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Worldwide Traditions , Rites of Passage II

When it comes to boys becoming a man, sometimes they must endure tests that involve withstanding varying levels of pain or enduring a painful test. In this article, you will encounter initiations from around the world that center on pushing the envelope of pain.

Whip Matches

In West Africa, the Fulani people that live in Benin are a nomadic tribe that put their young boys through a bloody test of their strength. Before a boy can be considered a man, they participate in a whip match that highlights the self-control and courage of an initiate. The practice involves two boys who choose a long stick that is sharpened in a way that is meant to deliver a painful blow with each strike. Clans from all over come to be a part of the ceremony, which pits two youths against one another as they hold their weapon in hand.

The aim of the initiation is to hit your opponent the hardest. The boys are told not to wince and show how painful the strike is when they are hit. Each boy is allowed to give three blows to their opponent. The crowd watches intently because their job is to choose the youth that displays the most courage throughout the challenge. They are declared the winner of the match.

The Bullet Ant Glove

Young boys in America should be glad they don’t have to endure the pain of the bullet ant in order to be considered a man. A tradition of the Satere-Mawe in Brazil shows that they believe their youths turn into warriors by undergoing a painful rite of passage. The bullet ant is considered to have one of the most painful stings of all insects. The ant gets its name because its sting is likened to being shot with a bullet. Just one sting can cause intense pain that lasts a complete 24 hours. Symptoms may include vomiting, nausea and cardiac dysrhythmia. The Satere-Mawe use more than one bullet ant for their initiation, they rely on more than 30 of the insects.

The ants are placed in a liquid sedative that is all natural until they fall unconscious. Leaves are weaved to form a glove that when finished , is decorated with the ants, which are placed in the tight spaces. The stingers are pointed inwards so that when they awaken, they start to sting as they try to free themselves. A boy will wear two “bullet-ant gloves” during their initiation. They wear the gloves for 10 minutes with the objective to avoid screaming and showing signs of weakness. In an attempt to keep the minds of the initiates off of the painful process, members of the tribe chant and dance. When the ritual is done, the boy will feel the pain of the stings for days. Unfortunately, this is not the end of the ritual. The youth must repeat this tradition 20 more times within the coming months before he is officially considered a man.