Pretty much every culture in the world has a coming-of-age ceremony to mark a child’s passage into adulthood. For some, it’s just a fun celebration. For others, it’s a brutal, scarring horror show. In today’s video, I look at some of the wildest rites of passage on the planet and ask… would you do it?


This is the Land Diving ceremony from the island of Vanuatu. And that is a tower they built specifically for this ceremony.
It’s as tall as a ten story building. And this guy… Is about to do something crazy.
Why is he doing this?

Almost every culture in the world has a coming of age ceremony. An event that celebrates a child’s passage into adulthood. Or, a test of their skills or their bravery or their maturity, that proves that they have earned the right to be an adult. Some of these take the form of a fun gathering or a party. While some can be just goddam brutal.
From feats of endurance to starvation to doing awful things to very… sensitive body parts.
Today I’ve collected examples of the wildest coming of age rituals from around the world, and ranked them on a scale from “A Good Time” to “Dear God Why”
And believe it or not, this guy…

…Isn’t even in the worst category.

When I was a kid and lived at home with my parents, my mom did my laundry. There was a hamper in the hallway, it was kinda built into the wall and whenever my clothes were dirty, I’d just throw them in the hamper. Next time I saw them, they’d be clean on my bed, nicely folded.
But then, I went off to college, and she wasn’t there to do it anymore. And she taught me how to do it, it’s not hard, it’s not rocket science.

But I remember I came home one time that first year, or maybe it was the first summer, I came home from school, and I brought my dirty clothes home with me. And, just like I’d always done my whole life, I just threw them in the hamper for her to do.

And I remember she came into my room and was like, “Who’s been doing your laundry while you were at school?” And I said, “Me,” and then she was like, “Oh, so you CAN do your own laundry.”
And then she dumped my dirty clothes on the bed and PUNCHED ME IN THE FACE!

She didn’t punch me in the face, but she wanted to.
I mean it was a crappy move on my part, but in my defense…
I am a terrible person.

Or at least I was back then anyway. I mean all teenagers are. Teenagers are monsters.
Now I know that many of you out there are teenagers, and I’m here to say, it’s not your fault.
The teenage years are crazy man, because you’re still super young, your experience of life is so narrow, and the vast majority of that time, you were a kid. And you lived by kid rules.
Some of which sucked, like you didn’t have a lot of control over your life but on the flipside, there were a LOOOOOT of responsibilities you didn’t have to deal with. Maybe didn’t even know about.
But now you’re like, a little adult. And there’s a whole new set of rules. And pressures.
And you have to prove to the adults in your family, in your community, that you can handle it, that you’re on the same level as them. And they need to know they can trust you to handle things and be a productive member of society.

And this has been true since the beginning of time, for as long as people have squozen smaller versions of themselves from their loins. It’s a universal part of growing up in all cultures and all places, and all times.

So it should be no surprise that this process has been formalized in a lot of different ways.
One might argue that that’s what the school system does in the industrialized world.
Other places…have other ideas. But they serve the same purpose.

Coming of age rituals are the way communities welcome young people into adulthood and give the teenager a chance to prove their worth to the community through a test of skills or courage or… the ability to withstand an extreme amount of pain.

It’s kinda like being beaten into a gang. Humanity is just one giant gang.
So this is going to serve as sort-of a tier list video where I’m going to go down the tiers from “A Good Time” down to “Dear God, Why?

Now before this comes up in the comments, I want to say that the point of this video is not to make fun of other cultures, a lot of these involve indigenous groups and this is not meant to in any way paint them as backwards or barbaric, this is just a fun exploration of the various ways human beings have come to celebrate the blossoming of a child into an adult…


So let’s get into our list and we’ll start with, you know, the fun stuff.

