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Rites of Passage. In the Beginning…. During the early 20th century, the Belgian anthropologist, Arnold Van Gennep, observed that all cultures have prescribed ways for an individual and society to deal with these emotion charged situations through rituals. He called them rites of passage.

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in the beginning
In the Beginning…
  • During the early 20th century, the Belgian anthropologist, Arnold Van Gennep, observed that all cultures have prescribed ways for an individual and society to deal with these emotion charged situations through rituals.
  • He called them rites of passage.
the tree of life
The Tree of Life
  • Imagine the stages of therites of passage as a Tree.Each one of us is in aparticular stage ofdevelopment,somewhere on this Tree.
  • Each one of us is in a particular stage of development, somewhere on this Tree.
CONCEPTION: The seed is planted, the soil is fertile, the seed dies for the new life to be born.

BIRTH: Even as its roots stay well within the darkness of the Earth, the tiny plant knows which way to grow.

CHILDHOOD: Its roots grow stronger and deeper.

ADOLESCENCE: The tree is vibrant, full of life and potential, its essence bursting; flower buds appear and begin to open.

ADULTHOOD: Pollen is carried by bees and the wind to fertilize and impregnate new life. The blossoms begin to develop into fruit.

ELDER: The fruit has ripened. There is now an abundance of food to nourish and nurture new life.

DEATH: It has lived its life. What is left returns to the Earth in honor of all she has given. This in turn replenishes the soil with nutrients. Death gives new life.

A rite of passage, which marks a time when a person reaches a new and significant change in his/her life, is something that nearly all societies recognize and often hold ceremonies for.
Most rites of passage fall into three main phases:




There are five times in one's life that are often considered to be the most significant times of change:
  • Birth (first rite of passage that everyone goes through). Naming a child is part of this rite. There are many unique customs that different cultures observe when naming their children.
rites of passage9
Rites of Passage
  • Leaving childhood and becoming an adolescent
  • Leaving home
  • Weddings
  • Death/funerals
rites of passage incorporate are celebrated through
Rites of Passage incorporate are celebrated through…
  • Pain/suffering
  • Isolation
  • Visions
  • Roleplay
societies typically hold elaborate ceremonies each of which is unique to one s own culture
Societies typically hold elaborate ceremonies each of which is unique to one's own culture.
  • In Canada, typical rites of passage are baptisms, bar mitzvahs and confirmations, school graduations, weddings, retirement parties, and funerals.
  • Most are religious ceremonies as they mark the transition between an individual's life stages whilst reinforcing the dominant religious views and values of a culture.
baby smoking in kimberly australia
Baby Smoking in Kimberly, Australia
  • Shallow pit filled with Konkerberry tree.
  • Fire – smoke symbolises purification.
  • Mother gives the child to grandmother who in turn passes the child through the smoke uttering a blessing.
adolescence girls
Adolescence (girls)
  • In Africa and South America, girls are secluded at menses and taught by their elders about womanhood.
  • When Luiseno girls reach menses, the whole tribe celebrates.
adolescence boys
Adolescence (Boys)
  • In Borneo, some tribes force young boys to affirm their passage through hunting alone, fighting and isolation in the wilderness. They believe that this will provide great growth potential.
  • In Turkey, boys are circumcised at 7 or 8 so that they remember the time when they became a "man". He is paraded around on a donkey before sunset, wearing white robe and red ribbon. He sits on a lavishly decorated bed to receive gifts and compliments for his bravery.

Alkira-Kiuma Ceremony or the Tossing Ceremony of the Aranda Tribe (1904).  At age twelve, the boy's first initiation ceremony, tossed and caught by various male relatives


In indigenous societies of Africa and Australia, circumcision and/or subincision has been an integral part of such rites. For girls it can be clitoridectomy.

The Massai of Kenya group together for circumcision.

While boys do not experience such clear physiological markers of transition to adulthood as menstruation, their rites of passage to this new status in some cultures are more severe than for girls.  Adulthood
Among the cattle herding Barabaig culture of East Africa, the boys' heads are shaved and their foreheads are cut with three deep horizontal incisions that go down to the bone and extend from ear to ear.  Sometimes, the incisions are deep enough to show up on the skulls.
and now for something completely different
And now for something completely different…
  • Among the Luiseño Indians, boys had to undergo severe ordeals such as laying on red ant mounds and not crying out from pain as they were repeatedly bitten over long periods of time. 
  • The Vanatau of Brazil – the original Bungi Jumpers!
  • Bar Mitzvah – Boys aged 13. they are now accountable for their actions. They can now bless and read from the Torah.
  • Bat Mitzvah – girls aged 13.
  • Bar – Son
  • Bat – Daughter
  • Mitzvah - Commandment
Graduation shows how we value education and that adulthood is beginning
  • Prom – biggest event for many in US and Canada
a deadly rite of passage
A Deadly Rite of Passage…..

4 students charged in California fraternity hazing death

May 26, 2009 12:50 PM

Four California college students face charges stemming from a fraternity hazing that caused the alcohol-induced death of a freshman at California Polytechnic State University. Carson Starkey, 18, of Austin, Texas, was found dead in December with a blood-alcohol level between 0.39 percent and 0.44 percent. He had to drink a bag full of alcoholic drinks as part of the fraternity pledging process, police said. Starkey was pledging the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, which has since been suspended.

