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Top 10 Strange Religious Rituals

Written by Top 100 Arena on 2012-07-02
There are four major religions in the world, namely Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In addition to that, there are many more - almost countless - religions from different cultures, tribes and cults. In fact, we were overwhelmed while compiling this top ten list. Although the article is named "Strange Religious Rituals", we are not saying they are absolutely bizarre by all standards. When we take them out of their own cultural and religious context, these rituals may look strange or even totally insane. But for those who perform them, these rituals completely make sense as they truly believe in their own religion, what the rituals represent and the impact of such rituals. With that on mind, we present you the top ten list of strange religious rituals around the world.

10 E-meters - Scientology

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We have heard about The Church of Scientology everywhere. With famous members such as Tom Cruise, Kristie Alley and John Travolta, there is no denying that this religion is certainly popular in its own right. However, Scientology is also infamous for its strange religious practices and ceremonies, one of which is called e-meters. Basically, there will be an auditor from the Church of Scientology, and an e-machine, and a person being audited (called "Preclear"). In the process, the auditor will ask a series of question while the pre-clear will be holding electrodes. When the preclear answers, those electrodes will send signals to the e-meter and the auditor will look for 'engrams'. If any are found, then the auditor and preclear will work together to remove them. Sound confusing? Yes, it is. In fact, we are still not sure what this thing does. More info

9 Sky Burial - Tibet

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Before China invaded Tibet and put an end to local practices, it was once a common custom to cut off the deceased's body and scatter the pieces on a mountaintop. The goal is to keep providing resources to the world, even after death. In this case, the body pieces will provide nutrition to vultures, and when remains deteriorate, it will become natural fertilizer for the soil. Although now the practice is unlawed, it can still be performed with the permission from the deceased's family. More info

8 Jewish Kaparot

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Kaparot is a traditional Jewish ritual to transfer one's sins to a chicken. It doesn't end here. After the sins are 'transferred', then the chicken is slaughtered and donated to the poor, which is why the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is pretty outraged about this. The ritual is performed by reading Psalms 107:17-20 and Job 33:23-24 first, then holding the chicken by shoulder blades and circling it around the head of a person for three times. After that, it is the kiss of death for the poor animal. More info

7 Blessing of Vehicles

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It might be strange for North Americans and Europeans, but in many parts of the world, the ritual of having vehicles blessed by a priest or powerful religious figure is commonly practiced. The ritual varies from country to country, and religion to religion. But most commonly, it includes praying, sprinkling holy water, chanting religious texts and drawing symbols of power and protection on the vehicle to ensure luck and safety. In Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam, Buddhist monks bless new cars, motorcycles, boats and even new planes for airlines. In Philippines, a Catholic priest will bless your vehicle on Easter Sunday or Palm. In fact, this ritual is also practiced in Bolivia, and a few other countries in Eastern Europe. Even in ever-skeptical United States, several states such as New Jersey, California and Rhode Island are known to have huge annual gatherings to bless the vehicles to keep them accident-free.

6 Body Piercing

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No, we are not talking about the tongue piercing, belly rings, studs on the lips and such. We are talking about extreme body piercing as religious practice here. The practice is common among Hindus during their three-day festival Thaipusam in each Feburary. The piercings are done with lances, skewers, large hooks or a small spear. The ritual started out relatively simple, with just a small hole in the tongue pierced by a small spear. But it has evolved over the years and now includes all parts of the body. You can even see extreme piercings such as quite a number of large hooks on the backs while those hooks are attached to heavy chariots, which the ritual performers will attempt to pull them up hills or down streets. More info

5 Fire Walking

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Fire walking is another common religious ritual in several regions, but found mainly in India, and Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples of Japan. Not to be misunderstood with self-immolation, fire walking is in fact a symbolic act of testing limits and purification. In order to overcome anxiety and fear, and achieve a sudden money of clarity, priests, monks, and regular people walk barefoot over burning coals. This custom can be also found in Haiti, North Africa, the Carribbean, and southeast Asia. More info on Wikipedia

4 Crucifixion - Philippines

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Majority of today's Christians do symbolic things to show their devotion to Christianity. But in the Philippines, it is taken one step further by ritualistically hurting themselves with the act of their own crucifixion. Basically, participating men will carry the corsses on their back, much like what Christ did. Then they will be staked in their hands and ankles with large nails, and the cross will be erected. This ritual is brutal, but it is also supposed to repent for sins and show true devotion to Jesus. More info

3 Mormon Temple Undergarments

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Mormons have quite a few strange ceremonies and rituals that we had a hard time choosing one, but this one seems too good to not make it into the list. Basically, adult Mormons have to wear a set of sacred undergarments when they have taken part in washing and anointing ordinance, a Mormon ritual ceremony. It is part of the Endowment ceremony and usually done in a temple. Mormons even consider that discussion of the said garments as offensive so it is best to end our discussion about it here. More info

2 Throwing Babies

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Let's face it. We think no parents in their right mind will throw their own babies. After all, it is dangerous and very risky. But throwing babies is exactly a religious ritual at the Grishneshwar Temple in Maharashtra, a state in India. Babies between one to two years old are thrown from a tower 50 feet high. No, don't gasp yet. There are men positioned beneath the tower to catch the babies on cotton sheets. The ritual is performed in order to make the kids luckier, more intelligent, and healthier. It is not limited to one religion and both Muslims and Hindus in the region are practicing it. Currently, state officials are working to ban the 700 years old ritual but many local practitioners are against the ban.

1 Cheek Puncturing

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You might find the title a bit weird, and probably thinking what the heck is that. We save this for the last, dear readers. If you think the aforementioned religious rituals are strange or some downright extreme, then you will find this the most extreme and incredibly masochistic. During the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival in September or October, Thai people in Phuket will not eat meat for 9 days. The festival doesn't end here. Among the rituals performed during this festival, one of them is puncturing their own cheeks with knives, spears, swords and almost anything sharp and pointy. Not just the cheeks but the bodies too, although main attention is on their cheeks. Their belief is that Chinese gods will protect them from suffering and pain. One supernaturally strange and remarkable thing is that how few people bear scars after the festival. In fact, there are almost none at all, at least none we can find. More info

If you are planning a trip and long for once in a lifetime exotic experiences, make sure to go to one of those places with above religious rituals. Some are not for the faint of heart, and a lot may seem downright wrong to you. Hold your judgments at bay, and enjoy the fantastic world with an open mind.

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