The world is a smorgasbord of varying customs and habits. What one culture does may be thought of as weird and disgusting by another, and vice-versa. We’re taught what we should like or not like, what foods to eat and which ones not to, how to worship and whom, and the list continues. To us, nothing we do is weird. We’re products of our environment. It’s everybody else out there.
To be sure, some of what’s done here in the good old USA is viewed with just as much disgust as we feel toward some tribe in New Guinea roasting cockroaches on a stick. Sometimes our differences might be a small thing we would not ordinarily think of. I once served a Welsh friend a glass of iced tea when he visited my home at the time in Athens, Greece. His gag reflex had him spewing most of it back out of his mouth. He looked at me with a questioning and horrified look and asked, “Cold tea”? We switched to beer. It’s universal.
But let’s not be concerned with our minor differences. Instead, let’s look at some of the head-scratchers. The ones that’ll make you say, “Huh?”
1 We all deal with grief differently
The women of the Dani tribe of Indonesia have a unique way of displaying their grief when a family member dies. They don’t dress in black or wear an armband like is done in many cultures. How they dress could never fully express the magnitude of their emotional pain. They hack a finger off. It’s been said the older someone gets the more dead people they know and this is evident by some of the older women who have few to no fingers left at all. They do this to appease their ancestral spirits.
2 On death and dying
Also in Indonesia are the Toraja people. When a family member dies, they body is kept in the house for days or even weeks as family members gather for the funeral. They bring the relative food and drink and talk to him as well as treating the corpse with formaldehyde and water to mummify the body. Periodically, as part of a ritual, they dig up their dead, dress them up nice, and parade them around their village. Then they plop them back in the ground until next time. It’s really hard to let go sometimes.
3 Tough love
In Denmark, people try their best to be married by the age of 25. If they are not, on their 25th birthday they will be bombarded all day with large amounts of cinnamon being thrown in their face. If they are still single by age 30, the same thing happens, but this time pepper is used. Interestingly, the Danes still hold out for marrying later; the average age for first marriages is 32 for women and 34 for men.
4 Good to the last drop
On the border of Venezuela and Brazil, deep in the Amazon Rain Forest, lives the Yanomami tribe. They are not cannibals but they do practice endocannibalism. This custom is quite different than what you may think, but equally as repulsive, if not more so.
When a tribe member dies, the body is wrapped in leaves and left outside for 30-45 days so bugs and insects can pick it clean. Once this is accomplished they take the bones and pulverize them into a powder which is then stirred into a huge heaping container of banana soup which they all drink. Whatever is still left of the body is burned so one year later the tribe can mix the ashes with plantain soup which once again, they all drink. Yummers!
5 Bear gods
Living in parts of Japan and Russia, the indigenous Ainu people believe bears are gods. To properly cleanse the human soul, it is imperative they find a hibernating mother bear and slaughter it. Then they keep the cubs locked up for two years before strangling or spearing them, drinking their blood, eating them, and putting their skull on a stick so they can pray to it.
6 Ow. Ow. Owww.
In the Brazilian rain forest, guys in the Satere-Mawe tribe can’t become men without going through a painful ritual. It involves bullet ants that are known to have the most painful and powerful sting in the world. The ants are drugged and then placed inside of a mesh glove. They’re good and upset when they wake up, and this is when the inductee to manhood must put the glove on for 10-minutes. One more thing. They have to do this 20 times.
7 For a smooth marriage
Hindus in Bali must undergo a marriage rite of passage to rid themselves of unwanted evil spirits. The ceremony involves filing a person’s teeth down until they are smooth. According to them, teeth are a symbol of greed, lust, anger, and confusion. Filing them down eliminates the problem.
8 In celebration of the penis
Japan has an annual penis festival called Kanamara Matsuri. People dress up like penises, eat penis shaped candy, and carry iron penises through the streets. The reasoning is quite strange indeed. It is to honors the legend of a woman who was said to have demonic teeth in her vagina that ate men’s penises.
9 To have and to hold
The Tidong people of Indonesia have an interesting custom they must observe following a wedding. Neither the bride nor the groom is allowed to use the bathroom for three days. Not doing this will bring bad luck for the couple to include things like the death of their children, infidelity, or divorce.
10 Dancing with the dead
Remembrance of ancestors can take all kinds of unusual forms. In Madagascar, during their Famadihana festival, dead relatives are taken from their tombs and dressed in fresh clean clothes. Then, to the accompaniment of live music, they dance with the corpses. This takes place once every seven years.
11 Ultimate trust exercise
In December of each year, Muslims and Hindus alike practice the ritual of baby-dropping just as they have for the past 500 years. A couple who are blessed with a baby after taking a vow at the temple Sri Santwswar in India, bring their infants back to the temple to be thrown off the rooftop 50 ft. to the ground. Around 200 babies a year are dropped by their parents into a tarp while the crowd below sings and dances. This weird act is meant to bring health and prosperity.
12 Whip it
The Mourning of Muharram takes place in Iran, Bahrain, India, Lebanon, Iraq, and Pakistan. On the 10th day of this mourning ritual, men start whipping themselves in the street. Some of the whips, which are usually chains, include razors and other sharp objects meant to inflict pain. Children can also be forced to partake in this horrid event. The event marks the death of a prophet who died in battle.
Every culture has its customs and practices that seem weird or even disgusting to the outside world. Do you have any from your part of the world that are strange, if you really think about them? Share in the comments.