While most rit­u­als involve harm­less, world-wide tra­di­tions, oth­ers, less­er known, can be extreme­ly painful and vio­lent. Unusu­al and dan­ger­ous rit­u­als can be found in dif­fer­ent parts of the world. We will tell you about some of them in this col­lec­tion.


The Aghori Baba, who live in the city of Varanasi, India, are famous for eat­ing the dead. They believe that man’s great­est fear is the fear of his own death, and that this fear is an obsta­cle to spir­i­tu­al enlight­en­ment. Eat­ing the dead — you can get rid of fear and become on the right path of enlight­en­ment. There are five types of peo­ple who can­not be cre­mat­ed accord­ing to Hin­duism: saints, chil­dren, preg­nant women, unmar­ried women, peo­ple who have died from lep­rosy or snake bites. These peo­ple are attached to the sacred riv­er Ganges, from where they are sub­se­quent­ly pulled out and rit­u­al­ly con­sumed by aghori.

Sun dance

Native Amer­i­cans are known to have per­formed numer­ous rit­u­als in hon­or of the spir­its of the earth. Rit­u­als are a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with great spir­its, and sac­ri­fic­ing one­self means main­tain­ing direct con­tact with the Tree of Life. The rit­u­al of mak­ing direct con­tact with the Tree is as fol­lows: the skin on the chest of the par­tic­i­pants is pierced with a skew­er, which is attached to a pole with a rope, per­son­i­fy­ing the Tree of Life. Par­tic­i­pants move back and forth try­ing to break free while the skin of their chest is still tied to the post. Such a dance can last for sev­er­al hours.

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Fol­low­ers of Shi­ite Islam per­form a rit­u­al of mass self-fla­gel­la­tion every year dur­ing the holy month of Muhar­ram, in order to com­mem­o­rate the mar­tyr­dom of Hus­sein, the grand­son of the Prophet Muham­mad. Men tor­ture their bod­ies with blades attached to chains. In a state of reli­gious trance, they prac­ti­cal­ly feel no pain.

Vine jumping

In the vil­lage of Bun­lap, which is locat­ed on an island in the Pacif­ic Ocean, a rit­u­al called Gkol is per­formed. This rit­u­al is a kind of pre­cur­sor to bungee jump­ing. The vil­lagers sing, dance, some beat drums, and some men pre­pare for dan­ger­ous jumps. They tie vines around their ankles and jump from very tall wood­en tow­ers built specif­i­cal­ly for this rit­u­al. Par­tic­i­pants in the rit­u­al do not appear to be very con­cerned about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of break­ing bones. They just jump and fly upside down. It is believed that the high­er a per­son starts, the greater the bless­ing of the gods he will receive.

Voodoo and Spiritual Domains

Voodoo fol­low­ers can be found in parts of West Africa. One of the rites is to take into one­self, as into a kind of ves­sel, some oth­er soul or spir­it. In the pho­to­graph, a per­son con­nects with the spir­it of the Earth, Sak­pa­ta. The spir­it takes pos­ses­sion of the body, but the per­son remains con­scious. After the rit­u­al, the spir­it does not leave the per­son for 3 days.

Heavenly burials

In Tibet, Bud­dhists prac­tice a strange sacred rit­u­al called Jha­tor, or sky bur­ial. Bud­dhists believe in the cir­cle of rebirth, which means that there is no need to keep the body after death, since the soul has passed to anoth­er realm. It is cus­tom­ary to give the bod­ies of the dead to aer­i­al preda­tors as alms. In order to get rid of the body as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, the spe­cial­ist cuts the corpse into pieces, and dis­trib­utes it around the area to be eat­en.

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fiery walks

The fes­ti­val takes place in Penang, Malaysia. One of the cleans­ing rit­u­als involves walk­ing bare­foot over burn­ing coals. It is believed that fire repels evil influ­ences, enhances male pow­er and helps to free one­self from evil thoughts. For this pur­pose, hun­dreds of peo­ple walk through the fires.

Dancing with the dead

Famadi­hana, which means “turn­ing the bone”, is a tra­di­tion­al fes­ti­val that takes place in Mada­gas­car. Par­tic­i­pants believe that the faster the body decom­pos­es, the faster the spir­it reach­es the after­life. There­fore, they dig up their loved ones in order to dance with them to the music, around the grave, and then rebury them. This strange rit­u­al is per­formed every 2 years — 7 years.


The annu­al Veg­e­tar­i­an Fes­ti­val in Phuket, Thai­land is a high­ly dan­ger­ous rit­u­al that requires par­tic­i­pants to pierce their cheeks with swords, knives, spears, hooks and even weapons. It is believed that dur­ing the rit­u­al, the gods put their bod­ies into a trance, pro­tect them from evil and bring good luck in the future.

Mortal rites

The Ama­zon­ian Yanoma­mi tribe is one of the most prim­i­tive in the world. Accord­ing to them, death is not a nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­non. It is cus­tom­ary in the tribe to cre­mate a deceased per­son, and mix his ash­es with bananas and con­sume so that the spir­it of the deceased mem­ber of the tribe con­tin­ues to live among his own.


The Kaningara tribe of Papua New Guinea prac­tice a very unusu­al rit­u­al that aims to strength­en the spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tion between the mem­bers of the tribe and their sur­round­ings. One of the rit­u­al cer­e­monies is held in the “House of the Spir­it”. Teenagers live in seclu­sion in the House of the Spir­it for two months. After this peri­od of iso­la­tion, they pre­pare for an ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny that rec­og­nizes their tran­si­tion to adult­hood. Dur­ing the rit­u­al, punc­tures are applied to a per­son with bam­boo frag­ments. The result­ing notch­es resem­ble the skin of a croc­o­dile. The peo­ple of this tribe believe that croc­o­diles are the cre­ators of peo­ple. The marks on the body sym­bol­ize the teeth marks of a croc­o­dile that ate a boy and left a grown man.

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