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This FAQ was originally compiled by and copyright (c) 2002 BMEZINE.COM Inc. For more on suspension and other ritual, visit http://www.bmezine.com/

Please note that this is/was an entirely preliminary version of this FAQ. As of July 2009, a team of people has begun rewritting the FAQ. If you would like to help please drop an email to tsd@suspension.org

Version: 0.01
Date: 01-15-2002



SECTION ONE - INTRODUCTION
Who wrote this FAQ?
What is suspension?
Why would someone want to do a suspension?
What kinds of people perform suspensions?
What is the experience of suspension like?
Can I "meet god" if I suspend?
Will I "be cool" if I suspend?
How do I know if I'm ready to try this?

SECTION TWO - STYLES OF SUSPENSIONS
Vertical Chest suspension ("O-Kee-Pa")
Vertical Back suspension ("Suicide")
Vertical Chest suspension with arm hooks ("Scarecrow" or "Crucifix")
Horizontal Face Down ("Superman")
Horizontal Face Up ("Coma")
Inverted Knee ("Falkner")
Seated Suspension
Lotus Suspension
Tandem Suspension
Spinning beam
What's the difference between private and public suspensions?

SECTION THREE - HISTORICAL CONTEXT
What has suspension generally been used for?
What other cultures used suspension-like rituals?
What other rituals are related to suspension?
What was the cultural context of these peoples' rituals?
What is cultural appropriation?
Does suspension fall into the realm of cultural appropriation?

SECTION FOUR - HOOKS AND THEIR APPLICATION
What different types of hooks can be used, and when/why?
Tell me more about fishhooks. What should I order and how do I finish them?
I know how to make body jewelry. Can I make my own hooks?
How much weight can a single hook handle?
How many hooks are normally used with each style of suspension?
What is strapping?
What gauges of hooks are normally for suspensions?
Where are the hooks placed, and is it the same for everyone?
Are hooks pierced though muscle?
What about just putting the rope through the piercings?
How long can I leave the hooks in for?
How do I put the hooks in?

SECTION FIVE - ROPES AND RIGGING
What different types of rope and webbing are used in suspension, and when/why?
What different types of knots are used in suspension, and when/why?
What different types of pulleys and hoists are used, and why?
What are the types of bars I will need, and which one do I use for each suspension?
What's the easiest minimalist way to rig a suspension?
What's the best way to rig an indoor suspension?
What's the best way to rig outdoors from a tree?
What's the best way to rig outdoors in a flat area (ie. nothing to hang from)?

SECTION SIX - PREPARATION AND AFTERCARE: MENTAL, PHYSICAL, SPIRITUAL
How should a person prepare themselves mentally?
How can I fight fear? I don't want it to wreck my experience.
How should a person prepare themselves physically?
How should a person prepare themselves spiritually?
What state of mind should a person be in to maximize the experience?
How do I take the hooks out, and what immediate care is required?
What longterm aftercare is required for the hook holes?
What psychological and spiritual effects should I be ready for in the longterm?

SECTION SEVEN - RISKS AND SAFETY
What are the possible negative side-effects of suspension?
What medical conditions could make hooking dangerous?
How can these risks be minimized?
What should be done if a suspended person faints? While in the air? After coming down?
What should be done if someone goes into shock?
How can I responsibly perform piercing "in the field"?
How should biohazard be disposed of?
What effect could alcohol use have?
What effect could drug use have?
What if a hook tears out?

SECTION EIGHT - MISCELLANEOUS QUESTIONS
Can I get suspension piercings permanently and suspend from them?
What "world records" are there for suspension and who holds them?
What are some movies that suspension has been featured in?
I've been asked to appear on a local television show to promote suspension, what should I be aware of?

APPENDIX A - PULLING
What is a pulling?
Are hooks placed differently for pulling?
How is the pulling experience different than suspension?
How many hooks are used?
How many people can pull at one time?
How does a large group of people perform a pulling?

APPENDIX B - GROUPS
What are all the suspension groups currently operating in the world, and how does one get in touch with them?

APPENDIX C - SUPPLIERS
Where can I buy hooks?
Where can I buy ropes and rigging?
Where can I buy piercing supplies?



SECTION ONE - INTRODUCTION

Who wrote this FAQ?
This FAQ is maintained and edited by Shannon Larratt of BME, but the content of it has been collaboratively written by a number of people including:

Allen Falkner - TSD, suspension.org, Obsurities / Dallas, USA. Allen is arguably the most experienced suspension artist working in the West and wrote the bulk of the first draft of this document.
Philip Barbosa - iWasCured / Toronto, Canada
Shannon Larratt - BME / Miramichi, Canada
Azl Golanski - Etre Suspendu, Black Sun Studio / Montreal, Canada
Erik Sprague - The Lizardman
Pamela Spiderlilly - TSD / Dallas, USA

What is suspension?
The act of suspension is hanging the human body from (or partially from) hooks pierced through the flesh in various places around the body.

