In the U.S., becoming a man may involve turning 18, losing your virginity, or working your first job. What if we told you that’s child’s play? These seven excruciating and sometimes deadly manhood rituals around the world test strength, courage, and endurance. Are you man enough?
Bullet ant gloves
Considered the most painful in the world, the sting of one bullet ant causes nonstop pounding, burning pain for 24 hours. Some have compared the pain to getting shot by a gun, hence the insect’s name. To become a man, the Satere-Mawe people of Brazil wear a glove woven from leaves with hundreds of these ants. They must wear the glove for 10 minutes 20 times over several months to complete the manhood initiation ritual.
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Bungee jumping is the sissy descendant of the manhood ritual land diving, performed by the tribal men on the small Pentecost Island in the South Pacific. In April or May these men do the ritual as a sacrifice to the gods for a bountiful yam harvest. The men, sometimes as young as 5 years old, jump from 45- to 100-foot branch towers with only two vines holding their ankles. The goal is to tap the ground with their shoulders. Miscalculating the vine’s length means a crushed spine, neck, or scull.
The nomadic Fulani tribes in northern Benin of West Africa have a whipping match for initiation into manhood. Each boy takes long, whip-like sticks with barbs cut into the ends and hits another tribe’s boy three times. Whoever inflicts the most pain and bleeding and flinches the least when hit is declared the winner and becomes a man.
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The men of the tribes along Papua New Guinea’s Sepik River are first locked for six weeks in a hut called the Spirit House. Then the tribal leaders cut their bodies hundreds of times with razors to form crocodile-scale-like scars. The cutting ritual takes all day as blood drenches their bodies, sometimes causing hypovolemic shock and death. The idea is one must endure extreme pain so he can bear all others in the future.
This one might be the least gruesome ritual. For the Hamar tribe of Ethiopia, the initiate stands naked before the tribe’s four largest bulls, which have been castrated for the ceremony. He must jump onto the first bull’s back and then jump onto all four animals’ backs three times. Once he has completed the task, he becomes a man.
Drug-induced memory loss
Quebec’s Algonquin Indians take their boys to the forests and give them a plant mixture called wysoccan (derived from Jimson Weed). Hallucinogenic and toxic, the point of wysoccan is to erase all the boys’ memories of boyhood. Sometimes they forget entirely who they are. Sometimes they die.
Drinking the man’s milk
The Sambia people of Papua New Guinea go beyond the rest for ritual intensity. The manhood ritual starts at 7 years old when the boy is taken from his mother and must spend the rest of his young life among men. The first stage is ceremonial bloodletting; the boy is pinned against a tree as sharp branches are stuck up his nose until it bleeds. Then older men beat the boy to toughen him for life as a warrior.
That would be enough for most of the world’s tribes, but the Sambia take the ritual a step further. Until the boys reach puberty they must perform fellatio on their older tribesmen to gain the strength of the “man’s milk.” Once the boys turn 20, they are old enough to marry; however, they still spend most of their time among the men.
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The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak
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