In the heart of the Amazon jungle are a lot of dangerous things – ferocious animals, poisonous plants, and even poachers, but few things are more painful than the Amazonian Bullet Ant.
One may wonder – is the human culture of the Amazon violent? Well, when it comes to taking your first step into manhood, a local village in the heart of the rain forest takes no prisoners, especially if that prisoner happens to be afraid of ants. In this case the prisoners really aren’t prisoners at all, but young men seeking initiation into manhood.
Several times a year, a certain tribe holds an initiation, in which boys as young as 12 must participate by wearing festive gloves in order to be initiated. The gloves are essentially two large leaves stitched together, but what’s inside of the gloves is what’s sure to make whoever is wearing them dance like they’ve never danced before.
Inside are jungle carnivores, otherwise known as giant tropical bullet ants, each earning their name because of how hard the ants sting: about as hard as a bullet.
“People say I don’t have the courage to do it,” one boy states, smiling to the camera as his process is recorded. His expression is of pride and excitement, the same that comes from an eager soldier ready for war. “I have and I will do it,” he states.
The spear that comes from the rump of the ant is thirty times stronger than that of a honeybee. The medicine man is the first to begin the ritual by drugging the ants in natural syrup. After this, the man places each ant inside of the initiation gloves, placing them stinger first through the leaf. In less than an hour, the ants are awake, but they are trapped within the glove’s confines, angry and writhing.
At this point in the tradition, the young man tries the glove on, only to be met with immediate anguish.
The ants, confused and mad, start stinging the young man furiously and without mercy. It is said in the local village’s tradition that if one can withstand the pain of the initiation, they are ready for adult-like roles. So now that you know what it takes do be a man in the Amazon – do you think you’re man enough?
Watch Video: Could you pass the bullet ant test?