Rite of passage (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia by yyc62487

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									Rite of passage (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

A rite of passage is a ritual that marks a change in a person's social or sexual status. The term was popularised by
the French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957), in the early part of the twentieth century. Further theories
were developed in the 1960s by Mary Douglas and Victor Turner.

Rites of passage are often ceremonies surrounding events such as childbirth, menarche or other milestones within
puberty, weddings, menopause, and death.

Such rites include:

        Coming of age
             o First haircut
             o Circumcision
             o Gembuku among the samurai
             o Prom/Graduation
             o Pederasty
             o Russ in Norway
             o Backpacking (travel)
        Religious and magical Initiation rites
             o Baptism
             o First Communion and First Confession (especially in Catholicism)
             o Confirmation
             o Bar mitzvah and Bat mitzvah
             o Upanayanam amongst some Hindu castes.
             o Dream quest(?) for aboriginals
             o Rumspringa among the Amish
             o Vision quest in some Native American cultures
        Other Initiation rites
             o Walkabout
             o Freemasonry rituals
        Naval (military and civilian) crossing the equator
        Armed forces rites:
             o U.S. Marine Crucible
             o U.S. Army Victory Forge
             o In the Spanish military service, new conscripts are subjected by "veterans" to practical jokes,
                  ranging from taking advantage of their naivety to public humiliation and physical attacks.
             o Soldiers and sailors may also be hazed again (e.g. in the stocks, paddled, bloodpinning...) on
                  obtaining a promotion, a pilot getting his wings, etcetera
        Academic circles (dorms, fraternities, teams) and other clubs practice hazing, ragging or fagging
             o Entrance into Medicine and Pharmacy (University) :
                        White Coat Ceremony
             o In Spanish universities of the Modern Age, like Universidad Complutense in Alcalá de Henares,
                  upon completion of his studies, the student was submitted to a public questioning by the faculty,
                  who could ask sympathetic questions that let him excel or tricky points. If the student passed he
                  invited professors and mates to a party. If not, he was publicly processioned with donkey ears.



In a wider sense, the term is the best available for regular rituals, such as endurances, that mark a less important
change, such as birthday spankings.
from The Circle of Life (Edited by David Cohen)


Rituals tell children when they become adults and what is expected of them as adults. NA = high school and college
rituals of graduation resemble similar rituals

If a person here doesn't graduate, are they missing something, feeling left out?

NA (native Indians), SA, Africa: women at menses secluded and taught by elder the art of womanhood. Boys
undergo trials to affirm their passage. (first hunt, wilderness alone, warfare (Borneo Tribes). Candomble initiate in
Brazil (see below). Dangers in this passage can provide great growth potential

Lesse tribe, Zaire: girls reach menarche, secluded with other girls.

The Zulus of South Africa, and the Cuna of S. America: girls are secluded during the onset of puberty (safe place).

The Ndembu of Zambia: girls secluded 3 months: communicate with outside only with melodic messages played on
a harp-like instrument.

In Kampuchea : seclusion several years. In all cases, women emerge as women and potential brides.

Mexico: first communion: wear white = purity to receive God.

Spain: prepubescent girl: goddess of spring

Turkey: sunnet = circumcision (7-8) so boy remembers when he became a "man". Paraded on donkey before
sunnet, white robe with red ribbon. After, boys take off red ribbon and sit in a lavishly decorated bed to receive
gifts and compliments for bravery.

Clitoridectomy (female circumcision): Egypt (even mummies) and other Muslim countries. In Egypt, 75% of the
females are circumcised. 1) end the girl's phase of androgyny, 2) curb woman's sexual desires as adult (reduces
infidelity). If woman is not circumcised, considered unfit for marriage. Not mandated by Islam, but by culture.

Among Apache: pubescent girls are chanted into womanhood over 4 days by elders. They call the primordial mother
was the White Painted Woman. Elders build a ceremonial lodge: 4 main poles (4 directions of earth, 4 seasons, 4
stages of life, 4 myth grandfathers who hold up universe Before dawn, first day, girls dressed by godmothers.
(guides). Outside, sprinkled with yellow cattail pollen (fertility). Close ceremony, girls run 4 times around a basket
filled with fruit, nuts, candy, and money. (4 times symbolizes: infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age). While
running reenacts White painted Woman's travels : 1st West, as old woman, and returned from East as young girl.
After 4 times round basket, it is tipped (bounty is out: easy for her to get). Girl returns to lodge: godmother explains
responsibilities of sex and motherhood. 4th night, girl dances for welfare of community - sunset to sunrise "You
will become the mother of a nation" (need to pass genes on)

Gabon, Africa: Eshira girls painated white and wearing red adornments for Mabandji rite. Red = life force, white =
strength and good reproductive health.

