Coming of Age Rituals: Section A

10 Jan

Part One:
Watch any 4 of the following coming of age videos from National Geographic and complete the handout.

Initiation with Ants
In this remote Amazonian village, becoming an adult means sticking your hand into a swarm of angry, stinging giant ants.

Wearing a Glove of Venomous Ants 
Pat takes on an Amazonian bullet ant ritual and is thrown into 24 hours of mind-numbing pain.

Fulani Initiation Rites
Benin boys move toward manhood by enduring the sting of a whip.

Brothers versus Bulls
Young men’s rite of passage requires wrangling bulls selected for their aggressive nature.

Apache Girl’s Rite of Passage
In New Mexico, the Mescalero Apache reservation prepares for a coming-of-age ritual. Over the span of four days, young Apache girls will pass through ancient tests of strength, endurance, and character that will make them women.

Knife Dancing
A ritual of passage for a South Korean girl requires dancing barefoot on top of sharp knives.

Part Two:
Sophie’s “Sweet 16” experience is quite different from many of the coming-of-age rituals you watched on National Geographic. In your view, why are some coming-of-age rituals so celebratory (like Sweet Sixteen parties, the Quinceañera, and the Bar/t Mitzvah) and others so physically or emotionally demanding? Please post your response as a comment (1-paragraph).


21 Responses to “Coming of Age Rituals: Section A”

  1. katyakahl January 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    I think that a lot of the other rituals are so physically and mentally demanding because being an adult is hard in any place. The cultures want to know if the person is worthy of becoming an adult, they need to know if they are strong enough.

  2. Stephanie January 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    I feel that the coming of age in america in america is different from the coming of age in other cultures, because in america most of the people who live here want to make everything big and extravagant. If someone is turning 16 like Sophie and they have money they would want to whole world to know about it. They are very greedy about what they want because to them they have everything and that since they have it they can spend it. The coming of age in other cultures I feel don’t have as much as america does, so what they do is they use what they have to create a tradition, and they look inside the people that they are giving the ceremony to. They look for things that they will need in life, strength, endurance, character, women hood, and man hood. They also test these things so if they pass this test they would be able to concur these things without much struggle.

  3. dylan zimmer January 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    I think that what the coming of age experience is reflects a lot on the culture. Western culture is a lot richer then most others, and therefore has a much different approach to pain. In the other cultures that we watched pain was viewed as a way of showing strength or courage, and was used in the coming of age rituals because of that. Colin’s sweet 16 in no way showed any type of strength, but i think that’s because our culture prizes money as a way to survive way more then they do strength.

  4. Gianni S January 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Depending on what is important as an adult in each culture, that is going to correlate to the type of coming if age ceremony that culture will go through. Here in the west it is relatively less physically demanding and we are more concerned with money, so we spend lots of money and receive gifts and money for our sixteen birthday. Where as to in cultures like the one from the “Initiation with Ants” video, it is more important to have endurance, and to be a strong courageous man so their ceremony reflects that.

  5. Tori La Nina January 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    I feel like the ritual that is the right of passage depends on what the culture considers to be a prize (money, power, strength) is what the youth must endure to become an adult. So it would make sense that different parts of the world would have different rights of passage that their youth must complete to become an adult in their community. It seems to be the case that America is the only place where a part of the right of passage is not pain. America see’s the right of passage as a party/celebration type of ordeal whereas in other countries it is used as a way to show your strength.

  6. nunezchloe January 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    I think our traditional initiation rituals are completely different than the ones they perform in other countries. I don’t think Sweet 16’s symbolize anything extravagant that shows they are ready for adulthood. However, Bar/t Mitzfahs and Quincenieras do actually do things that symbolize their readiness for adulthood. For example, Quincenieras have the girl step into a pair of heels from a pair of flats to show her becoming a woman. However, Sweet 16’s are only someone putting together a huge party for their birthday– something they could have done any other year. However, I don’t think they are as emotionally/physically demanding as the ones I’ve seen today.. Not nearly as demanding. I loved them, though.

