Re: Rites of Passage

Robert Snower (
Wed, 14 Aug 1996 19:13:47 GMT

Shannon Adams <> wrote:

>Robert Snower wrote:
>> Shannon Adams <> wrote:
>> >I am just finishing a paper dealing with a rite of passage among
>> >the people I studied. But I have a few curiosity questions for all you
>> >theorists and ethnographers.
>> >What purpose do rites of passage serve beyond the transfer of status?
>> >Is there some social-psychological motivation? What are the implications
>> >for secular (not ritual) peoples?
>> >Shannon
>> All rites of passage have a common thread, i.e., a common theme and
>> purpose: the quelling of individual sexual competition in favor of
>> the cooperation essential to the maintenance of a society.
>> Best wishes. R. Snower

>Whoa! I've never heard this. Can you explain in more detail. I'm kind
>of curious!


If you look at the older anthropologists, such as Frazer, who recounts
many many examples of rites of passage among tribal-type cultures, or
at Jane Harrison, who specialized in pre-historic Greek religious
rites, or at Jessie Weston, who specialized in medieval myth (these
people are never mentioned by current anthropology faculty, because
they are considered "evolutionary" and that's not pc), you find the
central theme of rites of passage to be circumcision, castration, or
metaphors thereof. This was picked up in THE SOCIOBIOLOGY OF HOMO
SAPIENS (1975) by Mark Shapiro, which is about the creation of
pre-historic society as an adaptation, by means of a metaphorical
extension of kinship to those who were not literally related, and also
by a reduction in individual sexual competition by ritual (primordial
religion), both being essential in order to generate the cooperative
spirit society requires for its existence.

Best wishes. R. Snower