Rites of passage…

A rite of passage, marks a certain time when a person reaches a new and significant change in their life.

It’s something that nearly all societies recognise and often hold ceremonies for. These ceremonies are held to observe a person’s entry into a new stage of life.

Most rites help people to understand their new roles in society. They can also help others learn to treat people in new ways after they experience certain rites of passage.

Most rites of passage fall into three main phases: separation, transition, and incorporation.

In the separation phase, the participant is taken away from their familiar environment and former role and enters a very different and sometimes foreign routine that they are forced to adjust to and become familiar with.

The first rite is birth. The infant leaves a very safe and secure environment in their mother’s womb to an extremely different one in the real world.

The last rite is death – a separation rite to an after physical life, depending on a person’s belief about what happens after someone dies.

Societies have devised meaningful ways to mark these separations and aid in the transitions that will take place.

For instance, the naming of babies marks the significant event of birth. Funerals and the many different funeral customs mark the separation that takes place when a death occurs. Funerals can also help those left behind to make the necessary changes needed to adjust to being separated from loved ones.

The transition phase is the time that the participant learns the appropriate behavior for the new stage they are entering. They learn to adjust and prepare for it, and learn to make the transition.

The incorporation phase takes place when the participant is formally admitted into the new role.

There are many, many rites of passage in life. Some are considered to be more significant than others, but almost every day can bring about transitions.

However, there are specific times in life that are often considered to be the most significant times of change.

  • Birth
  • Leaving childhood and becoming a teenager – reaching puberty
  • Becoming of legal age – rite of adulthood
  • Leaving home after graduation to start your own career
  • Engagement, and Marriage or some commitment to another person
  • Having a baby
  • Stepping into a new career or social circle
  • Parents experiencing empty nest syndrome
  • Menopause
  • Accepting going grey
  • Going into retirement
  • Death

To recognize these significant times in, societies typically hold initiations and elaborate ceremonies. Each different culture or society may choose to mark these rites in very different ways with each ceremony being unique and meaningful to their culture.

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