Thursday, 23 February 2012

Satere Mawe - A Unique Tribe

What is the Bullet Ant Ritual?

Nestled on the border of the Amazonas and Para states is a unique tribe known as Satare Mawe.  This tribe is known for its amazing ritual known as ‘Bullet Ant Gloves ritual’  This is a ritual which is said to be performed by each and every man in the Satare Mawe tribe to earn his manhood.

For this the man has to put his hand in the glove filled with Bullet Ants.  The Paraponera, also known as bullet ants are around 18 to 25 mm long and looks in similarity to a wasp. These Bullet ants have one of the deadliest stings known in the ant community.  The sting of a Bullet Ant is said to be the most excruciating sting ever known to a man.  One sting from this ant and you will experience pain beyond your imagination. The pain caused by this ant continues for over 24 hours and is commonly followed by fever, cold sweating, nausea and vomiting. According to the Schmidt Pain Index, the Bullet Ant sting is said to be the most painful of all known insect bits.  Just imagine what it is to be bitten by 30 Ants at the same time.  Yes, this is the Bullet Ant Ritual of the Satere Mawe tribe. 

The ritual starts with the elders going out in the forest in search of these ants.  Once found, they are then drugged and put in gloves made out of leaves.  These ants are then taken to the village where the young boy who is to be initiated, puts his hand in the gloves.  By now, the drugged ants are already agitated to find themselves in the gloves.  When the boy puts his hand in the glove, they are ready to vent their anger on the hand.  The ritual takes place for a minimum of 10 to 20 minutes in which the boy has to keep his hand inside the gloves as the ants bite at his hand.  He has to endure this pain for a minimum of 10 minutes without crying out.  If he succeeds, he will be proved worthy of being a man.  If he cannot withstand the pain, the boy is said to be not worthy of being a man and he has to take the ritual again.   Once the hand is taken out, the pain increases and the hand is virtually paralyzed for a few hours till the pain wears out.  This is indeed the ultimate test of a man’s endurance and worthiness. 

Before the initiation of the boy into a man, he has limited access to the man’s world as he is kept away from the men.  He has only the women for company i.e.the mother and aunts of the family. 

And as to say that once is not enough, to ascend into the highest tribal rank in the Satere Mawe tribe, this ritual has to be done by a member 25 times, yes 25 times.   These rituals can go on for months and years together if he wants to reach the top of the tribal hierarchy.

So this is the Satere Mawe Bullet Ant Ritual.

By the way, along with this fanatic ritual, the Satere Mawe tribe is also well known for another unique quality.  That is of the ‘Guarana Culture’.  This is the famous caffeine that you find in most countries.  It has a unique processing method to domesticate the wild vine into rich caffeine which is also exported through Guarana to Brazil. This harvest is called ‘guarana das terras’ and is harvested mainly in Guarana. 

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