Rites of Passage – One day, every mum and dad in the United Kingdom will say “I will be soooo glad when the terrible teens are over” Teenage years are a nightmare for parents, a challenging rite of passage, one of insecurity and maturation. Moving on from childhood could be classed a ghastly experience for all those involved. In fact the usual pimples and OTT up and down moods combine with feeling devastatingly unattractive and chronically “embarrassed”. Nice boys and gals turn into whiny, angry, often overweight semi adults, who slam fridge doors after an “eat in” frenzy brought on by that teen inferiority complex.
Being parents of teenage Ethiopians is a lot more challenging than your average Bar Mitzvah however. Hamar Tribe customs ensure lads are whipped so badly scars are left on their backs to prove how much pain they were willing to go through to grow up. Afterwards a few castrated bulls are lined up and the naked boys are expected to run across their backs. Not much fun to be sure, but it might cut back on teenage angst.
One very scary right passage is performer by the Massai peoples of Kenya, who replace their warriors every six to ten years simply because some are eaten by lions! Every new generation is circumcised and then has to kill a lion with only a spear. These days lions are protected from the Massai. One would have to say thank goodness.
Another rather unpleasant rite of passage is performed by the Ogiek tribe in Kenya, and is called the Ogiek Roar. Boys and girls alike are ceremonially circumcised and then paint themselves in clay till they become a wild animal type totem; they are then hunted down by adults pretending to be roaring, hence the Ogiek Roar, ferocious beasts. Ummm! If you do not mature then, you will probably go stark raving bonkers instead. The aborigine walkabout is not that easy either, teens are sent off into the wilderness to survive all by themselves for six months. If they do, survive we mean, they are considered adults. Young ladies of the Fula tribe in West Africa go through intensely painful and disfiguring facial tattooing. If they shows any signs of pain, they must wait to get married which might be a blessing in disguise.
As you can see most initiation ceremonies involve a sort of painful death to be reborn. The rituals follow a strict format, and there is no deviating from them. When the ritual is completed, the youngsters morph into a fully fledged adult but at a horrendous price.
Simple spiritual initiations are powerful occurrences, and a lot less painful. The solitary imitation ceremony to Spirit includes a prayer of dedication to the Divine, and then on the night of a New Moon, a sworn commitment to the path, and an opening to new beginnings with a prayer. The initiate will need to be skyclad and have some blessing oil, salt and a white candle at hand though.
Some people think it is a shame initiation ceremonies occur behind closed doors, or are to do with tribal and very painful ceremonies. Perhaps if we brought the rite of passage into mainstream culture it would lose its magic, and turn into your average birthday party, which is if you think about it, is an initiation into another precious year of life or a fact of getting your head around another rite of passage!
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