In some cultures amputation is a form of mourning. This was especially true of the Dani tribe from Papua, Indonesia. The members of this tribe cut off their fingers as a way of displaying their grief at funeral ceremonies. Along with amputation, they also smeared their faces with ashes and clay, as an expression of sorrow.
It isn’t very surprising to learn that women were mostly subjected to this gruesome ritual. The religious beliefs of the tribe prompted this sort of ritual. If the deceased person was considered to be powerful, it was believed that their spirits would contain equal power too. In order to appease and drive away these spirits, several shocking practices were followed. Girls who were related to the dead had the upper parts of their fingers cut off. Before being cut, the fingers would be tied with a string for over 30 minutes. After the amputation, the finger tips were allowed to dry, before they were burned and the ashes buried in a special area.
Photo via Digital Grin
Another explanation offered for the finger-cutting ritual is that the physical pain symbolized the suffering and pain due to the loss of a loved one. In such a case, the finger would be cut by a close family member, like the mother, father or a sibling. In a similar bizarre ritual, the tip of the little finger of babies are bitten off by their mothers. This perhaps originated from a time when most newborns died, from several causes. The hope was that by biting off the finger tip, the baby would be different from the others, and would perhaps, live longer.
Photo via Brommel
The practice has been banned in recent years. However, older women of the tribe are often seen with snipped fingers – all five of them.
Photo via Brommel