A tribal ritual that hits close to home

If A.’s ritual was infused with a spirit of adventure, B., the second young person to present, described a rite of passage that struck me as intensely personal. The ritual was for boys 15 and older (without an age cut-off). B. joked around that girls don’t have to go through the ritual because “women can do everything by themselves.” The values that the tribe sought to inculcate in their initiates were respect, responsibility, cooperation, patience, and diligence. To do so, initiates were “kicked out” of their parents home. They either had to live by themselves or with someone else—a friend, an older sibling, or even a grandmother. In that time they need to fulfill a regular set of tasks. They had to pay rent and other bills, shop for food, do their chores, look after their “self care” (can you think of a more institutional-sounding phrase?), buy all their own stuff, and go to school. After a three-month period, a big party is thrown in celebration, after which the young men get to go home. Do the tribesmen have to continue with all the tasks they practiced during their trial period? Certainly not, but they also “don’t need to listen to their parents no more” because now they are full-grown men.

One of the lessons this activity has taught me is that it serves as a really wonderful way to open up a conversation with young people because it really lays bare their state of mind as they face the prospect of adulthood. (I’ll be posting later about how I evaluated each presentation, because this is the sort of activity that seemed to demand an honest response on my part to each participant’s efforts and ideas.)

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