Kota people of Congo: paint faces Ghost-like colour blue = transformation of boy to man. (age 9-10) Used to
sacrifice wild animals, now, after schooling is completed, gifts of money take the place of sacrificing wild animal.
Candomble: Brazil in the Yoruba religion (transplanted with slaves from West Africa, early 19th century).
Catholicism forced on these people. Exu=Yaruba is the trickster god: portrayed as having 2 heads: 1) J.C. 2) Satan.
Oxosse is the god of the hunt (portrayed as Native American with war headdress). One is chosen to be a Candomble
initiate by an orixa, a god of the Yoruba pantheon. Note: there are three classic parts to all rites of passage
(tripartite): 1) separation from normal life, 2) liminal (on threshold) state of betwixt and between, 3)
reincorporation into society with new status. During the Candomble, initiates are separated for 6 months and
their heads are shaved. They enter a trance (in and out of reality, spirit (entidad) enters them, they become a horse
of the god that rides them. Then the initiates return with new power of the orixa. Ends with big celebrations.

Jacarepagua (Rio de Janeiro) : initiation with the blood of a goat and feathers from seven birds.

Calcutta, India: 10-12 year olds in sannyuas ceremony (to follow a Swami Narayan). Students leave home to work
for swami in return for sacred and practical instruction (Upanishads, math, literature, mechanical skills)

Russia: Young Pioneers promise to love Mother Russia:

Russia: young catechumen (catechism graduate): receives cross on palm of hand in oil and water in instruction prior
to baptism.

Rastafarians: male and female use marijuana (wisdom weed, Solomon's grave) before puberty. It binds the group as
do incense, alcohol, or hallucinogens used in ceremonies in other cultures.

Jews: bar mitzvah - boys: aged 13. They are now accountable for their actions. They can now join the group for
public prayer (minyan). They can now bless and read from the Torah and Haftorah (prophetic) 1920s, the bat
mitzvah for girls.

Italy: virility initiation. Prepubescent boy carried through a split sapling. Virgin Mary's picture hangs on inside of
split sapling. parents pass the naked son between the two halves, three times. Then the tree is bound back together
with picture buried inside. Makes boy connected to earth and God.

Texas boy, Innuit boy: hunting is a necessary milestone on road to adulthood.

The !Kung in Namibia cannot marry women till they have killed an animal.

The Dani boys in Irian Jaya Highlands in Indonesia, until 1960s would war with neighbouring tribes. Now they
compete in ritual battles and archery competitions. (compare rugby, football)

The Surfista (young teen boys) in Rio ride on top of train ducking overhead rails and wires. They also have rituals
of transvestism and humiliation.

Vanuatu boys (Brazil) dive from 50 ft towers with elastic vines tied to foot just long enough to stop them from
crashing (bunji jumping)

Note: if boys have no rituals, they will invent them.

Fraternities: hazing rituals

East Los Angeles: gang members pummel new recruits.

Massai of Kenya: group together for circumcision.
Kau women, Sudan (Africa) cicatrized (scarred). Increases social status. Three stages: 1) pubescent: from navel to
breasts; 2) sexual maturity, more scars to torso and shoulders; 3) after weaning of fist child, back and back of legs.

Massai: head shaved, skin painted with ochre (lighter than skin colour) preparation for marriage.

Robert Brain (the Decorated Body) says all societies have a map of the body. It includes 1) erotic, 2) beautiful, 3)
magical, 4) socially significant figures. Body ornaments represent symbols and signs forming a kind of language
understood by others in the community.

Lome, (West Africa) girls initiated into Vodun religion (voodoo). First they are secluded, then instructed. Then
they are reunited with family. Public recognition and full participants in their society.

America: sweet 16 = womanhood. The American elite hold cotillions (coming out parties) for daughters signifying
their "eligibility." Hispanic Americans have similar (quinceaneras = 15 year olds). St. Louis: first debutante to
dance the first quadrille becomes the "Belle of the Veiled Prophet Ball." Opulent pageantry involved. Begun 1878
at Agricultural and Mechanical Fair. Gave spice to fair. Based on Irish poet Thomas Moore's "Lalla Rookh."
Fictional Persian warrior named Hashimal-Maqanna. This shares many puberty rituals with other cultures in the
world: 1) elaborate clothing; 2) special head feathers (both identify initiate); 3) masked character guides woman
through the liminal phase: from girl to woman.

Brazilians: coming out party: Festa de Quinze Anos.

Kansas City: "Jewel Ball" Common to introduce daughters at dances.

West Point Cadets escort girls at NYC debutante ball.

NA: candidates graduating: (candidatus = Latin: dressed in white) from Roman times. Caps and gowns come from
13th century Europe when monasteries were the centres of learning (monks garb).

Westover School: graduation circle = union and completion (all wear white).

