Category Archives: Rites of Passage

RITES OF PASSAGE

All cultures have certain rites of passage among their population. A rite of passage is defined as “a ritual marking the symbolic transition from one social position to another“(Witt 88). Rites of passage can vary in importance. However they normally involve moving up into a new chapter of life. They are important to cultures and many young children think about the day where they can become a man/woman. In the United States, at the age of sixteen, most teenagers go through the act of getting their driver’s license.  Although after having your license for a while it just becomes a normal way of life, many young children fantasize about their sixteenth birthday so they can join the other adults on the road. Other important birthdays that are treated as rites of passage can be the eighteenth, twenty-first or fiftieth. When one turns eighteen, they have officially soared into the world of adulthood. The twenty-first birthday is when one can legally drink alcohol and the fiftieth birthday is one that many dread. The fiftieth birthday is a milestone of having reached the age of being a senior.

Not all rites of passage in the United States are birthdays, major life events can fall into this category as well. Graduation from high school or college is a passage into the next stage of life. Getting married for the first time and having a baby for the first time allows one to move into a new social status such as being a wife/ husband and a parent.

While reading of other culture’s rite of passage ceremonies, I found myself judging other cultures because of safety or health hazards. My display of ethnocentrism is how many people of the United States would act upon hearing of these events. In Vanuatu, men participate in a rite of passage called land diving. Once a male reaches the age of seven or eight and has been circumcised, they can partake in this event. These males climb on top of a ninety-eight foot tower. They tie vines to their ankles and jump. A good jump ends with the male’s head or shoulders touching the ground. However vines do not have the elastic qualities that bungee cords do, so a miscalculation in the length of the vine can end in serious injuries or death. During a boy’s first jump, his mother holds onto an item signifying his childhood, when he dives the mother throws the item away. This event is now becoming a tourist attraction for people to come see. However many experience culture shock and cannot believe the danger these men put themselves in.

In the Northwest Amazon, the Tukuna people have a rite of passage for young women that involve alienation. Once a young girl begins her menstruation period for the first time, she is forced into seclusion for four to twelve weeks. She is put in a chamber within the dwelling of the family that is constructed for this purpose. The girl is thought to be in danger of demons called the Noo while in this chamber. Near the end of this ritual, guests arrive in masks that allow them to become incarnations of the Noo. After this encounter with these “demons” the young girl stays within the chamber for another two days, she paints her body with black genipa dye for protection from the Noo. After the alienation is over, the young girl is surrounded by her relatives and led out into festivities where her family dances around her until dawn. At that time she is given a fire brand that she will throw at the Noo, breaking their power. The young girl has now safely entered into womanhood.

Even more extreme rites of passage can be found around the world, many of them involve circumcision or body mutilations. Although people of these cultures put themselves through great pain, the reward to become a man/woman is so great that cultures cherish these events and they have lasted through generations. Industrial and post-industrial societies tend not to have such violent acts as rites of passages. Rites of passages that are less extreme include ceremonies such as a Bar Mitzvah for Jewish boys transitioning into men. Whether extreme or not, each type of passage is important to the culture from which it comes from.

 

Works Cited

“10 Bizarre Rites Of Passage.” Listverse. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

“8 Interesting (And Insane) Male Rites of Passages From Around the World.” The Art of Manliness RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <http://listverse.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/ayof-image-21_794222i-tm.jpg&gt;.

Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/patrimonio/patrimonio0901/patrimonio090100036/4174917-driver-license-identification-card.jpg&gt;.

Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <http://weddingcakes.simpleweddingdecorations.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/bride-and-groom wedding-cake-topper-2013.jpg>.

Witt, Jon. SOC 2012. Ed. Gina Boedeker. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. 88. Print.

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SOCIALIZATION

Socialization is the process through which we learn from people how to behave, our attitudes and our values based on the culture that we are a part of. Gender Socialization refers to how different genders are to act based on a culture. Females are taught that we are weak while men are taught that they are supposed to be strong. An example that I have of this is when I was little, I did not do much lifting because I grew up with all brothers and they were the ones that were supposed to do the lifting. As I got older they started wanting me to do a little bit more but I was used to the idea from society that I was supposed to be inferior to the males.

When I was growing up I was given all of these hand me downs and it got to the point that I didn’t think that I was pretty or anything and wasn’t sure how I was supposed to dress. So I was eventually put in a school that had a uniform and that is where I started to try and show a feminine side because I would only hang out with females, which up until then wanted nothing to do with me.  When I left that school I went to wearing only pink for about two years and tried forming a nickname because I thought that was the only way to be cool. When I was younger I didn’t think well of myself because of the male clothing I wore and now I rarely wear boy clothes.  I prefer to wear light pinks or light blues or feminine tops. This refers to Looking-Glass Self.  People start to believe what they think others think of them. Our culture tells us that what we wear matters if we want to be popular or be an outcast. When I was younger all I wanted to do was fit in but as I got older I stopped caring about it as much, I just preferred to try and get the grades.

Gender Roles are played depending on the gender you are and the culture that you live in. Though females have been for the most part inferior in most cultures, there are some though where they are seem to be the more superior. The Amazon culture was a female society where they were the more powerful ones and the males were the ones that were non-dominant, unlike here where for the majority, females are told to be the ones to look after the children and the men are supposed to be the breadwinners. If males do not feel like they are making the money, they feel emasculated.  So the females are the ones that are supposed to take care of the children and keep the house clean.

Different societies through our socialization have different Rites of Passages depending on the culture that you’re a part of. In the American culture for the most part, the first rite of passage seems to be prom for females. Everyone wants that chance to get that pretty dress and be waited on and have that perfect date. This isn’t though of the most important rites of passages like graduation. One of the rites of passages that is actually extremely important is graduation. That ceremony is what your entire family looks forward to. They are crushed if they feel that you may not graduate. This happened to one of my siblings about a month before graduation.  He was told the only way he would be able to graduate is if he stayed after the rest of the year and came back for the last two weeks and was in his class the entire time.

Of course my parents made sure that he did it so that he would be able to graduate, but he was so close to not having that experience. Other cultures though have Quinceanera for the females or a bar mitzvah for the males at different ages that say they have reached adulthood, like graduation is for us.

So depending on your culture there are different ways that we are perceived as males or females or what we find should have a celebration. One of the few things that seem to be important all across the world is the marriage celebration. All nations have some sort of celebration but it just depends where you live that helps you decide what is important. Another thing that culture influences is what we consider beautiful. In our society females are told to be skinny and guys are told no make-up. The question is, why do we have these cultural things that seem to mark who we are?  So why do these things control who we are? They should not be able to decide what we find acceptable. In the video the song is called crazy and I feel that it makes sense with some things that are part of our culture that just goes a little crazy but this is how our society is. We all want that beauty but how far is too far?

RITE OF PASSAGE

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.