The Dani Tribe Cut Off Fingers in Mourning
The Dani people of Western New Guinea have a unique mourning process. It's fallen somewhat out of practice, but it was traditional for older women to cut off segments of their finger to show their mourning after the death of a loved one.
Devil's Jump; Burgos, Spain
Called "El Salto del Colacho," or "the Devil's Jump," men in Burgos, Spain dress like the Devil and jump over babies born during the last year. It's a Catholic tradition thought to cleanse the infants of original sin (the fake Devil literally passes over them so the real Devil can figuratively do so), as well as provide protection throughout their life.
Indonesian Dead Walk
The Toraja people in South Sulawesi, Indonesia have a very different and very complex kind of funeral rite. Every year during Ma’Nene, the Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses, the mummified bodies of loved ones are exhumed, fed, clothed in new clothing and walked through the village before returning to their resting place, following proper spiritual paths.
Baba Umer Durga Shrine Baby Drop
In a local practice believed to bring prosperity and wealth to the families, babies are dropped about 50 feet from the top of a building to a sheet firmly held by men below. Near Sholapur, India, the ritual has been practiced for almost 700 years, and both Muslims and Hindus participate.
The Ya̧nomamö: Funerary Cannibalism
The Ya̧nomamö is one of those cultures all American anthropologists study because of how well documented their indigenous culture is. Located in the Amazon Forest, the tribe mourns their dead by cremating their bodies, mixing the ashes with a beverage and then drinking it. This way, their loved ones spirit can live on within them.
Wogeo and Mardudjara Men--struate (wtf?)
The Wogeo of New Guinea practice ritual bloodletting, cutting the penis to simulate menstruation. The Mardudjara take it a step further, practicing sub-incision, a practice of, for lack of a better word, flaying the penis by cutting the length of the underside open. There are all kinds of theories for this behavior, but its most often attributed to a similar attempt to simulate the perceived cleansing of menstruation.
Balinese People Have Their Teeth Filed Down
This ceremony is unique to Balinese Hindus, and it symbolizes the passage from animal to human with the filing down of the canines and eye tooth. Teeth are also believed to be the source of human evils like lust, greed, anger, too-strong emotions, confusion and jealousy. You can see the connection if you think about how people show their teeth when dealing with those feelings.
Tapirapé Women Believe In Partible Paternity
Partible paternity is the idea that a child can have more than one father and is the culmination of all the men the mother had sex with. The Tapirapé believe in this concept, and their children are stronger the more semen contributes to their gestation. The Tapirapé also allow homosexual relationships and have a limit of three children per mother, enforced via infanticide.
Sherpa Women Can Take Multiple Husbands
Most people have heard of polygamy, but few have heard of polyandry, the practice of a woman taking multiple husbands. This practice is most often found among cultures living in areas with limited resources. For example, breaking up lands for the inheritance of sons would leave the Sherpa community of Nepal without usable land, so brothers are married off to one woman. This also provides protection for the woman and her children should something happen to one of her husbands.
The Sateré-Mawé Wear Bullet Ant Gloves
Here's another incredible rite of passage from the Brazilian Amazon. The Sateré-Mawé boys become men after wearing these special gloves with bullet ants woven into the lining. Bullet ants are known to have one of the most painful stings in the world (compared to being shot by a bullet), and the boys must keep the glove on for 10 minutes. They must repeat the process twenty times before they are fully a recognized man, and for some it takes years.
The Thaipusam Festival
Tamil Hindus celebrate the Thaipusam festival by piercing themselves. The festival celebrates the Hindu Goddess of love, Parvati, giving Murugan, the Hindu God of war spear to vanquish a demon, so devotees celebrate by either carrying burdens on a pilgrimage or piercing their bodies. The piercings have become pretty elaborate over the years as devotees compete to show their devoutness, and often more burdens are hung from hooks in the flesh (as can be seen around this man's waist).
The Sambia Practice Ritualized Homosexuality
I actually think "homosexuality" in this case is a misnomer, since it implies both sex and romance. The Sambia of Papua New Guinea incorporate "ritualized homosexuality" into their rite of passage for young men. Boys at the age of 7 are taken from their mothers. The Sambia believe that men are born without the essence to be a man, and must be given it. This is achieved through the ingestion of semen from the older, pre-marriage aged boys. This version of fellatio is not viewed sexually, and is more akin to a child breastfeeding than a lover putting their mouth on their female partner's breasts.
("Cocksucker takes a different meaning.. aw, who am I kidding..." )
Female Infanticide Is Still Practiced In Parts of India
Female infanticide, or the killing of newborn baby girls, is a common practice in cultures where having a female child is detrimental to the health of the family or tribe, like in places where too many mouths to feed can endanger everybody's lives. The other case is the one commonly found in India and other cultures that have dowries (a sum of cash offered to a potential husband with his new bride). If a family can't raise a suitable dowry, it's easier for them to kill the baby girl. Again, for them it's not viewed the same as killing a baby, but more like an abortion is in the United States.
Shi'a Muslims Cut Themselves on the Day of Ashura
On the tenth day of Muharram, the first month on the Islamic calendar, Shi'a Muslims practice self-harming rituals to mourn the death of Shiite Imam Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad. Some Shi'a Muslims cut open their heads with blades to show their sorrow that they weren't there to take the killing blow for Husayn (pictured), while others self-flagellate with blades on the ends of chains to show their sorrow. The practice has been condemned lately, but many still many participate on the day of Ashura.
Female Genital Mutilation
The practice of female genital mutilation is common in Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan and 27 African countries. It's viewed similarly to circumcision where it's practiced, and the extent of the mutilation depends on locality. There are four forms: removal of the clitoris, removal of the labia minora and/or labia majora, closing the vaginal opening apart from a small hole and/or removing the clitoris and the terrifying fourth, "everything else." Though it is women who perpetuate the practice, its roots stem from patriarchy: in a society where property passes from father to son, the way to make sure your son is your son is to make sure your wife has no incentive to cheat.