Image by Anke Sundermeier from Pixabay

A recent forum on Reddit demonstrated that "shocking" is in the eye of the beholder.

Particularly, the thread asked users to focus on the rituals and practices practiced in cultures all around the world. Redditors came to enlighten others with some far-out practices--usually involving pain inflicted on the vulnerable--that many cultures still deem ethical and significant.

Of course, priorities and ethics change with time and geography, so plenty of horrified commentary made its way into those explanations.

desi_londoner asked, "Which human culture or practice has shocked you the most?"

Many Redditors chose to focus on the plight of women and girls.

All too often, it seems, the female body is the expendable battleground on which religious ritual, male ecstasy, and societal greed rests.

A Well-Known Issue 

"In high school I did a project on Somalia and read about the process of female circumcision (aka genital mutilation) and how when it was time to consummate the marriage sometimes they'd need to carve it open with a knife so the man could fit."

"Makes me feel uneasy just thinking about it."

-- Content_red

How Is This Happening So Much?

"Child brides.wtf." -- Ultraviolethead

"Literally makes me sob every time I read stories about them. Being forced into a marriage before you can even really think for yourself. :( -- Dolphinkush

Even Televised 

"Beauty Pageants for Kids. Seems so creepy" -- Naweezy

"Idk how they're legal?? They seem quite manipulated by their parents at such a young age it's honestly sad..." -- thevibesaretrash

"In the same vein."

"This weird fixation on "barely legal" or just really young girls as some 'pinnacle of beauty' "

"As a dude in his mid twenties, the idea of dating an 18 year old, sort of grosses me out to be honest. I don't understand how there's a bunch of 50 year old men, drooling over 18 year olds. They're basically children." -- anooblol

Rites of passage are also a commons site of shocking physical abuse.

Often imposed on young boys as they enter puberty, these rituals are still a heavy blow dealt to a largely powerless, vulnerable person.

Bullets For Manhood

"I always thought insemination rituals were bizarre af."

"Took a cultural anthropology course in college that briefly touched of different insemination rituals—usually semen is rubbed on skin or ingested by coming-of-age boys as a ritual to become men."

"Some cultures have other bizarre rites of passage—one comes to mind, in the Amazon there's a group that engages in pain rituals with bullet ants."

-- Hippopotamidaes

And I Just Wanted to Get On the Right Bus 

"Spartans sending small boys out to hunt, kill and terrorize slaves. The most skilled boys from military training (which began at age 7) went out into the wilderness armed with a knife as low as age 12"

"they were expected to sleep during the day and hunt and murder slaves on their farms at night"

-- cartoonsoundeffect

Lastly, there were rituals that actually involved the killing of another human being.

However the culture in question justify the act, Redditors can't believe it happens.

"Severed From Live Victims"

"Muti murders or medicine murders. In several African countries, people believe that medicine made from human body parts is especially effective. From The New York Times:"

"Muti murders, especially of children, remain disturbingly common; South Africa's police investigate an average of about one a month [...]"

"The killings follow a pattern. A client approaches a healer, who orders a third person to collect body parts. A hand in a shop's doorway supposedly attracts customers; genitals allegedly enhance virility or fertility; fat from a stomach is prescribed to ensure a good harvest."

"Lore says parts severed from live victims are most potent because their screams awaken supernatural powers. Parts from children are considered especially strong."

-- Aqquila89

Difficult to Wrap One's Head Around 

"I've watched a fair amount of documentaries about honour killings and it disgusts me that people could value their perceived 'reputation' more than their own blood relatives."

"The fact that they can kill (and usually in very brutal fashion) their own daughters/nieces/sisters/cousins in order to protect their fragile ego and supposed 'honour' is just sickening to me."

"What makes it even worse is that they are supposedly trying to preserve their honour by committing one of the most dishonourable acts one can commit. Anyone who partakes in such a heinous practice is worse than scum and deserves the harshest possible punishment."

-- WhySSSoSerious

Wanted: Leopardmen 

"The Leopardmen of Guyana select a victim and then kill them by stuffing various herbs deep into every one of their orifices. After the family buries the person, the Leopardmen come and dig up the corpse and rebury it in a place convenient for them."

"They leave it to rot a while and then come back with long reeds that the poke into the ground and into the corpse to drink the juice produced by the rotting body. They believe this gives them special powers, like shapeshifting."

"They usually eventually get really sick and die young. The populace have carved special wood clubs with spikes to kill Leopardmen with."

-- paracelsus53


Of course, it is very important to avoid superimposing our own system of ethics and cultural priorities onto another culture, especially societies so much older than ours.

And yet, it's clearly difficult for people to hold back their shocked impressions.

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