Forget the ring, meet a tribe who cut fingers to engage their spouse
Showing commitment to the one you love can be done in many harmless ways; like wearing a wedding ring. The Khoikhoi tribe of South Africa have an unusual way of doing this. They cut off the fingers of engaged couples as a sign of their eternal commitment.
Here, love is not conveyed in words and flowers—but in knives and blood! So, to tell if a person is taken, you do not have to stalk their Facebook profile or ask lots of indirect questions. You just count their stubs of fingers.
If one spouse dies, the other can remarry, but the living spouse must chop off another finger to release the dead spouse’s spiritual bonds. Understandably, divorce is rare among the Khoikhoi—who would want to have a finger chopped?
Strange ritual to cure bed-wetting
South African Xhosa tribe engage in ingqithi, a ritual sacrifice of the little finger to appease the wrath of ancestors. The Xhosa believe this sacrifice is necessary to prevent bed-wetting and ensure good health.
Before the surgery, traditional healers bind and blindfold the child before chopping off his pinkie or middle finger, after which the bleeding is stopped with dirt from a molehill and the wound is rubbed with fresh cow dung.
Weird antidote for avoiding infant mortality
The Ashanti tribe of Ghana believe in a ghost world that parallels the physical world. According to them, when a baby is born, it is impossible to tell if it is a human or a ghost. If the baby survives eight days, it is probably a human.
If it dies, then it is definitely a wandering ghost, sent from the spirit world by a ghost mother to terrorise the living. The dead baby’s fingers are cut off, the body is disfigured, and the corpse is buried at the village dump site.
The family of the baby pretends to be very happy about the death to dissuade the ghost mother from sending more ghost children. So, to keep the spirit at bay, parents chop a finger from the hand of each subsequent child. These fingers are buried in the grave of the first infant “so the spirit can eat the delicious baby fingers” and not hunger for the rest of the children.
Embarrassing act done to men who die without children
In some parts of West Africa, if a man dies without bearing children, tribesmen cut off one of his pinkies and shove it into his rectum. His spirit will supposedly be so embarrassed by this disembodied finger suppository that it reincarnates as a fertile woman when it returns from the spirit world!
This ensures that the tribe will have sufficient child-bearing women to sustain future generations. Presumably, it also provides an incentive for men to do their best to procreate while alive. Who wants their pinkies to be shoved into the rear orifice upon death?
Girls contribute fingers to protect the family from death
The Dugum Dani tribe of New Guinea sacrifice the fingers of young girls when family members die. They believe that ghosts of dead warriors will terrorise the town if they are not given a sufficient number of little girl fingers.
So, every girl in the tribe is supposed to contribute a finger. Some older Dani women have only their thumbs remaining after giving out all their fingers! Prior to amputation, the Dani take a rock and smack a girl’s ulnar nerve as hard as they can to make the finger numb. When it numbs, they chop it off with a stone adze.
Blood from the eyes cures bad vision, blindness
The Shambaa are an indigenous group in north-eastern Tanzania. In the past, Shambaa mothers with vision-impaired children chopped off one of the afflicted child’s fingers and dripped the blood from the severed member into the child’s eyes.
The administration of blood to the eye was thought to improve vision and cure a multitude of sight problems. They also believed that this supposedly cured blindness.