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 Post subject: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2008, 13:30 
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Births, marriages, funerals, graduation ceremonies, divorces.....

In the at least notionally christian societies that I imagine that most of us inhabit, it seems to me that Christianity tries to take at least three of these to itself, though it's grip has been fading over the last hundred years.

Births taken care of by christenings or infant baptisms, according to the flavour of Christianity, I believe until comparatively recently marriages and funerals only allowed in a church. In Britain at least.

The grip has been strong, but weakening.

It's only fairly recently that I've been persuaded that such rites of passage ore of great value within human society, but having become so persuaded, I resent the still strong near Christian monopoly on funerals, in particular.

Do people here agree with me that such rites of passage are important within the human condition, and what sort of non Christian rites could replace the traditional christians, both for pagans and secular people?

David B


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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2008, 13:39 
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:director: Moving to Minerva's Library, as this pertains to non-periodic ritual more than cyclical celebrations.

(Then I'll respond :) )

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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2008, 13:51 
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I would add puberty ceremonies to the list. There's something that has generally been ignored by our culture. And we wonder why teens have so much angst.

As for non-Christian rituals, you'll find that this is an area in which Neopagans excel. We love scripting ceremonies--the more nifty symbolism, the better. They usually involve some gods and some "woo," but the meat, so to speak, is what the ceremony means to those participating, making them easy to adapt to a secular theme.

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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2008, 14:11 
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David B wrote:
It's only fairly recently that I've been persuaded that such rites of passage ore of great value within human society, but having become so persuaded, I resent the still strong near Christian monopoly on funerals, in particular.

Do people here agree with me that such rites of passage are important within the human condition, and what sort of non Christian rites could replace the traditional christians, both for pagans and secular people?


Yep. Anthropologists have been examining them for a long time. Van Gennep is recognized as the seminal author on the understandings of transitional stages (Les Rites de Passage, 1909). Not only do they mark birth, death, and marriage, but also the 'coming of age' sort of transitions as well. In some societies (like the Tiriki) these rituals mark a change of 'role' or 'job' within the society based on induction to/ promotion to a higher social status/ rank.

What these rituals seek to do is provide a social recognition and legitimacy for the individual (or individuals) in their new role in society. Looking at marriage, for instance, before the wedding we have two separate individuals, but after we see a pair, recognized by society as having a continuing claim to sexual access to each other. (If you got to polygamy, then you see more, of course.) But this claim has social sanctions due to the attendees (audience) being witnesses to the ritual which serves to represent legitimacy by insuring that all the cultural criteria necessary has been met for the couple to be married.

This can be important, as in some cultures' supernatural worldviews, those who are not in the correct social 'place' (ie. have not completed the rites of passage someone of their age/ status/ etc. should have) are vulnerable to witchcraft, the evil eye, or other supernatural retribution.
:zap:

These can also be seen in other aspects of social legitimization such as the coronation of a ruler, which may or may not involve a religious practitioner. The key aspects are the separation of the individual, the transitional or liminal phase, then reincorporation of the individual. Separation need not be the -actual- removal, but could be a symbolic removal (special clothing no-one else wears during the ritual) and a special place to stand (often where many others can easily see/ witness the ritual). During the transitional or liminal phase, the individual(s) socially don't exist, and this is when they learn the secrets of/ important information about how to exists in the new social role, which may or may not include vows/ oaths. In the reincorporative phase, the individual is officially introduced back into the society, often with a new name or title proclaimed to witnesses.

Most of these are straightforward, but in mentioning funerals, one of the things that needs to be recognized is that while they are rites of passage (transitioning someone recognized as belonging to the category of the 'living' in a society to the 'dead' in a society, they rarely involve a religious practitioner addressing the dead body and instructing it as to how it should act/ behave in it's new role. ("Now, Mr. Jones, just lie still and don't wiggle. Stay in the box and be quiet. If you see a bright light, move toward it ... :roll: )

What you note instead is that funerals address the bereaved, not the dead themselves. Here we're seeing a rite of passage that is also functioning as a rite of intensification. These then seek to reduce stress (over the loss of a supportive/ productive member of a family/ community) and reinforce unity (of said family/ community), as well as socially recognize the legitimacy of the 'grieving' or 'mourning' period where the bereaved are allowed (and perhaps expected) to have social outbursts which would otherwise not be acceptable.