Why would someone want to do a suspension?
There are many different reasons to suspend, from pure adrenaline or endorphin rush, to conquering ones fears, to trying to reach a new level spiritual consciousness and everything in between. In general, people suspend to attain some sort of "experience".

Some people are seeking the opportunity to discover a deeper sense of themself and to challenge pre-determined belief systems which may not be true. Some are seeking a right of passage or a spiritual encounter to let go of the fear of not being whole or complete inside their body. Others are looking for control over their body, or seek to prove to themselves that they are more than their bodies, or are not their bodies at all. Others simply seek to explore the unknown.

Many people believe that learning how one lives inside ones body and seeing how that body adapts to stress -- and passes through it -- allows one to surrender to life and explore new realms of possibility. While some people are seeking something spiritual, others are just looking to "do it" and the sense of accomplishment is enough for them.

What kinds of people perform suspensions?
To generalize, "western" people that suspend are normally into body modification (ie. piercings, tattoos, implants, etc.) on a somewhat more extreme level. Of this group, the primary age is 18-35 with a larger percentage being male.

That said, there are constant exceptions to this and people from nearly every demographic group are involved with suspension. Just like anyone can in theory swim, anyone can in theory suspend. Some are spiritual people, others do it just because they know someone who did it. They could be healers, practitioners, freaks, shamans, showoffs, women, men, straightedge, young, old, vegan, curious, s/m tops and bottoms, gay, strait, bi -- literally anyone.

What is the experience of suspension like?
On a simplistic level, physically the experience is a feeling of pulling, burning, and pain all jumbled up, but for most people this physical aspect is "tuned out" very quickly.

Although individual experiences differ greatly, ultimately the act of suspension can be an euphoric floating sensation. On one end of the spectrum you find people that enter a trance like state, feeling no pain whatsoever, and on the other end you find people that experience extreme pain, nausea and panic attacks. In general, most people enter a shock-induced state of disorientation spiked with moments of pain and euphoria. In laymen's terms, the act of suspension causes the body/mind to enter a state of shock while being physically positioned and restrained in a "floating" state.

There are some general commonalties expressed by most suspendees, such as the feeling of intense tugging which gives way to a more relaxed sensation as the body leaves the ground. However, the varied motivations for suspending make it such that different people have different experiences. As with much of life, you get out of it what you put into and your expectations will often become self-fulfilling prophecies. Some people find it boring, others are changed forever, and some don't ever even think about it beyond simply performing the act. Many find that good or bad, it is not what they expected.

Many people feel intensely at peace while suspended; an experience of complete surrender. They enter a state of hyperawareness and deep trust in themselves and the universe. Almost everyone agrees that the hooks are painful, but some people find the sensation of tension on the skin moving and inspiring.

For some people the experience is much lighter; they just want to try it, and when they do they get no emotional release and find themselves giggling and smiling and instead just enjoying the feeling of "flying".

Can I "meet god" if I suspend?
Meeting God would depend primarily on your spiritual views and your personal reality (although it's certainly not unheard of for someone to unexpectedly have profoundly spiritual experiences when they're not expecting it). For some, the suspension creates an ecstatic state that is not unlike deep meditation. That combined with an extreme influx of hormones and rapid changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and anything is possible.

All of this is of course completely dependent upon your god, you, and how you communicate. There is nothing necessarily spiritual about suspending but, like fasting, psychedelic drug use, and many other activities, it can be used and play a major role in a person's spiritual and religious life.

Will I "be cool" if I suspend?
"Coolness" is simply an individual's perception of what peers will find to be a positive attribute. It is entirely possible that some people will think you 'cool' if you suspend, and there are certainly some who will think you are nuts and a freak. As the after school special says - being you is what's really cool. A suspension is a serious undertaking and your motivation should come from within, not concern about what anyone else might think.

Ultimately you will only be "cool" to those who are ignorant of themselves and have no idea what getting present to being and being present means.

How do I know if I'm ready to try this?
Unfortunately, this is the most difficult question to answer. Only you know if you are ready. Suspension readiness is much more of mental state than physical. As with any form of body modification, one must make the decision based on personal experience and research. At the same time, no amount of research or even watching suspensions in person can really prepare you for the feeling of suspension (but it sure helps).

Take a long hard look at the experiences of others -- especially the "failures" and negative experiences. Ask yourself why it is worth it to you to face these outcomes and whether or not simply trying would satisfy you. If you can seriously say that it is worth it to simply try then wait and think about it more. A good test of whether anything in life is something you really want and are ready for is if you can stand to wait to have it. Infatuation fades but a serious commitment will withstand the wait and only strengthen your resolve.

Ultimately, "you'll know when it's the right time," but don't be surprised if you still find yourself overwhelmed with fear. This fear will disappear if you accept it and let it pass through you -- resist it and your suspension will not be a pleasant one as you will not be open to the experience beyond your resistance.