Sweet Sixteen

In the United States, Sweet Sixteen parties are held for girls on their sixteenth birthday to celebrate the ability to drive and the fact that they’re only one year away from being the subject of a Winger song.
Actually a lot of rock songs are obsessed with girls being seventeen. Even the Beatles.
She was only seventeen… If you know what I mean…

I think it means you’re a pervert.
Sweet Sixteen parties can range from just extra fancy birthday parties to all-out social events with tiaras and ballgowns.
They came from the tradition of Debutante Balls, where parents of the young girl would present her to society as an adult and suitable to receive suitors. This was often known as a “coming out” party, so up through the Victorian days, it was a big moment when a girl finally “came out”
So yeah, “coming out” but not in the context of like an LGBT person coming out of the closet. Although, that has become a thing in recent decades. And if any of you are having one, let me know. I’ll bring a cake.

Debutante balls can trace their roots to the United Kingdom, where the tradition was started by King George III, when he threw Queen Charlotte’s Ball in 1780.
In the Southern US, Cotillion Balls are an extra big version of this and by the way, fun fact, the cotillion was originally a type of dance that was part of the debutante balls.

Of course a similar version of that in the Hispanic community is the Quinceañera, which they do when the girl turns 15

Similar kind of vibes, big dresses, lots of dancing, parents presenting her for potential suitors.
And being from Texas, I can tell you, they go HARD. They are not messing around with the Quinceañeras. It’s a good time. So it belongs in this tier.

In Japan, on the second Monday of January, they celebrate Coming-of Age Day, or Seijinshiki, (shay-jin-ski) which celebrates all the people who reached legal age in the previous year.
Which, actually it went through a pretty major change recently because the legal age in Japan was dropped from 20 to 18… But they still celebrate it at 20.
The girls wear fancy traditional kimonos and the guys put on their best suit and tie and parties are held all around the country.

There are similar coming-of-age ceremonies that go back to the 700s but the current version started after World War 2 as a way to kinda cheer up the younger generations.

The first one that might come to mind for a lot of people are the Bar and Bat Mizvahs in Judaism.
Because these are kinda like the Quinceañeras and sweet sixteens except they get way more meshugaah.

Bar Mitzvahs are celebrated when a boy turns thirteen, same for girls but those are called Bat Mitzvahs.

In the ceremony, the boy is called up to read from the Torah and give a speech, usually in a way that ties the passage he read into his own life, he gets to don traditional accessories called Teffilin (teh-FILL-in), which are leather straps that go on your head and arm.
And the ceremony, of course, is meant to display that the young man is ready to take his place amongst the adults of the community, and that he’s ready to accept and live by the biblical commandments.

But it’s all accompanied by a huge party, the kids get lots of gifts, it’s a big deal and it’s a good time. It belongs in the good time category but it’s religious so it’s here.

Young Catholics have a similar ritual with the Confirmation ceremony at 13 years old.
After studying the Bible in a confirmation class, they perform a ritual that involves picking a confirmation name, usually that of a saint they want to emulate, and they get anointed on the forehead with oil.
It’s meant to kind-of complete the process that began with them being baptized as infants. Now that they are adult-ish, they can confirm the baptism into the faith.
It’s an important moment for a Catholic kid but it’s a lot more solemn than what their Jewish friends get.

In Muslim Malaysia, 11 year old girls participate in the Khatam Al Quran, where they are required to memorize the last chapter in the Koran and recite it publicly in order to show that they have the maturity to be treated as adults.

The Hindu Chudakarana ritual is interesting because it is a coming of age ritual, but it’s done on babies.
This isn’t meant to signal that the babies are adults, it’s meant to shed all the traces of their previous life. Because they believe in reincarnation.
It’s basically a ritual around the baby’s first hair cut, because they believe a continuation of one’s past life may grow in their hair. So they shave the baby’s head in the ritual to start anew.

