Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life

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In other words, initiation is a human need. It helps us to understand and mark transitions, as well as embrace and live our identities within a living community. This pattern of separation, initiation, and incorporation is discernible in other realms as well, most notably in the Church, since the new life in Christ is, as St. When most people think of a rite of passage, however, they think of boys becoming men.

The reason male rites of passage are so striking in our imaginations is that they are more orchestrated or public than those of females.

We might think of an African tribe sending a boy out to kill a lion or Australian Aborigines circumcising their adolescent boys in an elaborate and public ceremony. Something within masculinity has a need to be fully equipped and challenged, or else it has a tendency toward a dangerous distortion.

Masculine initiation is also a constant thread in ancient and classical literature and culture. Achilles, for example, was given over by his father to Chiron, a centaur, to be initiated into manhood. Women also go through rites of passage to womanhood, but these rites are deeply rooted in their physical and psychological makeup. I was once in a room with my wife and two midwives as they discussed the experience of birth — an event that marks the ultimate physical achievement of womanhood.

As they were talking about the powerful experience of birth, one midwife described just how amazing it is to look back once you are on the other side of it.

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But the answer is no. Paternity — the heart of authentic masculinity — is something a man must choose and embrace. Rites of passage are designed to help make a man of him so that he will choose it. Male maturity ends in fatherhood, in passing on life to the next generation. Female maturity, similarly, is rooted in motherhood. For both men and women, of course, the expression of being a mother or father can be in non-biological ways — clergy and religious are obvious examples.

Nature and significance

Turner stated that liminal experiences are rare and diminished in industrial societies, and are replaced by liminoid experiences. There are many situations in which rites of passage are observed. Following are some of the most universally recognized. The events in an individual's life cycle, particularly those surrounding birth, marriage , and death are acknowledged in almost all cultures to be important rites of passage. However, the way in which these events are celebrated varies considerably across countries and regions and within different religious and ethnic groups. The customs and traditions surrounding these events can be elaborate and complex.

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For example, traditional Hindu funeral ceremonies usually last thirteen days, while Indonesian weddings are often attended by more than a thousand guests. In Western cultures pregnancy is often celebrated with a baby shower. In the Jewish tradition a baby boy undergoes brit milah, a religious circumcision , while Muslims and Hindus shave the baby's head on the seventh day. Brides to be in Western countries often receive engagement rings and hold bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Traditional American and European brides wear white on their wedding days, a custom which has been adopted by cultures throughout the world, while red is worn by Muslim, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, and Armenian brides. Sikh women generally wear white clothes for mourning , although sometimes they wear black. Though there are variations within the Hindu traditions, women generally wear white or black.

For example, Jewish mourners returning home from a funeral are normally given a hard boiled egg as a symbol of life.

Why All Males Need Rites of Passage

The process of mourning is also conducted according to different traditions, sometimes taking a considerable time period. Coming of age rituals, which occur in different forms in most cultures, are some of the most recognized rites of passage. Birthday celebrations often serve as rites of passage, such as "sweet sixteen" parties in the United States.

The Poy Sang Long is a ceremony undergone by boys in Burma and Thailand where they become novice monks and temporarily live the monastic lifestyle. In some cultures, coming of age rituals can involve scarification and various other physical endurances. In , the American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead published her controversial findings in Coming of Age in Samoa. Her study was conducted in a village of six hundred people on the island of Tau, Samoa. Mead lived with, observed, and interviewed young women, concluding that adolescence in Samoa was a not marked by the emotional or psychological distress, anxiety, or confusion often seen in the United States.

Despite its prevalence in the media, not all cultures undergo adolescence as experienced in America and other Western cultures. The rites of passage which people in the United States typically experience follow a chronological, youth-oriented line. It begins with birth and a child's first steps and first words spoken, and includes childhood events such as learning to ride a bike. Adolescent coming of age would not be complete without the first kiss and first relationship, first car, and first job.

Islamic Funeral Rites

Marriage and children are important rites of passage in the United States, as well as in most other cultures. There are few important recognized rituals in later adulthood in the United States except retirement. While many people around the world and in the U. These are often mistakenly presented as universal across culture, class, and context, and are mythologized in various national and international media. Many rites of passage center around a child's education.

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The first day of school is an especially important rite of passage in Western culture. In various tribal societies, entry into an age grade—generally gender -separated—is marked by an initiation rite, which may be the crowning of a long and complex preparation. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Introduction Nature and significance Classification of rites Life-cycle ceremonies Ceremonies of social transformation Ceremonies of religious transformation Other ceremonies Symbolic aspects of ceremonies A representative example Primary rites of passage Birth rites Initiation rites Marriage rites Death rites Theoretical perspectives Structural functionalism Victor Turner and anti-structure Later theories.

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Alexander Edward Norbeck. See Article History. Nature and significance Many of the most important and common rites of passage are connected with the biological crises, or milestones, of life—birth, maturity, reproduction, and death—that bring changes in social status and, therefore, in the social relations of the people concerned. Facts Matter. Start Your Free Trial Today.

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