Becoming a Woman: Rites of passage from around the world
Discovering identity & belonging through traditional rites of passage
While many in the West are on an endless pursuit of youth and identity, it might do us well to take notice of - and glean wisdom from - other cultures who celebrate the rite of passage from childhood to adult. Nowadays, searching the internet for “how to become a woman” yields entirely different results than it did a decade ago (try “rites of passage” instead). However, if you dig past the initial Google suggestions or fine tune your search, you’ll encounter a range of practices that motivate, surprise, or even make you uneasy. Here are a few:
Japan: Seijin Shiki
This “Coming of Age Ceremony” takes place every January. 20-year-olds around Japan wear expensive kimonos and take part in nation-wide ceremonial events to indicate their arrival into adulthood
Apache Sunrise Ceremony (Na’ii’ees)
Although now rare, in the summer following their first menstruation, females are not permitted to touch themselves or bathe, and take part in a 4-day re-enactment of the Apache creation story and work to personify Esdzanadehe, the first created woman.
The 4 to 12 weeks following the onset of menstruation sees young women painted in black dye and isolated in small chambers and visited by masked guests for three days
who personify incarnations of demons called “the Noo”. The dye is meant to protect them from the Noo, and on the third day a celebration ensues.
Why should boys have all the fun?
In a world consumed by the pursuit of eternal youth and self-discovery, it is worth exploring the intriguing rites of passage found in different cultures. The notion of becoming an adult takes on unique and often unconventional forms. While some of rites highlighted in this article might not even be legal or practical in the West (nor are they necessarily endorsed by the author), we would do well to learn from cultural attributes of other peoples who draw a clear line to delineate between life’s most important stages.