Re: Rites of Passage

Len Piotrowski (
Thu, 22 Aug 1996 18:35:57 GMT

In article <4vfq9q$> (Gerold Firl) writes:

>|> > social role." No. They got circumcised. Why?

>I don't know much about the psychological aspects; can you provide any
>insight into how the participants view the process?

I would suggest that the social context defines this meaning. Nothing short of
understanding this interactive situation will answer the question.

>It may be that being a man is viewed as a somewhat challanging role,
>and having the courage and will to undergo a painful process in the
>company of your peers and elders provides a better foundation for
>manhood than a lively round of bingo.

This, of course, is pure speculation, and defies the appeal to " the
participants view" sought earlier.

>|> > >Since a major part of the adult role consists of bringing the next
>|> > >generation into existance, the rite should be expected to include overt
>|> > >sexual components.

>|> > The "adult role" consists in a million different activities, including
>|> > of course ones related to sex, of which their are an infinite number
>|> > of symbols. Circumcision? Why on earth that?

>Seems pretty weird to me; I'd like to hear your views.

If "adult role" is hypothesized as a significant transition stage in a
culture, and one of the "roles" associated with this "adult role" is
parenting, why the surprise that meaningful ritual is associated with

>|> I think it was van Gennep (not sure about this) that made reference to teeth
>|> filing (canines specifically) as a rite of passage in SE Asia (?)(maybe
>|> India, oh well, I can't remember). Who ever it was said that this rite was a
>|> symbol for controlling the "animal" and emphasing the human. Could
>|> circumcision be something akin to this? Redefining sexual behavior/maturity
>|> as wholely human by separating a human penis from an animal one? (That's
>|> probably way out there but oh well.)

>Interesting possibility. All forms of body modification would seem to
>satisfy this criterion.

I would dispute that. Aboriginal subincision seems intent on making the
symbolic link with animal nature.

> In addition to separating human from animal,
>they also serve to separate man from man: each culture has their own
>distinctive badges of belonging.

Wouldn't expect the aborigines to be invited to any local circumcisions in the
near future, and vice versa. <g> If the ritual is so secret, closed, and
proscribed, how can it meaningfully act as a public, open, and generally
accessible symbol of differentiation?

>|> > >[snip]

>Perhaps we could compare the all-male rites of the masons with the
>all-female rites of the dionysian orders in greece. I believe that
>hamilton commented on the meanings of those curious goings-on; I've
>always wondered.

Except for the obvious, in what way are they comparable?

>I'm not sure if they can legitimately be considered rites of passage,
>but how do they fit within the circumcision/castration hypothesis?

I believe the emphasis was on sexual attributes of the ritual. It would be my
recollection that the Dionysian rituals were emphatically characterized by
orgiastic activity. I would also note that any male unluckily caught on those
nights witnessing the activities, the least of his troubles would be
castration (female warrior instincts, Firl?).



"If you can't remember what mnemonic means, you've got a problem."
- perlstyle