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SMALL SOCIETY � Aboriginal Australia

There is no set or prescribed way of initiating adolescents into adulthood throughout the whole of Aboriginal Australia, as the beliefs and rituals of different groups vary greatly. However, some aspects of the initiation rituals can be seen in almost all groups all over the country. I will examine these aspects later on. The way in which a particular tribe or clan celebrate the coming of age is consistent as the elders ensure that the tradition is passed down. It is important to realise that initiation into an aboriginal society is considered to signify the beginning of an on going education in the ways of the group.

Boys Initiation is imperative for the transition from boyhood to manhood. It allows the boy to be “reborn” into a more complete life as an adult. This is achieved in a number of ways, but most involve spilling of blood of some kind as it is considered to be purifying and to signify the beginning of a “new era”. This spilling of blood is usually by way of ritual cut on the skin but more often that not by way of circumcision. Circumcision is the single most important event. Anthropologist Mervyn Meggitt, an authority on the Walbiri, says ‘Circumcision, with its accompanying ceremonies, firmly and unequivocally establishes a youth’s status in Walbiri society. Should he fail to pass through these rites, he may not enter his father’s lodge, he may not participate in religious ceremonies, he cannot acquire a marriage line, he cannot legitimately obtain a wife; in short, he cannot become a social person.’(Forbes “Secrets of the Dreamtime” 184). The “accompanying ceremonies” as mentioned by Meggit involve the isolation from a boy’s family and a ritualistic death and rebirth into adult life. Subincision, cicatrisation (the scarring of the body), depilation (removal of hair), nose piercing and tooth extraction are also widely used as initiation procedures.

Girls The initiation into adulthood for a girl is of a more sexual nature than that of a boy. This is perhaps a result of the understood role of a woman in the aboriginal community is that of a child bearer. The initiation takes place before a girl is married, it is not done in accordance with age or maturity. Unlike most other religious groups, virginity is not regarded as important in this aboriginal tradition. It is accepted that an adolescent girl will have had intercourse with boys of her tribe before the initiation process is carried out. In some societies, a ceremonious clitoral cut takes place before a girl undergoes “ritual defloweration” by the men of the same class as her intended husband. She is then handed over to him and therefore forbidden to any other man from that point.

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SECULAR SOCIETY � Schoolies Week

By contrast, the ways of aboriginal society where initiation marks the beginning of one’s education, Schoolies week is a coming of age ritual that celebrates the conclusion of 1 years of school. Julia Baird describes the week as a “ritual of rebellion” (Baird 00) where graduation seniors perform a pilgrimage to Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast for a week of alcohol and drug filled partying. According to many ex-seniors, one hasn’t truly finished school unless they have not been to and/or experienced Schoolies. Examples of Schoolies celebrations include copious beach parties, free concerts, public displays, markets, dances and a number of other activities.


Originally, In the Jewish faith, the initiation of a boy into adulthood was more celebrated than that of a girl. These days however, when a boy turns 1 and a girl 1, they celebrate their Bar (for a boy) and Bah (for a girl) Mitzvahs meaning that now they must obey all Mitzvos or commandments of the torah. Literally translated Bar Mitzvah means becoming the son/daughter of the torah. There is, however, no actual passage in the torah outlining the practices of initiation in the form of bah/bar mitzvahs, but it is a ritual that has formed over thousands of years. When carrying out this procedure, the celebrant is called up to the torah to recite a blessing over the weekly reading. In some groups, it is common practice for the Bar Mitzvah celebrant to do much more than just say the blessing. It is most common for the celebrant to learn the entire haftarah portion, including its traditional chant, and recite that. In some congregations, the candidate reads the entire weekly torah portion, or leads part of the service, or leads the congregation in certain important prayers. A party much like a wedding reception where the boy/girl is presented with gifts and family and friends gather to eat and celebrate together usually follows these happenings.

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