And in other hair related ceremonies, in China, Confuscian boys participate in the Guan Li, where they have their hair twisted and capped with a ceremonial cap called a Guan.
This is a very traditional ceremony that goes back to the ancient Qin (chin) dynasty and it marks the passage from childhood to adulthood.
Males do this at 20 years old, young girls have a similar ceremony at 15 years old called the Ji Li. Not to be confused with the critically acclaimed Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck movie.
Actually it’s named after the Ji, which is a type of hair pin used in the ceremony.

Last but not least is something that I always thought was pretty cool and that’s the Amish Rumspringa.
So the Amish are famously very devout and they shun modern technology and conveniences, it’s a very strict life, but they do give the young’uns a choice.

Between the ages of 16-20, Amish youth are allowed to try out more worldly experiences before deciding that they want to commit to the Amish way of life. It’s like a religious hall pass.
The tradition has German roots and Rumspringa roughly translates to “jumping or hopping around.”
And it varies by person and by community, for some it’s they basically get to drive a car or skip family prayer sessions, while others go all-out and separate from the family to go live in the big city.

And while some do choose to stay in the modern world, most just kinda get it out of their system and then return to what they know. But the fact that they’re given that opportunity is pretty cool.

Just Goddamn Brutal:

Mandan Okipa Ceremony- North American Plains Indians who hang from hooks. Then receive more torture.

And there’s a lot more religious coming of age rituals, pretty much every religion has one and there are lots of variations on each, but they serve the same purpose as the secular ones, to show that they have earned their place in a community as an adult. Just a religious community in this case.
But part of being an adult is making more babies, which brings us to the fertility rituals. And this is where it starts to get a little dicey.

It might feel a little strange to celebrate a young teen girl’s ability to get pregnant but if we look at it within the context of ensuring the survival of a tribe… it kinda makes sense.

Obviously I’m not saying that it makes sense for teen girls to get pregnant, but within a small tribal community, their survival depends on their capacity to reproduce. So the day that a new member reaches child-bearing age, that’s considered a blessing.
So for some cultures, a girl’s first period is a reason to paint the town red.

That joke was written by my writer, Rachel, you can blame her.
In Sri Lanka there’s Buddhist ritual where the girl is secluded in a room during the course of her period and eats a strict diet of bland rice and vegetables, because that keeps evil spirits away and they’re especially vulnerable during that period.

And contact with men is especially forbidden. Because boys are dirty.
Toward the end of her seclusion, she is bathed with water containing jasmine flowers, and then receives new clothes and ancestral jewelry.

The ritual ends when she exits the house out the back door and enters through the front door officially as a woman. At this point, a male relative will bash open a coconut and they read omens about her future based on the way the coconut splits.
Then there is a big party party with relatives and neighbors and lots of gifts.

They did something similar in Incan culture but instead of eating bland veggies and rice, the girls ate… Nothing.
That sounds even worse.
But, on the third day she was given some corn and her mother bathed her, braided her hair, and gave her new, clean clothes. Her relatives would visit and give her gifts, and she would serve them refreshments.

The ceremony concluded when she was given a new, permanent name from her uncle.
So what I’m seeing here is when a girl gets her period she gets some space, some gifts, and a nice bath… I think I know some women who would like this every month.

On the much more extreme side of things is the Metatah Teeth Filing ceremony. That’s right, they file their teeth down. Just in case the menstrual cramps weren’t uncomfortable enough.
This is a Balinese Hindu ceremony and yeah, the girls’ front 6 top teeth are filed flat to discourage certain ugly human traits of greed, rage, lust, and so on.

The filing is done by a special priest while the girl lays on top of a high bamboo platform decorated with colorful draperies. And the girls wear yellow and white to symbolize holiness.

And one more fertility ritual is the Apache Sunrise Ceremony which takes place in the summer of a girl’s first period.

She wears a white buckskin dress and becomes a figure known as The Changing Woman. Not symbolizes… becomes… according to their beliefs.
There is music, chanting, prayers, blessings, and ceremonial dancing that goes on for four days.
The young girls are exhausted by the end of it, but that’s kinda part of it, it’s a show of endurance and strength.

