From: Adelle Havard, BBC Earth
Published April 18, 2011 05:47 AM

Incredible rites of passage: Scarred for life, new from BBC Earth

With a dangerous reputation, crocodiles would not be the first animal you would associate with mental and physical strengthening. Surprisingly, the people of Papau New Guinea have a connection between man and beast that marks a boys journey into adulthood.

Many traditional celebrations that accompany events like birth, the start of adolescence, marriage, and death are richly integrated with the use of natural materials; such as feather, skin and bone. But when an occasion as serious and important as the coming of age beckons, the rituals connection between cause and effect must reflect this intensity.

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Many inhabitants of the South Pacific islands practice some form of physical transformation during male adolescence. The sacred act of scarring which people of the Solomon Islands practice can make rituals such as ceremonial hair cutting, and being cast into the wilderness for a short period seem relatively less challenging.
For decades, tribes have used the tradition of scarification to mature their young boys into men. For a number of weeks, the boys psychological as well as physical barriers are pushed with consistent verbal taunts as well as public humiliations. However their discipline is yet to be tested to its breaking point.

The elaborate patterns that are cut into the mens' skin, are promptly washed and then the process is complete. The pain endured will last for days and it’s this show of courage and the subsequent strength left behind, that is believed by the Papau to be the coming of the reptilian divinity. After consuming the males youth, the crocodile god has left a man in his place: One that will protect and provide for the community from that moment onwards.

As the largest reptile in the world, the saltwater crocodiles impressive size of up to seven meters in length only adds to its malevolent nature. But don’t be fooled, this animal is unparalleled for its remarkably high level of parental care. And not only that, the saltwater crocodile can live to a ripe old age of 65, sometimes reaching an incredible 100 years!

By making the Solomon islands its home, this magnificent species has not only paired itself in brotherhood with the land but with its people also. It may be the mimicry of the coarse skin that we see with our eyes, but it is the spirit of the animal that really lives on.

Photo credit: BBC Earth

Visit BBC Earth to see this incredible video: http://bbcearth.posterous.com/rites-of-passage-scarred-for-life

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