Growing up is a tough job, but maturing is even harder. The society expects so much from people perceived to be crossing over from childhood to maturity. While most western societies consider this a process that should be accompanied by training, guidance and lots of patience, other communities around the world believe in one ultimate test that can prove one’s successful transition to adulthood. Some of the actions used as the ultimate tests are hilarious, scary and very dangerous.
Killing A Lion With A Spear
Lions are brave and beautiful beasts but for some reason, some people think that killing a lion makes you a hero. The global community has condemned the trophy hunting of lions in Africa for years now and the big cats are now thriving in the Savana with hope. However, the Maasai nomads of Kenya have a very unique relationship with lions.
They look at the magnificent cats as nature’s ultimate test of bravery. They don’t harm the cats unless they are a threat to their animals or when young warriors need to be confirmed as adults. The boys are sent unaided into the jungle in small groups armed with only spears. The boy or boys undergoing the passage have to be the ones to deliver the kill after the group corners one cat. Carrying a tail, the hide or the head of the lion back to the village is the ultimate proof of success.
Among the Hamar people in Ethiopia, for a boy to be allowed to own cows, marry and raise children, he has to prove his ability to jump over bulls. The ceremony which is generally attended by the entire community is one of the biggest attractions for local tourism in the country between October and November. The boys aged anywhere from 5 to 18, are required to jump onto and walk over the backs of 7 to 10 bulls without falling. Jumping the bulls is the final stage of a three-day long initiation ceremony that includes other intensive tests and training as well.
On the island of Vanuatu, one community risks broken limbs, concussions and even death just to prove maturity. The boys and men jump from wooden towers 10 to 30 meters high with no protection except vines tied around their ankles. It is now recognized as one of Vanuatu’s original sports believed to have been the inspiration behind Bungee jumping. It is practised by most indigenous communities of the Pentecost area in Vanuatu under the local term The Nagol Jump. It serves as a rite pf passage for boys aged 10 to 18 as well as men up to 30 years of age. The practice is also used as a celebration of the harvest season.
Induced Memory Loss
The Algonquian Indians of Quebec have one of the most dangerous initiation ceremonies in the world. The elders kept large reserves of Wysoccan, a powerful hallucinogen more powerful than LCD. The drink is harvested from the Datura plant and it is believed to have the ability to wipe memories. On the night of initiation, the young men would be secluded in a makeshift hut in the forest and made to drink the hallucinogen.
Proof of maturity was only confirmed if the boy lost all memory of their days as a child. If the memory wiping wasn’t effective, the boys would have to take another dose of the drink. The procedure could make the boys lose all memories including forgetting how to talk and associate with people. Some could even die. The practice has largely been abolished but there is a rumour of its practice secretly by some members of the community.
Having a skin that resembles a crocodile is not exactly the best look for most men in the modern world but the perception is different for the Chambri people of Papua New Guinea. The tribe that lives along the Sepik River believe that human beings evolved from crocodiles that swam out of the river. The initiates are taken to a spirit house with their uncles where elders cut the skin using a bamboo sliver.
There is no pain relief except the chance to chew at the leaves of a plant. After cutting, the elders waft smoke over the wounds and then fill them up with clay and tree oil. When the wounds heal, the victim’s skin takes the pattern of a crocodile and now they are considered crocodiles and not men anymore.
The Bullet Ant Glove
According to the Satire Mawe people that live deep inside the Amazon, a life lived without pain, suffering and effort is not worth anything. To prove that, 10- to 15-year-old boys go into the forest to collect bullet ants that have a bite 30 times more powerful than a bee sting. The ants are then inserted into a traditional glove and the initiates are made to wear for 20 minutes multiple times. The stings induce pain and hallucinations that last for days. The initiates have to go through the pain and delirium without losing it to prove themselves as mature.
The Mantawaian people on the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia believe that a woman is only beautiful when she has sharp teeth. As a result, a woman’s canines and incisors are “sharpened” before she can be declared beautiful enough for her husband. The painful process involves chiselling away parts of the tooth leaving it cone-shaped with a fine pointy end. It is a very painful process as no anaesthetic is allowed and the only way to numb the pain is by biting down on unripe bananas. Crude iron tools are used which could cause infection.
Whipping Each Other
This is the rite of passage for boys among the Fulani people in West Africa but it has also been seen in other African communities such as the Pokot of Kenya. The initiation is more of a brawl than an official ceremony though. The two boys go to a traditional priest or an elder for blessings before coming to the arena armed with long slender sticks from a specified tree to meet their opponent. The boys then start beating each other up with each supposed to take in the pain without flinching. The ultimate winner is the person that flinches the least.
Bloodletting and Worse
The Sambia people of Papua New Guinea have some of the toughest rites of passage of any community in the world. The boys are taken away from the women from a young age of just 7 to live only with men until they are “mature.” The first stages involve pinning the boys against a tree and inserting sharp branches into their nostrils until blood is flowing freely. The boys are then flogged by the men from time to time to harden up as warriors. Other tests include drinking the older men’s semen to “gain the strength of manhood.”
“Eating Your Own Boy”
Circumcision is one of the most common rites of passage for men around the world but the Mardudjara aboriginal tribe in Australia take it to a whole new level. The boy, 15 to 16 is taken to the initiation fire where the foreskin is cut off, without anaesthesia of course. The wound is then cauterized using smoke while the boy is made to eat the foreskin just cut from him without chewing. That way, he has eaten his own boy and now can live life as a man. The second procedure of subincision which is even more painful would follow in some cases.