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Ritual for Teeth, Iowa



In the 16th century the indigenous population of the Great Plains understood the watermelon to embody reproductive health and masculinity. When the ghost of a devastating winter ruined people, a local boss invented a ritual to ensure the survival of the offspring. He made a terrible and strange sacrifice, pulled out all his teeth, and put them on dishes with crushed watermelons. Then the offering was placed in the dry land to give it to the spirit inhabiting the earth.

In later years, people are thriving, and ritual offering is an honor and a ritual of passing. In the seventh year, or after all deciduous teeth had broken out, the teeth of each child would be similarly pressed into the flesh of the watermelon and buried in the ground. Despite their pagan nature, the early white settlers, who were affected by the same desire to promise a healthy future to their children, had also widely embraced the funeral ritual. Although it has fallen into obscurity, the wisdom of antiquity still affects some rural areas of Iowa.