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Scarification Rituals In Papua New Guinea
Transcript of Scarification Rituals In Papua New Guinea
Myth of the Crocodile
An ancestor was hunting in a canoe and saw something in the water, the man dived deep into the water where he spotted a spirit house and within it lived a crocodile. The man remained
with the crocodile for months learning its secrets and power. When the man returned to his village, he taught his people how to build spirit houses as well as how to cut their skin to
resemble a crocodile. The Kaningara rely on the power and knowledge of the crocodile spirit ever since (Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
The Preparation Process
Kaningara boys are secluded for 2 months upstairs in the Spirit House where they learn carefully guarded secrets of tribal knowledge from elders.
The initiates are only allowed outside briefly but only if they are covered in shroud.
As part of preparation, the men sing in the spirit house teaching the initiates sacred chants and mythologies which will help them become men (Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
This education also allows then to train for their future roles in society.
The Day Before the Ritual
The initiate’s learn chants, songs, genealogies and receive special instructions only initiated Kaningara men know.
The initiate's dance from dusk till dawn to test strength as well as to bond with fellow tribesmen.
This is also for psychological and physical transformation (Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
The Day of the Ritual
They prepare their skin with ginger and coconut oil rubbed upon the areas that will be cut.
The initiates lay down and are cradled by their uncles while the professional cutter cuts open onto the initiate’s body.
Traditionally, the tool used for the ritual is a bamboo sliver, today razors are used.
The ritual takes over an hour where they will receive over 1000 severed cuts.
They are given a leaf to chew their teeth with during the cutting.
Their backs, buttocks, and chest all receive multiple lacerations with bamboo slivers, creating scars that when healed form keloid scars (Ingham, n.d.).
They won’t be able to leave until the cutting has ended (Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
The Spirit House
The Spirit House is where this sacred ritual takes place, which is the source of strength and power.
Women are forbidden to enter the spirit house, only grown men are permitted to enter the sacred building (Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
The Aftermath & Healing Process
The Kaningara Tribe
400 inhabitants live on the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea.
Less than 70 years ago the tribesmen were headhunters.(Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
They do not pursue headhunting today, however, continue to fight rival tribes to protect their village and land.
They believe strength comes from the power of the spirits (Krutak, 2008.).
They worship the crocodile, the most powerful creature in the jungle.
One Week Before the Ritual
The initiate’s spend a week before the ritual in the spirit house where they are put on a special diet to soften their skin.
They learning songs, rituals and taboos that should not violate such as revealing secrets after seclusion to women, family members and outsiders for they fear they will steal the power of the crocodile.
If a boy breaks a taboo he will die in the spirit house (Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
In some cases results have ended in death.
For days they rest and recuperate in order for the crocodile’s power to seep into their bodies.
A special paste made from clay is put into their cuts with a feather to become infected.
The more infected the cuts, the more largely and more beautiful the scars become.
A week after the scarring, the elders prepare the new men for the graduation ceremony where they are presented to the rest of the tribe and honored for their strength and bravery (Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
Symbolism of Pain
Pain is crucial for transforming a boy into a man.
Since the men have undergone this agonizing ritual, they are capable of conquering any problems in life (Krutak, 2008).
It is a test of strength and discipline (Guynup, 2004).
Rites of Manhood: Crocodile Scars
1. What should be the boundaries of accepting norms from other cultures?
2. What other rituals exist in other cultures worldwide that celebrate the rights of passage into manhood?
Functionalism of the Initiates & the Tribe
Their culture has survived because of the continuation of the ancient ritual.
They mark themselves for important life changing events.
Before being treated as a man, the boys are subjected to humiliation for weeks.
The boys are referred to as women and are referred to that way in order to mentally strengthen them (Dragon, 2010).
By getting cut they get rid of female traits.
The scars are impressive and beautiful to the women of the tribe.
