Bullet Ant Glove Ritual, Brazil - Terrific Traditions
softetechnologies
10-03-2019    140 times
Bullet Ant Glove Ritual Brazil

Deep in the Brazilian Amazon, the aspiring men of the Satere-Mawe tribe have to endure the excruciating painful ritual of bullet ant glove test to prove their manhood, which can easily be considered as weird or shocking. Becoming a man is an important part of many cultures around the world and most of the countries follow their own traditional way of welcoming young people to adulthood. But, none of them can be compared with the so called Bullet ant glove test, where a young adult is subjected to suffer and endure an unimaginable pain of stings from lots of bullet ants for ten minutes continuously at a time.

The sting of a big reddish-black bullet ant is supposed to be thirty times more painful than that of a bee and it earned its name from its deadly sting that has been compared to a bullet shot. In the 1980s entomologist Justin O. Schmidt created a scale to categorize and rate the relative pain of different insect stings and on the scale of one to four, only the stings of bullet ant and tarantula hawk wasp rate a perfect four. However, the sting of the tarantula hawk lasts for about five minutes, while the stings of a bullet ant lasts anywhere between five and 24 hours with symptoms described as waves and crescendos of excruciating pain, temporary paralysis and shaking in the poisoned area. Fortunately, the pain remains located in the area of the bite and the venom does not spread to the heart, brain or other vital organs of the body.

The magnified head of a bullet ant
The magnified head of a bullet ant

The Satere-Mawe tribe of Brazil believes that every adult in the community must experience the worst pain the jungle has to offer and they use intentional bullet ant stings as a part of their ritual, which all the boys of the tribe should endure to be accepted as a man. As and when a young boy of the tribe becomes sexually mature, he has to prove his adulthood by enduring that extremely painful ordeal. He should go out into the wild forest with the other boys of his age, along with the medicine man, to find and gather the bullet ants. When the ants are gathered, they are put to sleep by inducing the extract of some herbs given by the medical man.

bullet ant
Clove full of bullet ants
Clove full of bullet ants

The unconscious ants are placed into a woven glove made of leaves, with their stingers pointing towards the inside of the glove and the glove is then placed in the hands of the young man undergoing the ritual. As the ants regain consciousness, they become angry and aggressive.

Private Teacher

However, the boy must keep the glove in his hand for a full ten minutes, while the hundreds of ants repeatedly sting him. During the entire period of the ordeal, the tribe initiates in song and dance, as if in a trance, as a way to distract the boy from the feeling of pain, which helps him a little. When the glove is removed, the boy will be likely to be shaking uncontrollably for hours and may even experience muscle paralysis, disorientation, and hallucinations. However, that is not the end of it. The boy must endure the process of that agonizing endurance for 20 times, over the course of months or years, before his adulthood is established.

At the beginning of the ordeal
At the beginning of the ordeal
Dance during the ordeal
Dance during the ordeal

Though the ordeal is extremely painful, the tribe believes that it is the best way to show the young man that a life without any sufferings or without any kind of effort is not worth anything at all.

softetechnologies
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    Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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