From Boy To Man (Etoro Tribe Rites of Passage Ritual)

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  From Boy to Man

The Life Of A Boy Living In The Etoro/Sambia Tribe

By: Anirudh Bellani & Ana Lucia Moreno

 

Photo Courtesy of: “‘Strange Culture’: Meet the Sperm-drinking Etoro Tribe of Papua New Guinea.” Starrfmonline.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2016.

           The Etoro people drink semen as a rites of passage to be considered grown up men or  adults. This rite of passage supports homosexuality. For a person living in a modern society, semen might not be the source of energy, but the Etoro people believe otherwise. These people must consume semen from the elders of their tribe in order to inherit the life force. The Etoro people believe that everyone has a life force which is found in semen. While the boys are going through this ritual, they are assigned another male partner to go through this process with them. Throughout this process, the boy has to marry the relative of his male partner. This is done in order to reinforce bonds between both of the families.  This ritual focuses mainly on the boy’s transition from childhood to adulthood. However, the woman in this tribe are also of high significance in this ritual. The young boys are forced to impregnate these women, if the woman fails to get pregnant they are devalued in the community and are accused of wasting the life force

Photo Courtesy of: “Flag of Papua New Guinea.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 May 2016.

Photo Courtesy of: “Map Showing Location of the Etoro, Kalui, and Sambia in Papua New Guinea.” Map Showing Location of the Etoro, Kalui, and Sambia in Papua New Guinea. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2016.

Tribe and Location:

The Etoro tribe is a tribe that is located in Papua New Guinea. It is one of the least populated tribes in Papua New Guinea and consists of about 400 people. The Etoro people are well known because of the high

amounts of homosexual practices. The following ritual is something that has been practiced by the Etoro people for decades.  

 

Relations between the Etoro people and the Government:

The people of the Etoro tribe are fully excluded from the modern societies in Papua New Guinea. They believe that it is better to keep away from the modern society and have no communication with anyone outside of the tribe. Due to this, they believe that they should grow their own crops and build their own shelter. Newcomers are not allowed into the tribe unless they are chosen by the tribe leaders for the purpose of the ritual.

 

Significance Of Homosexuality:

Despite what might be expected in a modern society being homosexual is completely normal for the Etoro people as they believe it gives them additional force. Due to this,  the birth rate amongst the Etoro people is very  low. Because of this, the people of the Etoro tribe usually take women from other neighboring tribes in order for them to keep building more families. They also take children from other tribes to raise them as theirs. They do this to replace the children that have died because of the poor health conditions in the Etoro tribe so that they can keep the population at a steady rate.

In this tribe, men and women don’t live together because it is not common for them, they are used to homosexuality. They don’t believe women and men are meant to be a couple and stay together. This is different from modern traditions in Papua New Guinea because it is a tradition that has been followed by the Etoro tribe for many generations.  Due to this, the people of the Etoro tribe are born into the belief that they are forced to be homosexuals. Since it a tradition that has been followed for decades, the Etoro people believe that they should keep following it in order to show respect to the tribe elders and tribal leaders.

 

100 Days Of Heterosexuality:

As previously mentioned, for 100 days in a year Heterosexuality is allowed. There is no real significance to these 100 days and they are mostly used in order to keep the population higher. Normally, the men of the tribe are assigned a female partner to have intercourse with in order to have babies. If the child is a girl, the man looses his honor and the child is seen to have no significance in the tribe. All of this must occur outside of the common area where the Etoro people live because they believe that heterosexuality is disrespectful to their tribe leaders and to their old traditions. Usually, the tribe members go out of town to perform these acts since it is a sin to them to commit it anywhere near their crops or society. During this time, if a woman does not get pregnant she is accused of stealing the force from the man. There are also consequences for the women who enjoy sexual intercourse too much, they are labeled as witches and are accused of stealing force from their husband.  

Photo Courtesy of: Etoro Tribe. Zazzle, n.d. Web. 27 May 2016.

For the men in this tribe, having sexual relations with children is fully normal and is seen to be necessary so that the children can grow strong and have the vital life force.

 

The Life Force:

The people of the Etoro tribe believe that all of the life force comes from semen. They believe that this force must be passed on to the young boys of the tribe so they can continue to grow strong and fight for their tribe. An example of this is the growth of boys in the tribe, if there is a boy who grows too fast, they believe that he is taking away the force for other boys so he is punished.  There are also consequences for the women who enjoy sexual intercourse too much, they are labeled as witches and are accused of stealing force from their husband.  Stealing the life force is a major sin in the Etoro tribe community,  it is only women who are seen to waste the life force but the same thing applies for men. If a boy has any problems going through the 10 year process he is seen to waste the force that he is blessed with from his ancestors which is given through semen.