SECTION TWO - STYLES OF SUSPENSIONS

There is tremendous variation with number of hooks, placement of hooks, static and dynamic rigging, fixed points versus mobile (ie. spinning beams), etc. but most suspensions can be described generally by the position in which the body is suspended. We will begin with the basics and then move on to variations:

Vertical Chest suspension ("O-Kee-Pa")

This suspension takes place hooked from the front of the body and hung vertically. Many people refer (quite possibly offensively) to this as an "O-Kee-Pa" suspension because it looks similar to a Native American rite of the same name. The vertical chest suspension is considered to be the most difficult and painful suspension. Problems reported include difficulty breathing coupled with intense pain in the sternum and armpit areas.

It should be noted that many people strongly object to the use of the term "O-Kee-Pa" to refer to a vertical chest suspension, as "O-Kee-Pa" in actuality refers to a complex and deeply meaningful cultural ritual that very few modern people understand. A two point vertical chest suspension is no more an "O-Kee-Pa" than drinking a glass of wine at dinner is taking communion.

Vertical Back suspension ("Suicide")
This suspension takes place hooked from the back of the body and hung vertically. Most people refer to this as a "suicide" suspension because the body appears to be hanging by a noose. This is one of the easier, less confining suspensions and one that many people choose to start with -- vertical back suspensions generally allow greater freedom of movement while suspended (the arms and legs not usually being pierced and thus free to move). This can be a pro or a con depending on the person.

Suicide suspension is definitely the favorite style to date, although, this suspension can often be too difficult for first time suspendees because there is more weight per hook than with horizontal suspensions, making the initial lift more painful. Other than this normal pain from suspending, the most common complaint is lower back pain.

Vertical Chest suspension with arm hooks ("Scarecrow" or "Crucifix")
This suspension takes place hooked from the upper back and hung vertically, with hooks also placed in the arms to force them to be held horizontally.

Horizontal Face Down ("Superman")
This suspension takes place hooked from the back of the body and hung horizontally. Most people refer to this as a "superman" suspension since the position resembles Superman flying. Due to the fact that the hooks can be distributed to a larger area of the body, this style is considered to be the easiest of the suspensions. Most novices find this to be a good first suspension. It seems the biggest complaint about this suspension is that back of the legs can be a very sensitive and piercing them is a somewhat upsetting thought to many.

Horizontal Face Up ("Coma")
This suspension takes place hooked from the front of the body and hung horizontally. Most people refer to this as a "coma" suspension after the movie "Coma". Not only is this style one of the more painful suspensions, it can be mentally difficult due to the fact that the individual can easily see the hooks and the skin stretching upward.

Inverted Knee ("Falkner")
This suspension takes place hooked from the knees and hung vertically with the head closest to the ground and the knees at the top. Many people refer to this as a "Falkner" suspension since Allen Falkner is the first known person to ever attempt this particular configuration. This style is relatively new, but is quickly growing in popularity. It is not considered to be an extremely painful suspension, but the drawbacks include lower back pain and ripping of skin in the areas around the knees. Another factor of this suspension is the increased blood pressure to the brain due to the inverted position, which can lead to disorientation and cause headaches.

Seated Suspension
(coming soon)

Lotus Suspension
(coming soon)

Tandem Suspension
Tandem suspension is hanging one person from hooks in another person that is already suspended. That is, a stacked suspension.

Spinning beam
(coming soon)

What's the difference between private and public suspensions?
Private Suspensions are typically done for the sake of the person suspending whereas public suspensions are done for the sake of the audience. Normally, private suspensions are done for some form of spirituality or personal insight whereas public suspension is primarily entertainment and recreation. Of course, the distinction is not entirely clear in all circumstances.

With private suspensions the focus is primarily on the energy the suspendee creates. It allows for a very enriching meditation without the distractions of money and audience or even just trying to explain or justify why you are suspending.


SECTION THREE - HISTORICAL CONTEXT

What has suspension generally been used for?
Historically, suspensions have been performed as rights of passage, vision quests, healing rituals, penance, rituals of deity devotion or as means to gain visions by leaving the body and/or communication with the spiritual realm. They have been used for testing the endurance of the mind and body, or even just to freak people out. Thanks to artists like Stelarc and modern suspension groups like TSD, suspensions are being increasingly used as performance art and even for entertainment.

What other cultures used suspension-like rituals?
Most notable are some Native American tribes and different sects of the Hindu religion. Although other cultures may have used suspensions ritually, these two are the best documented in that they are still in practice today.

What other rituals are related to suspension?
In modern terms, the most obviously related ritual is pulling, where two or more people play "tug-o-war" against each other with the ropes attached to hooks in their body. This is described later in this FAQ.

As far as traditional rituals that are obviously related, one example is the Native American Sundance where the dancer is pierced in the chest or back, attached to a sacred tree and then pulls and dances until the piercing rips free. Another example would be the Hindu Kavadi bearing where devotees wear cages of spears/hooks or pull religious effigies by hooks in their skin. Others still would include cheek skewering and ball dancing (where small weights are sewed or hooked to the skin and slowly tear out over extended dancing).

As far as rituals that are peripherally related, very often fasting, sweat lodges, energy circle drumming, abstinence, sleep deprivation, and other practices are combined with suspension -- quite likely enhancing the odds of a 'spiritual' experience.

