The Sateré-Mawé Coming Of Age Tradition: Bullet
The Sateré-Mawé is an indigenous tribe located in the Brazilian Amazon. The tribe has little contact with the outside world, though it has gained some attention over the years–especially the terrifying coming-of-age initiation ceremony that bestows the nickname “Sons of the Guarana” upon the tribal members.
In preparation for the initiation ceremony, bullet ants are sedated and harvested from the jungle. While unconscious, the ants are woven into a pair of gloves made from leaves, with their stingers facing inward. To be considered a man of the tribe, boys as young as twelve will place their hands into the gloves for five minutes, being stung the entire time.
The young boys take 10-minute turns wearing the bullet ant gloves on their hands. Though the pain takes hold of them immediately, few if any of the young boys cry out. According to tribe members, the painful initiation is good preparation for life and proves that each boy will be able to fulfill the duties of manhood.
In addition to the pain, it can cause muscle paralysis, disorientation, and hallucinations for hours. While completing the ceremony earns the young men respect, they must wear the gloves a total of twenty times before being considered fully initiated as tribal warriors.
The sting of a bullet ant tops the SSPI , a scale that rates the pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings, and is considered 30 times more painful than a bee sting. Many say the pain is similar to that of being shot, hence the name bullet ants. Aside from pain, the venom also causes paralysis and the shakes, and takes a full 24 hours for the toxins to dissipate.