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Rook Piercing Beaten to Death

In this the Tenth installment of my piercing blog series 'Each Piercing Beaten to Death' I will be covering Rook or Roak Piercing in depth. The Rook is not that common but if done correctly it can really accent the shape and beauty of the ear without being over powering. Located on upper end of the antihelix which is the inner ridge that runs in parallel with the helix  of the ear. Usually a safe and easy heal, if you are looking for an ear piercing that is a little off the beaten path, the Rook maybe a good choice.


History and Background:

Like the Daith the origin or popularity in modern piercing can be traced back to Erik Dakota in the early 1990s. It's claimed that the name comes from a shortening of his name, though who knows. Though there is a bird that comes from the crow family called a Rook and I've often thought that the location puts one in the mind of a bird or group of birds on a power line or tree branch. At any rate, it was named by Erik and then documented by Fakir Musafar in his Body Play and Modern Primitive Quartly in 1992. 


Now weather or not Erik was in fact the first to do the piercing is hard to say. There seems to be no earlier reference to the piercing but like all piercings chances are someone tried it long before modern times.


Anatomy and Location:

In majority of people have the correct anatomy to do this piercing, however if the cartilage is not pronounced and large enough to support the piercing, it should be attempted. The reason is that if there is not room for the piercing and jewelry, it will more than likely reject, tear or migrate. There also needs to be enough room for the jewelry to fit comfortably without twisting or applying pressure on the piercing. Also the further the piercing is from the helix flap the more prone it will be to rejection and migration because the ridge will increasingly become less pronounced. 


The placement should be within the area where the antihelix thins and becomes more pronounced as it travels under the helix flap. The piercing should be angled with the natural curve of the ridge. Though the piercing can be done under the flap, it should be done just outside of the flap not only to make it visible but easy to clean and change jewelry. To insure the angle of the piercing I will usually draw a line across the ridge. It can be difficult for the piercee to see the marking, so ask to use two mirrors or bring along a friend to verify the placement.



Though rare a number of Rook piercings can be done. It always comes down to anatomy and if there is space to safely add additional piercings. The piercings could be placed along the ridge and then Snug piercings as you moved outward from the helix flap. However, as you travel further from the flap the ridge becomes less and less pronounced causing the piercing to not be as deep. Also the further out the Rook piercing the more contact it will have with phones, bedding and etc... Thus the further away from the helix flap the more prone the piercing will be to rejection.


Alternatives - Anti-Rook:

Though extremely rare, the rook ridge can be pierced straight through with the jewelry traveling from the back of the ear and exiting at the apex of the ridge. Also sometimes called a High Conch, it must be done with either a barbell or labret stud. They tend to have a much longer healing period and are more prone to problems then a normal Rook piercing.


Jewelry Types:

It is my experience that rings are the best option for healing a Rook piercing. There is a couple of reasons for this including the security of Captive Bead Rings over threaded and threadless jewelry but also the location has limited space. With a ring it is much easier to hold the jewelry or adjust it if needed. Also it allows additional room for swelling and doesn't block the entrances of the piercing which may impede discharge.


A curved barbell would be the other option and the main advantage is that it has a lower profile during healing than that of a ring. However, since the post will need to be much longer than the tissue being pierced, it maybe more prone to getting snagged on clothing, bedding, combs, etc... I suggest piercing with a ring and then changing out to a properly sized barbell after the healing is completed. I also suggest that the jewelry is professional changed because especially with threaded jewelry specialty tools maybe needed to close the jewelry.


18 or 16 gauge are best for the piercing because they are thin enough to be pierced correctly but are not so thin that it might cause tearing or rejection. Larger gauges are possible if there is enough tissue to allow for the thickness of the jewelry but the added weight may cause additional problems. I've found that 16g works best and allows the client a wider selection of thread jewelry than 18g would. The width needs to be at least 5/16 to 3/8 of an inch wide. However with most anatomies 3/8 tends to be a better choice, especially with rings because it allows the piercing to form as straight as possible and lays more comfortable and is less likely to want to stand straight out of the body. 


After disinfecting the area, comes marking the piercing. If you read my blog on marking, you know that I feel it is important for the piercee to study the marking before hand. With this piercing because of it's location it is often hard to see. What I would suggest is try to use two mirror and angle them so you can see inside the ear. When marking this piercing, I will mark a line around the area. This is to insure that when I do the piercing that it is angled correctly but also the end of the line on each side is the location of the two piercing holes. I use this method with a great deal of piercings where it is impossible to see both exit and entrance holes at the same time.  In some cases I will also cross the line with a center point line to insure that the piercing is even.


