There are some insanely violent wedding ceremonies and traditions out there, to be sure, and some of them haven't altered with the centuries. Calling many of them "sacrificial rites" is perhaps a bit of a stretch... unless the marriage in question is to death, or the couple is getting into some ultra-extravagant and weird religious sex tradition – veins and mandalas a-flowing – with a charismatic cult leader looking on in ecstasy.
However, there's no doubt that most of these nuptial traditions do bear at least a superficial resemblance to sacrifices and Viking-style wedding rituals, and some of the items on this list – like the "bride kidnappings" of Kyrgyzstan – are downright (un-symbolically) barbaric. To find out what happens when quaintly macabre traditions enter into the modern world of nuptials, read on.
Forget blood and guts: this is surely the nastiest wedding tradition of all time, just on a visceral-imagery-gag-out level. (Though the only sacrifice it demands is the possibly permanent sacrifice of one's ability to savor the art of culinary preparation).
This custom comes to us from France, a country almost universally associated with sophistication, intellect, and taboo-breaking scandal. According to sources, the ritual goes like this.
"After the wedding reception, the happy couple are sent on their way to their marriage bed while the bridal party stay behind to clean up the mess. They do this by dumping all the leftover punch and cake and hors d'oeuvres and napkins and bits of trash off their shoes into a chamber pot, creating a garbage stew. While the newlyweds are tangled up in bed preparing to do the nasty, half a dozen or more loud and presumably drunk people barge into the room with a toilet full of slop and don't leave until the bride and groom drink it."
Blech! Nowadays, said trash is generally a combination of chocolate and champagne (or something similarly palatable), and it's generally served in innocuously elegant vessels, like a dish vaguely decked out to look like a chamber pot. Nevertheless, what's known cannot be unknown, and once something has been in a toilet, symbolically or otherwise, there's no going back.
Described by this article as a "ritual hazing," the Scottish tradition of Wedding Blackening is kind of like a merrier, more imaginative version of the semi-sacrificial tradition of tarring and feathering. Though the practice is widely considered to be fun and ebullient – no different than something one might experience during a good-natured initiatory frat blackout, for example – it does require having something of a strong stomach. According to sources:
"Depending on the region, either the bride or the groom, or both, are taken captive by their friends, relatives, co-workers and whoever else wishes to join in on the fun, tied to chair [sic] and covered in disgusting and foul substances like feathers, smelly sauces, rotten eggs, spoiled curry, curdled milk, boot polish, treacle, tar, soot, flour, cocoa powder or anything black and grungy."
The spouses-to-be are then generally marched through town, parade-float style, as revelers follow behind them. Sometimes neighbors even come out of their houses to add their own fluids to the mix, so... make of that what you will.
Remember in Snow White, when the huntsman sacrificed a deer and brought its heart to the Queen so that Snow White could escape into the forest? This tradition is (sort of) akin to that. Thanks to this resourceful Greek custom, not being a virgin on one's wedding night was ultimately no big deal: all one had to do was substitute the blood of a newly slaughtered rooster for the virginity blood. The logic went something like this:
"If the wife to-be wasn’t exactly untouched before the wedding, the family of the bride used to kill a rooster and preserve his blood for the girl to use on her first night as a wife... according to the old Greeks, the rooster has the same color blood as that of a virgin woman... the same thing would happen if the new couple had 'spent time together' before getting married. The groom to be would help his wife to prove her purity and be accepted by his strict family."
The best (nest?) is yet to come, though – on the wedding morning, the respective families would all cook up the bird and have a huge, joyful, celebratory feast. The phrase "out of the bedroom and onto the table" (if you want to imagine that there is such a phrase) has never been more apropos.
This is one wedding ritual that is literally sacrificial. The Daur Chick Liver tradition comes to us from Inner Mongolia, China... and the gist of it is that unhealthy poultry portends an unhealthy marriage. According to sources,
"The young couple must take a knife and together slaughter a chick. The [wedding] date is then divined by the appearance of the chick’s liver. If the liver has an unfortunate appearance, they must keep killing chicks until they find a good one."
It's not clear exactly what "unfortunate appearance" means, here... malformed? Shrunken? Most people – unless they're farmers or vets – likely wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy chicken liver, anyway. (Maybe that's why the divorce rate in the West is so high). But then again... who would slaughter a chick? :-(