Medical experts will tell you that a boy is biologically considered a man when some parts of his body are already fully developed. Others will argue that a kid only becomes a real man if he engages in “macho” activities like careless sex, fighting, or excessive drinking. On the other hand, there are those who strongly believe that a man can only be called a real man if he possesses certain traits such as bravery, dignity, accountability, humility, and so much more.
Quite confusing, right? Well, in some parts of the world, becoming a real man is actually very simple. All he needs to do is participate in a certain initiation ritual, even if it means undergoing extreme physical and psychological pain.
10. Erasing of Childhood Memories (Canada)
The Algonquin tribe consider childhood a mere obstacle to becoming a real man. As such, they conduct initiation rituals on their young boys designed to completely erase their childhood memories. For 14 to 21 days, young members of the tribe are kept in special cages where they are forced to eat nothing but wysoccan, a very powerful hallucinogen. It does not only cause memory loss but can also induce other serious side effects such as loss of speech, palpitations, extreme delusions, aggression, loss of movement, weakness, and even death.
After 14 to 21 days, the young initiates are examined. If they have completely forgotten their childhood, then they have passed the ritual and are considered real men. On the other hand, if their memories have not been completely erased, then they need to undergo the brutal ritual again.
9. Naked Bull Jumping (Ethiopia)
Once in every generation, the Karo tribe performs an initiation ritual that requires its male population to jump over a number of bulls, wearing only their birthday suits.
Sounds easy and fun right? Well, not really. This seemingly festive ceremony has a horrible implication. Even if a man is already full grown, he is still considered a boy if he has not performed the bull-jumping ceremony. Being a boy in the Karo tribe means two things. First, boys cannot marry. Second, they need to kill their children.
Karo babies who have been born before their fathers have participated in the initiation ritual are considered illegitimate and, according to Karo laws, illegitimate children are not allowed to live. This tradition of killing illegitimate babies is called Mingi. Mothers fill the mouths of their babies with soil and leave them in the wilderness to die. Only until their husbands have performed the bull-jumping ritual can Karo mothers let their innocent babies live.
8. Traditional Circumcision During Adolescence (Philippines)
Getting circumcised is a big deal in the Philippines. In fact, a report conducted in 2011 showed that 93% of Filipino men are cut. What’s more interesting is that Filipino boys are not circumcised during babyhood. Instead, they normally undergo circumcision at the age of 12. Filipino boys are only considered real “macho” men if they are circumcised already. Until then, they are viewed as weak and coward by society and are ridiculed as “supot” (uncut) by their friends. To stop the embarrassment and bullying, Filipino boys urge their parents to get them circumcised.
There are two ways of getting circumcised in the Philippines: the modern medical way and the traditional way. In traditional circumcision, anesthesia is not used. Instead, boys are given guava leaves. It is generally believed that chewing guava leaves lessens the pain caused by the operation. Instead of a knife, what is used during this painful traditional procedure is a piece of wood called “subokan.” After the foreskin is cut, the penis is then wrapped with white cloth.
7. Group Lion Hunting (Kenya and Northern Tanzania)
In the Maasai tribe, boys are required to hunt lions using only clubs and shields. In the past, boys were required to hunt alone. However, due to the declining population of lions, this tradition has been changed, and it’s common nowadays for Maasai boys to hunt in groups.
Hunting lions is a very dangerous undertaking, and it is this element of danger that makes this activity a fitting male initiation ritual for the Maasai tribe. When Maasai boys hunt lions, they are demonstrating a kind of behavior that is believed to be possessed only by real men—bravery. It’s interesting to note that the Maasai tribe does not hunt lions that are injured or weak. Also, they do not target female lions since they are believed to be the givers of life.
6. Skin Modification (Papua New Guinea)
The Sepik tribes regard crocodiles as highly sacred creatures. They claim to have spiritual and cultural connections with these reptiles. As such, they greatly encourage their young male population to complete a painful rite of passage designed to transform their bodies into crocodiles.
With the use of a razor, the elder members of the tribes would cut the skins of the young men over and over again. This painful process produces beautiful patterns that highly resemble that of the crocodile skin. To complete the ritual, the elders then place ashes on the cuts. Once the ceremony is finished, the boys are declared real men.
