Bizarre! Revealed country where people cut off fingers to pay dowry

Imagine being asked to pay dowry with your fingers for the woman you love.

Or mourn a loved one by amputating your fingers.

Bizarre! Isn’t it? But there is a tribe located in Papua New Guinea where a man must cut off the finger of his right hand and present it to the bride as a dowry for her.


Moreso, if he wants to divorce her, he cuts off two fingers of his left hand, but if he dies, his wife cuts off the ten fingers of her hands as a sign of her fidelity to him and that she will not marry a man after him.


Finger cutting also known as “Ikipalin”, is common amongst the Dani tribe in a remote area of Papua New Guinea, in Oceania. The demands of the custom required that once a family member passed away, the closest relative(s) were to cut off their fingers, as a manner of expressing their grief.


Moreover, whenever a loved one died, members of the Dani tribe would remove a portion of their fingers. Sometimes, multiple fingers were also severed as a show of grief while mourning.


For the Dani people, fingers were a symbol of unity and strength. Just as fingers work together irrespective of their lengths, the indigenes compared its functions to that of a close family unit.


Ikipalin: Tradition of finger cutting
The fingers were amputated with and without the use of weapons


The process starts with the upper half of the fingers being tied for some minutes so that they are completely numb. It is believed that once the finger becomes numb and blood circulation to that area is stopped, less pain is felt during amputation.


As soon as the phalanx is broken and cut, the wound is cleaned so as to prevent infection. What is left of it is a stony fingertip.


The amputated finger is later burnt to ashes and saved in a special pot. Other times, it can be stored in the amputee’s home or somewhere special.


The cutting of fingers was usually done by another immediate family member. Sometimes, it could be the parents or even a sibling.


Apart from the severed finger(s), the participants would also smear their faces with ashes and clay while expressing their deep mystery and sorrow.


Different objects are used to cut the fingers such as machetes, knives or even axes. In the past, sharpened stone blades were also used to apply blunt force while breaking the phalanx.


Some people even went as far as removing fingers without actually cutting them. They would first weaken their knuckles by chewing them and later tie a rope around it to stop blood circulation. However it happened, the end goal was to deaden the muscle through oxygen deprivation.


Why cut off a finger?

It is believed that finger cutting was a way to appease and ward off the spirits of the ancestral ghosts that still lingered around the village. Thus in order to keep the spirits away, the fingers were cut as a form of sacrifice.


Why women are mostly involved

Although it remains unclear why the custom mainly applied to the women population of the Dani tribe, some older men were also involved in it too.


Once a loved one died, the top joint of the woman’s fingers would be amputated. Sadly, some female babies were also unfortunate victims of this tradition when their mothers cut off their fingers in a similar ritual. The excuse given was that it was a guarantee of longevity for the babies.


Although this bizarre practice has been declared illegal and banned in New Guinea, evidence of the once-existing custom can be seen on older women within the community due to their mutilated fingertips.

Through it all, it is quite disturbing to think that because someone lost a family member to death, they had to lose their knuckles too.

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For peoples of the Dani tribe, finger cutting, or Ikipalin, was a typical mourning practice.

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