Rite of passage
A rite of passage is a ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

 event that marks a person's progress from one status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

 to another. It is a universal phenomenon which can show anthropologists what social hierarchies, values and beliefs are important in specific cultures.

Rites of passage are often ceremonies surrounding events such as other milestones within puberty
Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...

, coming of age
Coming of age
Coming of age is a young person's transition from childhood to adulthood. The age at which this transition takes place varies in society, as does the nature of the transition. It can be a simple legal convention or can be part of a ritual, as practiced by many societies...

, marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 and death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

. Initiation ceremonies such as baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

, confirmation and Bar or Bat Mitzvah are considered important rites of passage for people of their respective religions.


The concept of rites of passage as a general theory of socialization
Socialization is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists and educationalists to refer to the process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies...

 was first formally enunciated by Arnold van Gennep
Arnold van Gennep
Arnold van Gennep was a noted French ethnographer and folklorist.-Biography:He was born in Ludwigsburg, Kingdom of Württemberg...

 in his book (published 1909) The Rites of Passage 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 reincorporation, 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 threshold) 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 ambiguous."

"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."

In Africa

Initiation rites are seen as fundamental to human growth and development as well as socialization in many African communities. These rites function by ritually marking the transition of someone to full group membership. It also links individuals to the community and the community to the broader and more potent spiritual world. Initiation rites are a natural and necessary part of a community, just as arms and legs are natural and necessary extension of the human body. These rites are linked to individual and community development. Dr. Manu Ampim identifies five stages; rite to birth, rite to adulthood, rite to marriage, rite to eldership and rite to ancestorship. In Zulu culture entering womanhood is celebrated by the Umhlanga (ceremony).

Types 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
Outward Bound
Outward Bound is an international, non-profit, independent, outdoor educationorganization with approximately 40 schools around the world and 200,000 participants per year...

, 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. For non-religious people, Rites of Passage are important as well. They mark important changes in our lives and they help to guide us.

Coming of age

  • Bar Mitzvah
  • Breeching
  • Débutante ball
    A débutante is a young lady from an aristocratic or upper class family who has reached the age of maturity, and as a new adult, is introduced to society at a formal "début" presentation. It should not be confused with a Debs...

  • Dokimasia
    In Ancient Greece, dokimasia was the name used at Athens to denote the process of ascertaining the capacity of the citizens for the exercise of public rights and duties....

  • First haircut
    First haircut
    The first haircut for a human has special significance in certain cultures and religions. It can be considered a rite of passage or a milestone.-Chinese babies:A Chinese baby often receives its first haircut at the end of its first month....

  • Quinceañera
    Quinceañera , sometimes called "Fiesta de quince años", "Fiesta de Quinceañera", "Quince años" or simply "quince", is the celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday in parts of Latin America and elsewhere in communities of immigrants from Latin America...

     in parts of Latin America
    Latin America
    Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

     and elsewhere in communities of immigrants from Latin America.
  • Russ
    Russ is a participant in the traditional Norwegian upper secondary high school graduation ceremony known as russefeiring . Russ are easily recognized by their distinctive overalls and caps resembling student caps...

    in Norway
    Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

  • Scarification
    Scarifying involves scratching, etching, burning, or superficially cutting designs, pictures, or words into the skin as a permanent body modification.In the process of body scarification, scars are formed by cutting or branding the skin...

     and various other physical endurances
  • Sweet Sixteen
    Sweet sixteen (birthday)
    A sweet sixteen party is a type of birthday party in the United States celebrating a sixteenth birthday, Sweet sixteen parties mark a coming of age.- Types of sweet sixteen party :...

     in the United States and Canada
  • Sevapuneru or Turmeric ceremony in South India to mark menarche
  • Etoro tribe
    Etoro tribe
    The Etoro, or Edolo, are a tribe and ethnic group of Papua New Guinea. Their territory comprises the southern slopes of Mt. Sisa, along the southern edge of the central mountain range of New Guinea, near the Papuan Plateau. They are well known among anthropologists because of ritual homosexual...

     and Baruya
    The Baruya are a tribe in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. They have been studied since 1967 by anthropologist Maurice Godelier.The Baruya are characterized by a strong inequality between males and females; all their organizations, institutions, and myths present male domination...

     in Papua New Guinea
    Papua New Guinea
    Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

     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
Age grade
In sociology and anthropology, an age grade or age class is a form of social organization based on age, within a series of such categories, through which individuals pass over the course of their lives....

—generally gender-separated—(unlike an age set
Age set
In anthropology, an age set is a social category or corporate social group, consisting of people of similar age, who have a common identity, maintain close ties over a prolonged period, and together pass through a series of age-related statuses...

) is marked by an initiation rite, which may be the crowning of a long and complex preparation, sometimes in retreat.


  • Baptism
    In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

  • First Eucharist
    The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

     and First Confession
    This article is for the religious practice of confessing one's sins.Confession is the acknowledgment of sin or wrongs...

