Life is all about transitions, changes and growth. Thanks to civilization which has freed mankind to a great extent from several bizarre, life threatening cultural and religious practices of old. Most of them are so repulsive and strange that you won’t believe it was practiced(and of course still in practice) in any part of this globe called earth! The most difficult and serious ones are the ones that are associated with coming of age, that is, rites of passage. As cute as children are, every parent always wish them growth and that comes with a lot of expectation and wisdom. It’s not just about age advancements, but about understanding life just the way it is, with no rose-colored glasses, embracing all its bitter-sweet moments and ups and downs.
Rites of passage in adolescence are a cross-cultural phenomenon. They have existed throughout human history and may be a significant factor in the development of a stable adult personality. Coming of age traditions might be somewhat awkward, weird, funny, casual, tasking or DEAD SERIOUS. It basically has a spiritual/religious, social and traditional undertone. Although it varies from culture to culture, most of these traditions force young people to test their patience, stamina, pain-tolerance and endurance.
In tribal cultures, coming of age ceremonies are, in many cases, much more elaborate and can be truly terrifying. It is only those who have imbibed western civilization that has been freed from most of the horrid ones. Here are the 10 most terrifying rites of passage ever practiced in the world. They are really sympathetic; #1 is spine chilling!
10. The ‘Iria’ Rite of Okrika Tribe, Nigeria
Usually known as the celebration of feminism and femininity. The fattening room tradition is a rite of transition that operates on the belief system that every girl in her puberty has a romantic attachment to a marine spirit and in order to severe this tie, will have to go through series of traditional/ spiritual activities to be authentically ready to be a mortal’s wife and mother. The rites come in stages – First they are taken to the fattening room, where they are taught songs, skills and lessons necessary to make a good wife and mother. There is also pageantry which comes either in the beginning or the ending of the rites. They are to spend a period of 5 weeks – 6 months, and is open to young girls between the ages of 14 to 16. All through their stay in the fattening room they make trips down to the river with the ritual of singing songs that they have been taught at dawn; possibly to appease the marine spirits. The later stage reeks of enormous pampering of the ladies to be transitioned into womanhood. They are fed with rich local foods to ensure they are plump enough to be called someone’s bride. The last bit is where the core essence of the tradition is made visible, the girls are taken to the river where they are detached from the water spirit spouses by the whacking of the senior male member of the tribe, Osokolo, in order to be free to be married to the ‘mortals’ in the community. This is the stage where the young girls experience a sort of harshness from the beatings of the Osokolo.
9. THE OGIEK TRIBE IN KENYA
Their rite of passage ceremony is similar for girls and for boys, ages 14 to 16, though the genders are initiated separately. The initiates are first ceremonially circumcised or excised. After this, they live in seclusion from adults of the opposite sex for four to 24 weeks. They paint themselves with white clay and charcoal in order to appear as wild creatures (cemaasiisyek). Certain secret knowledge is imparted by same-sex elders. These Boys and girls of the Ogiek tribe paint themselves using clay, then they’re haunted by the roar of a mythical beast and considered adults when they can replicate the roar.
8. Vanuatu Land Diving
This is practiced in the small pacific island of Vanuatu, and it serves as both a rite of passage and a harvest ritual. The men who live on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu, climb a rickety 98-foot-tall (30-meter) tower, tie vines to their ankles and dive to the ground, falling at speeds around 45 mph (72 kph). When a dive goes correctly, the person gets close enough to touch his shoulders or his head to the earth. However, unlike bungee jumping, these vines aren’t elastic and a miscalculation in vine length could lead to broken legs, cracked skulls, or even death. Boys once they have been circumcised at about age 7 or 8 begin participating, though they usually are permitted to jump from a shorter tower. As a boy makes his first dive, his mother holds an item representing his childhood. When he jumps, she throws the item away. Divers also refrain from sex the day before they jump — legend says it will cause the jump to go badly.
7. Fulani Male Whip Match and Female Face Tattooing
The nomadic Fulani people consist of many clans spread across West Africa. A couple of times a year – or more if special occasions arise – clans will travel 50 miles or so to watch this painful initiation ceremony, serving as a clan bonding experience as well. There is no set age for a boy to take part in this ritual, but they usually compete around the age of 12. This rite involves two boys who go out and find a good size stick that they think will do the most damage. Then, they sharpen it to do more damage! When they are ready, they show up to the “ring” with their crafted weapon and another boy to take his place if he cannot finish the competition. First, one boy puts his hands on his head while the other whips him with his sharpened stick as hard as he can three times, and vice versa. The point is to show the least amount of pain and whip the hardest. The boy who whips hardest and flinched the least is considered by the watching crowd as the winner. He is congratulated with friends and family throwing talc powder on him and pressing coins on his foreheads, while the loser goes home, still a boy.
