Bizarre Religious Rituals

Mormon Undergarments

Now these you have probably heard about at some point in your life. But I am afraid that I still do not understand them, and I have a feeling that only those truly involved in the religion really do. These highly unfashionable garments are worn by adults who have gone through a washing and anointing ordinance. But discussion of these highly scared undergarments can be offensive to some Mormons and as such we will limit our discussion of them here.

Jewish Kaparot

This is a ritual that has been highly protested by the ASPCA and this could be for a number of reasons. First the entire ceremony is about transferring one’s sins to a chicken, which to me, really isn’t fair to the chicken and that should have the ASPCA angry enough as it is. But to perform the ritual the chicken is circled around the head three times and then slaughtered. The dead chicken is then donated to the poor. Strangely enough a Kaparot ritual in Brooklyn released 200 starved chickens into the streets. Many were rescued by the ASPCA but 35 drowned which led the ASPCA to charge the people responsible with animal cruelty.


Now the Church of Scientology has gotten quite a bad rap for its weird ceremonies and bizarre religion but when you hear things like this, you cannot help but see why. Auditing has nothing to do with taxes but everything to do with what Scientologists call “engrams.” After reading up on it I’m still not sure what it is but it sounds like negative influences that have been imprinted upon a person. So the process involved an auditor who uses an e-machine and the person being audited who is referred to as “Pre-Clear.” What then happens is that the auditor asks a series of questions and watches the needle on the e-machine to search for evidence of engrams. If any are found, the auditor works with the person to remove them. The whole process is painless but just a little strange.


Now this ritual could truly be an expression of love for all I know, but in the end the idea of it just terrifies me. Sati is a traditional Hindi ritual in which a widow would be burned alive on her husband’s funeral pyre. This ritual was supposed to be entirely voluntary but in the past there has been evidence where the widow was forced to die at her husband’s funeral. The ritual was not to be seen as suicide but rather an act of piety and one that would guarantee the couple’s salvation and reunion in the afterlife. Today the ritual is still reported to occur, albeit rarely, in rural areas.


This is another practice that seems mind boggling to outsiders. In this practice followers will eat bread and wine in order to remember Christ and his miracles. This practice can be seen as different for different religions as Protestants believe that they are only eating the bread and wine in memory of Christ. Whereas Catholics will believe that the bread and wine are transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ. This ritual is strange in itself but the idea behind it is rather simple, in the Bible Christ distributes bread and wine and asks the people to eat it in remembrance of him. Though the idea of it becoming his flesh and blood makes it less and less appealing.

Being Ridden

In the Vodun faith practiced in West Africa there are a number of very passionate rituals that can be performed. In some of these rituals someone is chosen to be “ridden” which is to say that they are being possessed by the loa, or African gods. These rituals have been highly studied but there is no telling whether or not the rituals are true. The people who have been ridden swear that they have been completely possessed and that there is no way that it could not be true. Though these rituals often use tobacco or rum, whatever the loa tend to desire. It is unknown whether this aids to the belief in possession.


Glossolalia refers to the practice of speaking in tongues. This has been known to happen in Christianity but also in other religions such as paganism, and shamanism. Speaking in tongues is the uttering of speech like sounds that many people consider to be meaningless but that followers believe to be a holy language. There are a number of different plausible explanations for this occurrence such as mental illness, hypnotism and learned behavior. The first two were considered implausible in most occurrences of glossolalia but it was discovered that making the sounds was easily learned.


There are a number of examples where people will ritualistically hurt themselves in order to show devotion to their religion. Many of these practices have died out (with the exception of many tribal religions) but in the Philippines this practice occurs in one of the most brutal ways I have ever seen. These men will carry the crosses in their back while being whipped in the same way that Christ did for his own crucifixion. Then large nails are driven through their hands and ankles and the cross is then erected. This process is supposed to show true devotion to God and to repent for sins.

These rituals are something that truly look strange and bizarre to anyone who is not involved in the process. But being able to accept and try to understand the religion of other people is a way to bring peace and compassion among people. Though many of these things are as such that we many not like to experience and we might question the person who would go through such ordeals but we can at least try to understand their reasoning.

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