25 Incredibly Bizarre Rituals From Around The World

Posted by , Updated on May 23, 2024

Ever curious about the widespread presence of extraordinarily strange customs across the globe? You might be surprised to learn that many such practices exist. Rooted in beliefs or traditions and passed down over thousands of years, some of these age-old rites can be dangerous and cause distress. Despite the risk of self-injury or harm to others, these ceremonies continue to be performed. Be aware that some of these rituals may be too intense for the fainthearted and could include unsettling visuals. Nonetheless, here are 25 Astonishingly Strange Rituals from Various Parts of the World.


Phuket Vegetarian Festival

phuketSource: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/26/thailand-vegetarian-festival_n_6049542.html

Don’t let the name fool you, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival isn’t all about vegetables. During the festival, people abstain from meat for nine days. That may sound bad enough, but it gets much, much worse. To honor the animals, they shove sharp objects through their mouths and cheeks.


Ainu Bear Worship

ainu bear worshipSource: http://allthatsinteresting.com/7-bizarre-cultural-practices/4

The Ainu people, indigenous to Japan and Russia, have a bizarre custom of sacrificing bears. Believing the bears are gods, the Ainu sacrifice the bears to bless the souls of mankind. The practice involves killing a mother while she hibernates in her den and then raising her cubs in captivity for two years before choking or spearing them.


Throwing Babies

shrineSource: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/world/what-in-the-world/for-babies-in-india-a-30-foot-plunge-for-good-luck.html

In India, parents of newborn babies drop their infants off the roof of a 30-foot tall shrine. The ritual is believed to give their baby good health and has been around for almost 700 years. How did this practice start? Well, when it first started, the baby mortality rate was high, and parents were desperate for answers. A saint advised the parents to drop their children as an act of faith that God will protect their children. Technically, the practice is illegal, but some parents still do it.



self immolationSource: https://www.thedailybeast.com/tibets-monks-are-setting-themselves-on-fire-again

While rare, Tibetan monks are known to practice self-immolation, the act of lighting oneself on fire, to protest something they believe is wrong. It’s a horrific and disturbing ritual and was also practiced by Buddhist monks during the Vietnam war.


Cutting Off Fingers

FingersSource: http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/tribe-practices-finger-cutting-as-a-means-of-grieving.html

Most people when they grieve have a good cry, eat a tub of ice cream, and maybe go see a counselor. But, the Dani Tribe in Papua New Guinea do something quite extreme when they grieve. They cut off their own fingers. Usually, the ritual happens after a loved one dies and some of the relatives cut off their fingers as an act of grieving. This practice has been banned in recent years, but you’ll find some older members of the tribe continuing with tradition.


The Eskimo Funerary Ritual

inuitSource: http://www.theinitialjourney.com/features/eskimos-old-age/

Since the Eskimo people fight hard for their food to survive, old people that couldn’t help wouldn’t be taken care of. Instead, they would be put on an ice float and sent out to sea to die by starvation or freezing to death.


Hounen Matsuri

fertility festivalSource: https://www.japan-experience.com/city-nagoya/honen-matsuri

The Hounen Matsuri is a Japanese fertility ritual that starts at the Tagata shrine on March 15th. During this festival, there’s a parade of people carrying phallic shaped objects. Couples will pray with these statues around in hope of being able to bear a child.


Drinking Cow Blood

cowSource: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/maharashtra/story/who-are-the-maasai-why-do-they-drink-cow-blood-269689-2015-10-25

In Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania, an indigenous tribe known as The Maasai drink cows blood for various life events, like the birth of a child or a marriage. They also drink it to help with hangovers. Using a bamboo shoot, they cut the vein of a cow and suck the blood from it. Supposedly, the cow doesn’t die from it.


The Gloves of the Satere Mawé Tribe

para_ritual_de_passagem_do_povo_Sateré-Mawé_AMSource: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/brazilian-tribe-becoming-man-requires-sticking-your-hand-glove-full-angry-ants-180953156/

Rites of passage are as old as time, and today, many young kids go through it in some shape or form, be it bar mitzvah, sweet sixteen, or humiliating prom. But for the Satere Mawé Tribe, they force their boys to shove their hands into gloves full of ants that inflict painful bites. They wear the gloves twenty times for ten minutes each time as they dance around. The ants are not any normal house ant but the bullet ant, an ant that got its name because its bite feels like being shot by a bullet.



new guineaSource: http://blog.sevenponds.com/cultural-perspectives/the-little-known-ritual-of-endocannibalism

In Papua New Guinea, the Fore tribe performed endocannibalism for years. Endocannibalism is the act of consuming a family member after they have passed away as a religious act or ritual. Many times this is done out of respect, believing they absorb that individual.


Carrying Wife Over Burning Coals

burning coalsSource: http://photogallery.indiatimes.com/news/world/bizarre-traditions-across-the-world/articleshow/42881489.cms

In China, one ritual has a husband carry his pregnant wife over coals with nothing but his bare feet. It’s believed this act will allow her to have a successful delivery.


The Sun Dance

sun danceSource: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-native-american-sun-dance-2562245

The Sun Dance is a long and complicated Native American ritual performed primarily by the plains people. It involved a lot of prayer and fasting followed by young warriors lacerating their skin and dancing until they passed out. This was said to honor the sun and also test the endurance of the young warriors. Many Native American tribes still practice this ritual today.


Living with the Dead

trojoanSource: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/indonesia-village-dead-corpses-dress-up-toraja-indonesia-south-sulawesi-alive-annual-festival-a7694541.html

For ages, every culture has had their own burial rituals. But Indonesia’s Torajan people do something else; they keep the corpses of the deceased to live at home with them for years. They wash and change the corpses daily and even give them a bowl that acts as their toilet. Their bodies are injected with Formulin to stop decomposing.


Land Diving

land divingSource: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/11/1125_021126_TVVanuatu.html

Another weird and dangerous rite of passage can be found on Pentecost Island in the village of Loltafala. A boy straps a rope around his ankle and jumps off a wooden tower around 75 feet (25 meters) high. But this isn’t bungee jumping. Usually, the boys hit the ground below, and while few have died from it, many have had ruptured spleens or other internal damage.


Sky Burial

sky burialSource: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/sky-burial

In Tibet, sky burial is the act of dragging a dead body up a mountain, chopping it up into pieces, and leaving it out to the elements. Usually, it’s eaten by vultures. For Buddhists there, once you’re dead, your body is an empty shell and giving it to other living creatures is an act of kindness.



famadihanaSource: https://www.cnn.com/2016/10/18/travel/madagascar-turning-bones/index.html

In Madagascar, the Merina tribe exhume their dead relatives and dance with their corpses. It’s part of a ceremony called “Famadihana,” or the turning of the sacred bones. They believe their ancestors serve as intermediaries between the living and God.



ashuraSource: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-some-muslims-self-flagellate-on-this-religious-holiday_us_57fd4ae7e4b044be3015c5eb

Ashura is a Muslim day of fasting and commemorates different things for Sunni and Shiite Muslims. However, Shiite Muslims perform gruesome acts of self-flagellation as a sign of mourning. Some use whips, chains, or use swords to bash themselves in the head.


The Crocodile Cult

Tambunum_villageSource: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/06/02/crocodile-scars-rite-passage-papua-new-guinea/85304688/

In Papua New Guinea, as part of a rite of passage, a boy will go into a Hans Tambaran, or a hut, and his skin will be cut and scarred to look like a crocodile. The ritual is a symbol of a boy being eaten by a crocodile and coming back to life as a man.


Cambodian Love Huts

kreungSource: http://www.vancourier.com/living/cambodian-love-huts-finding-sexual-empowerment-deep-in-the-jungle-1.2054528

In Cambodia, a tribe called the Kreung do something most American fathers would probably have a heart-attack over. When girls reach puberty around thirteen to fifteen, their father goes out and builds a hut specifically for the girl to have casual sex with boys.


Newlywed Bathroom Ban

MinangkabauSource: https://creativecultureint.com/wedding-bathroom-ban/

In Borneo, the Tidong tribe follows a strict ancient wedding custom which forbids newlyweds from using the bathroom for three days and three nights. They’re watched very closely during this time and believe it will give them good luck for the rest of their life.


Jamaican Birthday Flouring

flourSource: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/othersports/article-3206068/Usain-Bolt-gets-floured-traditional-Jamaican-birthday-prank-ahead-World-Championships-Beijing.html

In America, birthdays usually involve cake, ice cream, and singing a really bad song, but in Jamaica, they throw flour on the birthday boy or girl. Legend says it started as a birthday prank but became a popular tradition over time.


La Tomatina

La_TomatinaSource: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/08/la-tomatina-2017/538467/

In the Spanish town of Bunol, an epic battle is waged every year called La Tomatina. Thousands gather together to throw tomatoes at each other. It’s the world’s biggest tomato fight and has been going on for 72 years.


Jumping Over Babies in Spain

ColachoSource: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/europe/spain/el-colacho-baby-jumping-festival-murcia-spain/

In Spain, at the festival of El Colacho, men dressed in red and yellow, like devils, run through the streets insulting and whipping people. During this, newly born babies are laid out on mattresses in the streets while these men dressed as devils leap over them. It’s believed this was once a fertility ceremony that mixed with Christianity to symbolize the triumph over evil.


Eating Dogs for Good Luck

Dog_meat_hotpotSource: http://time.com/2891222/yullin-festival-dog-meat-china/

During the Yulin Festival in China, people eat dog meat for good luck and health, according to Chinese superstition. They also believe eating dog meat increases your body temperature. In 2009, the festival brought about a wave of protests, social media outrage, and animal rights concerns.


Human Tooth Filing

tooth filingSource: https://www.stufftoblowyourmind.com/blogs/higher-human-forms-balinese-tooth-filing.htm

In Bali, in order to rid humans of their animalistic features, a Hindu priest will file away people’s teeth, especially the fangs. It’s a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood and is thought to smooth out the savage parts of the soul. This ancient ritual goes back to the fifth century BCE.

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