13 Puberty Rituals Around The World That Range From The Quaint To The Morbid

In cultures across the world, coming of age marks a crucial turning point in one’s life and calls for celebration. It’s different for everyone, and more often than not making the leap to adulthood is a living nightmare in itself. So, thank your lucky stars that you weren’t born an aborigine in Australia, in Somalia or in the Sepik River tribe of Papua New Guinea, as the initiation rituals are absolutely horrifying.

Here are some of the weirdest puberty customs from around the world:

1. Boys from Satere-Mawe, Brazilian Amazon rainforest, wear gloves made of fire ants

Before anything, the main aim of this ritual is to teach the boys that “a life lived without suffering anything or without any kind of effort is not worth anything, at all”.But this tradition is both mentally and physically excruciating. Boys as young as 12 years old gather bullet ants from the forest, and then weave the bugs into pairs of gloves. 

The ants which are initially sedated, wake up full power to lodge the worst sting when worn as gloves. The boys are made to perform a ritualistic dance with the gloves on.FYI, the sting of a fire ant is worse than that of a bee and adolescent boys go through this initiation 20 times over.

2. In Sepik River, Papua New Guinea, boys are cut so the scars look like crocodile scales

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Boys as young as 11 in a Papua New Guinean tribe, take part in a ritual that pays tribute to the crocodile . It involves the boys having their skin cut a number of times and then healing which leaves marks that resemble those of crocodile scales.

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  • 3. Drinking Elders’ Semen

    Boys of Etoro tribe of Papua New Guinea are known for their ritual homosexual acts, that includes drinking their elders’ sperm to initiate adulthood. They believe that real way to achieve strength and courage is to consume the semen of an elder.  Only about 400 people make up the Etoro tribe.

    4. In Indonesia, young boys and girl get their upper canines filed

    Mepandes is a teeth-filling ceremony that takes place in Bali, Indonesia. It involves removing the sharp edges of canine teeth and filling the front six teeth flat. The aim is to ward off lust, greed, anger, and jealousy. It is only performed on girls who have attained puberty.

    5. Girls in Paraguay and Brazil get extensive body tattoos

    Among certain tribes in Paraguay and Brazil, tattoos are considered to a sign of  sexual attractiveness in a woman and girls who have come of age are forced to get intricate tattoos all over the body.

    6. Breast Ironing

    Another inhuman initiation ritual practiced in Africa, involves ironing out the breasts of young girls. It is also called breast flattening.  It  is a common rite of passage in Cameroon, and the “procedure” involves the chest being pounded with hot objects such as large stones, a hammer, or a spatula to compress the breast tissue.  It happens in the privacy of the home between mother and daughter, and the father may not even be aware of it.

    7. Iria Ceremony

    The Orika tribe in Nigeria believe that young girls have a romantic relationships with water spirits.  After they come of age they must go down to a river and perform the Iria ritual which involves singing songs to break their bond with the water spirits.

    8. Confucian Coming of Age Traditions: Ji Li and Guan Li

    Confucian-style coming of age ceremonies Ji Li (for girls) and Guan Li (for boys) typically honor youth who have turned 20. Ji Li is for Han women has seen a resurgence in recent years. The young women dress in traditional Chinese clothing and participate in a hairpin ceremony in which her hair gets washed, combed, and put into an updo with pins made of gold, jade, or wood.

    9. Ihanktonwan Oyate Reservation, South Dakota’s Yankton Sioux

    Girls in South Dakota’s Yankton Sioux tribe who’ve had their first period go through a four-day ceremony. They are not allowed eat or drink by themselves and are fed by  mothers and other women in the “moon camp.” During the four day initiation ceremony elders give serious talks about sex, relationships, and mental health.

    10. Gwan Rye, South Korea

    On every third Monday of May, Korean men and women around 20 years old celebrate Gwan Rye. Women entering adulthood traditionally wear an ornamental hairpin and a hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, and receive three symbolic gifts: perfume, roses, and a kiss.

    11. Sunrise Ceremony, Apache Tribe

    Apache girls are required to complete the sunrise ceremony, also known as Na’ii’ees or the puberty ceremony, during the summer following their first menstruation

    During the four-day ceremony, the girls are not allowed to touch their skin, or drink from anything other than their drinking tubes. They must also reenact the Apache Origin Myth drawing each female participant closer to the first woman, known as White Painted Woman, Changing Woman, or simply Esdzanadehe.

    12. Mardudjara Circumcision

    Boys in this Aborigine tribe are led off into the woods where the elders circumcise them. They are then made to swallow their foreskin and once they heal they are led back out into the woods. Genital mutilation follows after which they must stand bleeding over an open fire.

    13. Inuit Coming of Age Tradition: North Baffin Island

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    In North Baffin Island, Inuit boys  between the ages of 11 and 12 are made to go out to the wilderness with their fathers and test their hunting skills and acclimatize to the harsh Arctic weather. A shaman is called to open the lines of communication between men and animals.

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