The “giraffe women” have always fascinated me. Why would any woman allow heavy brass rings to be placed around her neck? Why would any woman submit her young daughter to such a thing? A lot of it depends on the culture you were raised in, and what you were taught to believe. The Padaung women of Myanmar still adorn themselves with neck rings and are a huge tourist attraction. Is this the only reason they still wear them?
Reasons for Wearing
There are three different possible reasons that I found. Legend has it that they are worn to protect against tiger bites. If that were really the case, I think I would want my entire body wrapped in the rings, not just my neck. The rings were also said to make the women undesirable to slave traders. This is possible, but the next reason makes me not so sure about that one. It is also said that they believe the neck rings to be a thing of beauty.
The first of the rings are placed around the necks of young girls when they are only five or six years old. The exact date is to be decided by the village shamans. First, the neck will have a salve smeared on it and massaged for several hours. The very first ring, usually made of bronze, has small cushions underneath it to prevent soreness. The cushions will be removed at a later day. Successive rings will be added every two years.
Are there any health risks involved in wearing all of these brass rings around the neck? Wearing the rings around the neck do not elongate the neck. The neck muscles are stretched, yes, but the neck itself is not made any longer. The weight of the rings push down the collarbone and ribs to the point that the collarbone appears to be part of the neck. Obviously this would not be very comfortable and would cause problems sleeping. Other health risks include blood clots, atrophied neck muscles, pain, infection, deformation of the bone structure, and blockage of the blood flow.
Can the neck rings ever be removed? There are conflicting reports about this. My guess would be that the longer you have worn them and the more rings you have around your neck, the less safe it would be to remove them. Just as wearing a Victorian corset all of your life would weaken your ability to hold your body upright without one of them on, I believe that wearing numerous neck rings would weaken your ability to hold your neck up without them on. Removal of the neck rings used to be a punishment for adultery. The husband could remover his wife’s neck rings, and she would be forced to spend the rest of her life lying down so she could breathe.
Even though in many places the wearing of neck rings has become more of a custom than a need, its practice is slowly being phased out as many young mothers are refusing to put them around the necks of their young daughters. So soon this may be a thing of the past.
How can you use the practice of wearing neck rings in your writing? You could write a story about how this practice began. You could use one of the reasons given above, or you could come up with one of your own creation.
Pretend that neck rings are a necessity to your character’s survival. Why? Your character lives in a land that is overrun not with tigers, but vampires. Neck rings are the only way to escape being bitten and turned into a vampire.
Your character could be one of the young mothers who refuses to put neck rings around her young daughter’s neck. Would the young mother be ridiculed for her decision? Or would she be viewed as one who has great wisdom? Has she thoroughly researched the effects the neck rings would have on her daughter’s life? Or does she just not like the practice? Has she gone through a lot of pain herself because of the rings around her neck?
Suffering for Beauty – Foot Binding
Suffering for Beauty – Lip Plates
Suffering for Beauty – Scarification
Suffering for Beauty – Unique Hair Care for Your Characters
Suffering for Beauty – the Victorian Corset
Suffering for Beauty – High Heels