  7. Shuruq Moftah January 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    Each culture had it’s own rituals of how to prove that someone is coming-of-age. In our culture we just celebrate by throwing a big party while as for others, they have to go through physical and emotional things. It was very different to see how we celebrate coming-of-age compared to others, like for example the Amazonian village, their ritual is to stick your hand into a swarm stinging ants causing physical damage to their bodies. It was surprising to me to see how many people would actually let themselves go through these different rituals in order to prove themselves ‘worthy’. You had to prove yourself worthy and to show strength to go through these conditions.

  8. Sammy K-L January 11, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    In some cultures, coming of age is viewed as something that is positive and therefor deserves celebration. These celebrations are about the happiness of growing older and hopefully wiser. Other cultures look at coming of age as something that is meant to be a challenge. These “challenges” can come in the form of either pain or just physically/emotionally demanding. Some cultures think that you need to suffer in order to live a life that will be fruitful and purposeful.

    • rachelvicioso January 12, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      I think that being an adult could be very different in other parts of the world. They could be harder and more painful. Other cultures have physically and emotionally demanding coming to age rituals because being an adult means that you have to go throw a lot of pain and hardships. If you can’t stand the pain of the ritual then you are not ready to become an adult.

  9. Chanel Mowatt January 12, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    I think that the type of celebration you get depends on the type of area you live in. For example, America is known for glamorous places like New York City and Hollywood. So people living the lifestyle have to live up to the expectations they have set for themselves. Yet others regions in the world that aren’t as glamorous go through painful rituals because they are to have to work hard everyday in adulthood to support their families unlike the children we see on My Super Sweet 16.

  10. Nasyria Taylor January 12, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    In my opinion, I think coming-of-age rituals are celebratory because it shows that we are getting older and we can party somewhat like an adult. In New York City or even America bravery does not play a big role in coming-of-age. Mostly in other countries it involves something painful, showing your bravery. Other cultures need to know if you are strong enough to become a man or woman. On the other hand, in western civilization it does not really matter if you are strong enough its mainly about the number, the age.

  11. Alyssa Prescott January 12, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    I think that some coming of age rituals are more celebratory than others because some people have the privilege to do more things Like on the TV series “Sweet 16” Sophie is a spoiled teenager who gets what she wants because she controls her mom. In places like Africa they have more respect for their parents and they don’t have resources like we do to throw expensive Sweet 16s.

  12. Francis Beirne January 12, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    In my opinion, I think our coming of age rituals are more celebratory because of many different reasons. The first reason, I believe, is that Americans are spoiling their children to believing that they can get whatever they want. That means that they can get jackets with diamonds on it spelling their name and two cars. The second reason could be because we, the United States are one of the the richest countries in the world (according to GDP). Countries in the video, like the ant gloves and the whipping one, are in far corners of Africa and South America, not known for having large cities, and everything else.

  13. snf6098 January 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Every different culture has certain traditions that they follow to show the coming of age. In my opinion I think that some of the rituals are more celebratory than others because people see the transition to becoming an adult different. Those who celebrate sweet sixteens often throw big parties just to have fun and be spoiled for a day. These teenagers often don’t think about the deeper meaning of coming into adulthood. Other cultures have rituals that are more physically and emotionally demanding because these rituals determine whether you are ready for adulthood. The purpose of the rituals is for the person to prove that they are brave enough and sometimes even physically ready to handle adulthood as opposed to celebratory rituals which automatically claim you made the transition in to adulthood with one big party.

  14. Eric January 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    i believe that in most cultures, coming of age is celebrated in both cheerful and painful ways to acknowledge the fact that you are not a child anymore. sometimes you may have to wear ant filled gloves, dance for an entire night, and dance on a double edged knife. and sometimes you can have a sweet sixteen, quinceanera, or a simple get-together. but in America i noticed that the more money a family has, the bigger the sweet sixteen or any other party is. And also that the more money you have, the more spoiled your child becomes. that is why the birthday boy/girl rages if the slightest thing goes wrong. in other places, you show that you are a man by enduring excruciating pain that test how much of a man you are or will be.

