The Amazon jungle is a very scary place with lots of ferocious animals and poisonous plants but few things are more painful than being stung by a Bullet Ant (Paraponera Clavata). The Satere-Mawe Tribe, an indigenous tribe from the Amazon rain forest, Brazil, is well aware of that and they use these ants to turn a boy into a man. In some cases the boys are as young as twelve!
In this tribe, boys have to withstand being stung by not one, but a swarm of Bullet Ants. If you are not quite sure how painful that is, the Bullet Ant claims the number one spot on the SSPI (Schmidt Sting Pain Index), a scale created by Justin Schmidt that rates the pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings.
They are named Bullet ants because their sting is supposedly just as agonizing as being shot by a bullet
In preparation for the initiation rite, the elders of the tribe collect the ants from the jungle. These ants are drugged and placed stinger- first into special gloves woven from leaves. As the drug wears off, the ants become increasingly agitated and are raring to sting. This is when the boy puts on the gloves and lets the bullet ants work their magic, for 10 whole minutes, no less.
It’s the same as having your hands on fire
But the real pain starts once the gloves come off, and the venom starts to take effect. As the pain continues to rise, the hands become paralyzed and look like stumps. But just one attempt is usually not enough to turn a Satere boy into a man. He must go through this ritual as many times as it takes for him not to cry during the process. Sometimes, this can take up to 20 attempts.
The day he doesn’t shed a single tear is when he becomes a real man
Unimaginable to the rest of the world where initiation rites are as simple as going to college, getting a job and moving out of your parents’ home. But it’s different in tribes like these because men generally have little contact with young boys in the tribe, who spend most of their time with the women. But after the initiation is complete, the boy is taken away from the women’s world and introduced to that of men. It sounds primitive, but perhaps it is no different from a father taking his son out fishing or camping, or just spending time with him.
Just think, could you bear the pain and become a proper man according to the Amazon standards?