Rituals, ceremonies and traditions have always been a part of human culture, serving to celebrate, worship and mourn. Some of these rituals can appear strange or eerie to an outsider, with customs that challenge human logic and reasoning. From self-mummification in Japan to finger amputation in Papua New Guinea, these ten rituals from across the globe will make readers question what they thought they knew about human behaviour. However, it is important to remember that such practices are an essential part of the cultures in which they occur and are often rich with history and meaning to their communities.
10 Strange and Eerie Rituals from Around the World
Humans have always found it essential to create rituals, ceremonies, and traditions to celebrate, worship, or mourn. Some of these rituals are fascinating, while others are too strange and eerie. Here are ten of the strangest and eeriest rituals from around the world that will make you question human logic and reasoning.
1. Self-Mummification in Japan
Monks in Japan’s Yamagata prefecture once practiced self-mummification, a three-step process that involved rigid fasting, progressive poison ingestion, and entombment in a small space. If the monk had successfully mummified themselves, their remains were venerated as martyrs and hung in their temples.
2. Walking on Burning Charcoal in Bali
Every year in Bali, the Day of Ashes (Nyepi) festivities take place, including the sacred fire-walking ceremony. Participants purify themselves in the ashes before walking several meters over hot coals while holding their offerings to the gods. Thus, proving their devotion and piety to their deities.
3. Dancing with Dead Bodies in Indonesia
The Toraja people in Indonesia hold elaborate funerals for deceased family members, and a crucial part of the ceremony is the Ma’nene, where the family exhumes their ancestor’s corpse and dresses them in new clothes, and parades or dances around with them. This ritual reinforces the belief that the dead are still present in the community and strengthens the bonds between the living and the dead.
4. Blood Bathing in Ethiopia
People of the Hamar tribe in Ethiopia have a ritual called Ukuli Bula. During this ceremony, young men are gashed on their back with razors to offer their blood to bulls before they are herded away. The more considerable amount of blood the men spill, the better the bull will be for a bride price, which signifies his strength and virility.
5. Skull Culture in Bolivia
Each year the Bolivian Aymara people dig up their deceased loved ones’ remains from the cemetery, dress them up, and parade or dance around with their skulls in a tradition called Natitas. It is believed that the skulls offer good luck and help people in their daily lives.
6. Fire-Spinning in Bhutan
The Bhutanese celebrate the annual Tsechus, a religious event where tantric dances take place, but one of the most striking performances is fire-spinning. Monks spin large burning balls of hay while spectators believe the fire cleanses their sins and misfortunes.
7. Exorcism in Haiti
Vodou, a religion practiced in Haiti, involves exorcism for possession by spirits. The priests or priestesses perform a dance in the name of the possessed person that attracts the spirit, and then they start dancing until the spirit leaves the host’s body.
8. Baby-Dropping in India
In the western Indian state of Maharashtra, people annually throw babies off the Char Diwas Marg cliff and catch them in a white sheet hanging below. It is said that this dangerous practice brings good health to the child and the community, and it has been going on for over five centuries.
9. Cow Dung Bathing in India
India’s Hindu culture has worshipped cows for thousands of years, believing them to be sacred animals. Many believe that bathing in cow dung can purify the mind, body, and soul, and in some instances, even cure diseases. The practice of applying the cow dung as a disinfectant or insulation dates back to ancient times in India.
10. Finger Amputation in Papua New Guinea
The Chambri people of the Papua New Guinea Sepik River region once practiced finger amputation as a unique rite of passage for young men. It was said to symbolize their initiation into manhood and to remove the boys’ feminine tendencies. The amputated fingers were then given to the girls they wished to marry as a sign of affection.
These rituals may seem unusual or even eerie to those who are not familiar with them. However, they are an essential part of the cultures in which they occur, and they have a history and meaning to their communities. As long as they are not harmful or dangerous, these celebrations and practices have a right to exist.