  15. Bora January 12, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    It is clear that the “coming of age” is different in every culture. The initiations I watched in these videos consist of dangerous situations in which these young boys and girls are exposed to violence. For example, the Fulani watch two boys whipping each other to see whom is stronger than the other and able to take the pain. In the U.S people throw sweet sixteen parties for their “coming of age,” which I’m sure in some cultures would be thought of as weird. I noticed that all of these different cultures expose their young adults to pain in order to determine their strength and bravery. Each culture has their own way of determining whether someone is ready for adulthood or not, and we happen to be one of the cultures whom have labeled adulthood with a simple age, which we choose to celebrate rather than initiate.

  16. scn1829 January 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    This sweet sixteen ritual is much different from the others because had the use of popularity, power and money. Sophie used her mom to get the things she wanted and it was basically not right for those that dont have that kind of money. Most people would like to have a big party but as big as Sophie. Some people, like me, would usually keep the celebration traditional like inviting the family. In Mexico, the way of becoming a woman is by dancing for days, and in places in Africa, the kids need to be wiped to see if they are tough enough to be a man. I think that everyone would like to have a huge party like how sophie celebrated.

  17. Alize Feal January 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    I feel as if some coming of age rituals are very physically and emotionally demanding because they feel as if these rituals are preparing them for adulthood, and the struggles that come with it. It also proves that are ready to be considered an “adult” in their cultures. Other coming of age rituals are celebratory because it’s looked at as a good thing, therefore they celebrate the life that they have lived so far, and all the good things that are going to come in the future.

  18. sfj4164 January 22, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    I think that coming of age is more physically and emotionally demanding in other countries because they have different morals and beliefs than we do in America. For example, they really put a lot of time and effort into celebrating a boy or girl becoming a man or a woman. They have huge ceremonies and the boy or girl go through a long process usually involving pain and deep emotion, or a sacrifice. In America, teenagers throw parties like Quinceaneras and Sweet 16’s to celebrate becoming more of an adult. I think that the rituals and ceremonies that I saw were very interesting because it shows how serious they take adulthood, and they want their sons and daughters to be strong leaders of their families, communities, tribes, etc. They celebrate the life they’ve lived as a child, and they emphasize the fact that they are finally growing up and they will have to take charge, and become an adult.

  19. jonah zilberg January 22, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    I feel as if western society desire celebratory passages, and find growth in pleasure. While, eastern societies find that with pain, comes responsibility. I personally believe that if people grow up in different societys, in which one is very comfortable and free, and the other is harsh and restricted they’re going to have much different views on how one should experience the passage to adulthood. I think that painful rituals to become an adult are much more meaningful then a big expensive party because it takes endurance, bravery, and determination. These are 3 things that are positive qualitys of an adult and benefit in many situations. On the otherhand, a celebratory “ritual” wouldn’t really teach any type of lesson other than perhaps, not to drink so much in one night.

  20. Sasha Yakovleva August 12, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Hi, guys! My name is Sasha I am a journalist for a Brazilian Teenage magazine Capricho: and at the moment I’m writing an article about different Coming of Age parties around the world.

    I was looking through this website and thought that may be some of you can help me.
    As one of the topics of my article is the Sweet 16 party, I was wondering if it will be possible for some of the girls that had a Sweet 16 party answer for me some question by e-mail. Like, how was the party, what did you think about it? Was it important to you? Where was it? How many people were invited?

    We would also like to illustrate our article with some images of Sweet 16 party for our Brazilian readers to have an idea of the celebration in USA. And if you don’t mind sharing with us some photos of your celebration, that would be great.

    The interview will be published in our September’s edition. And I’ll send the pdf version of the article to you and post the magazine as well, by mail.

    Thank u very much and I will be waiting for your reply!

    Best Regards,

    My e-mail:

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