MANHOOD: RITES OF PASSAGE
For as long as man has existed, his journey into adulthood has been obstructed by rites of passage. Tests of strength and character which stand as thresholds between adolescence and manhood. For young men the world over, coming of age is a time marred by many physical and emotional changes and, from first dates to learning to shave, many of the rites of passage young men encounter today pertain to this period of maturity. As Father’s Day approaches, we take a look at some of the more eccentric and ubiquitous rites of passage and pay homage to he who fared the path before us and encouraged us through it when it was our turn: our fathers.
The gloves are off: the sting of a bullet ant
Forget fly-fishing, tying a tie and learning to drive, deep in the Brazilian Amazon, the adolescent boys of the Sateré-Mawé tribe await their coming of age with trepidation. And rightly so! This tribe’s right of passage does little to inspire envy. Bullet ants—whose stings are considered to be among the most painful experiences known to man—are sedated and woven into gloves, so that their stings face inward. The young men are then expected to don the gloves and wait patiently until the sedative wears off. The ants, armed and angry, unleash their stings upon the wearer. Each boy is expected to remain gloved for five minutes. A bullet ant can reach up to three centimeters in length and its potent sting is often likened to being shot—hence the ant’s name—and the intense pain may last for up to twenty-four hours. It is only when this act has been completed on twenty occasions is a boy considered to be a man.
Forget me not: childhood memory erasure
Although father’s day is a time to remember our fathers and dwell on all we have to thank them for, not all societies share our sentiments. For the young Algonquin Indian men, to become a man, one must first forget his childhood. As adulthood approaches, these Native American young men are secluded from the rest of the tribe and are narcotised with a powerful drug known as ‘wysoccan’. This powerful hallucinogen is administered for weeks on end and continues until no memory of childhood or family remain. It is only when all recollection of childhood is erased that a young man of the Algonquin people is reborn and permitted to return to the tribe.
Razing the bar: learning to shave
As he ventures from his teenage years into early adulthood, almost every man will develop facial hair to some degree. For many young men, facial hair is one of the first signs of maturity and heralds in puberty. For others, it is a more slow-paced affair, with moustaches and beards appearing only in fractions of their hirsute potential and dawdling into full development only in a man’s late twenties or early thirties. Due to its long and broad history, shaving has acquired many customs around the world, many of which have been passed down from father to son. Shaving itself is today a rite of passage that many sons fare alongside their fathers.
So whether you’re thanking him for not putting you through the Satire-Mawé tribe’s bullet-ant charade, acknowledging that you haven’t forgotten him on this special day or paying tribute for standing by your side and teaching you to shave your way into manhood. pay tribute to your father this father’s day with HOMMAGE.