Graduation shows that we value education: childhood is ending and adulthood is beginning.

Prom: biggest event for adolescents in the year. Break the rules as a last vestige of adolescence (in our society).
People dance the night away, stay out all night, get close.

Papua, New Guinea: on island Losuia: teens from neighbouring villages meet under a full moon celebrating the yam
Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

"Bar Mitzvah" literally means "son of the commandment." "Bar" is "son" in Aramaic, which used to be the
vernacular of the Jewish people. "Mitzvah" is "commandment" in both Hebrew and Aramaic. "Bat" is daughter in
Hebrew and Aramaic. (The Ashkenazic pronunciation is "bas"). Technically, the term refers to the child who is
coming of age, and it is strictly correct to refer to someone as "becoming a bar (or bat) mitzvah." However, the term
is more commonly used to refer to the coming of age ceremony itself, and you are more likely to hear that someone
is "having a bar mitzvah."

Under Jewish Law, children are not obligated to observe the commandments, although they are encouraged to do so
as much as possible to learn the obligations they will have as adults. At the age of 13 (12 for girls), children become
obligated to observe the commandments. The bar mitzvah ceremony formally marks the assumption of that
obligation, along with the corresponding right to take part in leading religious services, to count in a minyan (the
minimum number of people needed to perform certain parts of religious services), to form binding contracts, to
testify before religious courts and to marry.

A Jewish boy automatically becomes a bar mitzvah upon reaching the age of 13 years, and a girl upon reaching the
age of 12 years. No ceremony is needed to confer these rights and obligations. The popular bar mitzvah ceremony is
not required, and does not fulfill any commandment. It is certainly not, as one episode of the Simpsons would have
you believe, necessary to have a bar mitzvah in order to be considered a Jew! The bar or bat mitzvah is a relatively
modern innovation, not mentioned in the Talmud, and the elaborate ceremonies and receptions that are
commonplace today were unheard of as recently as a century ago.

In its earliest and most basic form, a bar mitzvah is the celebrant's first aliyah. During Shabbat services on a
Saturday shortly after the child's 13th birthday, the celebrant is called up to the Torah to recite a blessing over the
weekly reading.

Today, it is common practice for the bar mitzvah celebrant to do much more than just say the blessing. It is most
common for the celebrant to learn the entire haftarah portion, including its traditional chant, and recite that. In some
congregations, the celebrant reads the entire weekly torah portion, or leads part of the service, or leads the
congregation in certain important prayers. The celebrant is also generally required to make a speech, which
traditionally begins with the phrase "today I am a man." The father traditionally recites a blessing thanking G-d for
removing the burden of being responsible for the son's sins (because now the child is old enough to be held
responsible for himself).

In modern times, the religious service is followed by a reception that is often as elaborate as a wedding reception. In
Orthodox and Chasidic practice, women are not permitted to participate in religious services in these ways, so a bat
mitzvah, if celebrated at all, is usually little more than a party. In other movements of Judaism, the girls do exactly
the same thing as the boys.

It is important to note that a bar mitzvah is not the goal of a Jewish education, nor is it a graduation ceremony
marking the end of a person's Jewish education. We are obligated to study Torah throughout our lives. To emphasize
this point, some rabbis require a bar mitzvah student to sign an agreement promising to continue Jewish education
after the bar mitzvah.

Sadly, an alarming number of Jewish parents today view the bar or bat mitzvah as the sole purpose of Jewish
education, and treat it almost as a Jewish hazing ritual: I had to go through it, so you have to go through it, but don't
worry, it will all be over soon and you'll never have to think about this stuff again.


Confirmation is a somewhat less widespread coming of age ritual that occurs when a child is 16 or 18. Confirmation
was originally developed by the Reform movement, which scorned the idea that a 13 year old child was an adult (but
see explanation below). They replaced bar and bat mitzvah with a confirmation ceremony at the age of 16 or 18.
However, due to the overwhelming popularity of the bar or bat mitzvah, the Reform movement has revived the
practice. I don't know of any Reform synagogues that do not encourage the practice of bar and bat mitzvahs today.

In some Conservative synagogues, however, the confirmation practice continues after bar or bat mitzvah as a way to
keep children involved in Jewish education for a few more years.

Is 13 an Adult?

Many people mock the idea that a 12 or 13 year old child is an adult, claiming that it is an outdated notion based on
the needs of an agricultural society. This criticism comes from a misunderstanding of the significance of becoming a
bar mitzvah.

Bar mitzvah is not about being a full adult in every sense of the word, ready to marry, go out on your own, earn a
living and raise children. The Talmud makes this abundantly clear. In Pirkei Avot, it is said that while 13 is the
proper age for fulfillment of the Commandments, 18 is the proper age for marriage and 20 is the proper age for
earning a livelihood. Elsewhere in the Talmud, the proper age for marriage is said to be 16-24.

