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Bizarre Cultural Practices Still Carried Out Today

JK NNI NEWS

RAFIA BASHIR

Some are taboo, some are cringe-inducing, some are downright revolting, and all are extraordinarily bizarre. From the weirdest things we put in our bodies to the weirdest things we lop off our bodies to the weirdest things we do with our dead bodies, here are seven of the strangest cultural practices from around the world that are still carried out today.

 

Cutting Off Fingers

The death of a family member in the Dani tribe of Indonesia heralds a vast amount of emotional and, for women, physical pain. Aside from the inevitable emotional grief, women of the Dani tribe physically express that grief by cutting off (by compulsion) a segment of one of their fingers.

Before being amputated, the fingers are tied with a string for thirty minutes to numb them. Once amputated, the new fingertips are burned to create new scar tissue.

This custom, one of the world’s most bizarre cultural practices, is performed as a means to satisfy ancestral ghosts, and is rarely, but still sporadically, practiced in the tribe.

Endocannibalism

 

The Yanomami tribe lives in villages within the Amazon rainforest, near the border of Venezuela and Brazil. They are known for their tradition of endocannibalism: consuming the flesh of a member of one’s own tribe, usually after they’ve died (not to be confused with cannibalism, per se)The bizarre cultural practices surrounding endocannibalism involve wrapping the corpse in leaves and allowing insects to pick at it. 30 to 45 days later, the bones are collected, pulverized, and mixed into a banana soup to be consumed by all. After a year, the villagers consume the ashes, which are mixed with plantain soup. According to tradition, the ritual helps ensure that the souls of the dead find their way to paradise.

Bizarre Cultural Practices: Living With The Dead

The ritual is mainly carried out in order to clean the corpses, their garments, and coffins, and to ceremonially return the corpses to their home village. That is, if someone died outside the village, the corpse will be taken to the spot of death, then walked back to the village, as an act of returning home.

Ainu Bear Worship

The Ainu people, indigenous to parts of Japan and Russia, have a custom of sacrificing bears. The sacrifice is religious in nature, as it is believed that bears are gods walking among humans, and the sacrifice of the bear is said to bless the soul of mankind.

Of course, to outsiders, the practice is rather gruesome. It involves slaughtering a hibernating mother bear in her cave, raising her cubs in captivity for two years, then choking or spearing them as a sign of religious devotion. This is followed by villagers drinking the bears’ blood, eating the flesh, and placing the skull atop a spear wrapped with the bear skin, which is to be worshipped. Though the practice is no longer widespread, it does still occur in some areas.

Carrying Your Wife Over Burning Coal

While not wholly specific to China, an interesting traditional Chinese custom says that a husband should carry his bride over a pan of burning coals before crossing the threshold of their home as husband and wife. According to tradition, the ritual ensures that the wife will have an easy and successful labor. Firewalking is also performed by some Chinese people as a means to prevent natural disaster.

Bizarre Cultural Practices: The Eskimo Funerary Ritual

A rather well-known fact about Eskimos is their ritual (albeit incredibly rare and seldom practiced—if at all—anymore) of setting the elderly adrift on a floating iceberg when facing death or old age. Eskimos believe in the afterlife for the dead, and this practice is a way of ensuring the elderly are not a burden on the family by sending them off in a dignified and graceful manner.

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