What was the cultural context of these peoples' rituals?
These rituals were built on the foundations of their cultures, and to truly understand them, one must understand the culture first, and then the ritual. In general, these rituals formed a powerful element of these cultures' spiritual and cultural life.

What is cultural appropriation?
The textbook definition of cultural appropriation is the "taking [a.k.a. appropriating] from a culture that is not one's own of...cultural expressions or artifacts [or] history." Many people hold that cultural appropriation is wrong because by stealing an element from someone's culture and then representing it in a different (and often shallow) context, you both damage and dishonor the culture you have taken the ritual from.

Does suspension fall into the realm of cultural appropriation?
Suspension is a tool that can be used for many purposes, and one that has been explored by numerous cultures. No culture can "patent" suspension and ask others not to be involved with it. As such, the real question would be, is suspension a cultural misappropriation?

Suspension itself -- the physical act of hooks through flesh suspending a body -- has very little cultural meaning. The meaning comes from the ritual and philosophies surrounding it. We can use suspension, but it is our job to come up with our own meaning. As most of us are neither Native American nor Hindu, we can not reasonably understand the nuances of their rituals, and by attempting to replicate them we produce at best a shallow copy that insults everyone involved.

It should be noted that while the above is what most people feel, there are others who point out that cultures are constantly borrowing from each other. They feel that as long as we respect the cultures we appropriate from, that we have every right to assimilate their rituals.


SECTION FOUR - HOOKS AND THEIR APPLICATION

What different types of hooks can be used, and when/why?
There are two basic types of hooks, on-locking (standard) and locking. Locking hooks are fairly new and there are several designs out there. The primary purpose for the locking mechanism is to increase the amount of weight a hook can hold (the lock keeps the hook from opening) and to prevent the hooks from coming out (for example, if suspending from great heights).

Standard hooks (fishing hooks) are definitely the most commonly used design for suspension. They are cheap, easy to find, and quite durable. These hooks normally come in two forms: open and closed eye (the top opening where the rope is connected). Closed eye hooks are probably the most common in that the rope it less likely to come detached, although open eye are useful in situations where rigging quickly is a concern.

Tell me more about fishhooks. What should I order and how do I finish them?
First it should be noted that the "gauge" system for hooks is not the same as for body jewelry. The larger the number, the bigger the hook. To name a few examples commonly used in suspension, a 7/0 salmon hook is roughly the same size as 10ga jewelry, and a 9/0 salmon hook is roughly the same size as 8ga jewelry.

It is important that stainless steel hooks are used -- most fishhooks are made of a high carbon coated steel which will quickly rust when autoclaved. Mustad salmon hooks (available in 10ga through 8ga) as well as Mustad octopus hooks (available in 8ga through 4ga) are some of the more commonly used (and easy to find) hooks.

Finishing is as simple as cutting off the barb, grinding it smooth, and polishing. Power tools will of course make this process go dramatically faster, but there is no reason this couldn't be done entirely with hand tools.

I know how to make body jewelry. Can I make my own hooks?
Making hooks from scratch is a difficult task that requires many of the same skills and tools required making body jewelry. However, the metals used in body jewelry are quite soft and the hooks you make will take less force to straighten than the tempered steel used in mass manufactured hooks. For most, the easiest route is to purchase stainless steel fishhooks and grind off the barbs.

How much weight can a single hook handle?
This question is almost impossible to answer as each kind hook has a different load capacity. The most common 10ga through 8ga gauge stainless fishhooks normally hold about 80 pounds static weight with little or no flexing. If the suspendee swings during a suspension the force on the hook can change dramatically (the dynamic load generated will be much more than the static weight of the person and the rig). Hooks are always a crucial variable that must be tested.

As for skin, different areas of the body handle weight differently. For example the back can hold over 250 pounds from one point, where knees seem to rip at around 100 pounds. Depth of the piercing can also play a dramatic role in tearing. The hook needs to be placed where the body's weight is evenly distributed over the hook. If the hook is placed too deep, the skin will bunch up causing the entire pressure to be placed on the entrance and exit points, conversely, if the piercing is too shallow, the force is focused on one point.

How many hooks are normally used with each style of suspension?
Vertical suspensions are usually done with four to six hooks (with extra hooks for the arms in the case of a crucifix suspension), and horizontal suspensions are generally done with eight to twelve hooks, but are not uncommonly done with as many as 24 hooks.

The amount of hooks used per suspension depends on two factors, the experience level of suspendee experience and weight of the suspendee. A good rule of thumb is as follows:

15-20 pounds per hook for beginners (ie. 8 hooks for a 140 pound guy)
20-40 pounds per hook for intermediate (ie. 4 hooks for a 140 pound guy)
40-80 pounds per hook for advanced (ie. 2 hooks for a 140 pound guy)
Experienced individuals only should attempt 80+ pounds per hook

As for determining the amount of hooks for each style of suspension, this depends a lot on physical geometry. The vertical suspension really only has one central weight apex, so the least amount of hooks can be used for these. The horizontal suspensions however have four basic areas of weight: chest, hips, legs and arms. Facing upward (in a coma suspension) each point must be held by hooks or by the some other means (such as strapping). Facing downward, (in a superman suspension) the chest and hips are combined into one variable due to the fact that the hips do not bend forward.

