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Til Death Do Us Part, Now Cut Your Finger Off

Til Death Do Us Part, Now Cut Your Finger Off

The indigenous tribe of the Danis inhabit the fertile lands of the Baliem Valley in West Papua, New Guinea. As one of the most decorative and well-known tribes in West Papua, they’re also given credit for an unusual and gruesome ritual involving amputation. As a way of displaying their grief in funeral ceremonies, the members of this tribe, will voluntarily cut off their fingers! More surprisingly, this ritual applies to all the women that are related to the deceased, children included.

Why would these women do such a thing to themselves? The ritual was prompted by religious beliefs. If the deceased was powerful among the tribe, it was believed that their spirits were just as powerful. So in order to gratify and drive away the spirits – grim practices such as this would follow. Another reason offered for this ritual is that the physical pain symbolized the sorrow and suffering due to the loss of a loved one. And to top things off, Women would cover their faces with ashes and clay to express their sorrow and grief of that loved one.
 
The amputation process was a follows:


Dani Finger Cutting Tool

  • The fingers to be cut were tied off with string.
  • With the fingers tied tightly, they would wait patiently for a half hour.
  • Then the axe fell – ‘snip’. The remaining hand is bandaged with leaves.
  • Afterwards, the upper portion that was cut is left to dry.
  • After it dries, they are burned to ashes of which get stored in a special place.

 

Today, the practice has been prohibited – but many women are left as a living example of a long time tradition.

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Author: Christian

3 Comments to “Til Death Do Us Part, Now Cut Your Finger Off”
  1. Kayla Brunick says:

    Eww thats so gross

  2. I watched the film “Dead Birds” which documents the immediate aftermath of this. It was very disturbing. One young girl who underwent the procedure couldn’t have been more than 5, and given her age and the unhappy look on her face I’m sure she wouldn’t have gone through it willingly.

    This is one of those instances when its hard to maintain a culturally relativist POV.

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