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Rite of passage

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Rites of passage are a particular type of ritual practice that accomplishes a change in an individual's status within a group. Some of the best known examples are puberty rites and marriage, but in fact, rites of passage can take on many forms including hospital birth,[1] military boot camp and other diverse practices.

Anthropologists discuss rites of passage in terms of a three stage process. Introduced by Arnold Van Gennep and much elaborated by Victor Turner, the three stages consist of separation or detachment of the individual from his or her established social position or cultural environment, a "threshold" period called liminality, and reaggregation or reincorporation into society. In the first stage, the initiate is ritually separated from his or her established place in society through a process that generally includes physical and symbolic isolation, and an ordeal that serves to break down the body. In many cultures, this stage also includes ritual hair cutting. The initiate is thereby propelled into a liminal realm in which he or she exists "betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial."[2] Initiates in this stage are frequently associated with nature or the wilderness and with darkness; they are often considered ritually dead. They are remade and readied for their reentry into the everyday world in new (often more prestigious or more powerful) roles.


  1. Robbie E. Davis-Floyd. 1992. Birth as an American Rite of Passage. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520084314.
  2. Victor Turner. 1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801491630