Nowadays, not all male members of the Sepik tribes are participating in this ritual nowadays. This is due to the fact that many members of the tribes are becoming more modernized. Also, this ritual is quite costly, and some parents simply can’t afford it.
5. Infliction of Bodily Pain and Poison (Brazil)
The Matis manhood ritual consists of four extremely painful phases. In the first phase, poison is administered into the eyes of the young initiates. The Matis believes that doing so will help enhance the senses and eyesight of their boys. The second and third phases involve infliction of physical pain, as the initiates are whipped and beaten repeatedly.
In the final phase, the boys are injected with a poison called kampo, which is extracted from the monkey frog. Kampo is not hallucinogenic, though it can cause extreme psychological responses. Also, this poison can induce various physical effects such as excessive vomiting, lightheadedness, and uncontrollable bowel movements. The Matis tribe strongly believes that kampo is capable of enhancing the endurance and strength of their young boys, making them real men and adept hunters.
4. Blood Purification (Papua New Guinea)
The Matausa tribe of Papua New Guinea considers women’s blood to be unclean or impure. They strongly believe that in order for their boys to become real men, they need to be purified from the unclean influences given to them by their mothers.
Elders begin the blood purification ritual by sliding two canes into the throats of the young initiates, causing them to vomit blood. Next, the elders insert reeds into their nostrils, causing them to expel both blood and mucus. Ramming the reeds back and forth is believed to cleanse them from the impure influences they might have breathed from the air. Finally, the elders repeatedly stab their tongues using an arrow-like tool, letting out contaminating influences they have received from their mothers. After completing this excruciatingly painful ceremony, the young initiates return to their community as real men.
Blood purification among the Matausas is such an important and secret rite of passage, that not all tribe members have witnessed it. Men who do not participate in this extremely painful ceremony cannot enjoy certain adult privileges like getting married. Also, they are viewed as weak members of the tribe, incapable of fulfilling their masculine roles in the community.
3. Ceremonial Dog Killing (Russia)
Archaeologists have recently discovered that Early Russian tribes required their young men to kill their own dogs. By doing so, these young boys became real men—worthy to become members of their tribe’s roving warriors. Further investigation showed that the dogs that were sacrificed were between the ages of 7 and 12. This finding simply means that the canines were not chosen randomly. Instead, they were the pets of the young boys!
So what’s the logic behind this brutal ritual? In order for the young boys to be transformed into brave ruthless warriors, they need to be stripped of their innocence first, and the best way to do that was by murdering someone they loved.
2. Extreme Penis Modification (Australia)
In order for the boys of the Unambal tribe to be called real men, they need to suffer extreme physical pain first. Elder members of the tribe cut the skin of the boys in various areas of their bodies like their buttocks, chest, arms, and shoulders. Before the wounds can heal, they fill them with sand. This is deliberately done so that the wounds would produce decorative scars once they have completely healed.
Just like Filipino boys, young Unambal initiates are also required to undergo circumcision. However, the ritual does not end there. Once the boys develop beards, they are required to undergo subincision, a medical procedure in which the underside of the penis is cut open from the base to the pee hole. The Unambal tribe believes that performing this seemingly torturous ritual will make their penises more attractive and lighter.
1. Fellatio and Semen Ingestion (Papua New Guinea)
Members of the Sambia tribe strongly believe that, in order for their boys to become real men, they need to ingest semen. Sambia boys, aged 7 to 10, are required to perform oral sex on older warriors and, in each session, they need to swallow the, erm, results.
This tribe firmly believes that semen is the source of life and the essence of masculinity. The only way for the genitalia of their young male population to become fully developed is through oral sex. In addition, they believe that only by ingesting sperm can their young ones produce their own.
However, there are no homosexual implications to this bizarre ritual. Men who engage in this ceremony are not labeled as gays by the Sambia tribe. Once the boys reach the age of 15, they stop becoming the givers of oral sex and start becoming the receivers. Also, boys who are of the same age or are friends are not allowed to engage in oral sex with each other. Surprisingly, it isn’t unusual for conflicting men within the tribe to engage in this ritual.
Once the men get married, they are prohibited from further participating in this ceremony. Women’s genitals are believed to pollute the reproductive organs of the men, which in turn would make their semen “impure.”