definition of Wikipedia
Human branding or stigmatizing is the process in which a mark, usually a symbol or ornamental pattern, is burned into the skin of a living person, with the intention that the resulting scar makes it permanent. This is performed using a hot or very cold branding iron. It therefore uses the physical techniques of livestock branding on a human, either with consent as a form of body modification; or under coercion, as a punishment or imposing masterly rights over an enslaved or otherwise oppressed person. It may also be practiced as a "rite of passage" such as within a tribe, or to signify membership in an organization such as a college fraternity or sorority.
The English verb to burn, attested since the 12th century, is a combination of Old Norse brenna "to burn, light," and two originally distinct Old English verbs: bærnan "to kindle" (transitive) and beornan "to be on fire" (intransitive), both from the Proto-Germanic root bren(wanan), perhaps from a Proto-Indo-European root bhre-n-u, from base root bhereu- "to boil forth, well up." In Dutch, (ver)branden mean "to burn", brandmerk a branded mark; similarly, in German, Brandzeichen means "brand" and brandmarken, "to brand."
Sometimes the word cauterize, known in English since 1541, via Medieval French cauteriser from Late Latin cauterizare "to burn or brand with a hot iron", itself from Greek kauteriazein, from kauter "burning or branding iron," from kaiein "to burn" is used. However cauterization is now generally understood to mean a medical process – specifically to stop bleeding.
To a slave owner it would be logical to mark such property just like cattle, more so since humans are more able to escape.
Brand marks have also been used as a punishment for convicted criminals, combining physical punishment, as burns are very painful, with public humiliation (greatest if marked on a normally visible part of the body) which is here the more important intention, and with the imposition of an indelible criminal record. Robbers, like runaway slaves, were marked by the Romans with the letter F (fur); and the toilers in the mines, and convicts condemned to figure in gladiatorial shows, were branded on the forehead for identification. Under Constantine I the face was not permitted to be so disfigured, the branding being on the hand, arm or calf.
The Acts of Sharbil record it applied between the eyes and on the cheeks in Parthian Edessa at the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan on a judge's order to a Christian for refusal to sacrifice, amongst other tortures.
The mark in later times was also often chosen as a code for the crime (e.g. in Canadian military prisons D for Desertion, BC for Bad Character, most branded men were shipped off to a penal colony). Branding was used for a time by the Union Army during the American Civil War. Surgeon and Oxford English Dictionary contributor William Chester Minor was required to brand deserters at around the time of the Battle of the Wilderness.
The canon law sanctioned the punishment, and in France, in royal times, various offences carried the additional infamy of being branded with a fleur de lys, also galley-slaves could be branded GAL or once the galleys were replaced by the "bagne"s on land TF (travaux forcés, 'forced' labor, i.e. hard labour) or TFP (travaux forcés à perpetuité, forced labour for life) until 1832. In Germany however, branding was illegal.
Branding tended to be abolished like other judicial mutilations (with notable exceptions, such as amputation under sharia law), sooner and more widely than flogging, caning and similar corporal punishments, which normally aim 'only' to pain and at worst cause stripe scars, although the most severe lashings (not uncommon in penal colonies) in terms of dosage and instrument (such as the proverbial knout) can even turn out to be lethal.
Ceremonial Branding is an integral part of religious initiation in most of Vaishnava Sects. References to this practice can be traced in texts such as Narad Panchratra, Vaikhnasagama, Skanda Purana etc. This Practice is still in vogue among Madhava Sect Brahmins of Karnataka in India.
The punishment was adopted by the Anglo-Saxons, and the ancient law of England authorized the penalty. By the Statute of Vagabonds (1547) under King Edward VI, vagabonds and Gypsies were ordered to be branded with a large V on the breast, and brawlers with F for "fravmaker"; slaves who ran away were branded with S on the cheek or forehead. This law was repealed in England in 1550. From the time of Henry VII, branding was inflicted for all offences which received Benefit of clergy (branding of the thumbs was used around 1600 at Old Bailey to ensure that the accused who had successfully used the Benefit of Clergy defence, by reading a passage from the Bible, could not use it more than once), but it was abolished for such in 1822. In 1698 it was enacted that those convicted of petty theft or larceny, who were entitled to benefit of clergy, should be "burnt in the most visible part of the left cheek, nearest the nose." This special ordinance was repealed in 1707. James Nayler, a Quaker who in the year 1655 was accused of claiming to be the Messiah, convicted of blasphemy in a highly publicized trial before the Second Protectorate Parliament and had his tongue bored through and his forehead branded B for "blasphemer".
In the Lancaster criminal court a branding iron is still preserved in the dock. It is a long bolt with a wooden handle at one end and an M (malefactor) at the other; close by are two iron loops for firmly securing the hands during the operation. The brander would, after examination, turn to the judge exclaiming "A fair mark, my lord." Criminals were formerly ordered to hold up their hands before sentence to show if they had been previously convicted.
In the 18th century, cold branding or branding with cold irons became the mode of nominally inflicting the punishment on prisoners of higher rank. "When Charles Moritz, a young German, visited England in 1782 he was much surprised at this custom, and in his diary mentioned the case of a clergyman who had fought a duel and killed his man in Hyde Park. Found guilty of manslaughter he was burnt in the hand, if that could be called burning which was done with a cold iron" (Markham's Ancient Punishments of Northants, 1886).
Such cases led to branding becoming obsolete, and it was abolished in 1829 except in the case of deserters from the army, which were marked with the letter D, not with hot irons but by tattooing with ink or gunpowder. Notoriously bad soldiers were also branded with BC (bad character). The British Mutiny Act of 1858 provided that the court-martial may, in addition to any other penalty, order deserters to be marked on the left side, 2 inch below the armpit, with the letter "D", such letter to be not less than an inch long. In 1879 this was abolished.
Prisoners transported to Siberia in the late 19th century were sometimes branded on their foreheads with irons with the letters VRNK meaning V thief, R robber, and NK punished by the Knout. This branding lead to the Siberian slang word Varnok to mean either a settler or deportee.
A variation of branding called Cell Popping involves a dot matrix brand made of individual very small circular brands which taken at large form a design.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Human branding|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia article Branding.|
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