Dueling is an age-old custom in Western societies. A duel would involve two men who would face off in an open field and fire a single shot at each other. Duels were often fought over matters of principle and honor. In earlier years, duels were fought with swords in a one-on-one scenario. It was considered dishonorable for a man to refuse a duel and eventually the concept was condemned by the dominant Christian religions as it almost always lead to death.



Foot-binding is a custom that began in China in the tenth century and continued right up to the early twentieth century. Young girls (usually from the age of six) would have their feet bound so tightly that as they grew older, their bones would break keeping the foot small and delicate. Sometimes the parents intentionally broke the girl’s toes in order to facilitate the process. The practice of footbinding was usually found in upper-class families who had enough servants to perform the menial tasks that lower-class women had to perform themselves.



In Northern Japan, a group of Buddhist monks called Sokushinbutsu practiced a very extreme form of self-denial that ended in death. For three years, a monk would prepare himself for death by drinking a special type of lacquer while undergoing extreme physical exercise and strict dieting in order to reduce body fat. When the monk was ready for death, he would be sealed in a tomb not much bigger than himself and would remain there until he died. The lacquer that he had been drinking would stop his body from decomposing, thereby mummifying him. Between sixteen and twenty-four self-mummified bodies exist today.



Eunuchs were men who were castrated in order to fulfill certain roles in society. Castration was used as a punishment in China and also as a means of getting a job at the Royal Palace. Some eunuchs wielded an extreme amount of power. Some eunuchs were castrated before puberty in order to ensure that their voices would not break—enabling them to sing high soprano roles in opera and in choirs. The boys were given no choice and the procedure rendered them unable to have children. It was not until 1912 that the role of the eunuch ended.



Sati is an old Hindu custom, unfortunately still occasionally practiced today, in which the wife of a recently deceased man is expected to jump onto his funeral pyre to be burned alive—thereby joining him in death. In many cases, if the wife would not comply, the family of the husband and even other members of the village would throw her onto the fire. Sati was particularly common among women with no children as they would often have no source of income for the rest of their lives.



As long as there have been humans, there have been human sacrifices. Originally the sacrifice was intertwined with paganism and various groups around the world, independently of each other, practiced it. Sometimes young children or babies were killed in the hopes that their innocence would make the sacrifice more worthy. Some methods of sacrifice were especially bizarre, as was the case of the vestal virgins of ancient Rome who were entombed until death.



Tibetan sky burial is the method of burial preferred by Tibetan Buddhists. It involves the crushing of a corpse with a variety of hammers and mallets. The bones are powdered and the resulting mixture is combined with barley flour, tea, and yak butter. The remains are then thrown to vultures that consume the entire body. The Buddhists believe that this is the most natural way to rid the earth of an otherwise empty shell because they believe that the soul will be reincarnated.




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