Young men in especially small, rural tribes need to be able to show that they can handle themselves on hunts or in warfare to provide for and defend the tribes. And they go to great lengths to prove it.
On the North Baffin Islands in Canada, young Inuit boys around 11 or 12 years of age will go on hunting excursions with their fathers.
The climate in this area is too harsh for farming so all their sustenance comes from hunting. So it’s serious training, In fact, the word for “man” in their language is the same word for hunter.” So literally when you can hunt, you become a man.

In Western Mongolia, the Kazakh people similarly rely on hunting for all their food, but they have a secret weapon in their hunts… eagles.

Over the generations and centuries, they have passed on the knowledge of training eagles to help with their hunts. Much the way dogs have been used in other parts of the world. This is known as berkutchi.

And yeah, passing on the power of the beastmaster to their young men is an important part of their culture so when a young boy comes of age, he spends years training and bonding with his hunting eagle.
Let’s face it, this is easily the coolest one on here.

Now you’ve probably heard of the Aborigine Walkabout ritual, this is a prime example of young men proving their skill or strength for the benefit of the tribe.
In a walkabout, a young male must journey to live in the wilderness for as long as 6 months before he can come back to join his community as an adult.

Life in the Australian Outback is not easy. It’s incredibly dry, scorching hot, and as you know, every animal in Australia can kill you.

So it’s incredibly important that young men show that they can find water, hunt wildlife, fish, and create shelter. There’s also an element of self reflection to the walkabout, giving the young person time to themselves to focus on what’s important to them and, to figure out who they are.

Just as hunting skills may be valued among young men, domestic skills are passed down to young women.

Among the Krobo of eastern Ghana, the rite known as Dipo is practiced by young girls from April to May. Several girls go through the rite together. Some articles say it lasts four days, others say a few weeks.

They wear a special garb, undergo isolation, train in domestic skills, shave their heads, receive a ritualistic bath, and learn the dances special to their people.
It’s like a hardcore boot camp for women.

So, strength, endurance, and a high level of skill are valued in some cultures. For others, it’s important that you show that you can withstand a large amount of pain.

We’ve officially entered Yikes Territory

In the Amazonian jungle, the Matis tribe prepares their young ones for the hunt by adding elements of pain to their hunting rituals.

So if you were a young man about to go on a hunt, they drip bitter, painful juices from a root into your eyes to make them burn, and inject poison from a frog into your skin.
You are whipped with rattan stems and then more poison from a leaf is rubbed on your wounds to induce rashes.

Now to me, this all seems like stuff that would prevent you from being an effective hunter, but they believe that being forged with pain heightens your senses and protects you against your own laziness, to better your eyesight, and help grow your strength. I’ve never lived or hunted in the Amazon so what do I know…

In Ethiopia, young men are required to jump or run across a row of cattle without falling four times to enter adulthood.
Just to make it extra fun, the bulls are first smeared in dung so they will be more slippery. And if the boys do slip, they have to wait a whole other year to try again.
That’s not the yikes part of this ceremony.

The yikes part is that the women of the tribe are decorated in bells and dance while the men perform the bull test. And once a man passes the bull test, the women demand that the man whip them to show their own endurance and loyalty.

The idea is that after the men whip the women there is a bond created like debt of protection felt toward them, and the women gain attractiveness as a future wife. Again, it’s kinda like being beaten into a gang.
At the end of the ceremony, a the men who successfully jumped the bulls shave their heads, and the tribe celebrates together with a party for several days.

Oh yeah, what happened to that guy at the beginning?

… Eh, he was fine.
This finally brings us back to the ritual known as Vanuatu Land Diving. Vanuatu is an island in the Pacific, somewhat near Australia and Papa New Guinea. And yeah, these guys jump off a ten-story bamboo tower with nothing but a vine wrapped around their feet.
We say “guys” because only the Vanuatu men take part, they can participate after they become circumcised around the age of 7 or 8.