ALSO...from The Wilmington News Journal: The Delaware Attorney General's office has charged University of Delaware fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu with hazing in connection with the death of former student Brett Griffin. The charge comes a week after Griffin's parents, Timothy and Julie Griffin, filed a wrongful death civil suit against that national chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu.Griffin, 18, died after an off-campus party in November. The civil suit also accuses the fraternity of hazing. It contends that Griffin was pressured into drinking an excessive amount of Southern Comfort. Fraternity brothers did not call for medical assistance for hours, the suit alleges, but waited until Griffin's lips turned blue

  • Kau women of the Sudan are scarred in three stages
  • Pubescent: from naval to breasts
  • Sexual maturity: more scars to torso and shoulders
  • After the weaning of their first child to back and back of legs.
  • In Bali women have their upper teeth (canines and incisors) filed before marriage.
  • Beastly passions are reduced.
  • If the young girl dies before marriage, the teeth are filed before cremation.
  • In Burgundy, France a married couple lead a procession through the town on foot.
  • Victorians were surrounded by garlands of flowers and ring bearers.
  • Purpose of veil: old girlfriend is replaced by a new person: a wife.
  • Retirement
  • Anniversaries
  • Divorce
death and remembrance
Death and Remembrance
  • All cultures have a circumscribed period of mourning. During this time, community and family usually provide support.
  • In Romania – an unmarried woman or man who dies is buried as a bride or groom to prevent that unsatisfied soul from lingering on and causing trouble. Called a wedding of the dead. A man in the village acts as the groom taking vows beside the coffin. All are dressed appropriately. A small doll is placed in the coffin to represent the child she will never have.
  • Banshee in Ireland – Home wakes
  • The Tiwi of Australia find a new husband for a widow.
  • In the village of Quiturara a father forgives his son before dying. An official writes down his last will and testament.
  • In western Society we put flowers and tombstones on the grave.
  • Man with gashed his thigh, during the Kulungara Ceremony, a mourning ceremony.  Women embracing and wailing after cutting their heads during a mourning ceremony.   Warramunga Tribe.
Tattooing is one of peoples' oldest art forms, coming somewhere between scratching in the dirt and cave painting.

Early tattooing was used to symbolize the fertility of the earth and of womankind, preservation of life after death, the sacredness of chieftainship and other cultural factors.

The idea is: if a girl cannot take the pain of tattooing, she is un-marriageable, because she will never be able to deal with the pain of child birth.
  • Tattooing as a rite of adulthood. or passage into puberty is another common tattoo ritual.
  • If a boy cannot deal with the pain of his puberty tattoos, he is considered to be a bad risk as a warrior, and could become an outcast.
clan tattoos
Clan Tattoos
  • Clan markings are another common ritual tattoo. Not only can you recognize your friends quickly, even in the frenzy of battle, but more importantly, your people are connected even beyond death.
marriage tattoos
Marriage Tattoos
  • Family and marriage tattoos are used in much the same manner as clan markings. Marriage tattoos have been particularly popular, to insure that you can find your lawful spouse or spouses in the afterlife, even if you have passed through the veil, many years apart.
in memoriam
In Memoriam
  • Modern people still tattoo to continue relationships with deceased loved ones, even if they do it on a subconcious level. You can see gravestones with spouses, parents, children, and friends names on them. All of these are modern examples of tattooing to connect the living to the dead. 
The people of Borneo, especially the Kayans, believe that not only would their tattoos get them into the proper spirit world, but could also be used as a further qualification, for obtaining certain profitable occupations in the spirit world. 
love charms
Love Charms
  • Love charms are still a much-used magical tattoo. A girl or boy friend's name, with hearts and roses, etc., are modern love charms, meant to make the relationship endure.
maori social status
Maori Social Status
  • Some primitive tribes use tattooing as a rite of social status. The Maori, of New Zealand use tattooing primarily for this purpose.
  • To the Maori, a person's Moko designs enhanced their prestige and show transition from one social status to another.
  • At its highest level, Moko designs proclaimed the sacredness of chieftanship.
health tattoos
Health Tattoos
  • Another common practice in tattooing for health was the tattooing of a god on the afflicted person, to fight the illness for them. In India, the Monkey God, Hanuman, is a common choice.
facial tattoos
Facial Tattoos
  • An offshoot of tattooing for health is tattooing to preserve youth.
  • Maori girls tattooed their lips and chin, for this reason.
as luck would have it
As Luck Would Have It…
  • Primitive people often got tattooed before an ordeal or dangerous enterprise.
  • A man in Burma who desires good luck will tattoo a parrot on his shoulder.
in the western world
In the Western World
  • Today, in the West, you can see dice, spades, and Lady Luck tattoos, which are worn to bring good luck.
In the 1970's, American tattooing discovered primitive, tribal tattoos. People wanted simple designs with meaning and they began copying designs, primarily from Borneo, Japan, and the islands of the South Pacific.
  • Sailors were the first to return tattooing to Europe. From the 1600's to the Second World War, sailors tattooed a chicken on one foot and a pig on the other, as a charm against drowning.