Humans started from caves and built metropolitans. We began with discovering fire and went on to discover nuclear energy. We wrote our own origin stories. The one thing no one can take away from us is our creativity, and our imagination, unique to every person. Then why would we stay behind in doing extravagant activities for one of the most important stages in one’s life- entering adulthood! See how some cultures really outdid themselves when they created these bizarre rituals, with the strangest backstories!
The Shark Teeth of Mentawai
In the Mentawai tribe of Indonesia, young girls reaching puberty get their teeth sharpened, using a chisel, some elbow grease, and NO ANAESTHETIC. That’s some badass behavior right there if you ask me. Much like having delicately manicured nails or perfectly shaped eyebrows are a coveted look in the western world, sharp, shark-like teeth are part of a major beauty standard in this community. Barbaric? Perhaps, but if it makes young women feel confident and powerful, then we’re all for it.
Vanuatu Land Diving- A Compulsory Adventure
These guys need no adventure parks, for they are the OG Bungee Jumpers. In this small island nation in the middle of the South Pacific, boys reaching puberty tie a bungee-like vine to their foot and jump onto the ground. Oh, did I forget to mention? They jump from a 98- feet tall tower, and the “bungee cord” is so designed that their heads must barely touch the ground.
The stakes are super-high with this one, for the slightest slip-up in the vine-length could lead to a very painful, bone-shattering death. But it is what it is, and young men take pride in finishing this ritual as it somehow proves their fearlessness and manliness to the crowd. As with other rituals, there are a bunch of seemingly unnecessary rules associated with this one too, but would you rather take the risk than go along with the superstition?
“Na‘ii’ees”- The Apache Awakening Ritual
This one’s kind of my favorite, because of its non-violent nature, mystic underpinnings, and because it symbolizes the acceptance of a powerful womanhood by a young girl. In some Native American tribes grouped as Apache, every girl entering a certain age re-enacts the legend of the first woman, the ‘White Painted Woman’.
While this sounds somewhat scary, it’s actually a really jolly affair consisting of four days of praying, dancing, singing etc. The girl is covered in white pollen and is hypothesised to awaken the ‘White Woman’ inside her, giving her healing powers. The festival symbolizes the recognition of the strength and mystic powers of a woman by the girl, a spiritual idea that sounds empowering and amazing!
The Cozy Mittens of Sateré-Mawé
This tribe from the Brazilian Amazon takes tolerance training to a whole new level. Young boys at the age of 13 need to wear gloves for a while. Sounds easy enough. The catch, you ask? The gloves are embedded with dozens of freshly harvested and very angry Bullet Ants, who earned their name for their agonising sting, said to be as bad as being hit by an actual bullet. The boys must wear these ‘gloves of love’ for 10 minutes at a stretch, and for a total of 20 times over the course of several months, to complete the initiation. If they can endure the pain without crying out or surrendering, then they have proved themselves as real men. Even though this somewhat screams toxic masculinity (no shade on the community), such a level of endurance and stamina is truly needed to survive in the jungle.
Festa das Moças Novas- A Party for Young Girls
Quite literally, actually. The Tukuna people of Northwest Amazon, hold a pretty elaborate event with an even crazier story behind it. Upon the onset of menstruation, the girl lives in seclusion in an inner chamber constructed especially for this ritual inside her house. This goes on for about 4-12 weeks, during which time she is said to be residing in the underworld and at danger from the demons, called Noo.
Then comes the fun climax. Some guests enact their parts as incarnations of the demons, complete with a mask and outfit, while the female initiate remains in the chamber for 2 more days, protected from the Noo by a black genipa dye painted over her body. When she emerges, she basically parties with her family until dawn. Then she throws a sacred fire brand at the ‘Noo’ (poor relatives), which symbolizes the breaking of their dark power, and the successful initiation of the young lady into womanhood. Whoo, this tradition really tickles the actor inside me, though living isolated for that long might get boring. But hey, at least I get to throw explosives at annoying relatives!
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