They can get married because they are considered independent men (Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
Adams, L. ( 2011). Papua New Guinea Crocodile Skin Initiation [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.leslietravels.com/papua-new-guinea-photos/single-gallery/10030130
Alternative Archeology. (n.d.). Scarification Welts of a Local Tribal Man of Papua New Guinea in the Province of Sepik [Photograph]. Retrieved fromhttp://alternativearchaeology.jigsy.com/the-nagas-of-the-pacific
Amazing Stuff. (n.d.). Crocodile Scar Designs [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://amazingstuff.co.uk/humanity/crocodile-scarring/attachment/crocodile-scarification/
Bryant, L. (2013). Concepts of Functionalism. Retrieved from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/concepts_functionalism.htm
Dragon, V.(2010). 10 Incredibly Painful Rites of Initiation. Retrieved from http://listverse.com/2010/07/17/10-incredibly-painful-rites-of-initiation/
Gigliotti, P. (2007). The Spirit House in the Sepik River Basin [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.wilderutopia.com/traditions/papua-new-guinea-sepik-river-initiation-and-the-crocodile-cult/
Guynup, S. (2004). Scarification: Ancient Body Art Leaving New Marks. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0728_040728_tvtabooscars.html
Ingham, A. (n.d.). When Men Become Crocodiles: Extreme Tribal Scars. Retrieved from http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/ecology/when-men-become-crocodiles-extreme-tribal-scars/1261
Krutak, L. (2008). An Initiate Receives His Cuts [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://larskrutak.com/making-boys-into-men-the-skin-cutting-ritual-of-the-kaningara-tribe-of-papua-new-guinea/
Krutak, L. (2008). Crocodile Scars Healing Process [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://larskrutak.com/making-boys-into-men-the-skin-cutting-ritual-of-the-kaningara-tribe-of-papua-new-guinea/
Krutak, L. (2008). Kaningara Man with his Coveted Crocodile Scars [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://larskrutak.com/making-boys-into-men-the-skin-cutting-ritual-of-the-kaningara-tribe-of-papua-new-guinea/
Krutak, L. (2008). The Initiate's in Seclusion in the Spirit House [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://larskrutak.com/making-boys-into-men-the-skin-cutting-ritual-of-the-kaningara-tribe-of-papua-new-guinea/
Krutak, L.(2008). Making Boys Into Men: The Skin Cutting Ritual of the Kaningara Tribe of Papua New Guinea. Retrieved from http://larskrutak.com/making-boys-into-men-the-skin-cutting-ritual-of-the-kaningara-tribe-of-papua-new-guinea/
National Geographic. (December, 26, 2011). Rites of Manhood: Crocodile Scars [Video File] Retrieved from http:www.youtube.com
Papua New Guinea. (2006). Kaningara Dancer [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.mfaucher.com/files/PNG06/Pn06a.html
Papua New Guinea. (2006). Kaningara Masks [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.mfaucher.com/files/PNG06/Pn06a.html
Stanford Alumni. (2006). Crocodile Carving [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://www.stanford.edu/~siegelr/animalz/crocz.html
Stanford Alumni. (2012). Map of Papua New Guinea [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/travel-study/trip/?ciid=25170
Tattoo Hunter. (October, 24, 2011) Papua New Guinea Sepik Pukpuk Skin Cutting Full Episode [Video File] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com
The Travel Lust. (2010). Kaningara Man Healing [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://thetravellust.com/2010/11/18 papua_new_guinea_sepik_river_blackwater/
Map of Papua New Guinea
Seclusion in the Spirit House
The Final Product
The Spirit House
The Agonizing Procedure
A Kaningara Man Recieving Healing Treatment
A Kaningara Man Healing
The Coveted Marks of the Crocodile
Symbolic Interactionism of the Ritual
The crocodile represents this society and is held in the highest regard.
By scarring their skin to look resemble a crocodile; they believe they can absorb the crocodile’s power (Tattoo Hunter, 2011).
They believe they can use this power to defeat their enemies.
They believe their ancestor was a crocodile, by cutting the skin they are honoring the creature that taught them everything they know (Krutak, 2008).
The cuts represent the teeth of the crocodile spirit biting into the initiate’s skin. The “teeth marks” represent swallowing adolescence and morphing the boys into adulthood (Ingham, n.d.).