Cultures around the world have their own unique rituals, allowing people to express their identity and bring communities together. A new cinematically-filmed TV series highlights some of these rituals, from the cities of Japan to the jungles of New Guinea, from birth and death, marriage and funerals, to ancient and modern ceremonies.

China

For young teenagers looking for love in Southwest China, many lay their hopes on an ancient ritual that gives the Long Horn Miao people their name. Girls wear huge wigs made from the hair of their ancestors, wrapped around long wooden horns. Both girls and boys dress to impress and sing love songs dating back to the 7th century.

Body painting is an important ritual for the Kayapo people in the Amazon. Photo / Supplied
Body painting is an important ritual for the Kayapo people in the Amazon. Photo / Supplied

Brazilian Amazon

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Ritual body painting is a way of marking significant events for the Kayapo people in the Brazilian Amazon. The traditional geometric designs in this image are being painted in preparation to welcome a new village chief.

Hundreds of cuts, resembling crocodile scales, are made in the skin of Papua New Guinea's Kaningara villagers so they may take on the power of the crocodile spirit. Photo / Supplied
Hundreds of cuts, resembling crocodile scales, are made in the skin of Papua New Guinea's Kaningara villagers so they may take on the power of the crocodile spirit. Photo / Supplied

Papua New Guinea

The people of Kaningara village, Papua New Guinea, have a tradition of body carving as an initiation into adulthood. Hundreds of cuts are made in the skin to resemble the scales of a crocodile, powerful predators the village has lived alongside for thousands of years. In the last century, the arrival of missionaries saw the people incorporate Christian beliefs into their longstanding belief system of honouring the crocodile spirit.

Boys of the Balngarra community paint their faces with white clay, in preparation for a Dow Ceremony near their home in Australia's Northern Territory. Photo / Supplied
Boys of the Balngarra community paint their faces with white clay, in preparation for a Dow Ceremony near their home in Australia's Northern Territory. Photo / Supplied

Australia's Northern Territory

In Australia, indigenous communities pass the stories of their heritage down through generations via song and dance. Boys of the Balngarra community paint their faces with white clay in preparation for a ritual ceremony.

Novice nuns of the Jain faith in India must have each hair pulled from their heads as the final ritual of their initiation. Photo / Supplied
Novice nuns of the Jain faith in India must have each hair pulled from their heads as the final ritual of their initiation. Photo / Supplied

India

To show their dedication to their faith, would-be nuns of the Jain faith in India demonstrate a total rejection of physical pain by having each hair on her head plucked out by hand. Once the 90-minute initiation is complete, the nuns surrender all worldly possessions and cut family ties.

Horses are allocated at random for the Palio di Seina - an ancient horse race between rival districts in the city. Photo / Supplied
Horses are allocated at random for the Palio di Seina - an ancient horse race between rival districts in the city. Photo / Supplied

Siena, Italy

A world-famous annual ceremony unites the city's rival districts with a bareback horserace around the main square. The ritual, unchanged since medieval times, is one of the biggest events in their annual calendar even though the race is often over in as little as 75 seconds.

For Taiwan's naval elite, the culmination of the final selection, known as Hell Week, is a brutal exercise along 50m of sharp coral called The Road to Heaven. Photo / Supplied
For Taiwan's naval elite, the culmination of the final selection, known as Hell Week, is a brutal exercise along 50m of sharp coral called The Road to Heaven. Photo / Supplied

Taiwan

In order to ensure only the most elite recruits make it to Taiwan's navy, Marine hopefuls must endure a gruelling Hell Week – six days and five nights of almost non-stop exercise. The demanding initiation ritual culminates in The Road to Heaven – a brutal exercise along 50m of sharp coral. Those who successfully make it to the naval elite form an unbreakable fraternal bond.

For Japanese Bonsai master, Chiyako Yamamoto, the ritual care of Bonsai trees connects her to nature and an immense span of time. Photo / Supplied
For Japanese Bonsai master, Chiyako Yamamoto, the ritual care of Bonsai trees connects her to nature and an immense span of time. Photo / Supplied

Japan

The Japanese art of bonsai is appreciated around the globe. For Bonsai master Chiyako Yamamoto, the ritual care of bonsai trees connects her to nature and brings her peace. One of the several hundred trees in her care was collected by her grandfather and is now more than 100 years old. She is now in her 60s and the ritual re-potting of bonsai to keep them at a perfect miniature is something to which she has dedicated her life.

Inuit boys must pass a rite of passage hunting a seal on the ice by dogsled to show they are hunters. Photo / Supplied
Inuit boys must pass a rite of passage hunting a seal on the ice by dogsled to show they are hunters. Photo / Supplied

Greenland

A rite of passage for Inuit boys is the ancient act of seal hunting. To prove the boys are ready to become hunters, they must first bond with the dogs that carry them across the ice. Snowmobiles have been banned to preserve the longstanding bonding ritual.

In Senegal, professional wrestlers wear ritual amulets and dowse themselves in potions to give them the edge in the arena. Photo / Supplied
In Senegal, professional wrestlers wear ritual amulets and dowse themselves in potions to give them the edge in the arena. Photo / Supplied

Senegal

In Senegal, wrestling is also a means of achieving social status and wealth. The country's No. 1 sport is intertwined with magical beliefs of the Senegalese people. Professional wrestlers wear talismans and amulets, and douse themselves in potions, milk, and other magical liquids for an edge in the ring. These holy rituals are said to make the competitors stronger and protect them against their opponents' curses.

Flames leap high into the desert night in Nevada as thousands of participants at the Burning Man gather to watch the ritual burning of a great wooden temple. Photo / Supplied
Flames leap high into the desert night in Nevada as thousands of participants at the Burning Man gather to watch the ritual burning of a great wooden temple. Photo / Supplied

Nevada, USA

The Burning Man festival in Nevada showcases an example of a modern ritual that has grown and transformed over time. The tradition of burning a wooden temple began in the year 2000, constructed by an artist to commemorate the death of a friend who died en route to the festival. Since then, the temple has grown in size and significance – each year 70,000 people from all over the world build the 30m structure from scratch as a place to express emotion and reflect on the loss of friends and loved ones.

Rituals premieres on BBC Earth, Monday May 20, 8.30pm