Kim Kersey Blog

We are spiritual beings having a human experience. – Teilhard de Chardin

Rituals of pain and fear – no more!

Here in Hamburg, Germany outside my partner’s flat I watched a little ceremony complete with live music and dancing. It appeared that a young boy (about age 6) was the center of attention. My partner believes the group was Turkish and they were celebrating a circumcision.

A man was playing a zurna and another guy was playing a davul – so they had a reed instrument and a drum. In Turkey, that’s enough I take it. And indeed it was! They had plenty of sound and celebration.

The whole family had turned out in brightly colored clothes to watch the guest of honor turn and dance for everyone present. They marched to the building next door and back.

I thought it appropriate to honor the event of his joining his brothers, dad, uncles, etc. as a now slightly less physically complete human, albeit a step higher on the growing up ladder. I was glad to see the support the whole family was putting forth, the happiness of the young boy, the joy of the older women seeing the young lad’s happiness.

I researched a bit the concept of the coming of age ritual. It seems there are good effects – seeing oneself as more grown up, more responsible, one who will be treated a bit differently now by the older ones; that all seems good.

I don’t see why the pain and blood-letting is needed today, however. As is often the case with cultural norms, if we simply ask why enough times, we begin to feel pretty stumped on clear reasons. So with circumcision or other rite of passage blood-letting traditions, why is this continuing these days?

I watched some ceremonies on the web. One in particular showed circumcision being done on a large-scale at an outdoor setting. It seemed very clean, calm and professional, sanitary. The families had all gathered together for each of the young men.

The camera person and editor presented a balanced view, I thought. Among those being cut, I was glad the film showed stoic young men as well as terrified weeping ones, and also their faces before and after.

I suppose it’s safe to say that likely all men present at the ceremony were themselves circumcised. And I’ll bet none of them liked it when they were cut, even though their attitudes on the film seemed gleeful and supportive of the event.

It seems such a weak argument to allow inertia (we’ve always done it this way, everyone does it, you don’t want to be different and risk being made fun of) to rule the day, every day, worldwide, year after year.

I see nothing wrong with asking the young boy and allowing “no” to be an appropriate response. I mean after all, that’s pretty personal stuff!

A ritual about growing up that offers recognition, honor, support, love – yes.  One with blood, torture, cutting, pain, fear – no.


2012 June, 11 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,


  1. Genau! Gute Idee!

    Comment by Kim Anthony Kersey | 2012 June, 11 | Reply

  2. I like the idea of asking the person that is to be honoured, how he (or under different circumstances she) would like the ritual to be – including interventions like a circumcision. I agree that it is pretty personal and after all a ritual like this indicates more self-responsibility for the celebrated one. So why not starting this responsibility in deciding on your own, what you would like to be done and how?

    (That, by the way, counts for nearly all cultures I know regarding education of children.)


    Comment by Stefanie Neumann | 2012 June, 11 | Reply

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