Life Changing

My friend Ferg sent me some incredible photos of a ceremony he recently took part in, read more for some amazing photos and his story. More to come soon!

I was the main participant this weekend in a male initiation ceremony at one of the nearby outstations that involved horizontal chest cutting done with a sharp (although could have been sharper and less serrated thank you very much) stone. We all danced the night before, slept, got up at sunrise, were painted, danced all along the beach to the men’s business area where I was laid down and sliced open. I was told (translated from Yolgnu Matha) the things that a man has to do from now on and after a final dance with my immediate Aboriginal family members it was off home for a well deserved hot bath.

The History Channel were there filming for three days, and the five and a half hours of footage they got will have to be condensed into about fifteen minutes for a one hour show they’re doing about traditional ceremonies around the world.

The local people have completely blown me away with their enthusiasm and energy and of course for giving me the opportunity to actually go through a traditional and authentic ritual. The younger generation got the chance to learn a bit more about a ceremony that is not being practised as much as it used to be and I got to develop a whole new level of respect and gratitude for the people I work and live with.

This has been life changing, and I’m completely serious when I say that. I’m humbled beyond words to have been able to do this and my lifetime gratitude goes to the Aboriginal people of NE Arnhem Land for organising this cultural exchange for us both and allowing me to step into their world. Their generosity has been amazing.


35 thoughts on “Life Changing

  1. that is so incredibly amazing.
    How did you manage to set it up with them though?

  2. How would you get hooked up with this? i have wanted to do something like this for a very long time. Especially next summer if i could, right after graduating high school…

  3. Wow, that must be incredible to be welcomed into their tradition like that. I would love to be able to have an experience like that.

  4. Totally amazing, makes me wish there was more of a call for anthropology majors.

  5. I don’t think Freg tried to set up/hook up with them. As he said himself here, these are “the people I work and live with”, so it’s probably not “given” but “earned”.

    must have been an amazing experience for him although I have mixed feelings about TV crew present there and a few other details.

    Thanks for sharing, though and thanks for keeping so much more just for yourself!

  6. oh fergu-san, i am so jealous. take me with you next time, please?

    some of those kids look TERRIFIED in the thirtheenth picture.

  7. I love Ferg! You need a full reality show, my friend.
    Perhaps a more detailed article on BME about your experience?

  8. #17 – Australia. (There is a helpful wiki link in the text.)
    Great photos, and experience. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I agree with post #10 – You should earn this kind of thing as an Outside or foreigner. If you have to pay for it to participate, it’s probably some watered down tourist thing. The fact Ferg says that film crew got five hours of footage (and that won’t be the entirety of the ritual) shows that this wasn’t an *exotic afternoon activity for the public at large*.

    What I thought was funny as hell about these pics was the lil girl throwing up the ‘WEST SIDE’ in the photo fourth from the bottom hahahaha G’s up!

  10. Isn’t this kind of like the thing that ModBlog posted a casting call for a couple weeks ago? Guy travels around the world, shooting a documentary about body modification traditions?

  11. n0ir- Indigenous Australian culture is still practiced today amongst many members of their community, this isn’t part of some quaint, condescending revival of the past for the sake of it or the pleasure of other people but a legitimate expression of the oldest continuous culture in the world. It’s completely legitimate for there to be an attempt to build understanding of this culture by filming the process- as the post said, of a 48 hour presence the crew are only going to end up with 15 minutes of footage because the cut everything that custom dictated they couldn’t show. No offense, but think before you flex your pseudo-intellectual muscle and drop names (and wikipedia links) all over the place.
    Personally I found this post extremely moving and beautiful.

  12. I’ll answer quickly and generally for the moment.

    Firstly, this is not just something you can do whenever you want. It’s an authentic, male initiation ceremony though not a sacred one, therefore its results are shared around the community. See the photos from my interview about Aboriginal scarification here:

    for some of the scars on people in the 30′s and 40′s and still presently. Quite a few old people here still have their horizontal chest scars even though this ritual is not done as much with the younger generation – a point which I will explore in more detail later. Many women and children proudly sport their scarification today which is done for a number of reasons and passages through life.

    I’ve been living in this particular remote community for the last 2 and a half years out of four. I left then came back, something that a lot of other teachers don’t do. I taught many people here’s kids in primary school for 2 years and now teach secondary school. Prior to this ceremony, I have built up a strong and lasting relationship with many of the people, adults and children alike, in the whole community.

    I was adopted into an Aboriginal family in 2004 in another community but have immediate family members who live here and whom I also teach. They are my friends as well as my family and they participated in the ceremony, directing me and dancing directly with me. I owe them a lot for their help and support.

    I wouldn’t have been granted permission for this ceremony if I hadn’t already had those bonds with people, regardless of who wanted to film it. Consequently, on both sides, those bonds have now been strengthened greatly.

    I’ll write more ‘answers’ into the experience. Some people have brought up some interesting points that I’d like to discuss and expand on.

    19. nOir: maybe you can enlighten me a bit with Rousseau’s philosophy and how that applies to me/this?

    And yes, the gang sign thing is funny yet sad yet predictable all at the same time. More on that later….

    If anyone needs to rant at me personally (because you can’t access my BME page or you just want to swear a bit more) please feel free to email me:

    As always, I welcome all comments, good, bad, critical, abusive, complimentary, whatever and I’ll answer them all if you want a reply.


  13. Thats amazing! You must feel really priviledged to get that close to the culture and ways of the place you’ve been living for the last little while. I can see how you might consider that to be life changing, lol :)

    Thanks for sharing :)

  14. wow..
    how beautiful and inspiring
    would love a full interview about the experience!

  15. Love ya ferg…. you are the most interesting man i’ve never met. hope to see you someday soon…my hemisphere or yours

  16. Pingback: BME: Tattoo, Piercing and Body Modification News » ModBlog » Three Arsed Monkey

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