Imagine that you’re a boy of the Algonquin Indian tribe from Quebec. When you reached the age of 13 you would be taken to a secluded area, probably caged, and given a very strong hallucinogen, called Wysoccan, which is said to be 100 times stronger than LSD. After being given this drug, the boys are forced to stay secluded for 20 days and fend for themselves. This drug was meant to force all of the childhood memories out of your head. In some cases taking this drug caused the boys to lose memories of their families, their identities, the ability to speak, and sometimes it even caused death. If one of the boys came back with some of their childhood memories left, they were sent back and given a second lethal does and forced to try and cheat death a second time. This is a very extreme example of something that is known as a rite of passage, and it is seen only in this culture. A rite of passage is a ritual or event that marks a transition from one social position to another.
There are many different types of cultures throughout the world. Culture is the characteristics of a specific group of people, such as language, religion, social habits, music, and arts. The Rites of Passage that a person will go through during their life is very dependent on their culture. Different cultures have their own special rites of passage that people must go through at various times in their life. The ritual that I talked about above is a very good example of how different cultures have different rites of passages. Taking a child to a secluded area and giving them drugs that could possibly kill them would be very frowned upon by an American ethnocentric point of view, but it is seen as necessary to become a man within the Algonquin tribe.
Ethnocentrism is the judging of someone else’s culture based only on the views and standards of your culture. When people from the American culture look at the Algonquin ritual they are only looking at it based on their beliefs about drugs and children. To avoid ethnocentrism, people should try and open up their minds while looking at different cultures. People need to realize that some of the behaviors and activities that we participate in within American also look weird to people from other countries. For example, there are a few religions who view cows as sacred creatures and slaughtering one is seen as a taboo. They would see the way that Americans eat beef as very offensive, but it is just part of our normal lives.
The way that we look at different rituals preformed in different places around the world also depends a lot on Socialization. Socialization is the way in which people learn their culture and the appropriate way to act within that culture. Another big factor in deciding the rites of passage that we will go through in our life are agents of socialization. Agents of socialization are the people and groups that influence the way that people learn their culture. This includes family, religion, mass media, and peers. The two biggest agents of socialization for the boys of the Algonquin Indian tribe would be family and religion. When a boy reaches the age of 13 he is pressured by his family to take place in this ritual. His father did it and so did his grandfather, so it’s mandatory for him to do so too. Religion also plays a big role in the socialization of this ritual. When the ritual first took place it was built on strong religious beliefs.
Two other good examples of rites of passages are high school graduation and wedding ceremonies. High school graduation marks a very important time in a person’s life where they are switching roles between being a child to being an adult. This rite of passage has been taking place in American since 1821 at the first public high school, The English High School. Wedding ceremonies are also a very important rite of passage that marks the transition from being single to being part of a married couple. Both of these rites of passages have been put into place so that family and friends can help celebrate and show their support during these important steps in life.