Rituals can be a defining element to any culture. Usually springing from religious beliefs, rituals can bring together a society and put a sect of people in the annals of history. Unfortunately for some, this is because they are some of the craziest ideas mankind has ever dreamed of.
These gruesome rituals throughout history showcase some of the outright insanity men have shown toward their belief in the afterlife. While some are precursors to things we take for sport today. Some of the things on this list are terrifying. Here is a list of the 20 most gruesome rituals around the world.
These Gruesome Rituals Happened Around The World
Cannibalism and Necrophagy
In the city of Varanasi, India, a tribe known as the Aghori Babas are famous for practicing the gruesome ritual of eating their dead. The ritual spawned out of a Hindu belief that the fear of death could potentially keep a spirit from achieving enlightenment. The five categories that one must fall under are pregnant and unwed women, children, holy men, and people who have died from leprosy or snake bites. They are cast down the Ganges River where the Aghori collect them and perform the ritual.
The Sun Dance
Known for their rituals dedicated to paying homage to the Great Spirit, the Native Americans took part in this gruesome practice. The Native Americans believed they while they performed this ritual, they much stay in constant contact with the tree of life. They did this by having a skewer pierce the skin of the chest. The skewer was attached to a rope which was tied to a pole representing the Tree of Life. The participant would move back and forth trying to remove the skewer, which often would take several hours.
During the month of Muharram (meaning forbidden), Those of the Islam faith practice this gruesome ritual. In honor of the martyr of Hussein, the grandson of Muhammad, the Shia sect of Islam gather together and whip themselves with chains that have blades attached to them. The men engage in a religious trance, which doesn’t allow them to feel pain.
On an island in the Pacific archipelago, in a village named Bunlap, A tribe engages in this gruesome ritual. A precursor to bungee jumping, villagers will climb a tall tower, built specifically for this ritual, volunteers will tie a vine around their ankles and take a literal leap, head forward, of faith. The rest of the villagers will sing, dance and occasionally beat drums as part of the ritual. The fear of broken bones is not at issue as the ritual persists that the higher the volunteers jump from, the more blessed they will be afterward.
Voodoo and Spiritual possession
This gruesome ritual hails from West Africa. The Vodun religion practices voodooism in which a person is selected to become a vessel or medium to the Earth Spirit, Sakpata. They are taken into the woods, put into a state of unconsciousness, and not given food or water for three days. After the three days is spent, the person is brought back using a different, presumably less gruesome, set of rituals.
Over in Tibet, there is a gruesome ritual called Jhator, which means sky burial. Practiced by Buddhists, who believe that there is no need to preserve the body as the spirit has already left this realm, take the deceased to a high altitude to allow vultures to dispose of the body naturally. In order to hasten the process, they dismember the corpse and spread it around the area.
Penang, Malaysia is the site or our next gruesome ritual. The Nine Emperor Gods Festival is the setting for a purification ritual in which an individual walks barefoot across smoldering hot embers to purify their soul. It is a test of strength and the truly brave will carry deities on their back to show their devotion.
Dancing with the Dead
A festival in Madagascar known as Famadihana, the turning of the bones, is the site of this gruesome ritual. Practitioners believe that the faster the body decomposes, the quicker the soul will leave this realm. In that respect, they hold this festival every two to seven years where they dig up the departed, dance around with them along to live music around the tomb, and then bury them again.
The host if this gruesome ritual is Phuket, China at the Vegetarian Festival. Many different objects are placed into the participant’s cheeks such as knives, spears, swords, hooks, and guns. It is believed that the gods themselves enter the body so that they are unharmed. This act will supposedly bring good luck to the community.
Considered to be the most ancient tribe in the world, the Yanomami Tribe of the Amazon believes that death is not a natural occurrence. Upon death, they practice the gruesome ritual of cremating the body, mixing the ashes with bananas, and then eating the mash. This way the soul of the departed will never leave the tribe.
The Kanigara Tribe of Papua, New Guinea practice this gruesome ritual in order to become spiritually closer to their surrounding environment. In the “Spirit House” known as the Haus Tambara, children are secluded for two months. After that time, an expert cutter, slices into the children with bamboo a pattern resembling the skin of a crocodile, which the tribes believe created life on earth. The pattern represents the teeth marks that the crocodile left when it consumed the child’s body and excreted a man.