What is strapping?
Sometimes, especially for beginners, not all of the points of suspension are held using hooks. For example, in a superman suspension, the legs or head might be supported using a strap of rope rather than with hooks through the skin.

What gauges of hooks are normally for suspensions?
18ga to 14: Used primarily for ball dancing or similar activity. These are too small for suspension unless a very large number of hooks are used.
12ga to 10ga: Sometimes used for horizontal suspension, but usually too small for vertical suspensions.
9ga: Common size for horizontal suspension, sometimes used for vertical suspensions as well.
8ga: This is the most common size for most suspensions and can be used for almost anything.
6ga and larger: Normally used for two- or one-point suspensions, or in vertical suspensions for larger individuals.

Where are the hooks placed, and is it the same for everyone?
Unfortunately, there is not an exact science to hook placement. It depends a lot on individuals. Generally hooks are placed into regions of the body where the skin is soft and stretches easily. There are some fairly common placement points and normal "sweet" spots on most people. Some of the placements are chest, upper to middle back, hips, calves, knees and forearms. Of these most have sweet spots, although the chest and many points in the legs can still be very uncomfortable.

In addition, hook placement should be varied slightly taking into account any suspensions done recently to minimize damage. Other small variations occur due to skin irritations, fresh tattoos, and body piercings.

Are hooks pierced though muscle?
NO! Skin is very resilient, holds a lot of weight and heals very quickly. Muscle on the other hand is a very fragile tissue that tears easily and does not always heal correctly. In addition, if hooks tear out, damage to skin is easy to heal and not particularly dangerous, whereas healing torn muscle is much more significant.

What about just putting the rope through the piercings?
Flexible materials are not a suitable substitute for hooks or other rigid structures. Materials such as rope will tighten around the piercing, causing the skin to be pulled to one point and rip. More rigid items such as hooks are definitely better choices unless the goal is to tear free (for example in a ball dance or Sundance-type ceremony).

In addition, doing this would result in major contamination of the rigging system, on top of the fact that there isn't really any way to sterilize rope. Stick to hooks!

How long can I leave the hooks in for?
This would depend first on the material of the hooks. Most stainless fishhooks are certainly not implant grade stainless, and therefore should be removed after suspending. There are some custom made hooks on the market made from implant grade materials and that are specifically designed for suspension. These hooks could, at least from a materials point of view, be left in for very extended times.

Once the hooks are put in and the person is prepped for suspension, they have roughly an hour to chill with the hooks in. However, the longer they wait, the less endorphins will be flowing, and, additionally, drying fluids around the piercings will make them more painful - it is best to suspend as soon as possible after the piercings are done.

Once down after a suspension it is best to remove the hooks and burp out the air as soon as possible.

How do I put the hooks in?
Hooks can be sharpened to a point and forced through the skin, although this is unnecessarily painful and traumatic. The most common and practical means of insertion is to first make the hole with a standard piercing needle and follow that through with the hook.

Needle and hook are usually in the same size, but that is entirely optional. If a larger needle is used (for example, a 6ga piercing needle followed by an 8ga hook) there will be additional bleeding. If a smaller needle is used, the hooks may be tighter and be a bit sorer prior to suspension.

It is essential to maintain a proper set up to avoid risks of contamination of the fresh piercings and of the equipment - this should be a top priority. Many suspension crews choose to set up an assembly line where one person pierces and inserts the hooks, and another preps the rigging system so that it's more difficult to contaminate the framework.


SECTION FIVE - ROPES AND RIGGING

What different types of rope and webbing are used in suspension, and when/why?
There are many different types of rope, webbing, chain and cable that can be used for suspension. In general, most suspension groups work with the same materials that are used by climbers and professional riggers. The most common of these are nylon webbing (for attaching to support structures), rappelling rope (for connecting support structures to suspension frames) and parachute line (to connect the body to the suspension frame).

What different types of knots are used in suspension, and when/why?
There are multiple knots that work well for suspension rigging. The two most common knots are figure eights and clove hitches. The figure eight knot is probably the most common knot, and is used both for primary and suspension rigging. It is an extremely strong knot, tightens down upon itself and is very easy to untie. The clove hitch is an easily adjustable knot that is often used where the length of the ropes must be adjusted, such as suspensions that require multiple balanced rigging systems.

What different types of pulleys and hoists are used, and why?
The two most common lifting mechanisms are "block and tackle" and "chain hoists". Block and tackle pulley systems have the advantage of being lightweight and are quick for lifting and lowering. The only drawback is that they require a physical point to secure the rope's end. These days, chain hoists are becoming more and more popular due to their self locking system that handles and enormous amount of weight.

What are the types of bars I will need, and which one do I use for each suspension?
Horizontal suspensions are normally done from a rectangular cube with multiple eyebolts facing downwards on the long sides of the frame and four eyebolts facing up in the corners. A single long bar design can be used as well for horizontal suspensions. Vertical suspensions are normally one from a single beam with five eyebolts facing down and two eyebolts facing up.