     (especially First Communion
    First Communion
    The First Communion, or First Holy Communion, is a Catholic Church ceremony. It is the colloquial name for a person's first reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Catholics believe this event to be very important, as the Eucharist is one of the central focuses of the Catholic Church...

     in Catholicism
    Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

  • Confirmation (most Western Christian denominations, such as Catholic, and mainline Protestant churches)
  • Confirmation in Reform Judaism
    Reform Judaism
    Reform Judaism refers to various beliefs, practices and organizations associated with the Reform Jewish movement in North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In general, it maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and should be compatible with participation in the...

  • Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah in Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

  • Rumspringa
    Rumspringa Pronounced A- generally refers to a period of adolescence for some members of the Amish, a subsect of the Anabaptist Christian movement, that begins around the...

  • Circumcision
    Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin from the penis. The word "circumcision" comes from Latin and ....

    , mainly in Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

    Brit milah
    The brit milah is a Jewish religious circumcision ceremony performed on 8-day old male infants by a mohel. The brit milah is followed by a celebratory meal .-Biblical references:...

  • Diving for the Cross, in some Orthodox Christian churches
  • Hajj
    The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so...

  • Samscara a series of sacrament
    A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

    s in Hinduism
    Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

  • Shinbyu
    Shinbyu is the Burmese term for a novitiation ceremony in the tradition of Theravada Buddhism, referring to the celebrations marking the samanera ordination of a boy under the age of 20....

     in Theravada Buddhism
  • Vision quest
    Vision quest
    A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures.In many Native American groups, the vision quest is a turning point in life taken before puberty to find oneself and the intended spiritual and life direction. When an older child is ready, he or she will go on a personal,...

    in some Native American cultures
  • "Quinceañera
    Quinceañera , sometimes called "Fiesta de quince años", "Fiesta de Quinceañera", "Quince años" or simply "quince", is the celebration of a girl's fifteenth birthday in parts of Latin America and elsewhere in communities of immigrants from Latin America...

    " many whose celebrations include a Catholic mass at church
  • Coming of Age
    Coming of Age (Unitarian Universalism)
    Coming of Age is a Unitarian Universalist program in which a congregation fosters the transition of its children into youth...

     in Unitarian Universalism
    Unitarian Universalism
    Unitarian Universalism is a religion characterized by support for a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning". Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed; rather, they are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth and by the understanding that an individual's theology is a...


  • Secular coming of age ceremonies
    Secular coming of age ceremony
    Secular coming of age ceremonies, sometimes called civil confirmations, are ceremonies arranged by organizations that are secular, i.e. not aligned to any religion. Their purpose is to prepare adolescents for their life as adults...

     for non-religious youngsters who want a rite of passage comparable to the religious rituals like confirmation
  • Walkabout
    The walkabout is a purported Australian aboriginal ritual of manhood.Walkabout may also refer to:- Art :*Walkabout , a 1959 book written by James Vance Marshall, set in the Australian outback...

  • Batizados in Capoeira
    Capoeira is a Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, sports, and music. It was created in Brazil mainly by descendants of African slaves with Brazilian native influences, probably beginning in the 16th century...

  • Black Belt Grading in Martial Arts
    Martial arts
    Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat, practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental and spiritual development....

  • Castration
    Castration is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testicles or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.-Humans:...

     in some sects and special castes
  • Virginity
    Virginity refers to the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. There are cultural and religious traditions which place special value and significance on this state, especially in the case of unmarried females, associated with notions of personal purity, honor and worth...

  • First Alcoholic Beverage
    Legal drinking age
    Laws about the legal drinking age cover a wide range of issues and behaviours, addressing when and where alcohol can be consumed. The minimum age alcohol can be legally consumed can be different to the age when it can be purchased. These laws vary among different countries and many laws have...

  • Grandmotherhood

Armed forces

  • Accolade
    In the Middle Ages, the accolade was the central act in the rite-of-passage ceremonies conferring knighthood.-Ceremony:...

  • Baptism by fire
    Baptism by fire
    The phrase baptism by fire or baptism of fire, known in English since 1822, is a translation of the French phrase baptême du feu and is a reference to a soldier's first experience under fire in battle....

  • Battlefield commission, equivalent to ennoblement for valor or knighting on the field in the ancien régime
  • Berserker
    Berserkers were Norse warriors who are reported in the Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word berserk. Berserkers are attested in numerous Old Norse sources...

    , berserkergang – an initiatory Nordic warrior-rite; the young Scandinavian warrior of old or Viking
    The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

     had to symbolically transform into a bear or wolf before he could become an elite
    Elite refers to an exceptional or privileged group that wields considerable power within its sphere of influence...

    A warrior is a person skilled in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based society that recognizes a separate warrior class.-Warrior classes in tribal culture:...

     (cf. Cuchulain's transformation)
  • Counting coup
    Counting coup
    Counting coup refers to the winning of prestige in battle, rather than having to prove a win by injuring one's opponent. Its earliest known reference is from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" where Laertes and Hamlet conduct a mock swordfight before King Claudius and Queen Gertrude...

  • Krypteia – a "robber-baron" or "bandit-warrior" rite of the military youths of ancient Sparta
    Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

  • Pas d'armes
    Pas d'Armes
    The pas d'armes or passage of arms was a type of chivalric hastilude that evolved in the late 14th century and remained popular through the 15th century...

