No matter the culture, nationality, or time, every man has been required to go through some kind of process that welcomes him into manhood. For most of us, it wasn’t clearly defined and most likely involved sipping a warm Natural Light or awkwardly asking someone out. But tradition still exists in some native tribes around the globe, and the boys of those tribes don’t have such innocuous tests. Instead, their trials involve dangerous and painful ordeals of which they must complete to move into the official status of a man of the tribe.
1) Vanuatu Land Diving
As a male member of the South Pacific Vanuatu, you are required to undergo your first trial at the age of eight. For the event, the tribe has a large tower constructed with platforms at varying heights. Each male member of the tribe must climb to a platform, attach a vine from the tower to their body, and launch themselves into the air. The vine functions similar to a bungee-cord, but doesn’t have near the elasticity or the reliability of an actual cord. The youngest boys jump from the lowest platform, which is still 2 stories high. As the age increases, so does the height. For the full grown men of the tribe the level of danger increases incredibly; when they jump, they build their vines so that their heads touch the ground at the bottom. If they accidentally cut the vines a few inches too long, the jump will end in disaster. But, after all of the years and the jumps, the tribe has only suffered two known deaths. The video below captures on of these head-touchers as well as a vine breaking on a jumper.
2) Australian Aborigines Circumcision
Australian Aborigine males undergo their trial at the age of 16. There are two stages to their induction process. It starts by all members of the tribe escorting the boy to a secluded place, where they all chant for an hour. Once that is complete, two men get on their hands and knees, and the boy climbs onto their backs. There, without anesthesia, the boy is circumcised. He is then given a week to rest and recover. Then the second, and far more horrific, act happens. The process is called penile subincision, and it involves the underside of the penis being incised and the urethra slit open lengthwise, from the urethral opening toward the base. A sub-incised penis is thought to resemble a vulva, and the bleeding is likened to menstruation. The process makes ejaculation, and urination, much more difficult. Once he is ready to get a girl pregnant, he must take additional steps to ensure that the ejaculate travels into the woman’s vagina.
3) Hamar Cow Jumping
Young men of the Hamer Tribe of Southern Ethiopia are required to participate in the jumping of cows. The full tribe, both men and women, gather for this event. Participants are expected to jump over a line of 10 to 30 bulls four times completely nude without falling. If they are successful, the man joins the ranks of the Maza, who are other men that have successfully completed the bull jumping event. These men are the leaders of the tribe and rank above non-Maza men. During the event, the women of the tribe provoke the maza to whip them on their bare backs, which the men then do. The process is extremely painful and causes severe scaring on the women. These scars are a symbol of devotion to the men and are encouraged by the tribe.
4) The Algonquin Drug Trip
Boys of the Algonquin Indian tribe of Quebec are required to undergo a hallucinogenic experience. To begin the process, they are brought to a secluded area and often caged. They are then fed an intoxicating medicine known as wysoccan. This wysoccan contains a poison from the deadly datura flower, and is a 100 times more powerful than LSD. The boys spend 20 days in a completely deranged state that includes a racing heartbeat, amnesia and hypothermia. Those who survive occasionally forget who they are or how to speak. The basis of this process is to have the boys forget about childhood so they can move into adulthood unadulterated. After going through this intense experience, the boys are returned to the village. If they show any signs of recognition towards their childhood, they are turned around and forced to undergo the process again.
5) Matis Hunting Trials
The Matis people are an indigenous people of Brazil who live in two separate villages with total population of roughly 390. When boys come of age, they need to undergo a very painful and dangerous process to move into the role of a Matis hunter. It begins by men dumping poison directly into the eyes of the boys. This is allegedly to improve their vision and enhance their senses, after the pain stops, presumably. Next, they undergo a physical test that involves beatings as well as whippings. For the final stage, the boys are injected, via a wooden needle, with the poision from a local frog called Phyllomedusa bicolor. This poison causes lightheadedness, vehement vomiting, and violent relieving of the bowels. If the boys survive, they are welcomed into the Matis hunting group.
It’s difficult to believe that these sorts of trials still exist in our technological world. But to these boys and their tribes, these experiences are of the highest importance.