What's the easiest minimalist way to rig a suspension?
First connect one rope to a solid structure (such as a ceiling beam or a tree branch). To that, connect the suspension frame/rig at height where the suspendee will be off the ground, but is low enough that they can step off a chair or a table beneath them can be lowered. When the suspension is over, they step back onto the chair.

What's the best way to rig an indoor suspension?
Connect your rigging to one or more solid points of the building's superstructure, for example by placing a sling around an I-beam or by setting permanent points in wood or concrete buildings. As always, it is best to rig for at least three times the amount of weight you are expecting to hold.

What's the best way to rig outdoors from a tree?
Trees are simple in that slings can easily be wrapped around large branches. Once the slings are in place, a block and tackle or hoist can be easily attached.

What's the best way to rig outdoors in a flat area (ie. nothing to hang from)?
You will need to erect some form of stable structure. One of the fastest and most stable boxes can be built from scaffolding that is easily rented in any major city. Although there have been a lot of people designing freestanding suspension frames, it really seems at this point that scaffolding is the cheapest, easiest, and safest way to do it.


SECTION SIX - PREPARATION AND AFTERCARE: MENTAL, PHYSICAL, SPIRITUAL

How should a person prepare themselves mentally?
Traumatic physical experience can bring a lot of mental aspects to the surface, so to speak. There is no way around suspension being traumatic. Regardless of how many times you do it or how 'tough' you are, you are putting your body through an ordeal. This means that your mind (if you are dualist, if not then this should be even more obvious) will be affected. Generally, a suspension is not something that one should be doing when not felling mentally 'well'. That said, some people find that suspending helps bring things into focus. This is not surprising since trauma forces you to focus on the act at the time and that focused state can extend beyond and to other aspects of your life. Of course, it can just as easily make a confused and troubled time worse by adding to the stress you are under.

In any case, to be mentally prepared to suspend, a person must be first and foremost calm, collected, and very sure about their motivations behind suspending. Just as importantly they must have complete trust and faith in the people helping them as well as the rigging they are hanging from. The simplest way to achieve this is to research your suspension and become heavily involved in the planning of the suspension. This will make it much easier to relax, which is essential -- to have a positive experience, you must be in a good state of mind. If you find that you are not, cancel the suspension and do it another day.

How can I fight fear? I don't want it to wreck my experience.
You may find yourself reminded of the Bene Gesserit litany against fear from the novel Dune:

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain."

Even though these are just words from a science fiction epic, they contain a great deal of truth. Assuming you've followed the guidelines of safety recommended in this FAQ and you are with people you trust, suspension is relatively safe and you really don't have anything to fear. Whatever fear comes to you, relax, accept it, and let it pass by.

How should a person prepare themselves physically?
Good physical condition is a basic prerequisite to any serious undertaking. Take into account that you will be going through physical trauma, probably experience at least mild shock, and have to heal some fairly serious piercing wounds. While it is not necessary to fast completely, food intake should be monitored to control for potential nausea and you should stay well hydrated.

Also, if you are heavy, shedding excess weight can make it more comfortable. Most people have a better experience when they do at least some limited fasting and increase their water intake for a week to one day before their suspension. Although complete fasting is suggested by some, a light meal before suspension avoids "low blood sugar" and nausea.

How should a person prepare themselves spiritually?
This is entirely a matter of individual perspective, but realize that if you go in looking for something, you'll probably find something else. Suspension tends to give a person what they need, not what they want. Sometimes they are the same thing, but more often they are not; trust in your beliefs, but don't attempt to force them on the experience.

What state of mind should a person be in to maximize the experience?
There are a number of differing opinions regarding this, but almost everyone agrees that you must be completely centered and positive. If you walk into suspensions frightened, you are far more likely to have a bad experience, and your chances of falling into deep shock are improved. Remember that suspensions are more mental then they are physical.

What is maximizing the experience? One can approach it completely empty to simply discover the basic face value of the experience or one could supercharge the experience with ritual and symbolism to synergistically promote a desired result or state of mind -- just as ritual magicians perform customized spells and ceremonies designed to promote results. At the same time, attempting to adhere to rituals that you don't personally feel strongly about could add a layer of deception to the experience that takes away from it.

To truly maximize suspension or any experience, one must first have a goal in mind. That said, it is also helpful to know just how one will respond to an experience and thus it is worthwhile to go through it at least once without expectations or goals. Finally, realize that like most ecstatic rituals, it is virtually impossible to control the experience. While it can be guided, you can not control the experience, and attempting to do so could have unpleasant (and opposite) results.

How do I take the hooks out, and what immediate care is required?
The faster hooks come out the less they hurt. Sometimes the dried blood is removed from around the wounds, although most people don't feel the extraction even with crust still attached. The air should be 'burped' out via massage -- though some people actually prefer to leave the air in. Finally, clean the wound and apply a sterile dressing.