Now this technically isn’t a coming of age ritual, in the sense that it’s not about kids becoming adults, it’s meant to ensure a bountiful harvest, so they do it every year but doing it in their culture is a huge rite of passage. It’s how you prove that you’re a man. It’s a show of bravery. And self-sacrifice for the tribe.

So yeah it’s only a guy thing, but ironically, in the legend that this tradition came from, it was a woman who did the jump.

As the story goes, a woman was running away from an abusive husband. He was chasing after her and she found herself at the edge of a cliff. So she tied a vine around her feet and jumped, and then he jumped in after her. She was saved by the vine – he plunged to his death.

So they perform this ritual in her honor in order to appease the gods.
The whole thing starts with the men getting a ritual bath and anointed with oils and decorations. There’s usually 10-20 men who participate. Women and the men who aren’t diving do a ceremonial dance at the bottom.

Less experienced divers jump from lower down, more experienced go higher and the higher the jump, the more bountiful the harvest.
When they jump they tuck their arms in to protect their arms and jump as high as they can, falling headfirst toward the ground. And I know some of you are sitting there saying, yeah, bungee jumping, you’re describing bungee jumping, we know all this well, no you don’t! Because this ain’t bungee jumping.

These are vines. They are not elastic. They don’t gently slow you to a stop. They whip you backwards in a split second from 45 miles an hour and separate every joint from your skull to your toe. If it was my body anyway.

The goal of this jump, by the way, is for them to brush their shoulders on the ground when they hit the bottom. They aren’t stopping way up in the air, no they hit the ground. That’s the point.
For some perspective, an olympic diver will jump from 10 meters, or 33 feet. These young men are jumping from 20-23 meters, just insane.
So no, this isn’t bungee jumping, but it is what inspired bungee jumping. In fact, their attorney general campaigned for bungee jumping companies to pay royalties to them, since you know… that was kinda our thing… And you just took it.

But people come from all around the world now to see the land divers and it’s a huge tourism draw, though it’s a little controversial because it’s dangerous and it’s kinda like commercially exploiting people’s deeply held beliefs, that whole thing.

Now if we’re going to hang out in the Yikes Territory tier, we can’t not talk about the rituals on Sparta.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what the Athenians called Sparta back in the day, Yikes Territory.
In ancient Sparta, at the age of 7 young boys were taken and essentially put into military school called agoge until they were 30. Perhaps you heard, Spartans were a teeny-tiny bit militaristic.
So boys entered military training at age seven, at around age twelve, the boy was assigned an
older mentor, who continued his training one-on-one Jedi knight style… The boys would learn combat and survival training and serve as the mentor’s apprentice… but also as his lover.

Apparently this was to encourage a closeness between the men as they became brothers in arms. I mean, I guess that’s one way to do it…

When they came of a certain age during their training, probably after 20, they might join the Krypteia, a more elite, deadly class of soldier, which came with its own rituals.
Some sources say they would have to prove themselves by living off the land in the wilderness for a year. Others suggest they must hunt and kill a member of the servant class to be considered a man.

And if pederasty isn’t hardcore enough, we now venture into a group of rituals that involve pain, mutilation, and more pain. A tier I call Dear God Why? WHY?

A pretty famous coming of age ceremony that you may have heard of is the Sateré-Mawé’s bullet ant ritual known as Waumat.

In case you’re not familiar with the bullet ant, also known as the tucandeira ant, it’s a huge ant that lives in the Brazilian Amazon with a sting that’s 30 times more poisonous than a bee sting. It’s considered one of the most painful stings in the insect kingdom. That’s how it got its name. It feels like you’ve been shot.

So, for the Waumat ritual, they collect hundreds of these ants and place them in woven bamboo gloves. The boys then take turns wearing the gloves and enduring the stings of the ants while walking together and chanting.

