Re: Circumcision and other rites Was: Re: Male Virginity EXPLANATION

Derek Olivier Blair (
5 Nov 1995 17:38:03 GMT

Herman Rubin ( wrote:
: In article <>, <> wrote:
: >In article <46ncss$>, (Michael Nakis ) writes:

: I am not a professional, but I have read that the reason for circumcision
: and such other manhood rites as filing teeth, deliberate pain, deliberately
: going through fire, etc., is that these are things which separate men,
: who can consider future benefits against current loss, from animals, which
: cannot. Those tribes which used manhood rites were thus in a better
: competitive position than those which did not.

: Note that the original time for circumcision seems to have been the age
: of puberty, and it was probably a disqualification if the boy even cried
: out. In tribes which now have manhood rites, these must be passed if
: the man is to be allowed to mate in the tribe.
: --
: Herman Rubin, Dept. of Statistics, Purdue Univ., West Lafayette IN47907-1399
: Phone: (317)494-6054 FAX: (317)494-0558
Hi Herman,
I don't know which ethnographic material you're referring to.
Not to discount the accuracy of your information, perhaps the exegeses as
well at the particular rites differ cross-tribally. The Ndembu, for
instance, with whom the late Victor Turnet conducted such extensive
fieldwork, have extensive circumcision rites termed Mukanda. Here,
youths from 10 to 17 years partcipate, therefore it is not solely at the
onset of puberty that these rites occur. Among these boys, screaming
does not discount the ritual and drums are played to "cover up" the
screams from the pain. Also, there are certainly men in the tribe who
are not circumcised, though they are subject to extensive taboos as well
as ridicule. Non-circumcision among the Ndembu, however, does not mean
that one loses societal status.
As far as the explanation is concerned; the natives say that boys
become men and are not able to learn to master the hunt. But as far as a
holistic view is concerned, there is much going on. Turner shows that
there the group solidarity achieved between initiates is important, since
these will be the future leaders. thet will be in a position to check
tribal structure, assess it , and work to change it where required.
This, of course, is a short answer to a complicated question.
In what sense are tribes which practise circumcision in a better
competitive position?
Derek Blair