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Old Pelan Coming of Age Ceremony

CW: fighting, child violence  
Though the modern day Pelan coming of age ceremony consists primarily of a nine year-old's parents presenting them to the tribe, the original ceremony was more violent, involving a mock-fight. This ritual was intended for Pelan children to prove they could manage the tasks necessary of them during nomadic travel. The nine-year old was typically armed with a wooden wand made of a Thoov branch, and their opponant, a teenager or adult, was armed with a sharp knife, though in some cases, two nine-year olds faced one another while armed with branches.
Because the battle was not considered real, it was the duty of the older competitor to prevent major injuries to the young person while still offering a challenge. Minor cuts and bruises were expected. It was also the job of the older competitor to lose the fight by not fighting to their full ability and providing openings for the child to knock them down. This usually resulted in a battle of endurance, and if the child could withstand it, they would be considered an adult.
As the Adult ceremony developed to welcome new members into the community, this was much more peaceful, usually involving a prayer and a formal presentation of the newcomer. This is likely because Pelan leaders worried adult newcomers would not agree to the same ordeal the children went through. Over time, the ceremony for children changed to match the ceremony for adults, and the mock-fights ended in almost all Pelan communities. Nevertheless, some critics of the Pelan have pointed to this custom as evidence that the Pelan are "barbaric savages," as everyone was required to submit to the challenge, even the deaf and blind.

Cover image: by Molly Mar


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