What the @$%* IS the Bullet Ant Ritual?

06/19/2014 01:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

If you thought downing a tablespoon of sriracha on a dare made you tough, the Bullet Ant Ritual will shrivel your balls in disgrace.


In the Brazilian Amazon, the men of the Satere-Mawe tribe earn their dick-swinging rights for having pain thresholds that'd make Chuck Norris go "da f*ck?!" Before they can properly be considered adults, the young men of the tribe must prove their mettle by subjecting themselves to the sting of hundreds of bullet ants -- so named because the pain they inflict is akin to being shot. Given the choice between taking part in this ceremony and poking sharpened twigs into our own eyes, we're not actually sure which trauma we'd choose.

Grow a Pair


The ceremony isn't just a way for the tribe elders to have a chuckle. Participating in the ritual allows a young man to prove his readiness to accept adult responsibilities. What's more, confronting pain is seen as a form of character-building -- the kind you can't get from smoking a carton of cigarettes and downing a bottle of moonshine.

Getting Your Ants in Order

To prepare for the ceremony, the village elders go out and collect the ants from the forest. Once they've corralled the nasty little f*ckers, the ants go into an herbal solution that knocks them out for awhile. While the ants enjoy a little Lucy-In-The-Sky-With-Diamonds time, the elders insert them into a pair of ceremonial gloves. Their bodies are trapped in the folds of the weaving, which ensures their stingers are facing inward and that they're angry as f*ck when they come out of their stupor and looking to inflict punishment.

Each initiate takes his turn donning the agony mitts, with just a coating of charcoal on his hands as protection. The gloves stay on for ten minutes, during which time the village shaman leads the boys in a dance to distract them from the anguish of having their hands devoured one tiny, excruciating mouthful at a time.

No Glove, No Love


Photo by: John Tann

Enduring the bites is just the appetizer to the main course of this pain fest. Once the initiate rescues his digits from the unforgiving maws of the bullet ants, the venom really starts to work, paralyzing his hands and puffing them up to the size of foam novelty fingers -- Miley Cyrus might come a-runnin'. A mind over matter approach to pain is of no help here. Venom of this caliber rates the highest level on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index and its effects stick around for twenty-four hours. That's right, an entire day spent enduring searing, relentless physical torment. The body revolts. Hands swell, shakes take over, some people even lose consciousness. And once just isn't enough for these masochists. Boys endure this rite of passage up to twenty times, until their eyes don't leak liquid weakness anymore. If a young lad can take it, he emerges on the other side of all this suffering having proven himself to the tribe.

Man Up


You know what they say: no pain, no gain. It's more than just a cheesy '80s workout slogan, it's the truth. A life without struggle, where the boundaries are never tested and the thresholds never crossed is a small one. The Satere-Mawe tribe knows this and goes balls out in building their courage, endurance, and sheer bad-assery. These dudes don't get bent out of shape easily since the bullet ant ritual puts everything in perspective: any day without your hands in the ant gloves is a good day.

Not that we recommend subjecting yourself to unimaginable suffering in pursuit of maturity, but if you're the type to launch into full-on whine mode because your latte wasn't hot enough or you had to take the stairs because the elevator was broken, then maybe you should spend some time letting a mitten full of bullet ants gnaw away at your entitlement. After that, you won't sweat the small stuff.

Written by: Rachel Dunlop