Coming of Age is a very important ritual in some cultures. Many cultures believe that you need a coming of age ritual to do exactly what it says; come of age, which if u analyze, may mean be of age to produce children. Most coming of age rituals take place around puberty, between the ages of ten and thirteen. Of the ones I have found, they all involve a big celebration of some kind including the whole family. Coming of age rituals may involve boys becoming men, girls becoming women, or both. Of the ones that celebrate both, they may stress more on one sex then the other. The Navahos, the Aruntas, people who study the religion of Judaism, and the Yanomamis are all cultures that have rituals for coming of age.
The Navahos of the mid-west united states celebrate both the boys and the girls coming of age, yet they stress the girls a lot more then the men. The men go simply on a vision quest by themselves to find a lifelong helper and guide. The women’s rituals are more complex. They celebrate the Kinaalda, which translates to “Changing Woman”, which is a 4 day ritual for them. The “Changing Woman” is said to bring fertility and long life to other women of the tribe. A major part of the kinaalda is the traditional run towards the sun’s rays, which symbolize life, truth, beauty, and goodness. After the run is completed she will grind corn; which symbolizes the sun to the Navahos, for a cake. At the end of the fourth day they place the cake over a fire for the night. While the cake is baking everyone of the family stays up all night singing and praising, until the break of dawn when the sunlight’s rays touch the girl. They sing one final song and then the ceremony is over.
The Aruntas, and aboriginal tribe of Australia, celebrates the boys coming of age around the age of ten or twelve. This celebration gives the boy power and approval by the ancestors. First he is taken away from girls and made to march to a camp. Men throw him in the air while women scream and shout. Many patterns are painted on his body by relatives, he is instructed not to play with women or girls, and he is cut in the nasal septum so that he can wear a nose bone. Older men role play in dances as ancients and chant stories about the heroes of sacred times. The boy’s future mother in law gives him a burning stick and he must keep the flame alive, symbolizing keeping faithful in a marriage to her daughter who was picked as his bride when he was born. After this, in the men’s camp, many rituals are performed over three days to pass down knowledge and tradition from other generations, since they have no written language. He is forbidden to speak unless spoken to. Then the adult women rejoin the celebrants, but instead of welcoming them back, the men throw pieces of bark at them, symbolizing the removal of the boy from women’s influences. After a couple more ceremonies which are very difficult to explain for the culture of these people is very complex, the women are allowed back into camp and the ceremonies are over.
The people who study Judaism, many times referred to as Jews, have celebrated the Bar Mitzvah similarly as we know it today since the sixth century CE. I don’t prefer to call them “Jews” because it seems to have almost a mocking tone to it, something Hitler would have said, and we all know what Hitler did. The Bat Mitzvah was not developed until the middle ages. The difference between the Bar and Bat Mitzvah is that the Bar Mitzvah is for the boys becoming man and the Bat Mitzvah is for the girls becoming women. Mitzvah can be translated as “good deed” or commandment. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah occurs when a child has reached thirteen years of age. Before thirteen it had to been seen that the parents were obliged to carry out religious responsibilities for the child. During the religious service of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, He would chant the Torah blessings, all or part of the weekly parasha (Torah portion) as well as a section of Haftarah (an additional reading from the prophets). The young man’s father would then recite a b’racha (blessing), and also the child has to recite part of the Talmud. Then the celebration is a big party in which family and friends are all invited to rejoice the child becoming recognized as more responsible in the culture. My friend Keith Petrower , who is a practicing member of the Judaism realign said, “My Bar Mitzvah was great. All my family and friends came to give me gifts and celebrate me becoming considered and adolescent in the culture of Judaism.” Once this milestone of adolescence is reached, the person can be counted in the minyan (the prayer group of ten), is allowed to have an aliyah (recite Torah blessings), and is obligated to wear a tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin and to observe the necessary fast days.
The last culture I have observed was the people called the Yanomamis, who lived in the amazon rainforests of southern Venezuela and Northern Brazil. The people of this culture are focused on women, because the women population is much less then the men, there for fertile women are needed in this culture. Girls are not allowed to marry until they have gone through puberty and can menstruate. When she has her first period she is separated from everyone, especially men, because it is believed that a woman is so powerful during this time that she can do harm to the men. In this tribe, young girls have holes in their ears and one in the lower lip and one on each side of the mouth. Colorful items are pushed through the holes. Her body is painted and if her hair is long is it cut short. These changes are to show the members of the tribe that she is being initiated. She walks out of the woods where all these changes have been made, and to her mother’s heart where she shows everyone that she has become a young woman and is ready for marriage. To show who she wants to marry, she places her hammock next to his.
The main focuses in the Yanomamis’ coming of age cultures are women. When the boys are ready to become men, they let others know, and show it with their behavior.
As you can see, the Yanomamis, people of Judaism, Aruntas, and Navahos are all involved in coming of age cultures, some more complex than others. Some involve both sexes, some involve only one sex, and some involve both but stressing on one more then the other. They all take place around the ages of ten through thirteen, and is a very important ritual in these cultures to the people. Many of these traditions have been passed down for thousands of years, and they seem like they will be passed on for thousands of more years.