Then one day a change came over Otter. He woke Pepper before the sun was even up, after a long night of hunting crickets. “Come on, get up, he’s back.”
Pepper yawned and stretched, arching her back and shaking out each of her tired limbs. “Who’s back?”
“Uttamatomakkin, my person.” Otter was holding her by the scruff so that she wouldn’t curl up and go to sleep again.
“I didn’t know you had a person. How come I’ve never met him?”
“Of course I have a person you silly kit. I am bonded with the great Uttamatomakkin, medicine man and son-in-law of Chief Powhatan. He has been with the boys of the tribe, putting them through the huskanaw, turning them into men.”
“How can you turn someone into a man? I thought they just grew up that way.”
Otter spat. “Englishmen may grow hair on their faces like squirrels and call themselves men, but not us. For the Powhatan becoming a man means you die as a boy and forget everything and everyone you knew as a child.”
Pepper tilted her head. “They die?”
Otter was growing impatient. “It’s a ritual you silly molly. They have a two week long ceremony where they run the gauntlet, eat nothing, and dance nightly. Their mothers and sisters weep and wail to lose the boys they knew. Then they go into the forest where they drink strong medicine which gives them visions and drives away the spirit of the boy. It takes months and some of them don’t survive. If they do, they return to the tribe as men, and never acknowledge their life as boys again.”
To Pepper this made sense. Cats couldn’t stay kittens forever. At some point, the mother had to drive her kittens off, or else they would never learn to hunt for themselves. She noticed how the mothers were especially firm with their young sons. They forced them to perform difficult tasks. Before a boy could eat breakfast he had to hit flying targets with his bow and arrows. This was all to prepare them for the manhood ritual Otter described.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish