Every single Xhosa boy has to go through the ceremony before he is regarded as being man because if they do not, everyone in the tribe will refer to him as a boy and no self respecting woman will want to marry him.
Boys of different ages who attended the ceremony lived in a so-called circumcision lodge and here they stayed in isolation during winter. Here they are taught the history of their tribe; its origin, the customs, the reasons for certain rituals such as circumcision and traditional duties. While they are there they are under the order of the lodge master who puts them through some tough tests of stamina. Traditionally these tests were so severe that they would often result in death but in modern times the conditions have become a little less severe.
The lodge master who lived in a special hut away from the rest of the men would instruct them in conduct, social duties and their traditions and political obligations.
No one is sure of what happens in the lodge as the events are kept a secret between the men and if one of the “men” speaks out, they take the chance of not being regarded as a man by his people.
They have a strange circumcision costume for the men: White sandstone is spread on their bodies and they also wear a white sheepskin as a coat or blanket; this is done to keep away the evil spirits. For ceremonial occasions they put on a reed skirt which is worn by tying one end to a tree and then winding themselves into it, they then wear a reed cap on their heads which looks like a cone with a reed mask.
They perform special dances after being introduced to the costumes. They toss their heads in the air and snort imitating a bull. They are very proud and like to show off their dancing skills which are performed for the neighboring huts. They always stay masked and the females always have to keep their distance because none of the soon to be men are supposed to marry until they have completed the ceremony.
In spring when the circumcision operation is performed and is completed the costumes and other items that were used, including the hut, are burned. The young men are then driven to a river and are ceremonially thrashed by the initiators; the white paint is then washed off in the river – the first sign of their manhood.
When the young men return home they are smeared with read clay which is not to be removed for three months.
These men have a strong bond and they now carry with them the knowledge of the traditions and history of their people. They are men and ready to face the world of adulthood.