Michael Brown

Sambian Tribal Sexual Ritual

Introduction of the Sambia Tribe

The Sambia of Papua New Guinea are located in the Krate Mountains constraint by the Lamari River, the alluvial Papuan lowlands and the adjacent river valleys of the Eastern Highland Province, Marawaka District. They are believed to have migrated to the Papuan Gulf from the north as recent as 1700 A.D. The tribe’s population was seen to be around 2,700 with a population density averaging at 1.5 persons per square kilometer (The Sambia of Papua New Guinea). A typical
Map of Papua New Guinea where the Sambia Tribe resides
village (or also known as a hamlet) ranges from 20 to 250 people with every village being unique. It has also been known for the different tribes enact in wars. Each hamlet has two types of dwellings: menstrual huts and men club huts
. The menstrual huts are below the village and house the menstrual events and women’s ceremonies. The men’s club hut house all the males (age 7 -10) for masculine initiation until after marriage (late teens to early 20s).


Jerungdu comes from the Sambia tribe meaning “the essence of maleness”. It is the physical strength, the supreme essence of maleness in both personality and spirit. (The Sambia of Papua New Guinea). Since the Sambia tribe belongs to a warrior tribe that stress the ideas about strength masculinity is a state of being chosen and necessary. The Sambia men believe that Jerungdu provide power to do battle and to prove or reaffirm the fact of one’s masculine strength. It is seen that the source of Jerungdu is the men’s semen.

The Sambia people see this concept as a problem because it has to be accomplished by external means (The Sambia of Papua New Guinea). It is because of the concept of Jerungdu that the men of the Sambia tribe strive to be manly. The Sambian male initiation rituals are seen as the way of attaining Jerungdu from older warriors.

Male Sexual Initiation Rituals

The purpose of the initiation ritual is to transform boys into masculine warriors. This process is also known as “masculization”. This is when men are considered to be “reborn” from men and are taught many important things such as that woman are dangerous and emasculating (The Sambia Tribe). This initiation is broken down into six stages with the first three stages held in succession.

The initiation process for the young Sambian males happen as young as 7 to 10 years old. The males are taken away from their mothers and female community as a whole. The males are taken to the special men’s clubhouse cult where during their stay they hold a homosexual status (Sambia). After having to be
Cult Clubhouse where Rituals are Held
subjected to heavy nose bleeding due to sticks rammed up the male’s nostrils, they are required to ingest semen. The males are required to perform oral sex with all ofthe elder males which sometimes can happen as much as 20 to 30 times per day. The elders testify that the younger males will be unable to mature into men unless they ingest semen and that all men have “eaten the penis” (The Sambia Tribe). As stated before, semen is seen as the source of strength for the males to become powerful warriors. After the formal ceremonies conclude, the elders would perform otherhomosexual advances on the young males. In the second initiation stage even more ingestion of semen.
Pandanus Tree

In the third stage of initiation the males become “bachelors” and are now the inseminator instead of the inseminated. Also during this stage the males are beaten severely in order to purify their bodies from any female contamination that may have occurred when they left the rituals. The next step in the initiation is to catch an enemy tribes female and kill and enemy tribes warrior. The young bachelor must ingest the enemy’s semen because it is seen to strengthen the warrior and slow the dying process. At the end of the third initiation, the young males are taken to a pandanus tree within the forest. Here they are told to remove a piece of pubic hair. They then place the hairs collected into the tree trunk. The males are told the “Jew’s harp” story and its significance. During the teaching of this lesson they are told not to be promiscuous during their heterosexual relationships when they are done with the ritual. The consequence of disobeying is death.

During the fourth step in the initiation process the males are married. This is also the point where the males cease homosexual activities. His father or older brothers usually picks the bride. These females are around the age of 12 or 13. Even though married the soon to be “man” still resides in the cult house until shortly before or after her “menarche” which is her first menstrual period. During this initiation step men are also taught the importance in protecting themselves from female “genital odor”. When having sex with their wives they are instructed not to penetrate too deeply. They are warned that if they do they will enter her urethra, which will make them sick. In fact during this point the young men are taught that women hold many dangerous aspects to her.

During the fifth step females usually are beginning their menarche. This means that they young men can now live within there hamlets. Once again the male bleeds his own nose out by himself. He is also taught how to protect himself from his wife’s “pollution” while she is on her menstrual period. To protect themselves from the female genital odor and “contamination” every time his wife is on their menstrual period they must bleed his nose out as he has been taught before until the birth of his first child. He must also place mint leaves in his nostrils and chew particular branches while having sex with their wife. The women are also instructed to ingest semen just as the males did in the initiation process. This is because it is believed that the semen transforms into breast milk to nourish offspring.
Sambian Nose Bleeding

The last stage of the initiation is where the male is considered a full man. When the male and female have offspring the male is instructed to not engage in sexual intercourse until it is weaned, which could be a matter of years. He does not have to bleed his nose unless he has another wife to attend to. He also is told not to expose the secrets of the male cult. The consequence of not obeying is death.

Through out this entire initiation it is also suggested that the young males get use to the homosexuality and seek out their favorite elder by openly fondling their genital area. Gilbert Herdt describes the ceremony of ritualized “homosexuality” as the “penis and the flute” ceremony where bamboo flutes are played as a symbolic representation of the mechanics of the fellatio performed. It is know that many young males are not able to survive the rigorous initiation process. The ones that do are considered great warriors and continue the tradition to the next generation.


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The Sambia of Papua New Guinea. (2010, November 10). Retrieved March 22, 2011, from Anthropology & the Human Condition website: http://sc2218.wetpaint.com/page/The+Sambia+of+Papua+New+Guinea

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