Around the world, there are different customs that a boy must endure if he wishes to become a man. Depending on where the boy lives, the transformation of manhood can take on many different forms , sometimes as young as seven and eight years of age. In this article, you will learn about a ritual thought to bring about both successful harvests and manhood.
Diving Into the Land
Tribe members living on Pentecost Island in the South Pacific Ocean follow a tradition of land diving as a way to highlight the rite of passage of their boys. They build a tower that measures 60 to 90 feet (20 to 30 meters) high. It is comprised of trees that surround a clearing. Rocks and wood are removed from the ground and the soil is tilled before the tower is constructed. Considered one of the most extreme forms of bungee jumping in the world, the unstable structure is used as a foundation. Divers only use two vines as support during the practice.
The ritual is part of the tribe’s way of ensuring a prosperous yam season. The higher they dive, they believe the better their harvest will be. To participate, you are truly taking a leap of faith. Because of this, the dive is considered a way to strengthen the spirituality of people. Diving is not a require action of members of the tribe, but those who do are looked upon with respect. They are seen as “true warriors.” There is always the possibility of dying during the dive. Participating in the initiation means that they are potentially sacrificing their life if the dive does not go according to plan.
The youngest that one can participate is when a boy turns seven or eight. They are eligible once they become circumcised. If they survive the fall, they are considered men afterwards. The ritual is quite dangerous. Some divers have suffered concussions, broken hips and snapped necks. When the vine is measured correctly, the only pain a diver is supposed to feel (if the vine doesn’t break in the process of the dive) is a sudden hard jerk of the ankles after their body drops to the ground. This pain lasts for days after the dive.
Female members of the Mentawaians that live in Sumatra undergo a painful practice called ‘teeth chiseling.’ Using a sharpened makeshift blade, a local shaman will start to work on her teeth using a rock. The poor girl is given nothing to help reduce the pain felt during the process. The blade is carefully struck against the teeth at the corners, which leave behind pointed ends that resemble the shape of a shark tooth. When the process is finished, the teeth are then filed to reach the shape that is desired.
Young girls undergo this process because it is thought to make them appear more attractive. The tribes also feel that the sharpened teeth will appease the spirits and bring stability to the life of a female. The tradition is old amongst the Mentawaians who have followed it for years. Thankfully, the practice isn’t as common as it once was. Nowadays, a girl is given the choice to decide whether she wishes to undergo the teeth chiseling rite of passage.