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The Ancient Rituals Of The Dani Tribe Practices Finger Cutting As A Means Of Grieving

The Ancient Rituals Of The Dani Tribe Practices Finger Cutting As A Means Of Grieving

The death of a loved one can be a traumatic experience and cause emotional pain and suffering. However, in some cultures, the loss can also lead to physical pain.

In the western province of New Guinea, Indonesia, the Dani tribe has a very unique way of mourning their lost relatives. It is customary in their culture to cut off the top half of one finger upon attending a funeral. The finger-cutting is specific to the female population of the Dani tribe if she loses a family member or child. Some cultures believe that this physical representation of emotional pain is essential to the grieving process.

The Dani tribe resides in the remote part of Papua Province, in a town named Wamena — located in the middle of the Cyclops Mountains — only accessible by plane. According to The Globe and Mail, there are still an estimated 250,000 Dani living in the region.

The practice has been done to both gratify and drive away spirits, while also providing a way to use physical pain as an expression of sorrow and suffering. The members of the Dani tribe have the religious belief that if the deceased were a powerful person while living, their essence would remain in the village in a perpetual spiritual turmoil.

Before amputation, they tie a string tightly around the upper half of their finger for 30 min, allowing it to go numb for painless removal (nearly painless not totally). After removal, open sores are cauterized, both to prevent bleeding and to form new fingertips. 

The left part of the finger is dried and either burned to ashes or stored in a special place. This ritual is now prohibited in New Guinea, but this practice can still be seen in some of the older women in the community who have fingertips mutilated. But there have been reports of mothers biting off the tips of their baby's fingers as part of another ritual. It was thought that if a mother bit her child's fingers, it would make her child live longer than the others.

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