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Male pubertal seclusion is a cultural characteristic shared by 10 Indian tribes in Alto Xingu, central Brazil. The seclusion lasts from several months to three years, with periods of interruption. Seclusion acts as a rite of passage and is connected with a boy’s social, psychological, and physical maturation process into adulthood. This period is marked by many rules and taboos, and boys are considered highly vulnerable to the workings of evil entities. From 1978 to 1985, 133 boys between the ages of 11 and 20 years were observed in seclusion. Twenty-four of these youths showed clinical symptoms of intoxication, with seven of them dying in the acute phase, whereas the other seventeen developed peripheral neuropathy. The mortality rate among males was 6.6 times higher than that among females. Our findings suggest that the high risk of death associated with male pubertal seclusion results from the use of some native plants in infusions or ointments in the rite’s purification process.