Most rites of passage in America—Communions, Bar Mitzvahs, Sweet Sixteens—are fun and joyous occasions. In other parts of the world, however, becoming a man or woman involves painful rituals to prove devotion, dexterity and all-around toughness. From scarring and whipping to enemy sacrifice and semen ingestion—yes, you read that right, semen ingestion—we’ve found ten cultures where going from adolescent to adult is absolutely agonizing. Read on and thank your lucky stars that you weren’t born in Papa New Guinea.
Vanatu Land Diving
In Vanatu, boys prove their manhood (and ensure a good yam harvest) through a practice that’s similar in concept to bungee jumping, but much more deadly. Instead of elastic chords, very breakable vines are tied around the feet of boys as young as seven before they jump from a 70-90 foot tower. The diver’s goal is to come as close to the ground as possible without dying. While most boys do emerge unscathed, concussions, broken necks and broken hips are common injuries.
Satere-Mawe Ant Glove
As a member of the Amazonian Satere-Mawe tribe, young lads enter manhood by wearing gloves filled with bullet ants, so named because their sting is comparable to being shot. A single prick from just one ant causes extreme throbbing, vomiting, cardiac dysrhythmia and even temporary paralysis. Boys must keep their hands in the excruciating gloves filled with hundreds of bullet ants for 10 minutes without flinching. If they cringe at any point, the attempt is considered null. Moreover, this feat is merely the tip of an iceberg: the process must be repeated 20 times in the following months to be considered complete.
Mentawai Teeth Sharpening
When they reach puberty, female natives of the Mentawai Islands must file their teeth down to points… using only a rock and chisel. The shark-like look is considered beautiful and they take outer appearance very seriously on the islands: if a woman’s soul becomes upset with how her associated body looks, the natives believe that the ugly Betty will grow ill and die. While pointy teeth are no longer a requirement, many girls still undergo the excruciating practice because of family pressure, superstition and a desire to be attractive.
Hamar Cow Jumping
Before a man can get married in the Hamar tribe of Ethiopia, he must undergo a very public and painful ritual. As the boy’s closest female friends and family chant, he’s tossed in a circle buck naked and whipped by all the men of the tribe. Afterwards, four castrated bulls are lined up side by side and the initiate must run across their backs as his own back bleeds. Good times.
When a Sambian boy reaches seven years, he’s taken from his family and forced to live in a hut with other dudes for the next decade. Were that alone not bad enough, during the ten years of isolation boys engage in forced vomiting and defecation, nose bleeding and best of all, semen ingestion. The puke, poop, blood and jizz rituals are meant to rid the boys of impurities before manhood.
Sepik River Scarification
While scarification is practiced all over the world, the Sepik River tribes in Papua New Guinea have a particularly unique way of scarring their men: elders use razorblades to create a thick alligator pattern all over the backs, chests and butts of their boys. The tribesmen believe that doing so allows the spirit of the alligator to consume any elements of childhood left in the boys turned men. The raw and extensive wounds make movement excruciating and take weeks to heal.
The Matausa Cleanse
Another tribe in Papua New Guinea, The Matausas, practice a cleansing rite of passage meant to rid boys’ bodies of the female influences left by their mother. First, young men shove two long wooden canes down their throat until they vomit. Next, reeds are forced up their nostrils. Lastly, their tongues are repeatedly stabbed. Once enough blood has been shed, the dudes are considered purified and ready for battle. We’re not sure what their definition of “enough blood” is, but based on pictures, it’s significant.
Aztec Prisoner Sacrifice
Back in the days of the Aztecs, 17-year-old boys proved their manhood, and started their military training, by capturing an enemy and bringing him back to the village to be sacrificed. If a young Aztec wanted to rise in the warrior ranks to the elite Jaguar or Eagle status, he’d have to ensnare and sacrifice 20 more people, making him a major serial killer by today’s standards. If you’ve got ancient Aztec neighbors, it may be time to look into relocation.
Mandan Okipa Ceremony
After four days of no sleeping, eating or drinking, boys of the Mandan Indian tribe were brought to a hut where they had to sit smiling while the skin of their chest and shoulders were slit so that wooden skewers could be inserted behind the muscles. The initiates were then hung from the ceiling by the skewers—often with weights on their feet—until they fainted. Once awake, the ordeal wasn’t over: using a hatchet, each boy had to chop off his own pinky fingers. Talk about a bad day…
Next: These Photos Are Perfectly Timed
When a young Mardudjara aborigine is deemed ready to become a man he’s led by village elders to a secluded spot. While one elder sits on his chest, the other performs an anesthesia-free circumcision. Following the snip, the boy must swallow his own foreskin. Once the circumcision has healed, the boy must undergo another horrifying genital experience: elders cut the underside of his penis down to the scrotum as he stands bleeding over a fire.