War is a nasty thing. It is, in a sense, that having one is almost a guarantee that people will die. It could be the person standing beside you or in front of you, or it could be you. With that possibility, warriors would carry out some rituals to ask for divine spirits to guide them and protect them from the blades of the enemies. Sometimes, it could be to help them succeed in whatever they had to do.

Here are some rituals of various cultures to help warriors ready for war:

Maori Tribe’s Intimidating Dance

The Maori Tribe performs a ceremonial dance called Haka peruperu before the battle. It is a war cry dance “usually performed in a group and typically represents a display of a tribe’s pride, strength, and unity.” Its purpose is to hype up the warriors and intimidate the enemies through foot stamps, rhythmic body slapping, tongue protrusions, all accompanied by chants. Who wouldn’t get intimidated by this?  The general idea was to impart to the enemy the sense that the Maori were all a bunch of insane maniacs who didn’t care about being killed or injured.

Nowadays, haka is usually done as a welcoming performance for guests or to acknowledge achievements, occasions, or funerals. It is also performed by the All Blacks, the New Zealand Rugby team, before the match.

Berserkers fighting in a trance-like fury

A warrior of a Norse warrior class called Ulfhednar, which is another term associated with berserker. KaOokamiCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It is said that the Norse’s Berserkers fight in pure rage to win battles. To do so, they have to be possessed by either of the three main animal cults: the bear, the wolf, or the wild boar. They do this by living in the wilderness until they experience “berserkergang,” which was described as “…said to have begun with shivering, chattering of the teeth, and chill in the body, and then the face swelled and changed its color. With this was connected a great hot-headedness, which at last gave over into a great rage, under which they howled as wild animals, bit the edge of their shields, and cut down everything they met without discriminating between friend or foe. When this condition ceased, a great dulling of the mind and feebleness followed, which could last for one or several days.” Thus, the word “berserk” means “out of control with anger or excitement; wild or frenzied.”

Although there are speculations within modern scholars that Amanita muscaria, a hallucinogenic mushroom, or perhaps even a kind of amphetamine made from the fermented urine of deer. induced the berserker.

Kamikaze Pilots’ spiritual concoction

Group photo of Japanese Kamikaze pilots at Chōshi airfield, Japan, 1944.

The term “Kamikaze” came from the Japanese typhoon that eliminated the whole Mongol army just as when they were about to defeat Japan. The Kamikaze was a suicide mission of the Japanese air force after the fall of Saipan in 1944. They believed that the best way to inflict damage to enemy ships was through crashing aircraft to them. The common pilots of these suicide missions were university students. Just before flying, a final ceremony would be held where pilots would drink a spiritual sake infused with magic to help them succeed in their mission. The officers would thank them, and they would then board their plane with 500-pound bombs. All in all, the Kamikaze mission killed 110,000 Japanese during the operation.

These rituals might have or might not have worked, but as they say, “You do you.”

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