Bull Jump Ceremony by Tommaso Vecchi

The Bull Jump is a ritual which represents the rite of passage in the life of a young boy (Ukuli), who, from a child develops into a man (Maza). 

The Bull Jump is a ritual which represents the rite of passage in the life of a young boy (Ukuli), who, from a child develops into a man (Maza). 

One has to go through this process in order to get married. If he is successful, it means that the boy is responsible enough and ready to start his own family. The ceremony commences with a very long dance which lasts through a whole afternoon.  This is executed by the women of the village who are in some way or another related to the young Ukuli.  The dance is a veritable feast, with trumpets, rattles and chants. 

Once the dance is over it is then the turn of the village men who would have already successfully gone through this ritual. At this point, the tradition becomes visceral, for the women ask the men to whip them. The men consent, tearing flesh after every strike.  

The women are proud of the scars for these are symbolical of the strong bond between the women and their relatives. In fact, it is the women who ask to be whipped and it is also they who decide when to stop this brutal act. Subsequent to this, the young Ukuli is covered in sand and dung which is believed to give him strength.

Before the actual jump, there is another rite, one that features the village men who put their bracelets inside a long stick. With their hands joined, they need to get them out in one solitary effort. Unless they manage this, the ceremony is stalled.

Cows and bulls are then lined up and kept in position by the village men. The jumper needs to leap over them for four successive times without falling in order to be successful. After this endless ritual, the young Hamar is free to marry.  

The Ukuli, which means the young initiated man, after having jumped over the bulls successfully, becomes a Cherkari (a social phrase that is a sort of a brand name which he carries for just eight days). After this period he will move on to the Maza stage and remains at that phase until he gets married when he becomes a Danza, which is the official status of the married Hamer men.

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