What longterm aftercare is required for the hook holes?
After about 24 hours the wounds should create a hard scab. General monitoring and basic hygiene -- a normal routine of personal cleaning that you should be doing anyway -- is more than enough.

What psychological and spiritual effects should I be ready for in the longterm?
Prepare for both the possibility of being overwhelmed and under-whelmed. Many people report not getting what they expected but still becoming 'addicted' to the experience. A suspension can be a life changing experience in that the individual will be attaining a feat that, to many, might seem impossible. Then again, you might just hang from hooks.

It is an extraordinary experience to be suspended, and once you are back on the ground you will be high from the experience. This can last anywhere from a day or two to a week, but at some point there is the coming down and it is inevitable that this will happen. For many, an awakening may have occurred and when you come down from the initial high you may be out of sync with a reality that was opened while suspending versus the reality we all share. There are no grave dangers afterwards when performed in the right settings and if you find yourself feeling really down after suspending it would be wise to share your feelings with others experienced in suspension.

Finally, it should be noted that due to the complexity and somewhat overwhelming task of interpreting the experience, you may not feel the spiritual or psychological effect until weeks afterwards when it hits you like a ton of bricks. In addition, understand that the normal rules of time may not apply -- don't be surprised when if a fifteen second suspension gives you what seems like hours and hours of experience to interpret.


SECTION SEVEN - RISKS AND SAFETY

What are the possible negative side-effects of suspension?
The potential risks are significant, and include but are not limited to death, extreme shock, convulsions, dizziness, pain, bleeding, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, scarring, and numbness.

What medical conditions could make hooking dangerous?
People suffering from high (or low) blood pressure, heart conditions, epilepsy, diabetes, immune deficiency, hepatitis, blood clotting problems, and individuals that have experienced multiple states of extreme shock should seek the advice of their physician before suspending. If you suffer from any medical conditions it is essential that the people helping you are entirely aware of them.

How can these risks be minimized?
First, fully understanding the medical background of an individual will greatly reduce the risks (so I will point out again here that if you are approaching a suspension team to help you suspend, you MUST inform them fully of your health). In addition, working in an environment where the temperature can be controlled, with plenty of juice and water as well as a trained medical personal on staff will greatly reduce chances of shock (and greatly reduce the risk if it does happen).

What should be done if a suspended person faints? While in the air? After coming down?
Loss of consciousness is one of the most common side effects of suspension and can be very dangerous. In responsible suspension, a person should not be suspended unless they are completely lucid. While hanging, if the person faints, they should be lowered quickly (but not necessarily unhooked). Once the person regains consciousness, administering water and sugar in a liquid form will help to raise glucose levels in the blood, and they can decide if they'd like to give it another try.

What should be done if someone goes into shock?
There are many levels of shock that can go from dangerous to life threatening very quickly. If the body is cold, raise the temperature. If the person is hot, lower their temperature with cold compresses. Of course remember the old adage, "the face is red, raise the head; the face is pale, raise the tail."

How can I responsibly perform piercing "in the field"?
First of all, the piercers must to have access to hot and cold running water. As for field preparation, it is best to work off of smooth hard surfaces that can be easily cleaned and then covered with disposable surfaces such as dental bibs. The biggest problem with field suspensions is limited supplies and cross contamination. The piercers must be very careful to separate the fields into clean, working, and contaminated areas.

How should biohazard be disposed of?
Objects such as needles and hooks should be placed into sharps (solid plastic biohazard) containers to be disposed as mandated by your local government. As for blood soaked trash, in the US, most states have different rules as to whether the material must be treated as biohazardous or simply contaminated waste. Any local reputable piercing/tattoo studio should be able to answer your questions regarding material disposal.

What effect could alcohol use have?
Alcohol weakens and dehydrates the body and thins the blood -- it is recommended that alcohol not be combined with suspension. Use of alcohol should be avoided for at least 24-72 hours priors to suspending. In fact, many people abstain from alcohol for as long as a week. In general alcohol dulls and takes away from the experience of suspension.

What effect could drug use have?
Drug use can have a severe physical and mental impact on an individual. People should avoid any drugs that affect the immune system, blood pressure and/or impair the mental abilities of the individual. That said, many cultures have traditionally combined suspension with psychedelic, psychotropic, and "mind expanding" drugs to further their spiritual quests. However, as far as we in the West are concerned, this is highly uncharted territory and extreme care should be taken if you choose to combine these activities.

What if a hook tears out?
Hooks rarely tear out BUT in the event that one does or if the skin is torn, it is best to have a suture kit on hand to sew the wound shut.


SECTION EIGHT - MISCELLANEOUS QUESTIONS

Can I get suspension piercings permanently and suspend from them?
It is in theory possible, but realistically, NO, and there is certainly no particular advantage to doing this.

What "world records" are there for suspension and who holds them?
First I would like to point out that pursuing these records for the sake of the record is foolish and dangerous and entirely misses the point. That said, I have included a number of records here in this FAQ for entertainment only!

