It is not easy to make a selection of the strangest social rituals in the world. Delving a little deeper into this topic, you will realize that the planet is populated by customs that are very different from those around you. Many of them arouse curiosity and even surprise.
Social rituals are intended to celebrate the most important moments of life in the community. We refer in particular to birth, death, the transition from childhood to adulthood and marital union. These are moments that change everything and that is why they end up being remembered.
Each community has rituals that might be strange to outsiders. In fact, we are more alike than it might seem at first glance. The shape changes, but not so much the substance. Having said that, let’s see five of the strangest social rituals in the world, at least in the eyes of Westerners.
The 5 strangest rituals for Westerners
1. The initiation ritual in the Sateré-Mawé tribe
Initiation rituals, especially for men, typically involve practices that are cruel or very difficult to overcome. One of the strangest social rituals in the world is initiation. It is celebrated by the Sateré-Mawé tribe, a community that lives in the Amazon and has barely come into contact with Western civilization.
You have probably never heard of Sateré-Mawé, but you may know the fruit of guarana. It was they who discovered its properties and offered it to the West. In this community, for a child to be accepted as a man, he will have to pass a very difficult test. He will have to wear gloves covered with bullet ants for 20 consecutive times and for about 10 minutes.
Bullet ants cause very painful stings that some compare to touching a piece of hot iron. During the ritual, many faint and recovery takes several weeks. However, the reward is being accepted as an adult member of the tribe.
2. The Yanomans and their strange social rituals
Death is also the basis of numerous social rituals. For example, the Yanomans live in the most pristine areas of Venezuela and Brazil and perform a curious ritual. When a person dies, his corpse is exposed for a day. The next morning, women have to dye their faces black to express their pain and they also have to cry.
All his possessions are placed next to the deceased and then set everything on fire. If the objects do not burn completely, it means that the person has done something in life that cannot be forgiven. The next month, the family will have to return, collect the ashes and pour them into a sycamore soup, which they will have to drink. In this way, the deceased will remain within his loved ones survivors.
3. A death ritual in the Baliem Valley
The Dani tribe lives in Papua, New Guinea. It is another community that supports one of the strangest social rituals and which has to do with death. When a man dies, the women and children in his family are expected to have one or more fingers amputated. The person in charge of execution is a priest.
The priest observes the reaction of the women and children at the moment of the amputation. If they resist or experience a lot of pain, not just one, but several. With the amputated fingers a necklace will be made to put on the neck of the dead man before giving him burial. To date, the international community has failed to persuade the Dani to abandon this cruel ritual.
4. Infants and luck, one of the most unusual social rituals
Birth is another one of those moments that gives life to the strangest rituals in the world. One of these has been performed for about 700 years in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka, India. It is based on an old superstition that throwing babies from a height of 30 feet by dropping them on a flat sheet would bring health and prosperity.
The authorities have banned this ritual, although the local population assures that it does not cause any harm to the little ones. Despite the ban, the ritual is still practiced. Superstition has outlived the laws and logic.
5. An interesting ritual related to marriage
Even weddings have given rise to several unusual rites. One of the most curious takes place in some areas of Scotland. Shortly before the wedding, future spouses are coated with sticky foods, soaked in tea and smeared with raw eggs, as well as butter, pudding and similar foods.
After that, the future spouses have to go out for a walk in the country, completely covered with food and giving off a bad smell. According to tradition, this public humiliation prepares them so that no problems within marriage seem worse to them than this situation.
All these rituals, in one way or another, are meant to celebrate or mark the most important moments in life. Sometimes they are difficult to understand, but for each society they have a special value, the purpose of which is to make sense of life’s experiences.