  • Trial by battle
    Trial by combat
    Trial by combat was a method of Germanic law to settle accusations in the absence of witnesses or a confession, in which two parties in dispute fought in single combat; the winner of the fight was proclaimed to be right. In essence, it is a judicially sanctioned duel...

    , or Judicium Dei (Judgment of God)
  • U.S. Marines: Crucible
  • U.S. Navy: Battle Stations
    General quarters
    General Quarters or Battle Stations is an announcement made aboard a naval warship to signal the crew to prepare for battle or imminent damage....

  • Naval (military and civilian) crossing the equator
  • In the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy
    Royal Navy
    The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

    , wetting-down
    Wetting-down is a raucous ceremony for newly promoted officers observed in the U.S. and British Navies, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Marines, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps, and U.S. Public Health Service officers also participate in this custom as homage to their naval...

     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
    Hazing is a term used to describe various ritual and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group....

  • Soldiers and sailors may also be hazed
    Hazing is a term used to describe various ritual and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group....

     again on obtaining a promotion.
  • In Greece
    Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

     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
    Hazing is a term used to describe various ritual and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group....

  • Ragging
    Ragging is a practice in educational institutions in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that involves existing students baiting or bullying new students. It is similar to the American phenomenon of hazing. It often takes a malignant form wherein the newcomers may be subjected to psychological or...

  • Fagging
    Fagging was a traditional educational practice in British boarding private schools and also many other boarding schools, whereby younger pupils were required to act as personal servants to the most senior boys...

  • Szecskáztatás, a mild form of hazing (usually without physical and sexual abuse) practiced in some Hungarian
    Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

     secondary school
    Secondary school
    Secondary school is a term used to describe an educational institution where the final stage of schooling, known as secondary education and usually compulsory up to a specified age, takes place...

    s. First-year junior students (szecskák [singular form: szecska]) are publicly humiliated through embarrassing clothing and senior students branding
    Human branding
    Human branding or stigmatizing is the process in which a mark, usually a symbol or ornamental pattern, is burned into the skin of a living person, with the intention that the resulting scar makes it permanent. This is performed using a hot or very cold branding iron...

     their faces (with marker pen
    Marker pen
    thumb|MarkerA marker pen, marking pen, felt-tip pen, flow or marker, is a pen which has its own ink-source, and usually a tip made of a porous, pressed fibres; such as felt or nylon.-Permanent marker:...

    s); 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
    White coat ceremony
    The white coat ceremony is a relatively new ritual in some medical , optometry, dental, chiropractic, occupational therapy, physical therapy, podiatric, pharmacy, physician assistant, and veterinary medical schools that marks the student's transition from the study of preclinical to clinical...

  • In Spanish universities of the Modern Age
    Modern Age
    Modern Age is an American conservative academic quarterly journal, founded in 1957 by Russell Kirk in close collaboration with Henry Regnery...

    , like Universidad Complutense in Alcalá de Henares
    Alcalá de Henares
    Alcalá de Henares , meaning Citadel on the river Henares, is a Spanish city, whose historical centre is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, and one of the first bishoprics founded in Spain...

    , 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 friends 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
    The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer
    The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer is a ritual for students about to graduate from an engineering program at a university in Canada. Participation may also be permitted for Canadian professional engineers and registered engineers-in-training who received training elsewhere. The ritual is...

    , also known as the Iron Ring
    Iron Ring
    The Iron Ring is a ring worn by many engineers in Canada as a symbol and reminder of the obligations and ethics associated with the profession. Obtaining the ring is an optional endeavour, as it is not a prerequisite to becoming a Professional Engineer...


Entrance into Architecture (University):
  • Walk on Water: Second-year students must pass the competition to continue in the school of architecture at Florida International University
    Florida International University
    Florida International University is an American public research university in metropolitan Miami, Florida, in the United States, with its main campus in University Park...

     in the United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

See also

  • Annaprashana
  • Line-crossing ceremony
    Line-crossing ceremony
    The ceremony of Crossing the Line is an initiation rite in the Royal Navy, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, and other navies that commemorates a sailor's first crossing of the Equator. Originally, the tradition was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates...

  • Pilgrimage
    A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

  • The Seclusion of Girls at Puberty

Further reading

  • Hatzopoulos, Miltiades B., "Macedonian Cults" (as "Cultes et rites de passage en Macédoine"), Athens & Paris, 1994
  • Devine, A.M., "Review: Macedonian Cults", The Classical Review, New Series, Vol. 46, No. 2 (1996), pp. 279–281, Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association
  • Padilla, Mark William (editor), "Rites of Passage in Ancient Greece: Literature, Religion, Society", Bucknell University
    Bucknell University
    Bucknell University is a private liberal arts university located alongside the West Branch Susquehanna River in the rolling countryside of Central Pennsylvania in the town of Lewisburg, 30 miles southeast of Williamsport and 60 miles north of Harrisburg. The university consists of the College of...

    Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8387-5418-X

External links

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