Longest suspension from a single hook
It first also be noted that this record was defined by and first held by Allen Falkner. It was then held by Shane Munce, who suspended from a single hook for one minute. He then broke his own record and suspended for three minutes from a single hook.

What are some movies that suspension has been featured in?
A Man Called Horse: This movie contains footage of an "O-Kee-Pa" suspension.
The Cell: This movie contains footage of a superman suspension being done by permanently pierced rings.

I've been asked to appear on a local television show to promote suspension, what should I be aware of?
Be aware that many TV shows will outright lie to you about the content and direction of a show in order to get what they want from you. Have everything firmly established and in writing before committing, and consider approaching people who have had experience dealing with the media to help you. Reputable productions do not balk at such requests and should have a budget capable of at least off-setting some of, if not all, of your costs. Keep in mind that the TV crew is primarily there to 'get the shot' and as such your personal safety and comfort are secondary to them. This is almost exclusively a public suspension situation. As a general note, suspending for TV is not a good motivation to suspend unless you are actively trying to work professionally as a suspension artist or part of a group that performs publicly. It presents a number of additional hassles and the notoriety, if any will be fleeting compared with the effort and expense.

In addition, you must ensure that you will be able to have complete control over rigging -- never compromise safety in trade for a good shot. You will also need to make sure that the television crew respects your aseptic set up and dirty zones, and that anyone in the area understands all the rules of cross contamination control. Finally, be aware that the media loves to present suspension as sideshow.


APPENDIX A - PULLING

What is a pulling?
Pulling is when two or more people pull against each other in opposing directions with the rope(s) through hooks in their flesh, usually the back. Note that solo pulling is also possible, with one end of the rope attached to a solid object.

Are hooks placed differently for pulling?
Yes and no; it depends on which type of pulling is to be performed and how many hooks are used in the pulling. For example, if someone is pulling with hooks in their back, the placement would resemble that of a suicide suspension. The hooks must be placed in a direction so that the hook will not come out during the pulling. Normally this is done with either a locking hook, or with hook placed horizontally, or with hook pierced in an upward direction (ie. the point end of the hook comes out the top hole; the hook is inserted from bottom to top).

How is the pulling experience different than suspension?
The experience of pulling is slightly different in that the body's entire weight is not supported by hooks in skin. The sensation of the skin being stretched and pulled to its maximum may be similar and the sensation of endurance and surrender may be similar but they are definitely not the same.

In addition, unlike a suspension where the person reaches a state of complete surrender, the puller is in complete control of their physical position and level of pain.

How many hooks are used?
Pulling is typically done with between one, two, or four hooks per person. Using more than six or so hooks per person could limit the experience and take away from what could be an amazing and enlightening experience.

How many people can pull at one time?
Theoretically there is no limit. In circular (star) pulling, five, six, or more people pulling at once is certainly possible.

How does a large group of people perform a pulling?
Simply, each member of the pull connects one central point or ring.

With great attention paid to the dynamics of the rigging it would be advised to form a circle with a central steel circular frame. This is the center point where all the ropes would originate from leading out to everyone in the circle (the ropes form a star). This position allows for any number of people to participate.


APPENDIX B - GROUPS

What are all the suspension groups currently operating in the world, and how does one get in touch with them?
Erik Sprague aka The Lizardman (Texas): www.thelizardman.com
TSD (Texas): www.susupension.org
CoRE (Texas): www.wearecore.com
IWasCured (Toronto, Canada): www.iwascured.com
Joey Strange: www.joeystrange.com
Stelarc (Australia): www.stelarc.va.com.au
WHACKS: www.geocities.com/whacks_2000
Etre Suspendu (Montreal, Canada): (contact info coming soon)
SCAR (Florida): (contact info coming soon)
Rites of Passage: (contact info coming soon)
WICKED (South Africa): (contact info coming soon)
ICU: www.t35.com/icu
Madmax Suspension Team (Finland): www.madmaxtattoo.com
Life Suspended (Arizona): (contact info coming soon)
Self-Inflicted: (contact info coming soon)
CRASS (Belgium): (contact info coming soon)

If you would like your suspension group listed here, or have information on errors or omissions in the above contact information, please contact me via extreme@bmezine.com


APPENDIX C - SUPPLIERS

Where can I buy hooks?
Many people buy their hooks from Seattle Marine, which can be found online at www.seamar.com. Local fishing supply shops can also order the hooks for you. It is of course possible to have a body jewelry supplier custom make hooks to your liking, but most people agree that the heavy gauge fish hooks work best. They are very strong, re-useable, and typically leave a clean hole after the suspension.


Where can I buy ropes and rigging?
You can buy your ropes and rigging from hardware stores, sailing shops, and hiking and outdoor supply stores.


Where can I buy piercing supplies?
Most body jewelry suppliers will also sell you needles. If you are having difficulty finding a supplier that will ship to you or will sell in low quantity, high quality piercing needles are available from www.bmeshop.com.




This document is copyright (c) 2002 BMEZINE.COM Inc.
Please be aware that suspension is far from an exact science, and we don't know everything about it. The information in this document may contain numerous errors, mistruths, and omissions.


 


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