Sociology Index


Rites of passage are the rites that accompany a change of state, and it could be progress in age or social position. The Coming of Age traditions and rituals or Rites of Passage traditions and rituals are part of social customs and traditions. In cultural anthropology, 'rites of passage' is the Anglicisation of rite de passage, a French term innovated by the ethnographer Arnold van Gennep in his work Les rites de passage. Rites of passage are markers for the individual and the community. Rites of passage follow a three-stage process that are universally human: severance, threshold, and incorporation. Understanding them will be helpful in preparing for a rite of passage. A rite of passage is a ritual of the passage which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another. Rites of passage is the ritual or ceremonial acknowledgment of a person's passage from one stage of life to the next. Adoptees, returning to the country of their birth is also a rite of passage.

Religious communities often hold rites of passage which involve traditional blessings, prayers and rituals. There are rites of passage in every religion, and they usually involve rituals or ceremonies to mark significant moments in a person's life, such as birth, adolescence, marriage and death. Rites of passage are symbolic activities, generally understood to have social functions. Whether it is puberty or the Japanese Coming of Age Day, which is the crossing between being a child and an adult. Even adventure education programs, such as Outward Bound, have often been described as potential rites of passage.

Arnold van Gennep’s masterwork, The Rites of Passage, has been a staple of anthropological education for more than a century. This landmark book explores how the life of an individual in any society can be understood as a succession of transitions: birth, puberty, marriage, parenthood, old age, and, finally, death.

Examples of Ancient Rites of Passage

The Massai tribe of Kenya, and many other groups in Africa, use female "circumcision" as their main ritual making it the most difficult example of rite of passage into womanhood. Other examples of rites of passage are, the graduation ceremony, the retirement party or onset of puberty. Rites of passage are culturally patterned ritual or ceremonial co-activities to mark such events as birth, puberty, adulthood, courtship, marriage, death, accession to office, admission to membership, and expulsion.

How children celebrate their rite of passage into adolescence, depends entirely on where they live and what culture they grow up in. By definition, rites of passage are forms of ritual and the inferred evidence of ritual in general is extensive, widespread, and ancient. Rites of passage contributes to the more complex and culturally variable nature of human social organization.

Many cultures provide a ritualized acknowledgment of the passage to adulthood but sociologists note that rites of passage has all but disappeared from modern societies. Rites of passage to puberty, that is, the period during which adolescents girls reach sexual maturity and become capable of reproduction, is a common practice in India. 

In India, when a man reaches the age of sixty he is considered to have lived a full and fruitful life and the rites of passage to this stage is celebrated with rituals for a new beginning. Couples go through the ceremony of marriage again. Every corner of the world has some form of coming of age ritual or rites of passage. 

Rites of Passage and Group Bonding in he Canadian Airborne - Donna Winslow. -This article addresses the issue of primary group bonding and non-conventional methods for promoting unit cohesion. Conventional army training intensifies the power of group pressure within its ranks using methods that teach recruits the need for teamwork. Less conventional methods, such as initiation rites, are also used to promote group bonding.

Rites of Passage at Adolescence: A Ritual Process Paradigm - Richard M. Dunham, Jeannie S. Kidwell, Stephen M. Wilson.
Concepts which relate rites of passage to the developmental process at adolescence are reviewed. Selected concepts are assembled to serve as a new interdisciplinary paradigm of ritual processes affecting development. The new paradigm is offered as an elaboration of the classic tripartite paradigm of vanGennep (1909), from the original three steps to fourteen.

Reflections on "Rites, right? The rites of passage of cross-disciplinary concepts: The value of rites de passage for dealing with today's career transitions" - Altman Yochanan; Holmes Len.
Abstract: Purpose - Mayrhofer and Iellatchitch's discussion of rites of passage in the context of contemporary careers raises some concerns as to the usefulness of the concept as well as to its transferability across disciplines. This rejoinder maintains that, while the employment of rites of passage should be welcomed, its use in career discourse should be made with caution and reserve. Design/methodology/approach - Asks searching questions in pursuit of the above.

