Rites of passage denotes a transition from one social state of being to another, usually used with reference to transformation from childhood to adulthood.  The rites of passage is usually ceremonially ritualized to promulgate tangibility of the transformation process. In this program, the summer camp is retreat for intense but nurturing rite of passage preparation for entry into an age of maturity. The program culminates with an initiation rite crowned by the fruits of the comprehensive preparation.



History of Term Rites of Passage

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The concept as a general theory of socialization was first formally enunciated by Arnold van Gennep in his book of that name, to denote rituals marking the transitional phase between childhood and full inclusion into a tribe or social group. Gennep's work exercised a deep impact on anthropological thought.

Rites of passage have three phases - separation, transition, and re-incorporation, as van Gennep described. 'I propose to call the rites of separation from a previous world, preliminal rites, those executed during the transitional stage liminal (or threshhold) rites, and the ceremonies of incorporation into the new world postliminal rites.

In the first phase, people withdraw from their current status and prepare to move from one place or status to another. 'The first phase (of separation) comprises symbolic behaviour signifying the detachment of the individual or group...from an earlier fixed point in the social structure. There is often a detachment or ‘cutting away’ from the former self in this phase, which is signified in symbolic actions and rituals. For example, the cutting of the hair for a person who has just joined the army. He or she is 'cutting away' the former self - the civilian.

The transition (liminal) phase is the period between states, during which one has left one place or state but hasn't yet entered or joined the next. 'The attributes of liminality or of liminal personae ("threshhold people") are necessarily anbiguous.

'In the third phase (reaggregation or reincorporation) the passage is consummated [by] the ritual subject. Having completed the rite and assumed their 'new' identity, one re-enters society with one's new status. Re-incorporation is characterized by elaborate rituals and ceremonies, like debutant balls and college graduation, and by new ties signs: thus 'in rites of incorporation there is widespread use of the "sacred bond", the "sacred cord", the knot, and of analogous forms such as the belt, the ring, the bracelet and the crown.

Types of Rites of Passage and examples

Rites of passage are diverse, and are often not recognized as such in the culture in which they occur. Many societal rituals may look like rites of passage but miss some of the important structural and functional components. Typically the missing piece is the societal recognition and reincorporation phase. Adventure Education programs, such as Outward Bound, have often been described as potential rites of passage. Pamela Cushing researched the rites of passage impact upon adolescent youth at the Canadian Outward Bound School and found the rite of passage impact was lessened by the missing reincorporation phase (Cushing, 1998). Bell (2003) presented more evidence of this lacking third stage and described the "Contemporary Adventure Model of a Rites of Passage" as a modern and weaker version of the rites of passage typically used by outdoor adventure programs.

Coming of age rites of passage

  • Bar Mitzvah
  • Breeching
  • Débutante ball
  • Dokimasia
  • First haircut
  • Genpuku among the samurai
  • Guan Li
  • Graduation
  • Poy Sang Long
  • Quinceañera
  • Russ in Norway
  • Scarification and various other physical endurances
  • Sweet Sixteen in the United States and Canada
  • Sevapuneru or Turmeric ceremony in South India to mark menarche
  • Etoro tribe and Baruya in Papua New Guinea where young boys must begin ingesting their elders semen, and then stop doing it at a certain age.
  • getting of the first identity card (e.g. communist regime in the Czechoslovakia try to replace all religious rituals by secular one; identity card was given at the age of 15)

In various tribal societies, entry into an age grade – generally gender-separated – (unlike an age set) is marked by an initiation rite, which may be the crowning of a long and complex preparation, sometimes in retreat.

Jesus underwent Jewish circumcision, here depicted in a Catholic cathedral; a liturgical feast commemorates this on New Year's Day

Religious initiation rites

Other initiation rites

Armed forces rites

  • Accolade
  • Baptism by fire
  • Battlefield commission, equivalent to ennoblement for valor or knighting on the field in the ancien régime
  • Berserker, berserkergang - an initiatory Nordic warrior-rite; the young Scandinavian warrior of old or Viking had to symbolically transform into a bear or wolf before he could become an elite warrior (cf. Cuchulain's transformation)
  • Counting coup
  • Krypteia - a "robber-baron" or "bandit-warrior" rite of the military youths of ancient Sparta
  • Pas d'armes
  • Trial by battle, or Judicium Dei (Judgment of God)
  • U.S. Marines: Crucible
  • U.S. Navy: Battle Stations
  • Naval (military and civilian) crossing the equator
  • In the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy, wetting-down is a ceremony in which a Naval officer is ceremonially thrown into the ocean upon receiving a promotion.
  • U.S. Army: Victory Forge
  • In many military organizations, as in civilian groups, new conscripts are sometimes subjected by "veterans" to practical jokes, ranging from taking advantage of their naïveté to public humiliation and physical attacks; see Hazing.
  • Soldiers and sailors may also be hazed again on obtaining a promotion.
  • In Greece conscription is mandatory and has been historically linked with maturing of a man. The army was historically perceived as the "natural" way to go and as a final 'school' of socialization and maturing for young men before their come out to the real world; also it would be the first time a young man would find himself on his own and away from home. Consequently, draft dodgers, deserters, or men unable to serve encountered prejudice, were often frowned upon and deemed useless by conservative societies

Academic groups

Some academic circles such as dorms, fraternities, teams and other clubs practice

  • Hazing
  • Ragging
  • Fagging
  • Szecskáztatás, a mild form of hazing (usually without physical and sexual abuse) practiced in some Hungarian secondary schools. First-year junior students (szecskák [singular form: szecska]) are publicly humiliated through embarrassing clothing and senior students branding their faces (with marker pens); it is sometimes also a contest, with the winners usually earning the right to organize the next event.

Entrance into Medicine and Pharmacy (University) :

  • White Coat Ceremony
  • In Spanish universities of the Modern Age, like Universidad Complutense in Alcalá de Henares, upon completion of his studies, the student was submitted to a public questioning by the faculty, who could ask sympathetic questions that let him excel or tricky points. If the student passed he invited professors and mates to a party. If not, he was publicly processioned with donkey ears.

Entrance to the profession of Engineer:

  • The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer Also known as the Iron Ring Ceremony


Courtesy Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rite_of_passage

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