Bar mitzvah is simply the age when a person is held responsible for his actions and minimally qualified to marry. If
you compare this to secular law, you will find that it is not so very far from our modern notions of a child's maturity.
In Anglo-American common law, a child of the age of 14 is old enough to assume many of the responsibilities of an
adult, including minimal criminal liability. In many states, a fourteen year old can marry with parental consent.
Children of any age are permitted to testify in court, and children over the age of 14 are permitted to have significant
input into custody decisions in cases of divorce. Certainly, a 13-year-old child is capable of knowing the difference
between right and wrong and of being held responsible for his actions, and that is all it really means to become a bar


One of the most common questions I get on this site is: do you give gifts at a bar or bat mitvah, and if so, what kind
of gifts?

Yes, gifts are commonly given. They are ordinarily given at the reception, not at the service itself. Please keep in
mind that a bar mitzvah is incorporated into an ordinary sabbath service, and many of the people present at the
service may not be involved in the bar mitzvah.

The nature of the gift varies significantly depending on the community. At one time, the most common gifts were a
nice pen set or a college savings bond (usually in multiples of $18, a number that is considered to be favorable in
Jewish tradition, see: Hebrew Alphabet: Numerical Values). In many communities today, however, the gifts are the
same sort that you would give any child for his 13th birthday. It is best to avoid religious gifts if you don't know
what you're doing, but Jewish-themed gifts are not a bad idea. For example, you might want to give a book that is a
biography of a Jewish person that the celebrant might admire. I hesitate to get into specifics, for fear that some poor
celebrant might find himself with several copies of the same thing!

When in doubt, it never hurts to ask the parents or the synagogue's rabbi what is customary within the community.

• What is a Bar Mitzvah?

The Bar mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah are a "rite of passage," a crossover from childhood to
adulthood; a milestone in a Jewish life.

Judaism deems a boy a "bar mitzvah" when he turns 13 and a girl becomes "bat mitzvah"
when she turns 12. (Reform Jews celebrate both boys and girls coming of age on their 13th
birthday). At that point the child, who is no longer a child in the eyes of Jewish law
becomes responsible for his own deeds, spiritually, ethically, and morally.

• Why Celebrate the Bar and Bat Mitzvah?

Though people talk about being "bar-mitzvahed" there is NO ritual that must be performed
to be considered a Jewish adult in the eyes of Jewish law. So what’s the big deal all about?
Why all the celebration?

Jewish law holds parents accountable for their children's misdeeds. And since moms and
dads, as of their child's "coming of age," are now no longer liable if their little darling cause
damage, steal or lie, it's cause for celebration. It is also a reason to be joyful for the the bar
mitzvah boy and bat mitzvah girl, who are now at the age when personal responsibility
dawns. This new accountability is cause for celebration - for both, the parents who are no
longer "blamed" for their child's misconduct, and for the child can now be proud of the new

For many children, preparing for a bar mitzvah ceremony a highlight of their growing
awareness of Judaism and is a moment when they are the center of attention (a most craved
position). To participate in the service gives a sense of belonging. To be the focus of all the
fussing provides a sense of importance. If it is done right, the experience will be positive
and will build a warm, happy, lasting bond with Jewish life.

Furthermore a bar and bat mitzvah is timed to coincide with the first stretch of adolescence.
As a teen reaches for identity throughout these rocky years, bar and bat mitzvah memories
fend for what it means to be a Jew. In the best case they will foster a sense of connection
with all Judaism has to offer.
The Celebration of the Quinceanera
From Raymond Resendes,Your Guide to Mexico / Central America for Visitors.

In honor of a Mexican girl's 15th birthday
If you visit Mexico and make friends with some of the local residents, you may be invited to attend a "Quinceanera"
- a lavish event in celebration of a girl's 15th birthday. If so, don't pass up the invitation or you will miss the
opportunity of participating in one of Mexico's most important cultural and social traditions.

A Quinceanera (the term refers both to the celebration and to the girl who has turned 15) is similar in concept to a
debutante's "coming out party" in other countries. The celebration is a means of acknowledging that a young woman
has reached sexual maturity and is now an adult, ready to assume additional family and social responsibilities. In
addition, the celebration is intended to reaffirm religious faith, good morals, and the virtues of traditional family

On the night before her 15th birthday, the girl about to be honoured is serenaded by a mariachi band in front of her
house. The Quinceanera ceremony usually takes place the following Saturday.

The Quinceanera celebration has all of the grandeur of a large church wedding, and begins with the Misa de accion
de gracias (thanksgiving Mass). The girl being honored ("quinceanera") arrives in church dressed in a fancy full-
length gown, usually white or pale pink in color, together with a matching headdress and an elaborate bouquet. She
is accompanied by her parents, godparents and members of her "Court", consisting of several young women called
damas (maids of honor) and several young men called chamberlains (escorts).

