t move, my LS to hold my hand and my sorority sisters to offer their words of encouragement.

One solid hit, and 20 seconds and pressure and it was over. The branding iron and several layers of skin were pulled off my hip and I opened my eyes and said, “I took it like a soldier.”.

One week later Jason was shot and killed in a bar room brawl and every time I rub my hands over the protruding flesh of my skin I think not only of the important association it has with my organization but also of the moments we can never get back, time spent with loved ones that we never value as precious until they’re gone.

Now, branding has become a new expression of body art, replacing tattoos. Tattoos have become so commonplace that even my Grandparents don’t flinch at the many tattoos their grandchildren have all over their bodies. This summer my mother and sister and I all got matching tattoos and despite the many faces my mother made while getting her tattoo she did it and now she is so proud of the tattoo on her ankle and the symbolism it has with my sister and I.

Particularly in the UK branding has moved from a phenomenon strange and traditionally reserved for livestock and those crazy enough to want to endure excruciating physical pain to being quaint, according to ABC News. People between the ages of 20 and 25 are the most common customers of branding but they range from all walks of life. Teachers, performers, scientists, doctors and even corporate dudes are getting branded.

While there is no legislation or oversight concerning branding it is important to take the highest precautions with branding in order to ensure health risks do not follow. There are some really crude Youtube videos of how to do at home branding that I would not suggest following. The iron needs to be heated to about 1,000 degrees and sterilized before the hit can even take place.

It’s interesting that the popularity of branding has reached such an all-time high as it is really not a new phenomenon. While there is some familiar association with branding as a form of marking slavery, it extends beyond that into Africa where it was a ritual rite of passage and men were even branded on their face as part of their warrior status. Branding for fraternities and sororities started in the late 50’s and early 60’s and is always a choice for the member of any organization. Now, it has become a choice for many as there are actually branding parlors opening up in parts of the world, similar to tattoo parlors, except their books contain page after page of the different brands you can get on your body.

What do you think about branding? Is it inhumane now or have there only been inhumane instances in the past? Are tattoos becoming so commonplace that we need a new form of body art? Would you get a brand on any part of your body?

Love Always,


“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” – Stuart Chase

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