religion, religious studies, hermeneutics, sacred unseen order, ritual, rite of passage, liminality, initiation, female circumcision, Sara


Arts and Humanities


This paper employs hermeneutics as opposed to a comparative, explanatory, or descriptive method to engage the phenomenon of Sara female initiation as captured by Lori Leonard’s ethnography, “Female Circumcision in Southern Chad: Origins, Meaning, and Current Practice.” The Sara people of Southern Chad – although predominantly Christian – have their roots in a pre-colonial religion that reveres ancestors. The spirits of Sara ancestors are believed to exist in the bush outside of the village. In the female initiation ceremony, girls are removed from the village and enter the surrounding bush to undergo the ritual transition. This separation is key to understanding how the initiation ritual functions for Sara insiders. During the liminal period where the Sara girls are removed from the village, they undergo a ritual circumcision and learn about the history, customs, and expectations of their society. Separation of initiates from the village functions to create a sacred, unseen order for this contingent life-crisis ritual that serves as a rite of passage into adulthood.