At the conclusion of the mass, the quinceanera places her bouquet on the altar and the girl's family and friends pass
out small commemorative favors to the guests in attendance. All then proceed to a banquet hall for a festive dinner
and dance reception.

After a sumptuous feast, the music and dancing begins. The first dance is a waltz danced with the quinceanera and
her father. Next, members of her Court are introduced and then the godparents have their first dance. The dance
floor is then opened for all guests, with men taking turns dancing with the quinceanera.

It is customary for the quinceanera to receive the following traditional gifts for her ceremony, each of which have a
special symbolic meaning:

         TIARA (symbolizing that the girl is a princess before God)
         BRACELET (symbolizing the unending circle of life)
         EARRINGS (reminder to listen to Gods word)
         CROSS, BIBLE & ROSARY (representing religious faith)

During the reception, there is a "crowning ceremony" where a parent or godparent replaces the headpiece worn by
the quinceanera with the tiara. A scepter (emblem of authority and responsibility) is also presented to her, in
recognition of her passage into adulthood.

At the reception, there is a customary toast to the quinceanera, and the guests offer her their congratulations and best
wishes. This is followed by the cutting of a multi-tiered birthday cake decorated in a color matching the quinceaera's

The celebration culminates with the festejada - a dance to a traditional waltz by the quinceaera with one of her
chamberlains (escorts).
Quinceanera: Latino Sweet Sixteen

By Elizabeth Holland (From an interview with Carmen Neris, Philadelphia, 1992)

In Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico and other Latin American countries a girl's entrance into womanhood and her
eligibility for marriage is celebrated at her Quinceanera (also known as the Quince, or Quince Anos). Traditionally
celebrated on a girl's fifteenth birthday, it is often celebrated in the United States as a Sweet Sixteen party.

The Quinceanera is celebrated as elaborately as some weddings. Gowns and rented formal wear, limousines, photo
sessions, catered dinners, dance parties, and arranged flowers mark the occasion as a special day that occurs once in
a girl's life. Although some members of Latino communities feel that Quinceaneras have become too extravagant
and that they are an unnecessary financial drain on families, the tradition is valued by many and continues as a vital
part of their culture.

"You only turn sixteen once, Carmen," her family told her. Although Carmen Neris, a Philadelphia woman of Puerto
Rican descent, was given a choice by her family of a Sweet Sixteen (Quinceanera) or a car, her family encouraged
her to choose the Sweet Sixteen. Her mother, who had not had a Quinceanera of her own, had saved for her
daughter's Quinceanera since Carmen was born. The planning for the event began several months in advance. With
the help of her family, Carmen arranged for the making of gowns and party favors (capias), rented limousines,
negotiated with the city to have the street in front of the family's house closed off to traffic, engaged a caterer, a
photographer, and a choreographer, rented a hall, arranged for the religious service, and had invitations made.

Carmen picked an escort for herself and invited sixteen other young people to participate as members of her "court."
Each court member was expected to spend many hours rehearsing choreographed dances for the event. Carmen's
Sweet, Sixteen began at six o'clock in the morning with dressing and hair arranging. It was important that no one
saw Carmen before she descended the stairs to go to mass. During the mass Carmen was blessed by the priest and
crowned by a close female friend. She also presented roses to the Virgin Mary. After mass, Carmen and her court
rode in a procession of limousines to the park for a photography session. At the party which followed, in addition to
dancing, eating and distributing capias to every guest, Carmen received high heeled shoes from her father who
removed the flat shoes of her childhood.

Sunrise Ceremonial: An Apache Girl's Coming of Age White Mountain Apache Reservation, Whiteriver,
Arizona, 1990
With excerpts from "Carla's Sunrise" by Anna Early Goseyun, (Native Peoples magazine, Vol. 4, No. 4)


The Sunrise Ceremonial marks the transition of an Apache girl into a woman, and takes place during the summer
after a girl's first menstrual period. The Ceremonial lasts four days during which, traditionally, the girl takes on the
role of Changing Woman, the first woman on earth and the mother of all Apache women.

From the time her daughter Carla was born, Anna Goseyun, a White Mountain Apache, knew that she would give
Carla a Sunrise Ceremonial. Although she raised her daughters as Catholics, Anna taught them the importance of
practicing Apache beliefs. Nevertheless, when the time came for Carla's Ceremonial, Carla was reluctant, because it
meant missing her Little League baseball tournament. Eventually she agreed, and her family began a six-month
planning process.

First the family chose godparents and a medicine man for the Ceremonial. Because these duties carry great
responsibilities, the family went formally and with ceremony to ask these people to participate. Carla's family also
chose a site for the Ceremonial and built a special camp to shelter up to eight families.

