25 Crazy Rites of Passage

Posted by on January 18, 2012

Whether you celebrate your coming of age with a birthday party or by permanently disfiguring your body, most cultures on earth recognize the importance of this stage in an individual’s life. The crazy rites of passage in this list commemorate a young adults’ entry into adulthood and the agonizing things they are willing to endure to earn the respect of their peers.


Naghol (Land Diving)


Conceptually similar to bungee jumping, land diving is done with vines instead of elastic chords and the objective is to come as close to death as possible. Performed by the Vanuatu people, the jumper’s goal is to brush his head on the ground. If he survives, he’s a man. A very, very lucky man.


Hamar Cow Jumping

This rite of passage must be performed by men of the Hamar tribe in Ethiopa before they are allowed to marry. First, the young boy’s closest female friends and family chant while they are whipped by the men of the tribe. The scars that are left on their backs are meant to be a testament to the pain they were willing to endure for the initiate. Afterwards, four castrated bulls are lined side by side, the naked boy runs across their backs, and voila…he’s a man.


Masai Lion Hunt

The Maasai people of Tanzania and Kenya replace their warrior class every 6-10 years. The next generation of warriors are then circumcised and moved into a warriors camp where they will live until the next generation takes over. In the past the Maasai had to stalk and kill a lion with only a spear before they were considered warriors, but today the lions are protected under government animal legislation. Let’s face it, you know you’ve crossed into manhood when the government has to stop you from killing too many lions.


Vision Quest

Similar to the Aborigine practice of sending young men to fend for themselves in the wilderness (#20) although not nearly as involved, many Native American tribes would send their young men off into the wild for several days during a period of intense fasting in order to find direction for their lives and become adults.


The Ogiek Roar


After being ceremonially circumcised, the young boys and girls of the Okiek tribe in Kenya are secluded from the adults for several months. During their seclusion they paint themselves white using clay in order to take on the appearance of a wild creature and they are then haunted by a mythical beast whose roar can be heard at night. They become adults when the elders show them the instrument used to produce the roar and they do it for themselves.


Aborigine Walkabout

Many aboriginal tribes of Australia send their young men into the wilderness for up to 6 months to test whether they are ready to become men. The boys must survive, unassisted, and keep themselves totally isolated. When they return after 6 months they will be considered men of the tribe.


Mentawai Teeth Sharpening

To the natives of the Mentawai Islands beauty is extremely important because if a person’s soul becomes dissatisfied with the appearance of its body, they believe the person will die. In order to beautify themselves young female Mentawaians who have reached puberty sharpen their teeth with a rock and chisel, and file them down to points.


Matis Hunting Trials

As soon as the time comes for boys of the Matis tribe in Brazil to go on the hunt they have a bitter poison dumped in their eyes in order to “improve” their vision. After this they are beaten and whipped. Finally they must endure the excruciating conclusion to the trial in which they inject themselves with the poison of the Giant Leaf Frog using wooden needles.


Fulani Facial Tattoos


Woman of the Fula people in West Africa must have their faces tattooed before they are considered adults. The process takes several hours and is usually done with a sharpened piece of wood. Similar to a Fula boy’s whipping match (#13) if the girl cries or grimaces she is believed to be too young, and must wait to finish her tattoos and marry.


Xhosa Circumcision

A boy of the Xhosa people of South Africa must be circumcised before being considered a man. He is shaved and taken into the mountains where he will live in seclusion in a hut built for him by his family. While in isolation, a surgeon comes and circumcises the boy, after which he is not allowed to return to the tribe until he is healed.


The Krypteia

As part of agoge (Spartan training), a young Spartan would participate in the Krypteia, which was essentially a yearly “war” against the helots (slaves), and boys as young as 12 would partake in the slaughter using the stealthy tactics they learned in agoge. So, next time you have a final exam, just be thankful you’re not being graded based on a body count.


Algonquin Indian Trip


When it comes time to test the manhood of young Algonquin Indian men they are taken to a secluded area, caged, and fed a powerful drug called wysoccan. The whole purpose behind this is to cause the man to forget any memories of his childhood, which consequently includes his family and friends. If the new man acknowledges any memories from his youth after returning to the village, he will be given a second dose of the drug.


Fula Whip Match


Young Fula boys must undergo a whipping battle in which they trade blows with another boy from a different tribe in order to become a man. The sticks they use to whip each other have sharpened points and thorns all over them to maximize the pain they inflict, and both boys attempt to take the blows without wincing or showing any signs of weakness. The boy whom the observing crowd deems the winner is considered the bravest, and earns the right to be called a man.



Though scarification is done by people all over the world, it is practiced heavily by Sepik River tribes in Papua New Guinea as part of an initiation ceremony for men. This is only a small part of a ceremony that lasts weeks and includes public humiliation, but it’s ridiculously painful. The elders of the tribe use razor blades to cut the young men all over their bodies in a pattern that closely imitates the rough skin of an alligator. They believe that the alligator will then consume any semblance of a boy left in their bodies, and they will become men.


Iria Ceremony


The Okrika tribe of Nigeria believes that the young woman of the tribe form romantic relationships with water spirits during their childhood. For this reason young girls must perform the Iria ritual in order to end their love affair with the water spirits before being married. The ritual consists of singing songs by a river for days on end during which the water spirits make one final attempt to capture their lovers, but not before they are rescued by a man from their tribe.