His journey to warriorhood began today. Like all Mawé boys, thirteen-year-old Opa had prepared. Dozens of bullet ants collected from the Brazilian rainforest were sedated and woven into gloves he’d wear for this rite of passage. With his body and face painted, he bravely watched as tribal elders slipped the ceremonial gloves full of twisting, incensed ants onto his waiting hands. Opa felt the venom’s paralyzing effects as ants pierced his flesh relentlessly. He danced, enduring intense, excruciating pain. Ten minutes later, it was over, his hands numb, swollen, and shaking. This ritual 20 times, and he’d be a man.
By Erin Bauer