Whether it’s a trendy venue with a six mile queue or a golf club that requires its members to wear all tweed, exclusive clubs have always tested the fanatical limits of would-be members. If you want to be one of the elite, chances are you’ll have to earn that privilege, in a nasty, self-respect destroying way. In an effort to prove this madness is real, Don’t Panic examines the worst and asks what you would do for a shiny membership card.
One of the most commonly accepted rituals, with a recent survey revealing that more than half of American students had undergone some demeaning ritual. Most amount to a painful week of shame after eating a urinal cake or being molested by a pensioner, but it can get a lot more serious. Last year a student of Delhi medical college was killed after a fraternal beating turned nasty, while even more recently seven New England College boys were arrested in connection with severe branding ceremonies. As all students past and present secretly understand, it all gets a bit Lord of the Flies when Mum’s not around.
The Navy have a long prized method of turning young pups into hard bitten sea-dogs. The shellback initiation comes into effect whenever a ship crosses the equator, the cue for all newbies, or ‘pollywogs’, to regret having ever been born. The ceremony used to involve a savage beating and/or being thrown overboard, but in this liberal age the shellbacks have got more creative. These days, new sailors are forced to dress as women and crawl through the worst garbage the crew can find (plenty bad). The crowning glory comes when they are ‘interrogated’ by an experienced shellback, which involves licking liquid filth (uncooked eggs, fish guts) from their bellies. Variations include the golden shellback and royal diamond shellbacks, which take place at different equatorial locations.
Vanuatu land diving
Less demeaning but more scary than the last two. In accordance with the legend of the tribe’s founding father, who chased his wife-to-be up a tree before plunging to his death, any young man wishing to marry must endure a sacred land-dive. They leap from a purpose built platform with their feet bound to elasticated vines, in a ritual which pre-dates bungee jumping. The vines are measure to stop just as the man’s head touches the ground, allowing him to kiss the earth and gain it’s blessing for his marriage. However, this is hardly an exact science and many a groom has ended up too dead to make the wedding.
Plenty of legends exist over this famous but inaccurately portrayed organisation, not least surrounding their entry test. Some ex-angels have alleged that new members must bring a ‘sheep’ (lady) willing to “cover the crowd” (have sex with everyone), but the veracity is disputed. More plausible and widely reported are cases of a member’s new uniform being smeared with communal excrement, which he is then obliged to wear for a week without washing. Though far from civilized, this makes the bikers slightly friendlier than some other gangs, such as the Roto Gang (witness a disemboweling), or the Triads (have to drink a bowl of their own blood).
For initiation and each subsequent promotion, a witch must undergo a process of ‘scourging’ at the altar. She must recite an oath of allegiance to the four guardians of the earth, while she is anointed with the sacred oil. In days gone by she would then be beaten to the tune of forty strokes with a club, but in this modern, wimp-infested era this element is deemed unnecessary. There are more rituals for puberty, marriage etc. but these require less organisation.
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