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Introduction: Significance of the Rite of Passage
The transition from being a child to becoming an adult is always a challenge. Although there are different perspectives on a rite of passage, it exists in every single culture. Among the Maasai people, lion hunting is viewed as a legitimate rite of passage (Maasai Warriors par. 1-2). Serving as the means of marking the stage of a Maasai’s personal growth, it works not only as a transfer from childhood to adulthood but also as the means of proving one’s worth in the context of the Maasai society, which implies that its third phase is nearly eliminated.
Maasai Lion Hunt: Description and Meaning of the Rite
Living in the savannah means that one will have to make one of the most dangerous encounters possible. The chances of surviving a lion attack in the wilderness are close to a zero unless one possesses the prowess and courage necessary to face the animal. Herein lies the reason for choosing a lion hunt as the rite of passage in the Maasai tribe. The ability to fight the wild animal and defeat it points to the fact that a young man is capable of surviving in the harsh environment and, therefore, has the right to become a full-fledged member of the community (Peek par. 8).
As a rule, the hunting is carried out by a group of people. The reasons for the identified phenomenon are rather obvious; although solo hunting is a possibility, the threat is very high, especially given the fact that lions typically live in a pride (female) or coalition (male) (College of Biological Studies par. 1-2). Moreover, while viewed as a means to pass the stage between childhood and adulthood, lion hunting is a recurrent event and may be carried out on a regular basis.
Analysis: The Perspective of the Three Phases
As stressed above, in the Maasai culture, lion hunting does not necessarily imply a transfer from childhood to adulthood, although the given interpretation is the most common one. Therefore, the rite can be viewed from the perspective of three stages suggested by Van Gennep (O’Loughlin et al. 633). As a preliminary rite, it helps draw a line between a child and a grown-up man. Furthermore, the rite also works as a liminal, or a threshold, one since it is carried out in the process of transferring from one stage to another.
In addition, given the fact that the hunting, later on, becomes a tradition for adults as the means of proving their courage and outlining other essential qualities, it works as the tool for drawing the line between a child and an adult. At this point, one might argue that the rite loses its post-liminal effect once it becomes a recurrent event in the lives of the Maasai adults (Tadie 46). While for a young man, the end of the first lion hunt serves as the post liminal stage as it finally separates him from being a little boy, it does not have the same effect on the grown-up Maasai men that continue hunting lions to prove their courage, power, and dexterity (Goldman par. 1).
Conclusion: Entering Adulthood
Seeing that, in the Maasai culture, lion hunting is viewed as both the rite of passage and the means of proving one’s skills and abilities as an adult, its final stage based on Van Gennep’s taxonomy becomes blurred. Nevertheless, the lion hunting tradition can be viewed as a canonic rite of passage. It implies that one should prove one’s worth to society by showing the essential skills of survival.
College of Biological Studies. “Social Behavior.” University of Minnesota, 2015. Web.
Goldman, Mara. “Conservation Efforts Might Encourage Some to Hunt Lions, CU-Boulder-Led Study Finds.” University of Colorado Boulder, 2013. Web.
Maasai Warriors. “Facing the Lion.” Maasai Association, n.d.. Web.
O’Loughlin, Deirdre M., et al. “Austere Times: Male Experiences of Liminal Vulnerability.” NA – Advances in Consumer Research, vol. 43, no. 1, 2015, pp. 633-634. Web.
Peek, Jenny. “Guarding the Predators.” Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, 2012. Web.
Tadie, Benoit. “Anthropological Joyce: Dubliners, Van Gennep and Liminality.” ABEI Journal: The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies, vol. 1, no. 16, 2014, pp. 43-51. Web.