Sunday, November 11, 2007

Taulipang Indians consider pain a tonic

Adolescence is difficult enough without its onset being greeted by a whipping, having your chin, arms and chest scored with cuts, and having an open basketwork frame of stinging ants pressed against your body.

That is how the Taulipang Indians of the Guianas in South America initiate boys into manhood. And if any boy shows signs of fear or of feeling the pain, his ordeal is repeated. Each part of the ceremony has its significance. The whipping purifies the boy and gives him strength. The cuts on the chin are believed to help to make him expert with his blowpipe, and those on the arms improve his archery. The agony of the ants is said to 'refresh' him, keeping him active and wide awake.

The Taulipang Indians do not reserve these painful encounters with insects solely for puberty rites. Most people voluntarily undergo it whenever they feel in need of an invigorating tonic. Once, an entire village went through the ceremony before an important visitor arrived. The Taulipang also claim that it helps fend off disease and improves their humour and hunting skills.

No comments: