The transition from being a child to an adult is something we all experience in life. In some cultures the celebration of boys and girls transitioning into men and women is considered a significant one. Regardless of cultural background, there exists a common collective need to assist in guiding the younger generation into adulthood. While for some people it may mean a celebration of an age which legalizes them to certain activities, for others it is nothing less than a living nightmare. Here are some of the weirdest and most terrifying puberty customs from around the world.
1. Matis tribe: When a boy comes of age, poison is dumped into his eyes and he is then forced to hunt.
Hunting has been around since the creation of mankind. In order to survive, most living things hunt. Hunting requires hand-eye coordination and years of practice to stalk the prey, without alerting it. As if it wasn’t hard enough, the Matis tribe, an indigenous people of Brazil with a total population of roughly 290, have a special ritual when a boy comes of age. In order to prove himself to the tribe members, he has to have bitter poison dumped into his eyes and then be subjected to cruel beatings and whippings prior to the hunt. The ritual is only complete when the boy manages to successfully catch a prey.
2. Matausa Tribe: For boys who want to become men, wooden canes are shoved down their throats and pulled through their nose.
In some cultures, when a boy becomes a man, they perform cleanliness ceremonies to rid his past mistakes. However, the Matausa tribe take the coming of age ceremony to a whole new level of pain. Young men, who wish to get rid of their impurity and to instill vitality, must go through a ritual where two wooden canes are shoved down their throat – until they vomit blood. They believe that a boy’s true strength cannot be realized until he is pure. The canes are then brought back up through the nostrils and their tongues are stabbed by the elders until their blood has been deemed sufficiently purified.
3. The Iria ceremony in the Okrika Tribe: Young women must stand alone by a riverside and sing for days.
The Iria Ceremony in the Okrika Tribe takes place when a young girl reaches womanhood. The girl must end the long-standing romantic relationship she has enjoyed with a water spirit through childhood by standing at a riverside and singing for days. She is then rescued by a man from the tribe before the the water spirits return in an attempt to recapture their former love.
4. Satere-Mawe tribe: Young men have to wear ant filled gloves and dance for 10 minutes without shedding tears.
Young boys of the Satere-Mawe tribe have to go through one of the most excruciating pain known to man, by taking the most painful insect sting in the world. The Paraponera clavata, a species of ant (commonly known as the bullet ant), has an extremely potent sting. The bullet ant’s sting represents a critical component of a tribal tradition. Young boys are forced to wear gloves filled with the ants and have to dance for at least 10 minutes while enduring the pain. They also have to hide their pain and in no form show the elders that they are suffering. The 10 minutes of torture lasts for at least a week, but all men from the tribe go through the painful process in order to reach adulthood.
5. Sambia tribe: “Ritualized Homosexuality”.
Boys born into the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea do not experience childhood. Once born into the world, they are taken from their mother for a decade-long exercise and won’t see a woman until their adolescence. While being at the male-only isolation camp, they are forced to have nosebleeds, forced vomiting and things such as semen ingestion. Many critics have claimed that the practices are more of “ritualized homosexuality”.
6. Native American tradition: The quest to finding one’s inner self.
The vision quest has been an integral Native American tradition for centuries. The ritual involves sending young men out into the wilderness for several days. The men will be fasting during this period and have to survive by themselves until they have an inner vision. The belief is that the ritual helps young men find direction in their lives and develop them into grown adults.
7. Fula people: Getting whipped.
The Fula people are a migratory group of West Africa. The Fula boys that come of age have to go through a painful initiation into manhood. They have to engage in face-to-face whip matches where they whip their opponent as hard as possible. The cross-tribe whipping battle includes sticks bearing sharp points which are also covered in thorns for maximum damage. The idea is to not beat your opponent but to hide the pain. Young men who take the most painful beatings and manage to hide the pain will be greeted with the title of becoming a man.
8. Mandan tribe: A ceremony that includes cutting off their pinkies.
The Mandans are a Native American tribe residing in North Dakota. The tribe used to practice rituals which are non-existent today. Young Mandan boys who are hoping to be recognized as warriors have to endure four days of sleepless fasting, then voluntarily be pierced by wooden sticks and hung from the ceiling while not expressing their pain. The young men usually pass out from the intense pain, and when they finally wake up, their pinkies are cut off as as offering to the spirits. This completes the ritual and they are welcomed into adulthood.
9. Mardudjara tribe: Achieving manhood by losing a good portion of his own.
The rite of passage from boyhood to manhood of the Australian Mardudjara Aborigines consists of two parts: circumcision and subincision. When an Aborigine boy comes of age, usually around 15 or 16, the tribal elders will lead the boy to a fire and have him lie down next to it. Tribal members surround the boy while singing and dancing. Another group of men, called the Mourners, wail and cry while the circumcision is performed. The tribal elder in charge of the circumcision sits on top of the boy’s chest, facing his penis, and performs the ritual. When the circumcision is complete, the boy kneels on a shield that’s placed over the fire so the smoke can rise up and purify his wound. The whole ritual takes place without any anesthetics.
10. Vanuatu men: Bungee jumping or land diving.
Every year from April to June, the Vanuatuan island of Pentecost hosts one of the most spectacular and death-defying cultural ceremonies ever conceived. Known as the Nagol, it sees men climb flimsy 100-foot wooden towers and dive headfirst into empty space, with nothing to break their fall but vines tied their ankles. Young boys coming of age have to dive using these vines, which are tied to the 100-foot tower. Boys as young as seven or eight are invited to take part in the tradition.