On the other hand, the girls go through a rigorous painful process of having their faces marked with tattoos which takes about three hours. A local artist draws pictures on the girl’s face by stabbing her face with little needles bound together. Each picture has a special meaning for a Fulani. After all the pain is over the Fulani girl has a new status, and has been transformed into a full beautiful woman, ready for marriage.
6. Sabiny Female Circumcisions
This savage practice is still on in the land of Sabiny. Girls must go through genital mutilation for them to become full women. According to their belief, it initiates girls into womanhood, and shapes the morality of women during marriage. This rite of passage is so horrible because of the poor procedures used – same blades or knifes for more than one person, and sometimes blunt knives are used. The cutting lasts from a few seconds to a minute for each girl. The girls must have to pretend to be strong and not show any fear or pain, as weakness is culturally unacceptable and would have attracted scorn and ridicule from the crowd watching.
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5. Savage Male Circumcision of the Mardudjara Aborigines, Australia
When a young man becomes of age, his tribal elders lead him into seclusion. The men will lay down surrounding the boy facing away from a fire. An assistant will sit on the boy’s chest, while another elder will pull and twist the boy’s foreskin and proceed to slice it off. The men will take the boy to kneel upon a shield over a low-lit fire and made to eat good meat. Essentially, the meat is the boy’s own foreskin. He must swallow without chewing it, and once he has succeeded, he has eaten his own boy, and became a man. When the circumcision heals, the young man will go through a subincision. His penis will be sliced on the underside, sometimes to the scrotum. The man is then made to stand over a fire to allow the blood to drip into it and purify it. Apparently men do this to sympathize with their female counterparts. And although they will now have to squat to urinate because of these incision, when they become married, some men will often times repeat the same blood-letting process.
4. Mentawai Teeth Chiseling/sharpening
The sharpening of teeth ritual is a practice is peculiar to the Australians, Vietnamese and Sudanese; and is done for several reason – body modification, spiritual requirements or as a rite of passage into adulthood. The Mentawai people of Indonesia are also known for it alongside their body art and spirituality. For the women folk, sharpening of the teeth is their unique way of physically depicting beauty. Presently, this tradition is more of a social event- it is now optional and not mandatory. The girl/lady is free to show interest or not. Once she indicates interest, the Shaman shows up with his hammer and iron for the chiseling of the teeth. After the procedure the girl prepares for her celebration into the latest beautiful stage of her life. This rite of transition is basically done about the time of the girl’s first ovulation or later in life when she wants to do it.
3. Bullet Ant Glove of Satere-Mawe
This Amazon tribe performs an initiation ritual where young men really place their hands into mittens filled with hundreds of bullet ants. The bite is approximately 20 times more painful than being stung by a wasp. The tribal men will gather the ants and submerge them into a solution that temporarily knocks them out. The ants are then woven into the mittens. Upon waking up, the men will place their hands into the mittens and dance for 10 minutes. The ant’s sting prevents the body from protecting itself from pain. The body begins to convulse, and the pain can last up to 24 hours. The crazy thing is, many men will repeat this ritual many times to prove their manhood.
2. Blood Initiation in Papua Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a place known for its variety of methods to torture young men into adulthood. Blood initiation as it is done by the remote people of Papua Guinea involves series of blood-letting rites done to purify young men from female defilements, both the ones from their mother who bore them and the ones from other female relationships including the inhaled ones. Imagine such a weird belief! After washing in a nearby creek, elders and initiates alike shove several feet of a local plant down their throats to make them vomit repeatedly. Sharp reeds are then pushed into the initiate’s nostrils—the blood and mucus bursting forth represents the expulsion of airborne contaminants. As if they haven’t cleared enough gunk out of their system, they use a small arrow to pierce and let blood out of their tongues. This final stage represents cleansing the female presence out of their mouth.
1. Sepik Scarification – Thousands of Cuts
The tribes living along the Sepik river in Papua New Guinea have used the tradition of scarification to mature their boys into men for decades. If you do not have a heart of lion, I bet you can’t stand this! Young men, in other to become full adults are given what they call crocodile scars, which involves innumerable deep cuts given along his back, chest and buttocks in elaborate patterns, to mimic the coarse skin of a crocodile. The belief is that a figurative crocodile swallows males as boys and regurgitates them as men, therefore, this reptilian divinity consumes his youth during the bloody process, leaving behind a man in his place. Before he can be treated as a man, though, the boy is subjected to humiliation in a ritual that can take weeks. In fact, the boys are referred to as women and regarded that way in order to psychologically toughen them.This excruciating process – which occasionally ends in death – is meant to demonstrate discipline, focus and dedication, and the only way the boys are allowed to numb the pain is by munching on a plant with healing qualities. The raw wounds are cleaned after the scarification is complete, but the pain endured continues for days as their bodies heal.