Re: Rites of Passage
Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wed, 14 Aug 1996 13:04:19 -0800
Shannon Adams wrote:
> Joel and Lynn Gazis-Sax wrote:
> > > >What purpose do rites of passage serve beyond the transfer of status?
> > What do you mean by transfer of status? Funerals are a rite of passage
> > which tend to recognize a change in status rather than transfer status.
> > (One exception is ritual murder which causes the change in status.) :)
> Actually funerals are rites of passage, albeit they are decidedly more
> identifiable as such among people who believe in an afterlife (and especially
> peoples who revere ancestors). "Change" "Transfer" I don't see the
> difference (even if the transfer is from socially alive to socially dead).
As I am using these terms, there is a difference. A change in status is something
that happens more or less automatically, like when you turn 18 and can vote or when
you turn 21 (in my state) and you can drink.
A transfer in status means that some entity or organization /gives/ you the
status in a formal ritual. Examples of this are the bar-mitzvah, confirmation,
Funerals tend to be after-the-fact recognitions, so for this reason, I would
contend that no status is actually transferred by a funeral. (Though, I would
say that the sometimes executed ceremony of reading of the will means a transfer
> > > >Is there some social-psychological motivation? What are the implications
> > > > >for secular (not ritual) peoples?
> > Here's a good question for you: are you sure that these "secular" people
> > are without rituals? I think we like to believe that we are completely
> > free of superstition and bias, but a little self-examination will reveal
> > that these things still cling to our psyches. (One of my favorites is
> > the person who believes that he/she has completely shed all her/his
> > biases and superstitions. This, in itself, is evidence of the superstition
> > of completely dispassionate science. But I digress.)
> I guess what I was pointing at was persons who cannot identify formal rites
> of passage in their lives, although that statment lends the argument a
> particularly individual psychological tone. But on the other hand I've heard
> rumors (can't think of who I could attribute this to so I'll call it a rumor)
> that some theorists are explaining extreme aggression and meloncholy among
> American adolescents to a lack of formal rites of passage. In effect they
> are existing in a state of liminality (no clearly defined status) for 8 to 12
> years. Geez, I'd be upset and depressed too!! I _think_ someone else (can't
> remember who) was using this explanation for the increase in body piercing
> among American adolescents. Something to the effect of if the society at
> large cannot give them identifable rites of passage they will create their
> own (the piercing).
> > Maybe the way to approach the question, Shannon, is to ask what kinds of
> > rituals we so-called secular people have? Anyone else out there want to
> > throw in with some examples?
> High School graduation. Initiation into frats. Signing of divorce papers.
> Funerals, just had to say it again ;) I guess another question is do these
> rituals have the same kind of mystical effect (this is coming from Victor
> Turner so don't flame me) and personal and religious affirmation of status
> (Eliade) that seem to be essential to these events.
> Can anyone see my biases yet ;)
No problem with having biases and being honest about them. Just be prepared
for testing against realities. Mysticism is a darned hard thing to put
a finger on, I will say, but if you approach hunter/gatherer and horticultural
societies as you might theology, you can develop a history of ideas about
a particular society. Sorting out the threads makes life very interesting
for the anthropologist. Have a good time! :)
> > Regards,
> > Joel
> > > >
> > > >Shannon
> > > >
> > > Consider the phenomenon that things that are easily gotten aren't valued
> > > (socially) or appreciated (at an individual level) as much as those things
> > > you've got to struggle and sweat for. Rites of passage may in themselves
> > > be ordeals, or they may celebrate the fact that one has surmounted an
> > > ordeal. Think of fraternity hazing. Think of the Bakatman described by
> > > Barth, the Gnau described by Lewis.
> > --
> > ___ ___
> > /\ _|_ /\ Joel and Lynn GAzis-SAx
> > / /\_|_/\ \ email@example.com
> > / / /\|/\ \ \ http://www.best.com/~gazissax/
> > ----------o----------------------------------------------------------
> > \ \ \/|\/ / / "If we try to flee from our human condition into
> > \ \/_|_\/ / the computer, we only meet ourselves there."
> > \/__|__\/ William Barrett
/\ _|_ /\ Joel and Lynn GAzis-SAx
/ /\_|_/\ \ firstname.lastname@example.org
/ / /\|/\ \ \ http://www.best.com/~gazissax/
\ \ \/|\/ / / "If we try to flee from our human condition into
\ \/_|_\/ / the computer, we only meet ourselves there."
\/__|__\/ William Barrett