Hindus in several parts of the world celebrate this gruesome ritual such as India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Singapore. During the religious celebration of Thaipusam, Hindus pierce various parts of their body such as their tongue to honor the birth of Lord Murugan and his killing of the demon Soorapadman with a spear.
Bullet Ant Gloves
The Satere-Mawe Tribe of the Amazon practice this gruesome initiation ritual. When a boy of the tribe becomes sexually mature, a medicine man of the tribe gathers a group and heads out into the jungle. Their purpose is to gather bullet ants, an insect with a sting so powerful it is compared to getting hit with a bullet. It is the most painful sting in the world. The medicine man then drugs the ants and then places them in a mesh glove. The boys the put on the gloves where, when the ants wake up are trapped and aggressive. The boys must wear the glove for ten minutes while doing a dance to not stay focused on the pain. Unfortunately for them, they must go through this process 20 times before they are declared men.
Another Hindu gruesome ritual is that of tooth filing. The Balinese culture recognizes this as the passing of adolescence from child to adulthood. The ritual is conducted for both male and females and it performed before marriage, often times as part of the marriage ceremony. Believing that the teeth are a symbol of lust, greed, and confusion, the ritual symbolizes the casting out of evil from the body.
The Indonesian Tiding Community have unique spins on certain wedding traditions. The groom is not allowed to see the bride until he has sung her three songs at which point a veil will be lifted in the dais. What is not so normal is the gruesome ritual, which doesn’t allow the bride or groom to use the bathroom for three days and nights after the wedding. They are watched by several people who give them minimal food and drink. This is done so as to prevent bad luck from entering into the marriage such as infidelity, the death of their children, or a broken marriage. After three days, the bride and groom are bathed and allowed to live a normal life.
In West Papua, New Guinea, the Dani (or Ndani) Tribe practice the gruesome ritual of cutting off their fingers when they lose a loved one. The fingers are believed to be a representation of the body and soul and are placed with the body as they are buried so that they will never be apart. The tribe also spreads ash all over their face as a symbol of their grief.
This gruesome ritual is observed by Hindus and Muslims in the state of Karnataka, India. A newborn baby is taken to a temple 50 feet in the air and thrown down into a blanket held by their parents. The ceremony takes place in December every year and is believed to bring luck, prosperity, and health to the babies. The event is held under tight security. Around 200 babies are dropped annually, all under the ages of 2 years old.
Suttee was another gruesome ritual performed by the Hindus in India. Suttee was the act of a widow being thrown on the funeral pyre of her late husband. As long as 500 years ago, widows were considered impure. The practice has been banned three times, once in 1829, once in the 1950s and even as late as 1981. One sad instance involved a widow escaping the ritual after the fires had been set. The woman managed to get past the mourners and douse out the flames in the nearby river before being brought back to the pyre after the crowd had broken her arms and legs.
Japan formerly practiced this gruesome ritual up until the 1900s when it was banned. The act of self-mummification consisted of a 2,000-day preparation cycle. The first thousand days were dedicated to ridding the body of all fat by eating only nuts and seeds. The next thousand were spent ridding the body of most of its moisture. This was achieved by eating only the bark and root of pine trees and drinking a poisonous tea, the sap of which lined the stomach and protected against maggots. After this, the monk would seal himself in a tomb in a lotus position and wait to die. A thousand days after this, the tomb would be opened to see if the mummification worked. Often, it did not.
Aboriginal Body Exposure
In the northern part of the continent of Australia, a gruesome ritual known as body exposure was employed in several Aboriginal tribes. The corpse is laid on a raised platform and covered in leaves until the flesh rots away, which usually takes several months. Then, the bones are taken to a cave or hollowed out log and laid to rest until they turn to dust. Another version of this is that the persons loved ones will wear the bones for up to a year. During this time, the deceased’s property is abandoned or destroyed and no one is allowed to utter their name.
So there you have it folks. Man’s ideas on the afterlife and even in the beginning stages of this life are gruesome and horrific. From baby throwing to self-mummification, the practices of some areas of the world are creepy. Rituals such as a ban on using the bathroom, finger gutting, teeth filling, and having to be burned alive next to my dead soul mate have really opened my eyes. Death is interpreted in many ways. Some people cremate the bodies, mix it with plantains and eat the remains while others dismember the corpse and feed vultures with it. The world can be a truly eerie place. With roots like these, can we predict where our terrifying future will lead us?