And, rest assured that Christians don't have a monopoly on those.

(And, sorry ... I just went over these in class last night so they're all nice and fresh in my mind ... :oops: )

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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2008, 14:15 
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Karalora wrote:
I would add puberty ceremonies to the list. There's something that has generally been ignored by our culture. And we wonder why teens have so much angst.


No kidding! In many other cultures, our teens would be out there, responsible for their own lives, with jobs and spouses ... :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2008, 15:21 
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I rather like the idea of a puberty rite.

The Jewish Bah Mitzvah (sp?) seems to perhaps fulfil this function for boys. Is there a female equivalent? :dontknow:

I can't think of a Christian equivalent, and I have no idea if there is an Islamic one.

Hex wrote:
...What you note instead is that funerals address the bereaved, not the dead themselves. Here we're seeing a rite of passage that is also functioning as a rite of intensification. These then seek to reduce stress (over the loss of a supportive/ productive member of a family/ community) and reinforce unity (of said family/ community), as well as socially recognize the legitimacy of the 'grieving' or 'mourning' period where the bereaved are allowed (and perhaps expected) to have social outbursts which would otherwise not be acceptable.


Having just re-read Hofstadter's 'I am a Strange Loop', I wonder if there isn't a little more to it than that. An intensification process which enables in a non-woo way the deceased to live on, if vicariously, in the minds of those who loved them.

It's quite difficult to explain how a deceased person could in any sort of sense live on in a non-woo sort of way, in a nutshell.

The sense in which Shakespeare lives on through his works, or Bach through his music comes closest, perhaps.

It's to do with intertwined strange loops, but to grok that, I think you'd have to read Hofstadter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_A_Strange_Loop

I'm also sympathetic to the idea that a marriage ceremony actually creates a new entity - a marriage.

David B


Last edited by Hex on 11 Jul 2008, 15:48, edited 1 time in total.
quote tag fixed = quote="Hex"


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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2008, 15:38 
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Hex wrote:
No kidding! In many other cultures, our teens would be out there, responsible for their own lives, with jobs and spouses ... :roll:


Not that this is something we should necessarily aspire to in our culture. But I think adolescence would be easier on everyone concerned if we allowed teens to have a transition period between childhood and adulthood. As it currently stands, the enormous physical and psychological development they undergo during puberty has absolutely no legal ramifications--they can be and are treated like children even though they are no longer children, biologically speaking. This has to cause a certain amount of identity dissonance. How much better it would be for adolescents and society alike if we formally acknowledged the onset of puberty and gradually assigned privileges and responsibilities--not just as families but as a society--between then and legal majority?

David B wrote:
The Jewish Bah Mitzvah (sp?) seems to perhaps fulfil this function for boys. Is there a female equivalent?


Jewish culture has the Bar Mitzvah for boys and the Bat Mitzvah for girls. So...yes.

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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2008, 15:47 
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IIRC< bat miztvahs are new.

Catholics have a confirmation--- where the church sees you as an adult for the first time. As Far As I Know, there is no 'Christian' version.

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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 18 Jul 2008, 08:46 
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How about "graduations", in this case from the various school levels, as secular ceremonies marking the stages of life through education? In my experiences, a child/young adult is often defined/identified by the level of education/achievement that they have attained.


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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 21 Nov 2008, 22:18 
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I've attended many a hands fasting, also I have the local counsil's permission to marry whom ever wishes this ceremony from me, I got this nonesense thanks to the http://www.ulc.org

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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 22 Nov 2008, 11:54 
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ah! The ULC--- been ordained with them for about 18 years now!

(what can I say, all my friends were doing it...)

Need to find that certificate...

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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 14 Jan 2009, 05:59 
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ULC FTW!

I think pagans have a ritual for any life situation. Birth rituals, naming rituals, coming-of-age rituals, handfastings, handpartings, queenings and cronings (though that's unique to what my wife does...), funerals, initiations...if you can think of it, someone's probably written a ritual for it.

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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2017, 04:05 
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 Post subject: Re: Rites of passage
PostPosted: 26 May 2017, 01:45 
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this is the best, thanks!






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