Now often as the modern world encroaches on the territory of indigenous tribes, rituals like this tend to fade away, but the opposite is kinda happening for the bullet ant ritual. It’s become an important tradition, meant to strengthen the boys against loggers and invaders.
In fact, because there’s no shortage of crazy people in the world, it’s become a bit of a tourist attraction for men looking to prove something to themselves. Might I suggest therapy.

Another case of tribal rituals being used to fend off the modern world is the scarification ritual in Papua New Guinea.
In some river tribes along the Sepik river, the crocodile is considered a sacred animal, so when boys reach a certain age they endure a scarification ritual where they receive hundreds of scars along their backs to make them look like a crocodile.

It takes an hour or two and some boys pass out from the pain, but another part of the ritual is that it’s a purging of their mother’s blood so they can gain their own adult blood. This is actually a recurring theme in some of these more brutal ceremonies, the idea that since the boy came from a woman, he has to purge the woman’s blood in order to truly become a man.

But perhaps the most brutal coming of age ceremony imaginable comes from the indigenous Mandan people of North Dakota. And seriously, this one is not for the squeamish.
It’s known as the O-kee-pa ceremony that’s meant to solidify their connection with nature and the Great Spirit. It starts with a four-day dance where the participants wear costumes that emulate a range of animals like buffalo, bald eagles, and grizzly bears.

But the hardcore part of the ceremony is when volunteers, all of them young men, who have spent the last few days feasting and praying, get painted in red, white, or black pigment and then have wooden skewers inserted through their chest and back muscles as well as their legs and arms.
The skewers are then attached to ropes that are pulled from the ceiling of the ceremonial lodge, which lifts them off the ground.

And there they would hang for hours, sometimes with buffalo skulls attached to the skewers in their arms and legs to increase the weight – and the pain.

Crying was not allowed. But the pain was so extreme that the men would pass out from the pain, putting them in a trance-like state, during which they receive messages from the Great Spirit.
After the ceremony they were considered men of fortitude who have proven their loyalty and ability to endure severe pain through self sacrifice. And from that point forward they were entitled to warrior status.

The ceremony was outlawed in the 1890s but has been resurrected in recent years by some in the body modification community, and… pain enthusiasts? If that’s the right term?

Now, if you’re thinking “how can the rituals get any worse than that?” let’s dip into an entire subgenre of rituals that involve adult un-anesthetized circumcision.

The Massai in Kenya have a ritual called the Emuratare, where a group of boys 14-16 years old will travel with a handful of elders for four months. And in the week before the ceremony, they must herd cattle for seven consecutive says while carrying a heavy ceremonial spear.

The night before the main event, the boys all sleep outside, and in the morning, they run back to their village as if they were raiders, and dance throughout the day and into the night.
Just before dawn the next day, they are cleansed with a cold shower, and then undergo the circumcision without anesthetics. Healing takes 3-4 months and afterward they receive the status as a new warrior.

And this… is where I’m going to stop. There’s actually a lot more rituals that involve circumcision and genital mutilation of both sexes but I’m already flirting hard with an age-restriction on this video so I’m going to make a supplemental video on Nebula if you have a healthy morbid curiosity and want to watch there.

So I want to step back again and reiterate that this isn’t meant to place judgement on these cultures, I mean sure from my pasty European background, these seem brutal and crazy, but from their perspective these are important rites that prove that they are tough enough to survive and even thrive in extremely harsh environments. I mean to them, we’re lazy, soft weaklings that have been handed our worth without ever earning it.

And let’s face it, they’re right.

But it is funny how universal these ceremonies and rituals are, in fact I left a lot out of this video, but I think it speaks to how social we are as a species and how universal just the experience of going through life is. Oh, and by the way, one thing worth pointing out is that up until very recently, the infant mortality rate was much higher than now so making it to adulthood really was a cause for celebration.

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