The Hamar tribe lives in the Omo Valley, situated in southwestern Ethiopia in Africa. They are made up of pastoralists, and they are nomads, so they cherish and treasure their livestock. They go as far as carrying guns to protect their cattle.
In the Hamar ethnic group, the initiation into manhood is done through the rite of bull jumping. The three-day-long rite passage is an essential annual ceremony in the hamar ethnic community. It usually takes place between October and November, but the particular date is being determined by the participant’s parents. It’s said to have been practiced for centuries.
In preparation for this ceremony, after the father of the initiate had given his go-ahead. Some boys perform the rituals as young as 5 years of age, depending on when the father deems them fit for it. When he is ready, the father gives them a stick called Boko. They carry the rods to show whoever is concerned, the father’s approval to perform the rite. The boy goes to inform each of his relatives of the fixed day, with a rope knotted in the number of remaining days since they don’t have a calendar. The relatives wake up each day and cut off a knot to keep track of the days.
The initiate’s head is being shaved by the maza. The mazas are those who have successfully passed this rite. Then rub sand on him as a means of purification. Smear him with dung for strength. Then, around his chest are strips from tree barks as a means of spiritual protection. Traditionally, this jump is made naked.
The initiate is meant to jump over ten castrated cows. The cows are smeared of dungs to make their backs slippery, and he has to jump through their backs without failing four times. If he should fail, then he has disgraced himself and his family and will have to wait until the next year to redeem himself.
During this ceremony, Women are dressed beautifully, coming out to cheer the initiate with their horns. They wear bells on their legs too. Outside that, the women beg the successful initiates to flog them as a sign of loyalty. The many whips a lady collects equals loyalty. Instead of crying due to pains, the women turn it to a competition of who takes the highest lashes. They flog them till they are bloodied, and the marks are the symbols of their loyalty.
It’s said that this loyalty is being owed, and when it’s being needed, the man will fulfill her needs.
After the successful run, the boy is being crowned a Maza.