The Bullet Ants Ritual.
“It is pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch rusty nail in your heel,” said Justin Schmidt, describing what it felt like to be stung by the Bullet Ant. Schmidt is the creator of the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, a scale that rates the pain cause by different Hymenopteran stings. The Bullet Ant claims the number one spot on the SSPI and the title of most excruciating sting known to man. With this in mind, it is hard to imagine that someone would be stung willingly, and not by just one Bullet Ant, but by thirty. Yet to become a man in the Satere-Mawe Tribe, an indigenous tribe from the Brazilian Amazon, this is exactly what a boy has to do. To prepare for the initiation rite, elders from the tribe gather the ants from the surrounding jungle. They then drug the ants and place them stinger side first into gloves woven from leaves. The ants become increasingly agitated and ready to sting as the effects of the drug wears off. At this point, the boy puts on the gloves, and must wear them for 10 minutes. One Satere-Mawe man when asked about the pain by a documentary filmmaker said “it’s the same as having your hands on fire.” When the ten minutes are up the gloves are taken off but the affects of the stings only worsen. The pain continues to increase and the hands become paralyzed stumps. The boy must go thought this process until he can complete it without crying out in pain – sometimes up to 20 times. Then he is considered a man. He has proven himself worthy of the title. Rites of initiation such as this would never be tolerated in America. The ACLU would pounce on anyone who attempted to put Bullet Ant gloves on the hands of a boy, crying that the boys were being tortured. But if no rites exist, how is an American boy to know when he becomes a man? Today, there are five agreed-upon milestones that mark a young person’s transition into adulthood. These are completing schooling,...
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