African tribal traditions can be equally mysterious and fascinating to Westerners. Whether they involve marriage, coming of age, child-rearing or living arrangements, these ancient customs are as diverse and numerous as there are tribes in Africa. Here are 10 fascinating African tribal traditions from around the continent.
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
Kidnapping your bride
In the Sudanese Latuka tribe, when a man wants to marry a woman, he kidnaps her. Elderly members of his family go and ask the girl’s father for her hand in marriage, and if he agrees, the father beats the man as a sign of his acceptance of the union. However if the father disagrees, the man might force the girl to marry him anyway.
This Southern African ceremony is a common African tribal tradition that is practiced by several tribes, and is how a young boy proves his manhood. When they are of age, boys are sent to spend several days or weeks in a circumcision lodge during winter, where they’re put through rigorous and often dangerous tests like continuous dancing until exhaustion and, of course, circumcision.
Putting a price on the bride
Lobola is an ancient and controversial Southern African tribal tradition by which the families of a bride and groom negotiate how much the groom must pay for the bride. All negotiations must be done in writing — never by phone or in person. The two families cannot even speak until negotiations are complete.
Spitting your hellos
Members of the Maasai tribe in Kenya and Tanzania spit as a way of greeting. Spitting plays another role: men spit on newborns and say they are bad, in the belief that if they praise a baby, it will be cursed. Maasai warriors will also spit in their hands before shaking the hand of an elder.
In the Ethiopian Hamer tribe, in order to prove their manhood, young boys must run, jump and land on the back of a bull, before then attempting to run across the backs of several bulls. They do this multiple times, and usually in the nude.
The man wears a veil
The Ahaggaren Tuaregs live in Algeria and are part of a larger group of Berber-speaking Tuaregs. In their culture, the men wear veils almost all the time. However, they can take their veils off when inside family camps or while traveling.
Women have their own houses
In the Gio tribe in Ivory Coast, each wife has her own small house that she lives in with her children until they are old enough to move out. The children never live with their fathers.
Women can’t grieve elders
In the Southwestern Congo, the Suku tribe honors ancestors and elders, when they die, with a ceremony held in the clearing of a forest. Here, gifts and offerings are brought, but outsiders and all women are forbidden to attend.
Sons are raised by their uncles
When male children reach age 5 or 6 in the Northern Angolan Songo tribe, they are sent to live with their uncles on their mother’s side. This is because chiefs inherit their position through matrilineal lines.
Wealth is measured by cows
In the Pokot tribe in Kenya, wealth is measured by how many cows a family has. Most Pokot people are either “corn people” or “cow people”— meaning that’s what they cultivate on their land — but all people measure their wealth by cows. The number of women a man is allowed to marry is determined by how many cows he has.