I’ve just stumbled across a special issue of Neurosurgical Focus on deliberate skull deformations that tracks the practice of molding the shape of the skull from ancient times to the modern body modification scene.
But perhaps the most surprising article is on modern deliberate skull deformities in adults that covers the body modification scene (drilled in metal mohawk anyone?) and the modern trepanation movement who advocate drilling a hole in the head to achieve an altered state of consciousness.
The trepanation section has the completely fascinating and somewhat oddball history of its modern revival.
The history of the International Trepanation Advocacy Group can be traced back to a Dutch medical student and admitted polysubstance abuser named Bart Huges, who was ultimately denied his medical degree by the University of Amsterdam at least in part for his vocal advocacy of marijuana use. During one particular episode in the early 1960s while under the influence of recreational psychoactive drugs, Huges came to believe that drilling a hole in one’s head would allow blood to more freely pulse around the brain, reproducing the state of an infant’s brain prior to closure of the cranial sutures. He was aware that by adulthood, the brain is denied an elastic bony covering against which to expand; in addition, he proposed that gravity gradually robbed the brain of some of its blood volume.
Trepanation, as his theory went, had the potential to reverse both of these processes. Huges felt that prolonged standing on one’s head could yield the same result, albeit temporarily, but only with trepanation could a long-term so-called “permanent high” be attained. He eventually delineated his ideas in a 1962 monograph alternately entitled either Homo Sapiens Correctus, named for what he believed would describe a new species of humans with holes in their skulls, or The Mechanism of Brainbloodvolume (BBV). He later also authored the book, Trepanation: the Cure for Psychosis, and an autobiography, The Book With the Hole. Although never finishing medical school, he did in 1965 successfully self-trepan, and, based on what he felt was an excellent benefit from this procedure, later convinced others to do the same.
It only gets weirder from there on in.
Highly recommended (the article, not drilling holes in your head).