During the week prior to the Sunrise Ceremonial, Carla's family served a special meal honoring Carla's god-family.
Two cows were butchered for the meal, which featured at least fifty traditional Apache dishes. Carla's godparents
served a dinner in return a few days later. After four nights of singing, special prayers, and numerous preparations
for the ritual, the main part of the Ceremonial began. Here is the story of Carla's Sunrise Ceremonial as told by her

Before sundown, Carla must be dressed, and around 5:00 PM, her godparents come dancing into our camp. It is
time for her godmother to dress her. The medicine man will start with a speech. He will dwell on the gifts of the
Sunrise Ceremony and how important it is to be prayerful for the next four days. He reminds us of the need to be
charitable and that it is okay to be traditional. He tells us that we are all brothers and sisters in the Creator's
[Usen's] image, and that we must live by those standards as passed to us from our ancestors. Because he is here to
pray for Carla, he will also pray for all of us, as there is a need for healing in our community.

He addresses the issue of alcohol, and asks that we pray for those who suffer from alcoholism. He tells Carla and
her godparents of their responsibilities, and Carla learns that she will also have special healing powers during the
next four days. She must be prayerful, and she must fast and drink only spring water. She must learn to be patient
because her Ceremony will be a test of endurance and a time for her to get in touch with her spirituality.

Carla is told to stand in the middle of the ground covering. The feathers, her drums, buckskins, scarves, scratching
sticks, her water straw made of bamboo, her beads, shells and sacred yellow pollen are all laid out. This is the
Dressing Ceremony--with the medicine man directing the placement of each item. Usually the feather for her hair is
put in last--it is always a long special eagle plume.

I had learned a long time ago that our Creator communicates with us in different ways although sometimes we are
not aware of the signs he gives us. Soon after her godmother put the feather on Carla's head, the feather stood
straight up on its own, and it seemed to just dance on her head. It was a moving sight. We were told that truly we
had an innocent daughter. For me, this incident of Carla's feather on her head was a powerful sign.

After she is dressed, four songs are sung that officially begin the Ceremony. On this Friday evening, the medicine
man and his singers will sing thirty-two songs, each one taught and learned through the generations.
Early on Saturday morning, Carla was told that one of the medicine man's helpers would be in the camp to awaken
and direct her to the dance grounds. It is important to be early and even better to start before sunrise. From our
camp, Carla and her sister are escorted to the dance ground where she must prepare the blankets she will dance
and be massaged upon. The buckskin is also placed there. The pollen is placed in an abalone shell, and lots of
candy, fruit and sodas to be given away are nearby. Carla also has her own personal burden basket with her own
candy and money to give away. The burden basket is her gift from me.

This morning, Carla will dance approximately six hours--a real test of physical and spiritual endurance. It must be
difficult, because it was her wish to dance in her whole buckskin outfit, and the weather is humid. This will surely
test her endurance. I was proud of her, and I prayed she would persevere. She will be massaged by her godmother
who prays, too, that this young girl shall become a strong person, and will grow up to be a fine young lady.

Carla also has special healing powers. She is to be blessed with the sacred yellow pollen, first by the men, then by
the women. Some come to bless her, and others come to be blessed and healed by her. She will lay her hands on the
sick, pray along with the medicine man and blow away to the four directions whatever is ailing the sick.

After the Sunrise Dance, Carla's godfather has assigned two men to cut two trees to use for Carla's prayer tipi.
Usually these are cut before noon and one would be a cottonwood pole. This was a special prayer request for rain
because we have suffered a drought for three years and our creeks and ranges are dry.

It is now time to feed our guests and visitors again. it is also decided that a food and gift exchange must be done
today in order to continue with the Ceremony without interruption. Having just danced six hours, Carla is tired and
not exactly happy about the prospect of more dancing. She must be reminded that all this is part of her becoming a
stronger person

Dinner is served and everyone is fed. Then the food and gift exchange begins. We count all the food in stock, and we
decide how much we should give to our traditional friends. The gifts also include blankets, yards of material,
enamel pots and pans, dresses, baskets and other items brought for gifts. We load up our trucks for the exchange. It
will involve more singing and dancing--four singers from our camp go to the godparents' camp and dance with
whatever can be carried into their camp.

After the exchange, we are relieved by rain, and the air has cooled considerably. We encourage Carla to get some
rest because now we must get ready for the evening of Crown Dancers. Again, the men take over, and we prepare
for our special guests.

