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6 Interesting, Weird & Horrific Traditional Practices

Every indigenous tribe has its own customs that dictate how the tribe views things, how they relate to each other and how to combat misfortunes that befall them.

Some of the harmful cultural practices have been eradicated in many countries e.g. FGM, early and forced marriage. Despite this, some tribes continue with the harmful practices in secret.

Not all traditions are harmful. Some are interesting whilst there are others which are weird, but not horrific.

The following are 6 interesting, weird and harmful traditions that are practises in the modern era.

1. Baby Tossing, India

The tradition of throwing a baby from the roof of a shrine, in India, has been practiced for more than 700 years. Despite being banned by the government, the tradition is still practised in some communities.

It is believed, the ritual spells good health and wellbeing not only to the child but also the family of the child who participate in the event.

The ritual usually involves the mother taking her child to the temple where the procession will occur.

The child is handed to the priest who is standing on the roof of the shrine. The priest holds the legs and hands of the child, swings the child sideways as he utters words, then releases the child.

Screaming, the child, under the age of two, falls a distance of between 30-50 feet from the roof to the waiting outstretched sheet that is held intact by a group of 14-15 men.

When the child bounces on the sheet, he is captured by one of the men. The child is passed from one arm to another, and finally handed to the mother.

Even though there has never been a reported case of a child who has been injured or died during the processions that are held annually, the after effects of the act are traumatic to the child. It takes a long time for the child to recover from the shock as a result of undergoing the exercise.

In an article titled, For Babies in India, a 30-Foot Plunge for Good Luck, the New York Times Newspaper states that the ritual began about 700 years ago as a result of high infant mortality rate coupled with scant medical knowledge, and few places few parents could turn for help.

The ritual is believed to have begun, according to legend, when a "saint advised people whose babies were dying to build a shrine and drop the ailing infants from the roof to show their trust in the almighty. When they did so, the story goes, the babies were miraculously cradled to safety in hammock-like sheet that appeared in midair," states New York Times.

2. Isiku Ritual, Nigeria

How people are treated when they die varies from one tribe to another. In some tribes, the dead body is treated in a dignified manner - clothed, fed, washed, taken for a walk or even sited on a chair outside their hurt for a comfy talk.

Some tribes in Nigeria subject a widow to observe several exercises and/or prohibitions during the mourning period which lasts almost to a year.

So as to prove the widow is innocent, she has to drink water that was used to wash her husband's corpse. Also, she is required to undergo trial by fire to prove she's innocent of her husband's death.

Her head is shaved, and in extreme cases, her pubic and armpit hair is removed.

She is not allowed to receive gifts, receive a handshake or pick up items from the floor as she is untouchable and defiled.

Unless she's required to cry, she must not speak or make any noise.

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Her face is scarred with a razor or knife and has to engage in sexual act with the corpse of her husband.

She is not allowed to bath which can last from 28 days to 8 months.

She has to eat food from unwashed dishes and plates from 28 days to 3 months.

Lastly, she is exposed to sexual relations with her father-in-law and brothers-in-law to cleanse her from evil spirits. "This ritual cleansing is the most taboo of all subjects. Its purpose is to severe the links between the living and the dead," states The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada,
Nigeria in an of article appearing on their website, titled, A Ritual by the name of "Isiku" that a widow is subjected to upon the death of her husband.

3. Carrying Pregnant Wife on Burning Coals, China

In China, husbands have to prove their devotion to their wives and soon-to-be children by walking over amber coloured, burning coals.

The husbands, in performing the ritual, exhibit their understanding of the difficulties their wives experience during pregnancy. Even though they can't know how it feels to carry a baby for 9 months inside the womb, by doing this act, they're are indicating their commitment to their wives and their children, and that their wives should not suffer alone during this period.

Also, it is believed the wives will undergo smooth and less painful labour.

4. Bullet Ant Glove Initiation Ritual, Brazil

In Sateré-Mawé, boys have to prove their manhood by mastering excruciating pain at the mercy of bullet ants' sting.

A unique form of rite of passage practised by the tribe situated in Amazon rainforest, a group of boys head to the forest in search of bullet ants.

Having located a nest of the ants, some of the boys play flutes while the remaining gather hundreds of the ants with the use of a long bamboo stick.

Back in the village, the ants are rendered unconscious after being placed in a bucket of water containing chopped cashew leaves prepared by a medicine man. This is to ease the job of fixing the ants on gloves woven out of leaves. Their stingers are directed towards the end of the glove.

The young men undergoing the initiation process, sing and dance in a circle, their bodies coloured in varying patterns.

As they sing and dance, one of them dips his hand into the infested bullet ant glove.

The awakened ants, obviously pissed at the state they're in, direct their tantrum at the hand held in the glove. The young man is required to put on for ten minutes while singing and dancing.

The young person shakes uncontrollably for hours after the glove is removed. Additionally, he will experience disorientation, muscle paralysis and hallucinations.

The ant derives its name from a bullet since its sting is likened to the pain of a bullet-wound. It's the most painful sting among insects, 30 times more painful than a bee's sting.

The young man will experience a varying degree of pain - diminishing and increasing - for up to 24 hours.

After undergoing the rite of passage, the young man is recognized by the elders of the tribe as part of the village's warriors - to defend and protect their village from external invasion.

The young man is also regarded mature enough to settle down with a family of his own.

5. Sharo Festival Initiation Ritual, Nigeria

The festival, practised by Fulani ethnic group situated in the northern region involves bare-chested young men enduring severe flogging as a means of transitioning to adulthood.

The festival, held in open places occurs during the dry season for a period of one week.

The young men, who are not wearing any shirt, are escorted into a central stage by young women. Therein, they have to master courage by persevering the pain resulting from the severe lashes.

Also, for a Fulani boy to earn himself a wife, it has to come with a cost. The boy has to endure the pain of flogging to be allowed to get a wife. If he gives in to the pain, the wedding is called off. This practice is no longer compulsory since many young men have been unable to endure the extreme pain.

6. Crying Sumo Festival, Japan

In Japan, a crying baby is a sign that the parents' wishes for good health and longevity of their babies has been heard by the almighty.

The festival practised worldwide, in shrines and temples involve parents undergoing basic purification rite before their babies are taken to an a ring by wrestlers.

Wearing sumo belts and aprons, the babies are made to weep in gentle ways by the evidence of tears.

The wrestlers will try several tactics to make the babies cry which include among others, shaking them gently, lifting them and making faces at them.

It is believed the cries of the babies drive out demons and protect them from evil.

The tradition is thought to date back more than 400 years.

© 2020 Alianess Benny Njuguna


Alianess Benny Njuguna (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on July 03, 2020:

Thank you Mona for your comment, and I agree with you. We should embrace the cultural practices that are beneficial, but more than that, as you've said, is respect other people's cultures so that "maybe we can help to make a cultural practice become more humane to those who practice it."

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 01, 2020:

I really appreciate the fact that you wrote about these rituals from the most difficult to the easiest to accept. I guess this proves to me that culture, important though it is, isn't always right. Still, we need to respect cultures and establish commonalities. In this way, maybe we can help to make a cultural practice become more humane to those who practice it.

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