Lower Valley of the Omo
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Jumping of the Bull
The Hammer tribe has a sacred ceremony called Jumping the Bulls. A boy (in this case the boy is actually 27 years old) jumps across 8 bulls and becomes a man and is now ready for marriage. Leading up to the ceremony, female family member of the boy begs to be whipped by the designated whipper as a sign of love and affection for the boy. We are walking down the road to the dry riverbed where the ceremony is to take place and suddenly a thunderous roar of bells overtakes us. Hammer women in anklets with large metal bells are running pass us, towards the whippers, with thin branches in their hands, ready to show their love. This whipping goes on for nearly two hours. There is an ecstatic frenzy in the air. The more the women are whipped, the more they want to be whipped. Watching the proceedings you wonder how much the natural human chemical reaction is responsible. Is this love, tradition or simply a chemical rush the women are responding to? Or maybe a little bit of everything. Eventually, the women are bloody, the whippers exhausted and it is time for the boy to become a man. Naked as the first day of his boyhood, he hops on top of the first bull and quickly makes his way across them and down the other side to repeat the process. Tradition dictates he does this at least 4 times but as in all displays of manhood, he does it as many times as possible. The display of the LOVE is remarkable. The ceremony is a mixture of rarity, sacredness and raw tribal expression.
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