This past weekend was the “Calling Out” ceremony for my nephew. Sansui, my brother-in-law, is Nigerian and it is their tribal custom for the father, joined by the other men of the tribe, to “call out” a son from boyhood to manhood when he turns 13. It is a rite of passage of love, belonging, responsibility, accountability, and identity. Now living in the States Sansui has adapted the ceremony to include the significant men who make up their family’s American tribe. The men ranged in age from 83 down to 15.
The ceremony began with my nephew sitting among his peers wearing a colorful woven hat that identified the tribe to which he belongs. Sansui asked his son to rise and then in a loud voice called out his name inviting him to leave boyhood and to join the other men in the room to manhood. My nephew acknowledged the call and expressed his desire to enter manhood.
He then moved to a designated seat where each man read to him a letter he had written concerning manhood and gave to him a gift that correlated to his letter. The letters were autobiographical in nature drawing from the unique spiritual pilgrimage of each man. (Unexpectedly I was moved by what the 15-year-old men had to say.) Woven together these letters made up a beautiful collection of wisdom, counsel, love, but also warning.
The clear messages from the 2-hour ceremony were: (1) you are loved and (2) you belong to us and we belong to you.
A couple of observations:
- The “Calling Out” was initiated and led by a dad. It was a family event.
- Although the ceremony was meaningful to my nephew, it also reinforced the importance of belonging for the adult participants. The older men were visibly moved as well as those still in their teens.
- The ceremony made clear what in life is important and what is not.