Satere-Mawe Initiation Ceremony
The Brazilian Satere-Mawe tradition, that makes young boys into warriors, has become notorious in recent years. Explorers, adventurers and documentarians flock to the Amazon to catch a glimpse of what is considered to be one of the most painful rite of passage on Earth. What makes the initiation so torturous? The culprit is the Bullet ant.
According to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, the bullet ant has the worst know insect sting. A single sting is comparable to being shot with a bullet (ergo the name) The intense pain lasts a full 24 hours, and can lead to vomiting, nausea and cardiac dysrhythmia. And that’s all from one sting. The Satere-Mawe don’t use just on ant.
Employing natural sedatives, more than thirsty bullet ants are submerged in the liquid drug until unconscious. A glove weaved from leaves is fashioned and then completed by placing the ants in the tight openings, stingers pointed inward. Once they are conscious, they struggle to free themselves from the weaving, growing increasingly anxious and desperate by each passing second. The boy being initiated has his hands coated in a thin layer or charcoal before slipping on two bullet ant gloves. He must endure their stings for ten minutes. The goal is to keep from screaming or showing signs of weakness. He and the tribe members present chant and dance to take his mind off the pain. Once the ritual is complete, he will suffer from the stings for days but he’s one step closer to being a warrior; this process must be repeated an additional 20 times in the following months for it to be officially complete.