Since this is anatomy defining piercing the direction that the piercing is done is dictated by the shape of the area. Ideal the piercing should be done top to bottom exiting in the space of the ear canal. The needle should be curved or slightly bent to allow a access to the area. I've found that a slight hand bent needle works best for me. To gain access to the entrance placement, I will set my hand against the top of the ear which will cause the area to open but still not distort the piercing area.I will then rest the needle against the piercing entrance and with my other hand hold a cork against the other side. Then I will do the piercing, remove the cork from the needle tip and then use a needle receiving tube to guide the needle safely through the piercing. Then insert the jewelry, stop any bleeding and clean up.


The piercing can be more an uncomfortable experience then a painful one because of the stress put on the piercing area. Most say on a scale of one to ten that the piercing is around a 2 or 3.  With most ear piercings it is common to experience warmth or heat in the area right after the piercing and/or a throbbing pain for a few minutes right after the piercing is done. Also, there might be a small amount of bleeding. 

Hassles and Aftercare:

Rook piercings are prone to redness and swelling. In most cases this will fade after a few days and usually looks much worst than it is. If the piercing was done with a ring and the placement is correct with the right size it will lay comfortable against the ear. Often they can be very sensitive to touch and stress to the piercing like sleeping on the piercing or using a telephone with that ear should be avoided. Also Ear Buds, headphones or head gear that comes in contact with the piercing should be avoided until they can be worn without discomfort. Even then they should be disinfected regularly to avoid cross contamination. 


Basic aftercare will involve hot soaks or compresses with warm water and sea salt twice a day and cleaning the piercing in the shower twice daily. Healing time ranges between 8 to 12 weeks. Also you will need to take steps to reduce the likelihood of cross contamination. For more details go to Basic Aftercare Instructions. Due to the location of the piercing you need to take precautions to avoid the piercing coming in contact with cosmetic and hair products. Since sweat tends to collect in the area, it is a good idea to clean the piercing after strenuous activity, especially if you use hair products. 


It is important to avoid stress and abuse to the piercing during healing and after. Which side you naturally sleep on should be considered before getting the piercing. Sleeping on the piercing especially during the piercing can cause migration and other problems. If you are a stomach sleeper try sleeping with the pillow push to the side that isn't pierced. Also avoid clothing and sport safety equipment like helmets and masks that are tight in the piercing area. If you are required to wearing safety equipment for a job or sport that is tight fitting in the area, you may want to consider a different piercing. 


If you or your barber or hair dresser is using spray bottles on your hair, make sure they cover the piercing with a clean paper towel. . There are two concerns. The first is that the chemicals and other items in hair products will get into the open wound and cause a reaction. The second is that you will introduce a foreign pathogen into the piercing. So even if it is just tap water, cover the piercing. 


Cosmetic, especially powder based foundations and other foundations should be avoided in the area until the piercing is completely healed. The biggest risks is that the cosmetic will get into the piercing or block the piercing hole and not allow it to discharge properly.  The same goes for sun block. Also avoid contact with glasses and keep them clean.

Risks & Concerns:

Since the piercing is on the ear, there is a concern about permanently scarring. If the piercing is healed correctly there will be small indented scars but if the piercing encounters problems during healing or becomes infected it can cause additional scarring. With post jewelry with small ends, there is a risk that the end can be pulled into the piercing when the piercing swells. If this happens contact your piercer because the jewelry may need to be changed or adjusted. 


Rook piercings are often an easy piercing to get done and heal easily but precautions do need to be taken to reduce stress on the piercing during healing.  If you take proper care of the piercing it will heal within a few months and give you years of enjoyment. You should consider that you are going to want to change the jewelry after the piercing is done. Piercing with a ring is much easier to take care of during the healing period and is going to be a little cheaper than piercing with a barbell that you are going to want to replace anyway. Like with any piercing if you are planning a vacation, entering in a sporting events, or some other activity that might increase stress on the piercing and/or increase the risks to cross contamination, you may want to consider waiting to get the piercing.  Also, as always go to a piercer that has the experience and expertise to insure not only a correctly done piercing but can access your anatomy to know that this is the right piercing for you.