Coming of age or reaching puberty is celebrated in many different ways around the world. In some cultures is a very important ritual marked by ceremonies while in other countries it is simply a birthday and the legal age for certain activities. Some of the countries that have distinct rituals also have very unusual rituals that are considered inhumane by some people and simply a part of life for other people. The ten oddest rituals pertaining to puberty are described below.
10. Female Tattooing
Paraguay and Brazil
In Paraguay and Brazil it is common for young girls who reach the age of puberty and have their first menstrual cycle to undergo tattooing. This is considered to be sexually attractive and not a form of pain. The girl is gouged with fish bone on the back, breast and stomach and then ashes are rubbed in the wounds to create a permanent tattoo. Although somewhat odd, this is the least painful and unusual of the rites of passage found around the word.
9. Filing down the upper canines
In Bali it is a tradition to file the upper canines even with the upper incisors. The Bali people believe this ritual helps to remove any forces of evil around the person as they believe the teeth to be symbols of jealousy, lust, greed, anger, confusion and insobriety. They believe that filing the teeth takes the evil traits away and makes the person more beautiful while at the same time ushering them into adulthood. The tooth filing ceremony is conducted by the Brahmin or priest whenever possible and is conducted under very stringent conditions, including the time of the ceremony, the tools used and even the person who is undergoing the ritual being kept isolated the day before the ceremony. The adolescents who have their teeth filed are well aware of the significance of the ceremony and refuse to cry out. This unusual rite makes the tooth fairy seem like an angel.
8. Boys Drink Sperm to Become Men
Papau New Guinea – Etoro Tribe
Unbeknownst to many people there are many tribes and cultures around the world that practice homosexuality ritualistically. Such is the case of the Etoro Tribe of Papau New Guinea. This tribe believes that the power of the man, his vital force, is found in his semen. This tribe teaches and believes that young boy must ingest the semen of the older tribe members in order to become adults. This literally translates into a homosexual relationship between the boy and his mentor for several years at which point the boy becomes a man he becomes mentor to a younger boy, passing on the life force. The Etoro tribe also believes that if a woman does not become pregnant she has wasted the life force and is considered to be of lower caste.
Circumcision in many countries occurs shortly after birth; however, in some countries it is considered a coming of age rite that marks the young person’s movement from adolescence into adulthood. The ceremony is held for both young boys and girls who are judged to be ready for the rite. Although male circumcision is considered normal around the world, female circumcision or clitoridectomy is not the norm around the world some people consider cutting a female’s genitals to be inhumane and atrocious. Despite the controversy the circumcision of both boys and girls continues in many tribes around the world. However, female circumcision is becoming an option rather than an expectation in some tribes. Despite being an option many young girls choose to undergo this ritual to follow in the paths of her ancestors.
6. Physical Beatings
Menses Rite of the Uaupes of Brazil
When a girl reaches puberty and her menstrual cycle starts it is her step forward into womanhood. In many countries it is celebrated over a period of days and often involves physical beatings. In the Uaupes people of Brazil the ritual of the menses includes house seclusion of the girl for one month with only bread and water. Once the seclusion is complete the girl is brought out naked and beat with sticks by family and friends until she is either dead or blacks out. Once the girl wakes up, if she does, the beating is repeated four times. After the fourth beating the sticks used to beat her with are dipped into pots of fat and given to the girl to lick for nourishment. She is now considered a woman and worthy of marriage.
5. Shaving and Scarring Boys Heads
Barabaig Culture of East Africa
Among the many different cultures of the world that have rites of passage for young men transitioning to adulthood are the Barabaig cattle herding tribe of East Africa. These people believe that shaving the boy’s heads and cutting them down to the bone from ear to ear in three deep horizontal cuts would make them into men. The resulting scar, called a ‘gar’, is a symbol of manhood and the boys who have it wear it with pride.
4. Lying on Ant Beds
In the Luiseno Indian tribe young boys undergo a painful rite of passage but are not allowed to show their pain. Several painful ceremonial acts are required before the boy is recognized as a man by his tribe. The first of these is lying on a mound of ants for a period of time. The boy is not allowed to cry out or grimace in pain as his body is continually bitten by the ants. In a separate part of the ceremony boys are given tolocahe, a hallucinogenic drug that is supposed to help them see visions and become a man, if it didn’t kill them first.
3. Male Birth Control Ritual
As if circumcision as an adolescent boy were not enough of a rite of passage, the Australian Aboriginal tribe takes the adolescent male and makes it possible for him to propagate but only when it is a special occasion. This is done by piercing a hole through the boy’s penis near the base. After the hole is made, a piece of splinter is inserted in the hole to keep it from growing back together. Once this hole is made, the only way that sperm can travel the proper channel is to plug the hole with a finger, which obviously makes it hard to procreate often as it requires assistance or at least a helping hand. During this rite of passage the young man lies with a stick between his teeth, uttering not a word.
Considered by many modern cultures to be one of the most horrific rites of passage in the world, female infibulations, the surgical closure of the labia major to seal the vagina, is practiced still in many cultures around the world. The cultures that practice this either do so to render the woman unable to have sexual intercourse ever or they are insuring that the woman’s future husband gets a virgin. Regardless of why it is done, it is a painful process that leaves barely a hole for the menses to escape through. Modern doctors have fought against this practice in other cultures due to the damage it can do to the female’s organs and the fact that it can cause urinary incontinence.
1. Drunken Stupor
With all the horrific acts being done to young people crossing over to adulthood it is good to look at lighter side of becoming adult that is the case in many other cultures. In many countries around the world a large majority of adolescents who reach adulthood spend their day of legal age imbibing in as many vices as they can legally do in order to show the world they are now adults. It might not be circumcision or a bed of ants, but the ensuing headache is usually one for the record books.
From tattoos to circumcision to drunken stupors rites of passage are common around the world. In some cultures these ceremonies or acts are little more than a fun time with friends and families meant to celebrate the legal coming of age; in other cultures the rites are serious and painful and meant to show the person has attained the maturity level to be an adult and handle the responsibilities that go with being an adult. In all cultures there is an unseen gap that one crosses from a child to an adult that is a time of great pride for the person crossing over.