Ten Extreme Rituals That Will Blow Your Mind

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RELIGION | 8 minute read | 2234 Likes
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Religion is about believing, it can be an experience, and is often ingrained within our system, depending on the place we were born.

Religious rituals are not just a dressing for the beliefs of religious traditions; but these rituals form an identity and sustain traditions. Religious ideas, belief, and faith would have no energy without rituals. Sociology and culture studies teaches us to observe religious ceremonies. When we start observing rituals from around the world, we can only be struck by wonder and curiosity.

Why do people perform certain actions? Why would someone continue to travel hundreds of miles to dip in the Ganges which is in the news for toxic pollution? How does someone arrive at the point where they feel a divine spirit is speaking to them? So many of these questions can be addressed by closely investigating the interpretation of rituals.

Today let’s explore some rituals that are shocking - some less bizarre than others, yet all unique, making us wonder about their historic significance and the reasons why they are still practised in the modern age. 

bali cremation

Bali cremation

Have you ever seen a cremation that is celebrated with so much elan?

Balinese cremations are the most magnificent sights. It is only through cremation that the soul can break free from it’s temporary vessel to a glorified after all.

They believe that the body must be consumed by fire for the soul to return to its five constituent elements - earth, wind, fire, water and ether in order to speed it to the afterlife.

Once proper rituals are followed the soul can be free from to be reborn or attain moksha, the ethereal existence in the realms of the upper world. A lot of cultures hold the same belief, but it’s spectacular to see so much celebration and grandiose surrounding death and cremation.

Cattle leaping Hama Africa

Cattle leaping

The boys from the Hamar tribe in Ethiopa have to endure a great deal of pain before they marry.

First, he is whipped while family and friends look. Then, he has to run across the backs of four castrated cows. The strange ritual is a representation of male teens officially passing into adulthood. It grants them the right to marry, own cattle, and have kids. Before the ceremony, the guy shaves half of the hair of his head and removes all clothing so he is completely naked.

Theyyam Kerala India

Theyyam

Kerala, a state in southern India gives immense importance to folk arts and for preserving ancient cultures. Theyyam which originates in north Kerala, is a vibrant ritualistic dance filled with colour, art and storytelling. The performers belong to a lower caste, yet have an important position in the ceremony. People from these areas consider Theyyam as a God and seek blessings from it.

This colourful pageantry showcases divine forms as well as heroes from history and myth. It is a unique combination of dance music and also reflects the main features of a tribal culture which still exists in modern age.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female infibulation

This is practiced in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Female circumcision is a gruesome and sometimes life-threatening procedure. The labia and clitoris are removed. Then, after a wall of flesh forms across the vagina, a small hole is opened for menstruation and urine. The religious significance of female genital mutilation is still unknown, but it is still considered ‘honorable’ in many cultures. The common reasons for this practice is to initiate a female into womanhood, reducing her sexual desires. In some cultures women whose genitals aren’t mutilated are regarded as unclean and are not allowed to handle food and water.

Whale tooth

Whale tooth for the bride

In Fijian ceremonies like weddings, birth of a newborn, or during their funerals, tabua (whale tooth) plays a very important role.

Within their culture men are expected to ask their father-in-law for their daughter's hand in marriage. When they do this, they are also expected to bring him a whale tooth.

 Even today the deceased are buried with their tabua to help them in the afterlife. They continue to remain an important item in Fijian life.

Vultures feeding

Body fed to vultures

The Zoorastrain community are strong believers in spiritual purity. When there is a death in the community, the body is cleansed with a combination of bull's urine and water. They consider decomposition of a body as demonic. Hence, the body is immediately cleansed, changed into new clothes and moved to the Tower of Silence so vultures can feed on it. The bodies are never placed on the ground because their presence would corrupt the earth. The primary reason behind this religious ceremony is to ward off evil and keep contagion away from the community. People from different communities are not allowed to witness any of the Zoorastrain funeral rituals.

Northern lights

Conversations with the spirit world

Shammanism is practiced even today among the Yup'ik tribes living in Alaska. Their elaborate winter ceremonies emphasise the relationship between humans, animals, and spirits.

Masked dances and religious rituals, opens the human community to the animal and human spirits, who are invited to recompense. The dramatic ceremonies follow a principle that right actions in the past and the present reproduces abundance in the future. Singing, dancing, use of elaborate masks are still a big part of the Yup'ik culture.

Papua Guinea Tribe

Sambian purification

At seven years old young boys are taken from their mothers and placed in an all male hut for the next ten years of their life. During this period they engage heavily in nose bleeding, forced vomiting and defecation, and semen ingestion in order to rid themselves of impurities and become men.

Thaipusam

Kavadi Attam

This Hindu festival is symbolism of good destroying evil. It celebrates the day when goddess Parvati gave her son Muruga an invincible spear to destroy demons. Today it is celebrated by millions of Indians in India, Malaysia and Singapore. The dedication and discipline of the devotees is simply awe-worthy because when prayers are answered, devotees fulfill vows by piercing parts of their body before carrying a kavadi along a four kilometre route. The festivalis is a brilliant display of colours, endurance and faith.

Skin mutilation

Some communities living around the Sepik river on the island of New Guinea perform bizarre rituals as a way to initiate young teenage boys into men. This is done by stripping the boys naked, after which they lie down while their the elders make patterns on by making small cuts into the skin. After enduring this process,  the boys are weakened and often unable to walk or even stand up. The ritual lasts for days, sometimes even weeks, with further humiliation, cutting and even whipping of the boys until they emerge from the process as men in the eyes of the tribe.
 

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