If you think you’ve seen or heard about the most bizarre tradition practiced around the world, then you may be in for a very scary surprise! Dani tribe, a village in Indonesia, has been discovered where dead people are not buried but roasted over an open fire and kept as mummies for a long time.
The Dani tribe resides in an extremely remote area of Papua Province in a town named Wamena—located amidst the Cyclops Mountains—only accessible by plane. Still, there is an estimated 250,000 Dani that live in the region according to The Globe and Mail.
It is reported in Daily Star UK, that the “Dani people from the central highlands of western New Guinea, Indonesia, have been able to preserve their dead for centuries with smoke”.
Even though there are reports that the technique is no longer in use, a tribe in Wogi – a village close to the regional capital, Wamena – has held on to a number of mummies which it refused to bury. It is believed in the Dani culture, that smoking someone over a fire for weeks, or even months, is the ultimate show of respect for the deceased.
In recent years, this very unusual culture has attracted tourists to the remote part of Indonesia, which is more than 2,000 miles from the capital, Jakarta. Daily Star UK also said that “visitors can also get a glimpse of Dani traditions at Baliem Valley Festival, an annual event with mock battles between tribes”.
Aside their strange tradition of preserving their dead, the Dani tribe also believe that a physical representation of emotional pain is essential to the grieving process—even going so far as to mutilate themselves as a form of mourning.
In this culture, tribe members have often cut off the top half of one of their fingers upon attending a funeral. They will also smear ashes and clay across their faces—an equally symbolic, but significantly less crippling form of grieving.
Unfortunately, the finger cutting is specific to the female population of the Dani tribe.
Before amputation, they will tie a string tightly around the upper half of their finger for 30 minutes, allowing it to go numb for a (near) painless removal. Often it is a close family member—sibling or parent—who cuts the finger. After removal, the open sores are cauterized, both to prevent bleeding and in order to form new-callused fingertips.
Finger cutting is said to be symbolic of the pain suffered after losing a loved one. However the practice of finger cutting just like the roasting of dead people, has grown increasingly outdated over the years, and was officially banned some years back. For this reason it is typically the older women who carry the burden of mutilated fingertips.