This content explores ten strange rituals and customs practiced by ancient civilizations. It discusses head binding in ancient Mayan culture, the Stoning of the Devil in ancient Arabia, skull deformation in Mayan and Inca civilizations, tree burials in ancient Tibet, human sacrifice in the ancient Aztec civilization, finger amputation in ancient China, child sacrifice in ancient Carthaginian religion, divination practices in ancient Rome, ground suttee in ancient India, and cranial modification in ancient Egyptian culture. These rituals, though often considered bizarre or cruel by modern standards, played significant roles in shaping the cultures and societies of their respective civilizations.
1. Head Binding in Ancient Mayan Culture
The practice of head binding was prevalent amongst the ancient Mayan civilization. Babies’ heads were wrapped tightly with cloths or boards to distort their natural shape. This custom was associated with notions of beauty and social standing, as individuals with elongated heads were believed to possess higher intelligence or spiritual abilities. The process was often started soon after birth and continued for several months, shaping the child’s skull into a more elongated form.
2. Stoning of the Devil in Ancient Arabia
During the Hajj pilgrimage, an ancient ritual known as the “Stoning of the Devil” was performed in the Saudi Arabian city of Mina. Participants would throw pebbles at symbolic pillars representing Satan. This ritual dates back to the time of Abraham, who, according to Islamic traditions, was tempted by the Devil in this location. The stoning symbolizes the rejection of evil temptations and purification of the soul.
3. Skull Deformation in Ancient Mayan and Inca Cultures
Both the Mayan and Inca civilizations practiced skull deformation, albeit by different methods. The Mayans used wooden boards while the Incas used tight cloth wrappings, creating a distinct shape for their children’s skulls. These practices were believed to enhance social status, signify cultural affiliation, and distinguish between different social groups. While it is unclear why these civilizations valued such skull modifications, it likely held significant cultural and symbolic meaning.
4. Tree Burials in Ancient Tibet
In ancient Tibet, a practice called “sky burial” or “tree burial” was followed. The deceased’s body was placed on high platforms or in the branches of tall trees to be exposed to the elements and scavenging animals. This ritual was based on the belief that the soul had already moved on from the body, and by offering it to nature, one would ensure a swift and peaceful transition into the afterlife. The remaining bones would eventually be ground into a fine powder and scattered.
5. Human Sacrifice in Ancient Aztec Civilization
The ancient Aztecs, known for their complex religious beliefs, conducted human sacrifices to appease their deities. These rituals often involved capturing victims from neighboring tribes or prisoners of war. The selected individuals were then subjected to elaborate ceremonial procedures before being killed, typically by heart extraction. This gruesome practice was believed to maintain cosmic balance and secure favorable conditions for the Aztec society.
6. Finger Amputation in Ancient China
In ancient China, finger amputation was practiced as a form of punishment or atonement. Criminals or individuals who violated social norms would have a joint from their finger severed. The loss of a finger joint was seen as a permanent mark of disgrace and a reminder to both the person and society of their wrongdoing. This ritualized punishment aimed to deter re-offending and maintain social order.
7. Child Sacrifice in Ancient Carthaginian Religion
The ancient Carthaginian civilization, deeply influenced by Phoenician culture, engaged in the chilling practice of child sacrifice. During times of crisis or offerings to deities, infants or young children from prominent families were ritually killed. The act was believed to secure divine favor and protect the city-state from calamities. These sacrifices were conducted by placing the children into the arms of a bronze statue of a god, heated until they perished.
8. Divination Practices in Ancient Rome
The Romans practiced various forms of divination or fortune-telling to seek guidance and predict future outcomes. One such form was “haruspicy,” where priests examined the entrails of sacrificed animals, often sheep or chickens, to interpret signs and omens. Methods like “augury” involved observing the behavior of birds, and “scapulimancy” used sheep shoulder blades to predict the future. These rituals played a crucial role in decision-making, as well as maintaining harmony between mortals and gods.
9. Ground Suttee in Ancient India
Suttee, also known as sati, was a shocking ritual practiced in ancient India. When a husband died, his widow was expected to self-immolate on her husband’s funeral pyre to demonstrate her undying love and devotion. Although this ritual was outlawed in the 19th century due to its inhumane nature, it persisted as a custom for centuries. Suttee was seen as a supreme sacrifice and a way for widows to achieve spiritual redemption and eternal union with their husbands.
10. Cranial Modification in Ancient Egyptian Culture
In ancient Egypt, cranial modification was practiced predominantly among the elite classes. Distinctive artificial head shapes were created by binding clay or wooden boards to newborns’ skulls. The exact purpose of this practice is still debated among historians and anthropologists, with theories ranging from religious symbolism to identification of social status. It is often associated with the belief in immortality and the concept of an idealized physical appearance.
These ten strange rituals and customs provide insight into the varied beliefs and practices of ancient civilizations. Though some may seem bizarre or cruel to modern sensibilities, they played significant roles in shaping the cultures and societies of their time. From body modifications to sacrifice and divination, these rituals offer glimpses into the fascinating customs and beliefs of our ancestors.