Re: rites of passage

Tom Brown (
18 Sep 1996 18:14:12 GMT

In article <4s93hi$>, Rick Hughes <> wrote:
>In article <>, says...
>>I have a theoretical question to pose. Can an event be called a rite of
>>passage if it is not a ceremonial, public event? >Shannon Adams
>To throw my untrained two cents in I believe a Rite of Passage has to be
>cerimonial but not necessarily public. I saw a TV program about a boy in
>Italy being passed through a split tree by his grandparents. Definately
>ceremonial but they were the only people ther.
>Rick Virginia Beach, VA
>A genealogy is like a sex life. Mine is fascinating, yours is a bore.
> Unless, of course, yours crosses mine.

I can't claim to be capable of giving you an absolute
"yes" or "no" to your question. However, consider the following:

In many shamanic societies (one very good reference is M. Eliade's
_Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy_) the initiate experiences
some sort of vision, which is very private at first--actually, in
many cases the "initiate" is not even considered an initiate until
he has some kind of personal mind-shattering experience, which often
takes place when the "initiate" is for whatever reason isolated from

the rest of the community (but then, often times this is a planned
event, perhaps started at the behest of an already recognized
shaman--the initiate is sent off into the wilderness alone for a

At any rate, what I'm getting at is that what one might consider
the pivotal experience--the initiatory vision--is quite personal
and not at all public. That is, not public until the story of the
event is told by the potential initiate, to others in the community.
This telling, it seems to me from my somewhat extensive reading on
the topic, is generally pretty important in the career of the
potential shaman. After all, if nobody else knows what happened,
how can it change one's social status?

I think that you could say either "yes" or "no" to your question
in this case.