Back in June, we had taken a weekend to have all the special crowns made for this evening's event. The dancers had
also been selected. Because we chose to have Carla painted in the White Mountain tradition, it meant we had to do
extra things. Because it is important to do this away from the community, the crowns were made in a secluded area
with the medicine man present. Special designs and colors were chosen, and my father, brother and son were
involved. A sweat lodge for the special prayers and songs was built. The women were not allowed in this area, but
were required to provide food and drinks for the men.

It is a moving sight to see the Crown Dancers at Carla's Ceremony. We pray and bless them with our yellow pollen,
and my parents become their keepers while they are in seclusion until their dance.

My mother treats them with care, and she talks to them every day and feeds them the yellow pollen. They are special
because they will be with us only for a short time; they are coming to do what we ask and then they shall be gone

Now the time has come for the evening of the Crown Dancers. On this evening, the Crown Dancers will dance to
their own special songs, and they will be blessed by four chosen medicine people. It is an honor to do this because
the Crown Dancers will have special protective powers and blessings this night. One of them is my brother, who is
the clown; he is the revered dancer because we believe he is the leader and directs what has to be done. He checks
to see that everything is in order, or he will make a big fuss. Never fool around with the Crown Dancers because
they will know if we are not sincere. They are powerful spiritual beings coming to do what we ask of them--to bless
my Carla.

Thirty-two special Crown Dance songs are sung this night. Carla, Carmen and a special cousin will dance with the
Crown Dancers. Carla's godparents will also have two girls to dance with the Crown Dancers. It is understood by
now that three Crown Dancers are mine and two are theirs. There will be songs and special prayers in the tipi
where the girls will dance later in the night. Of the five young boys chosen, my son and two special cousins will
dance. It is an honor because young men are chosen who we hope are virgins and innocent. We know our boys are
innocent they are only twelve years old! We believe that the prayers of the young and innocent are always powerful,
and Usen will hear them,

My family knew I had wanted singing and dancing the rest of the night, but by midnight, am dead. Carla is relieved
that she doesn't have to dance all night. In the old way, the girl danced all night - but we did a lot today. Carla has
danced almost since sunup, and we have all done a lot of physical things.

It is Sunday morning, and our tipi is waiting for us. It is the men who now take over. Carla is directed to fix the
blankets, and she must grind some corn and other natural ingredients for the sacred clay that she will be painted
with. The men are directed to mix these ingredients continuously.

Carmen's godfather helps in this ceremony. Thirty-two more songs will be sung, and the feathers have been put in
place on the tipi. The tipi has become our altar, and special prayers have been said, and it is under this that Carla
will dance with her godfather. Carla has now danced close to four hours. Her endurance is amazing, but she is
showing signs of fatigue. Her godfather appears and as he paints her, he is singing. He must have powerful prayers,
and he now encourages Carla to finish. My son, Julian, is also a part of the Ceremony. He takes the part that is
traditionally Carla's father's place in dancing with her cane. He is excited and scared.

After the painting ceremony, the young who had been the spirit dancers must now dance one more time, and special
prayers are said for them. Our tribal chairman will speak for us and thank all those who came and helped.

After the speakers, the crowns and prayer swords of the Crown Dancers shall be put to rest forever. The young men
will dance to four more songs, and we pray that wherever our medicine man leads them, they are free to go. We then
send them on their way, and / thank them for having come as my special guests.

On Sunday after the last ceremony, Carla was finally set free to rest. While she slept, storm clouds formed; I was

Early Monday morning, final prayers are said. This time, Carla is undressed, and each item that has been put on
her is now taken off, one by one, by her godmother. Our medicine man, Harris, again talks to those present and
reminds us of our responsibilities and that we are now a traditional family and friends. He reminds us of our
Creator's goodness and tells us to keep our prayers strong. He has special words for Carla and her godparents.

We thank Harris because he has done another ceremony, knowing he will do many more. He is truly a gift to us
from Usen. I shall always keep him in my prayers. I am grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Glenn and Phoebe Cromwell for
the honor of becoming my daughter's godparents.

It is my hope that my daughter will grow up to be a good woman helping others as she travels her journey of life.
Carla did dance, and did so wonderfully. She surprised us all, and things happened during her Sunrise Ceremonial
beyond our expectations.
Case Study: UNYAGO
Unyago: An African-American Initiation into Adulthood Philadelphia, 1991

(From an interview with Fasaha Traylor and Camara Corbett by Pamela Nelson and Elizabeth Holland,
Philadelphia, 1992)


In recent years, some African-American community and religious groups have created African-based coming-of-age
rituals to address the contemporary needs of their youth. One such coming-of-age process has been developed by the
Black Humanist Fellowship, a non-denominational organization dedicated to addressing the cultural and spiritual
needs of African Americans. They called the process Unyago, a Swahili word that refers to tribal ritual. The first
group of teens (ages 13-17) were all children of Fellowship members, but the Fellowship has already begun forming
the next group of initiates and intends to sponsor annual programs for all families willing to participate in the
process. Two of the parents, Fasaha Traylor and Camara Corbett describe their experience:

