February 21, 2005

Brutal Rites of Passage for Boys

Poking around the net, I came across these scary descriptions of what some might call barbaric rite of passage rituals for boys. If you can imagine, these acts were performed by the men of the village who had watched these boys grow up, knew the boys and their parents. They were also the men whose sacred job it was to insure the young males became established in their manhood and stepped into new roles of responsibility in their community. The men knew that the survival of their tribe depended on the success of this critical rite of passage.

While my "modern" psyche has trouble with what was physically done to the boys (and I'm not recommending it), part of me wishes that like those boys, I had been surrounded by a group of adult men who cared enough about my future, that they would stop their lives and take the time required to teach me everything they knew about manhood. And then be strong enough to inflict the pain required to mark me as a male, clearly and without question, on the way to manhood.

"While boys do not experience such clear physiological markers of transition to adulthood as menstruation, their rites of passage to this new status in some cultures are more severe than for girls. Among the Barabaig of East Africa, the boys' heads are shaved and their foreheads are cut with three deep horizontal incisions that go down to the bone and extend from ear to ear. This scarification leaves permanent scars that identify a male as having received 'gar.' Sometimes, the incisions are deep enough to show up on the skulls of dead men.

Among the Luise Indians, boys had to undergo severe ordeals such as laying on red ant mounds and not crying out from pain as they were repeatedly bitten over long periods of time. They were also given toloache , a powerful hallucinogenic drug that made them ill and apparently sometimes caused their death.

Among some Australian Aborigine societies, a boy being initiated was expected to repeatedly hit his penis with a heavy rock until it was bruised and bloody. He also had several of his incisor teeth knocked out with a sharp rock by the adult men who were instructing him in the duties and obligations of manhood and the secrets of their religion.

All of these rite of passage rituals were intended to be painful in order to increase the importance of the transition to adulthood."

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