Top 10 Unique Rites of Passage

Every area of the world has some form of coming of age ritual or rites of passage. Whether it’s adolescent circumcision, Bar Mitzvah, or the Japanese Coming of Age Day—the crossing between being a child and an adult is marked in some way. Many cultures (and sub-cultures) have found a variety of ways to welcome their members into adulthood. Some are embarrassing, others are excruciatingly painful, but they are all unique in their own way.


10. Fraternity Pledging

More often than not, the act of pledging to a fraternity is an exercise of seeing how stupid the future intellects of the world can act. We’ve seen the practice both glorified and vilified in pop movies such as Animal House, Dazed and Confused, and Old School. Students have long been kidnapped, paddled, and/or forced into compromising situations. As frats look for new ways of upping the ante when it comes to abusing and embarrassing pledges, more stories of pledging gone awry have graced news outlets. As often as not, alcohol has proved to be a fatal accomplice in these happenings.


9. Russefeiring

In the USA, recent high school graduates pack copious amounts of hedonism into one night: the prom. For their Norwegian counterparts, they feel 17 days are needed to sow their wild oats properly. In addition, they find waiting for the end of the school year unnecessary. Russefeiring takes place in May during the spring semester. The revelry is also almost exceedingly patriotic, the Russ (or the people taking part in the festivities) don some form of red and parade about the streets. Their Viking ancestors would wipe tears from their eyes if they knew how public disturbances and drunkenness are still Norway’s time honored traditions.


8. Poy Sang Long

Not all young adults need to punish their livers in order to feel like grownups. The Shan people of Burma (Myanmar) and Northern Thailand have made it cool to do the exact opposite. Poy Sang Long is a rite of passage that turns to Buddha in search of enlightenment and maturity. Usually for a period of weeks or months, groups of male children aged 7-14 take holy vows and experience monastic life. The initiation ceremony itself lasts 3 days, during which the initiates dress up as Buddha and are carried around on the shoulders of the male elders of their respective families. After the ceremony, the initiates stay with the monastery for an undetermined amount of time. For some rare cases, the initiates might even stay for years.


7. Walkabout

Perhaps one of the most recognizable by name ritual, a walkabout is one of the most important, enduring facets of Australian Aboriginal culture. There is no exact age set on this venture, but at some point Aboriginal males set off into the bush to experience their traditional ways of hunting and living. A walkabout will often span a period of months up to a half of year. This venture often occurs in between life changing events such as in between employment or other opportunities to break from modern society. This rite of passage has become more crucial to safeguarding Aboriginal culture as these natives are forced further into an uncompromisingly modernized western world.


6. Crossing of the Equator

During line-crossing, Equatorial Baptism, or whatever it is called, navies around the world are subjecting sailors to a multitude of differing hazes and shenanigans.  The ritual, often overseen by a costumed King Neptune, victimizes sailors who are crossing the equator for the first time. The rites may differ per ship, but often includes the repeated dunking (or baptizing) of sailors into the sea. Equatorial celebrations have become so popular that many commercial cruise lines also work in variations (although they will often use a pool instead of the ocean, for lawful reasons).

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