As the good ole Beetles and the book of Ecclesiastes says: for everything there is a season. It’s true the world over and particularly true here in Muslim, agricultural based Mali.
All things are done in their own time. Planting season starts in June after three big rains, the growing season between July-September. Harvest happens in October/November (before the last big rain). The new year stars in September after the celebration of the prophet (Tabaski). The big fast (Ramadan) is celebrated around June. And the period between December to May are for celebrations – marriages, graduations, elections etc. What makes this seasonal calendar even more dynamic is the fact that religious holidays are held based on lunar and constellation phases.
The stars aligned this year and (despite the boys suspected horror) now is the season of circumcision. It turns out when the stars align (about every four years), all the boys of around 6-8 are rounded up and circumcised. During their recovery they stay with the oldest village woman who feeds, cleans, and monitors their healing. As they heal they wear black robes and are encouraged to ask for change along the roadside which they share among themselves at the end of the two week period.
It’s an interesting way to mark a milestone and it means so much to the villagers. And so I say, congratulations to all the boys of Mali on your newfound manhood.