If you spent your entire life travelling the globe, you’d probably never be able to bear witness to the thousands of different traditions practiced by varied cultures. As our world evolves and progresses, some customs die while new ones are born. Nations become more multicultural, and once isolated traditions may find themselves influenced by foreign stimuli. Still, there remains so much mystery in the world and some interesting, and strange, customs that have survived for hundreds of years. Check out these 6 fascinating traditions and awaken the wanderer in you!
- India’s Baby Tossing
In the Indian state of Maharashtra there is a peculiar religious custom that dates back some 700 years. The tradition involves tossing babies from the top of a 30-foot temple. Supposedly, this gives the babies luck throughout their lives
and strengthens their intelligence. The baby tossing must occur within two months of the child being born in order for it work (and to give them a life-long fear of heights, I suppose). While the practice has officially been banned, it’s one tradition that just refuses to die out and is still carried out on a smaller scale in many villages.
- Indonesia’s Walking Dead
The Toraja tribe of Indonesia still practises the ritual of ‘walking’ their deceased. A corpse is exhumed and draped in special clothes and paraded through the village. There’s a practical side to this tradition as it’s also used an excuse to clean the body, their clothes, and the coffin and an opportunity to ceremonially return the dead person to their home village. If the person died outside the village, they are walked to where they died then back to the community as a representation of their soul returning home.
- China’s Coal Walking
There are a lot of rules and traditions surrounding the birth of a baby in China, some of which include keeping knives under the bed to ward off evil spirits, and avoiding gossiping around the mother so as not to negatively affect the
child. One of the more interesting, and painful, customs involves the husband carrying his pregnant wife over hot coals before entering the house. This will ensure that she has an easy and successful labour. Did I mention he has to do it barefoot? Don’t ever claim men don’t suffer any pain when it comes to having a baby!
- Tibet’s Sky Burial
Nothing says ‘circle of life’ like a Tibetan sky burial. This funeral practice involves chopping up the body of the deceased and leaving it to be eaten by vultures. Buddhism, which is commonly practised in Tibet, teaches that the body is an empty vessel after death – therefore there is no need to preserve it. The vultures will take the soul to heaven where it will await reincarnation. This funerary act also serves the purpose of providing food for the vultures and saving the lives of the animals they might otherwise hunt for food.
- Brazil’s Coming of Age
Becoming a man takes on a whole new meaning when you’re part of Brazil’s Satere-Mawe tribe which lives deep in the Amazon. Boys as young as 12 years old can take part in the ritual which involves gathering bullet ants, using
them to make ant-ridden gloves, then wearing said gloves 20 times for 10-minute increments each, all the while performing a special dance. Being stung by a bullet ant is no joke as the bite has been compared to being shot with bullets (hence the name). If you’re a guy, thank your lucky stars you were born elsewhere in the world!
- Eskimo Death Journey
While this practice is rare today, it was once a common ancient Eskimo tradition to set people adrift on an iceberg when they were faced with old age or death. While this can seem like a harsh custom to some of us, for Eskimos it served the double purpose of ensuring that an elderly person wouldn’t be a burden on the family, but also that they could leave this world in a dignified and graceful manner. Those who set sail on their icebergs were also preserved in the memories of their family members in a manner untainted by resentment or the decline of old age and instead offered the opportunity to die without decaying first.