The world is made up of thousands of different cultures and beliefs, and many of them may seem completely alien to anyone that grew up in the West. Many of these cultures follow rituals, customs, and belief systems that, while strange, are sacred to the people and how they were raised.
A family member’s death in Indonesia’s Dani tribe heralds a tremendous amount of emotional and physical pain for women. Apart from the unavoidable psychological sorrow, the Dani tribe’s women physically convey their grief by cutting off a portion of one of their fingers (by compulsion). The fingers are tied to a cord for thirty minutes to numb them before being amputated. The new fingertips are burned after amputation to create new scar tissue.
This tradition, one of the most peculiar cultural practices in the world, is carried out as a way of fulfilling ancestral ghosts and is practised in the tribe occasionally, but has become less popular in recent years.
The Yanomami tribe lives in Amazon rainforest villages near the Venezuelan and Brazilian border. They are known for their endocannibalism tradition: eating the flesh of a member of their own tribe, usually after death (not to be confused with cannibalism).
Endocannibalism bizarre cultural practices involve wrapping the corpse in leaves and allowing insects to clean up the dead tissue. The bones are collected, pulverized and mixed in a banana soup 30 to 45 days later to be eaten by everyone, a practise far different to our world of television, modern cars, bingo Australia games, and Starbucks.
Ainu Bear Worship
The Ainu people have a tradition of sacrificing bears, native to parts of Japan and Russia. The sacrifice is in fact sacred, as bears are thought to be deities living among humans, and the bear’s sacrifice is said to protect mankind’s soul. The custom is extremely disturbing for those not from the culture, which entails slaughtering a hibernating mother bear in her den, raising her cubs for two years in captivity, and shaking or spearing them as a form of religious devotion.
This is followed by villagers drinking the blood of the bears, eating the flesh, and placing the skull on top of a spear wrapped in the skin of the bear that is to be adorned.
Shiite Muslims are well known for their belief in martyrdom, and Ashura is no exception. Ashura is an activity that is celebrated for various reasons by many Muslims around the world. In the remembrance of the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad, in the battle of Karbala in the 7th century, the day is sacred to many Shiites. Part of the day includes the stabbing of one’s own body in honour of Hussein.
Eskimo Funeral Rites
A relatively well-known fact about Eskimos is their tradition (although extremely unusual and seldom practised— if at all — anymore) of placing the elderly on a floating iceberg when faced with death of old age. Eskimos believe in the afterlife for the deceased, and this tradition is a way to ensure that the aged are not a family burden by sending them off in a dignified and respectful manner.