Finger-Cutting Mourning Practice By The Dani Tribe

From shaving of heads to wearing all black to funerals, different cultures have mourning practices peculiar to them.

The finger-cutting mourning practice done by the Dani tribe is one bizarre cultural practice worth noting.

When a member of the tribe dies, the deceased’s relatives experience both physical and emotional pain.


The Dani tribe resides in a remote area town of Wamena in Papua Province. Located in the Cyclops Mountains, Indonesia, the place is only accessible by plane.

To mourn the deceased, the fingers of family members, especially that of the females, are cut off. Even female babies have tips of their fingers bitten off by their mothers. It is speculative why this practice centres on females. However, only a few older men in the tribe are involved in the practice.

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This mourning ritual is deemed important in the culture. Before amputation, a string is tied tightly around the upper half of the finger for 30 minutes. This allows it to go numb for an almost painless removal. A close family member, sibling or parent usually does this.

The primary reason for the amputation is to appease and keep the restless spirit away. If the deceased person is considered powerful, it is believed that their spirits would be equally powerful.

Also, the physical pain from the finger amputation is believed to making it easier for the bereaved forget the pain of relative’s death.

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Finger-cutting has been banned and is no longer practised in recent years. However, it is not uncommon to still see older women of the tribe with snipped fingers – all five of them.

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