 

Factors that Influence The Rite:

The people of the etoro tribe believe that homosexuality will delay death and that heterosexuality will make death come sooner. This is the main reason why they believe that all boys should be homosexual and that heterosexuality should only be used to reproduce. Since they believe that the main life force comes from semen, they also believe that men hold that life force while woman don’t. This is significant because young boys are seen to disrespect their mothers and all of the women in the tribe.

Photo Courtesy of:  “How to Drink Sperm to Become a Strong Man.” Softpedia. N.p., n.d. Web. Oct 6, 2007 15:38 GMT by Stefan Anitei

These are some children of the Etoro tribe. These children are brought up with the practices that everyone should be homosexual and that women should have no significance in life. This is completely normal for these children since they believe that part of childhood is going through this ritual and experiencing this all while inheriting the life force and converting from boy to man. The completion of this ritual is done by most of the boys because it is considered the most important stage out of all.

 

Ritual:

To the Etoro people, this ritual is a regular process that every teenager is forced to go through. The ritual consists of young boys who are forced to drink the semen of the elder people in the tribe every day for ten years. This is done in order to show that the transition from childhood into adulthood for the young boys in the tribe.The ritual starts at the age of 7 and ends at the age of 17. They believe that the start of their teenage life is at age 7 and the end of their teenage life is at age 17.  The semen symbolizes the force which their ancestors have blessed them with so that they can honor their family and fight for their tribe.  This ritual is a tradition that has been followed for many years in the tribe. For the people of the Etoro tribe, this rites of passage ritual is something that all boys must go through to complete the stages of childhood and enter adulthood. This ritual has been a part of the Etoro tribe traditions for a very long time and every boy is required to go through the process.

 

This specific ritual is only for the boys of the tribe. In the Etoro tribe, women are not valued. For women, the life force comes after sexual intercourse. If they don’t become pregnant after that, they are seen to waste the force which comes with different punishments. The tribe leaders are usually in charge of choosing young boys to impregnate these women. The participation in this ritual is mostly done by boys. However the boys are told to have intercourse with the woman in order to give the woman energy. The role of the boy is to drink the semen of the older men in the tribes for 10 years in order to show maturity and show the transition from becoming a boy to a man.  

 

Controversy concerning Homosexuality and Pedophilia:

This ritual is very controversial for the people of Papua New Guinea. Some people believe that this tribe needs to be abolished because all of these acts are illegal while other people believe that they should be allowed to be doing these things in order to stick to their roots and show honor to their ancestors. A lot of people consider this to be pedophilia because of the relations that the older men in the tribe have with the young boys of the tribe. However, for the Etoro people this is seen as something that is completely normal and that should be done in order to extend their time of life and give them additional force. This is why some people feel like if they were to be abolished, they would be taking away part of their culture and taking away their beliefs and the way they live. The government of Papua New Guinea has made the decision that no action should be taken on this so that they can respect their beliefs.

 

Characteristics of Rituals:

In this ritual, not all characteristics of rituals are present. However, one of them that is of high significance is Life Cycle. The boys of the tribe are going through a life-changing ritual which will change who they are as people and change their beliefs in order to make them the same as the other men in the tribe.

Ceremony: The ceremony process in this ritual takes place at the end. After the boy completes his ten years, there is a festival that is organized for all of the boys that are finishing the ritual during that year. The ceremony consists of dancing and singing and is strictly for men.

Sacrifice: In this ritual, there is no full sacrifice since the Etoro people do not have a god they worship. However, when the boys are doing this ritual they sacrifice their virginity. This is something that is very valuable which they sacrifice in order to complete their transition from childhood to adulthood.

Arts: This tribe practices dance and music after each boy completes their rite of passage. When the ceremony or ritual concludes, they have a celebration in honor of the teenagers who are completing the ritual.  They round up to sing,  play instruments, and make music. They do this as a representation of happiness celebrating the successful end of what they have gone through in their adolescence to become a mature man.

 

“Ten Extremely Painful Customs Used to Celebrate a Boy’s Arrival into Manhood.” 360talkatives. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2016.

This is the ceremony that is done after the boy completes the ten year cycle and is finalizing this coming of age rites of passage ritual. If the boy is not able to complete the ritual, they are not allowed to go to this celebration and  The tribe leaders feel like the boys who complete this process are fully strong males who have taken in the vital force and have honored their ancestors.

 

Separation, Transition, Incorporation

For the young Etoro boys, the separation stage is when they are leaving their mothers behind and going into a new community where only men are valued. This is seen as a very important step because usually, the boys don’t stay with their mothers for the rest of their lives. After this, they seek for a partner to be with of any age who is part of the tribe.

The transitional phase in this ritual is when the boys are completing the ritual. They performing something that is unfamiliar to them and getting ready to become men. The final stage, incorporation is when they are finally considered grown and strong men in the tribe. This final transition is marked by a celebration in which they dance and sing to celebrate their success.

 
Photo Courtesy of: “Sex and Marriage: Homosexuality.” Sex and Marriage: Homosexuality. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2016.

 

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