Last summer my son was turning eight and I wanted to do something meaningful for him. I thought about how societies in the past had “growing up” or “changing stage” ceremonies and I wished to offer him this type of experience. Eight is a big age. More so than the previous seven, my boy had begun the process of looking outside of the family unit. His youthfulness, his ability to be lost in tales of giants and elves was lessoning. Gravity and age were pulling him more and more into reality. Had it not been for love of the person he was growing into, I believe each day would have felt like a Shakespearean tragedy continuing to lose each moment to age. The notion itself was difficult to swallow.
I had heard tell of tribes from America to Africa, from Europeans to Asians, all at one point or another making an experience that extended beyond words and gifts, families and friends. Stories of elders showing up and grabbing the boy out of the hut while the mom (who was in on it) screamed for her son. The boy was brought to the men for an entire night where he was initiated into the ways of men in that particular society.
After that point, it was understood that something had changed. He was expected to behave differently. By doing this, the tribe defined a clear line for the boy. Where before he was a child, now he was (I am hesitant to say) a man. Other stories describe taking the boy on his first hunt and having his first kill. There are still other rites, predating all our modern stories, that tell of when the boy goes on his first war party, counted his first coup, or wrangled his first horse.