The Rites of Passage Youth Empowerment Program is an intensive, focused and sustained preventive and/or intervention approach to empower youth with the knowledge, skills and abilities to transition successfully from adolescence into adulthood. Youth completing the 12 challenges of the program will be equipped with the tools necessary to effect positive change in their lives and communities. Through the Rites of Passage Program, youth learn through empowerment not fear. This program teaches, teamwork, leadership, values, responsibility and practical life skills.

The Rites of Passage Youth Empowerment Foundation is a group of individuals committed to improving the quality of life and environment for today's youth through the development and implementation of knowledge and skill-based training programs (Rites Programs). These programs provide a step-by-step holistic method to help youth find a sense of self and purpose in their lives. The Rites of Passage Youth Empowerment Foundation formalizes the training ground of the Rites Programs by providing support through funding and human resources to facilitators of these programs. Rites Programs help youth direct their energies to positive goals for their life, instead of the slippery road into drugs, delinquency and pregnancy.

The Rites of Passage and the Coming of Age Traditions

The Coming of Age traditions and rituals or Rites of Passage of boys who become young men and girls who become young women varies accross countries.

Vanuatu Coming of Age Tradition: In Vanuatu, a small island nation in the middle of the South Pacific, young boys come of age by jumping off of a 98-foot-tall tower with a bungee-like vine tied to their ankles, just barely preventing them from hitting the ground. Unlike a bungee cord, the vine lacks elasticity, and a slight miscalculation in vine length could lead to broken bones.

The Sateré-Mawé Coming Of Age Tradition: Bullet Ant Initiation: In the Brazilian Amazon, young boys belonging to the indigenous Sateré-Mawé tribe mark their coming of age when they turn 13 in a Bullet and Ant Initiation. Bullet ants which are sedated by a leader who submerges them in an herbal solution. The ants are then weaved into gloves with the stingers pointed inwards. An hour later, the ants wake up and the initiation begins. Enduring the pain demonstrates the boys’ readiness for manhood. Each boy will eventually wear the gloves 20 times over the span of several months before the initiation is complete.

Inuit Coming of Age Tradition: North Baffin Island: Inuit boys have traditionally gone out to the wilderness with their fathers between the ages of 11 and 12 to test their hunting skills and acclimatise to the harsh arctic weather.

Amish Coming of Age Tradition: Rumspringa marks the time when youth turn 16 and are finally able to enjoy unsupervised weekends away from family. They are encouraged to enjoy whatever pleasures they like. The purpose of this period is to allow Amish youth the opportunity to see and experience the world beyond their culture and upbringing. Returning to their community and way of life is entirely their choice. Those who return are then baptized and become committed members of the Amish church and community, marking the end of Rumspringa.

Maasai Coming of Age Tradition: Tanzania and Kenya: The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania have several rites of passage that carry boys into manhood. Boys between the ages of 10-20 come together to be initiated as the new “warrior class” of the tribe, placed in dozens of houses built for the occasion. They drink a mixture of alcohol, cow’s blood, and milk, while also consuming large portions of meat. After festivities they are ready to be circumcised, making the official transformation into a man, warrior, and protector. Similar to other rites of passage the boys must undergo the pain.

Ethiopian Coming of Age Tradition: Hamar Cow Jumping is a very interesting rite of passage which they must complete prior to being able to marry. Participants must successfully jump over a castrated, male cow four times while naked, symbolizing the childhood they are leaving behind them.

Confucian Coming of Age Traditions: Ji Li (for girls) and Guan Li (for boys). In some parts of China, there has recently been a resurgence of the Confucian-style coming of age ceremonies. The ceremonies typically honor youth who have turned 20, and provide a fun opportunity to wear traditional dress. For the girls, this is also an opportunity to follow typical Ji Li practices such as making hair buns, attaching hair pins, and paying tribute to Huangdi, a Chinese ancestor.