Human dating habits are incredibly complicated and ritualistic, a far cry from the straightforward mating rituals of the animal world. Women and men alike have to deal with complex cultural traditions and societal pressures that make up the majority of the dating and mating rituals on the planet.
A few cultures have it easy, with prospective mates simply moving in together whenever they feel like getting married and initiating a divorce by simply ceasing to cohabitate.
However, most cultures have developed complex rituals that are meant to symbolically bind lovers together until death does them part. Often, these traditions are fairly harmless and revolve around building trust and a greater romantic connection between partners. Going out on dates to restaurants, dancing and tokens of love such as jewelry and other gifts are fairly common courtship activities around the world.
But some of the worst dating and mating rituals around the world, throughout history, have involved questionable hygiene, painful trails, violence, coercion and even murder. If you’re frustrated with modern dating trends, let these ten bizarre mating rituals remind you that it could always be worse.
9. Indonesia: Holding It In
The Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry that represents the Tidong community in Indonesia recently revealed a wedding ritual that was previously unknown to outsiders.
When couples first become married, they face an uncomfortable test of physical and mental endurance that, if they fail, is believed to increase the chances of their marriage and new family experiencing catastrophe.
After tying the knot, the bride and groom must avoid going to the washroom for 72 hours, which must make the beginning of the honeymoon extremely uncomfortable. Making it even worse is the fact that family members monitor the newlyweds to ensure the fidelity of their bowels.
After passing this trial, couples are ready to take on just about anything else a marriage puts them through.
8. Austria: Armpit Apples
In certain areas of rural Austria, a 19th century courting ritual that provided women with proof of desire was the dance of the apple armpit. Single ladies would shove a slice of apple into their armpits and dance around until the music stopped.
She would then offer the apple that’s fermented in her armpit to the partner of her choice. If he accepted the sweaty slice, it was a sign of his devotion. If he ate the apple, it was considered an aphrodisiac.
Mercifully, this particular mating ritual never caught on with the rest of western world and Austria has become better known for exporting their tradition of delicious chocolate cakes and desserts.
7. Nordic Countries: Sheath and Knife
Another questionable 19th century mating ritual involved Finnish and other Nordic cultures that enjoyed the euphemistic metaphors a little too much.
When father decided their daughters were ready for romance and marriage, they would announce this fact to the community. The daughter would then attach a sheath to her girdle, big enough to carry a traditional puukko knife.
When a boy decided to express his admiration for the girl, he would slip the traditional puukko knife into her sheath. If she decided she liked him she would keep the knife, letting him know that she’s interested while announcing to the community that she’s taken.
6. China: The Crying Bride
A marriage ritual that has endured the test of time is the crying marriage, which likely originated about 2,500 years ago during the ‘warring states period’ in the history of China.
The story behind the ritual focuses on the sadness of a mother who will miss her daughter when a princess marries on her way to becoming a queen. The ritual was especially popular in China’s Sichuan Province up until the early 20th century.
The fact that the daughter cries after marriage was considered a sign of good breeding and parenting, so much so that the bride was laughed at if she didn’t bother to show tears. Mothers of tearless brides were known to even beat their daughters if water wasn’t shed.
5. India: Kidnapping the Groom
A dating ritual that significantly reduces the chances of a groom abandoning the altar due to cold feet is the ritual kidnapping of grooms, which is especially prevalent in the Bihar state of India.
More than a thousand grooms were kidnapped in eleven months, prompting a police representative to label the behavior as “almost customary”, as families desperately wish to “offload their daughters”.
The cause of this strange trend is rooted in the poverty of the area. Despite some regions of Bihar counting 873 women per 1,000 men, the demands of the groom’s family in terms of a large dowry payment, which is illegal in India, spurs families to forcibly kidnap grooms for their daughters instead of paying the dowry.
4. England: The Courting Stick
Courtship rituals in Yorkshire, England involved some of the most uptight rules and regulations among young couples. The process would begin with a formal letter sent by the father, or, if bold, from the actual suitor himself. This letter asked the father of the girl whether or not the suitor was welcome over to chill at his house.
An excuse such as “I’m busy washing my pantaloons” meant that the girl wasn’t interested. If she was interested, they would hang out together with the entire family.
Communication between the girl and her suitor would take place using a hollow tube between six and eight feet in length, through which the boy would presumably woo the girl in front of his future in-laws.
3. Bali: Fangs For Adulthood
Growing up and dating as part of the Hindu Balinese society involved a series of 13 rituals that help wash away sin while preparing for life as a married adult.
One of the thirteen rituals starts around puberty with the ceremonial filing of the teeth of the bride and groom. As the big day approaches, six teeth become sharpened before prayers.
Teeth filing is such as big part of the culture that those with unaltered teeth will not be able to enjoy their afterlives, remaining separated from their ancestors. If someone passes away before the ritual takes place, Balinese Hindus file the teeth of the deceased before burial.
2. Irish Traveller Communities: Grabbing the Bride
The British documentary series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding filmed the lives of young gypsy women in Britain, following the courtship traditions and culture of younger folk seeking marriage.
In addition to the elaborate dresses, viewers were shocked by the young men on the show, who physically and forcefully corner the young women who they wanted to date, even going as far as literally twisting her arm to solicit a kiss.
When asked about it, one of the young women in the documentary explained that it’s an unpleasant ritual, known as ‘grabbing’, and that “it’s not nice at all, but you just got to live with it.”
1. Taiwan: Gift Of A Severed Head
The Ayatal are an indigenous group in Taiwan. They have historically been subjected to colonial forces, such as Japanese occupiers who forbade many of their cultural practices including face tattoos, fabric weaving and headhunting.
Up until the occupation during the 1930s, one of the Ayatal mating rituals involved romancing the woman you love by giving her the gift of the severed head of an enemy.
If accepted, it means that the woman is interested the man. The romantic gesture was displayed for the entire community to witness, with the severed head resting on a conspicuous platform for everyone to see.