1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Puberty

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PUBERTY (Lat. pubertas, from pubes, puber, mature, adult), that period of life at which the generative organs in both sexes become sexually active (see Reproductive System). In northern countries males enter upon sexual maturity between fourteen and sixteen, sometimes not much before the eighteenth year, females between twelve and fourteen. In tropical climates puberty is much earlier. In English common law the age of puberty is conclusively presumed to be fourteen in the male and twelve in the female. Puberty is of much ethnological interest, as being the occasion among many races for feasts and religious ceremonies. In Rome a feast was given to the family and friends: the hair of boys was cut short, a lock being thrown into the fire in honour of Apollo, and one into water as an offering to Neptune. Girls offered their dolls to Venus, and the bulla—a little locket of gold worn round children's necks, often by boys as well as girls—was taken off and dedicated in the case of the former to Hercules or the household lares, in the case of the latter to Juno. The attainment of puberty is celebrated by savages with ceremonies some of which seem to be directly associated with totemism. The Australian rites of initiation include the raising of those scars on the bodies of clansmen or clanswomen which serve as tribal badges or actually depict the totem. Among many savage peoples lads at puberty undergo a pretence of being killed and brought to life again.