African Americans have been faced with an almost continuous need to invent cultural expressions to affirm our
lives, our aspirations, and our existence in a land that has been hostile to our presence from its inception. From our
distinctive church services, to the development of many different hybrid musical forms, to a distinctive literature
we've had to invent ways to deflect the hostility of the larger society and create positive expressions of our essential

One area in which very little comprehensive work has been done has been the development of community processes
for considering what adulthood means, or in welcoming young people to adult responsibilities and roles. For along
time, many of us have made do with cotillions, fraternal rites, high school graduations, or the transition from the
junior to the senior choir at church. But none of these "markers" addressed the comprehensive nature of the
transitions from childhood to adulthood, and many of us increasingly felt that our young people need much more.
This is, of course, a problem for all Americans, but we believe that the need has reached crisis proportions among
our youth, because they have so much more to contend with and, too often, our young people engage in "adult"
activities before they have fully considered what adulthood ought to mean.

So we set about devising a comprehensive way of introducing our young people to adulthood. And we realized that
this was something that we--parents and families and community--ought to do. This is not the sort of thing you can
expect a school, or a church, or even an individual family to do. We felt that we needed a process that was bigger
than religion, but that included it. A process that would include religion, and politics, and history, and sexuality,
and personal finance, but that presented these topics as issues in the life of a committed adult. We talked about it,
and the talking led to countless meetings, discussions, and research. It was a step-by-step process; we did not go
about it haphazardly.

There are two points we'd like to make for any group that decides to do this. First, is that the kids were not
enthusiastic at the start. We had to say to our children, "You are going to do this because I'm your parent, and I'm
telling you to do it." Once they got into the process, we were astounded by how much they gained from it.

The second point is more philosophical. In the rites of traditional African societies, as well as in many modem rites
of passage, young men and women have undergone separate processes. We decided against that. We believe that
most of what our young people will face will be faced together: male and female. Even issues of sexuality,
relationships, and family-building are concerns that men and women share. We opted to have all of our young
people go through a single process.

The kick-off ceremony was a pot-luck at Fasaha's house. We began with the notion of naming, which has
tremendous resonance among African-Americans. Black people have been called so many things in this country, and
we have responded with continuing efforts to redefine, to counter the negative. At the personal level, the process of
naming ourselves and our children has also been an extremely serious matter. So we began the opening ceremony
with each parent(s) talking about the child's name; about what it meant, or who the child was named after, and
about the hopes that the parents had had for the child when he or she was born. That was really fascinating,
because many of the kids had never heard a public expression of what was expected for them. It was like watching a
plant perk up when you water it. They seemed surprised, even, that their birth and their name referred and
connected them to a community of people beyond their immediate biological family.

Following the opening ceremony, we had two weekend retreats. During the first retreat, we dealt with identity,
interpersonal relationships, spirituality and sexuality. In the second, we dealt with personal finance, African-
American history, and the complicated nature of leadership. We wanted the topics to have a sort of logical
progression from self, outward. We parents served as chaperones, drivers, and cooks, as well as workshop leaders
for topics which took advantage of our own expertise.

We had weekend retreats, because we felt it was important for the young people to get away. This did prove to be
important, although at first they were hanging on the phone, trying to maintain contact with whatever action they
had at home. By the second retreat there was much less of that. They were much more focused-in on the group and
on each other.

We decided early on that parents should stay away from certain workshops, especially sexuality. We invited
BEBASHI (Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues) to run those workshops. We wanted the young
people to be free to explore some issues without being intimidated by the presence of their parents. While we parents
were not physically present, we did our best to make sure that our values were. The peer educators were excellent at
helping the young people connect sex with life. They helped the kids think about their feelings about themselves;
about how their bodies feel. In school, what people call sex education is very biological, mechanical. But what
fascinates young people isn't the mechanics - it's the power of sex. They got a chance here to put the power of
sexuality into the context of their own growth and development

Glen Berkins, the personal finance writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer (newspaper), was another outside resource.
He hooked up one kid with another and said, "O.K., you're married," gave them Monopoly money, and had them
manage their finances. Not many young people have an opportunity to explore what it means to set up a household
before actually taking the plunge.

A particularly revealing discussion centered on leading, teaching, following, stewarding, and mentoring. We tried to
introduce the young people to the responsibilities inherent in each of these; to get them to see how much of what we
do is dependent upon the integrity with which we exercise these responsibilities. We learned a lot from the issues the
young people brought up. One girl related "leadership" to her decision to move away from a group of her school
friends in order to stay on track with her own goals. It is probably true among most young people, but I certainly
think it's true among black young people, that they do not have nearly enough opportunity to discuss serious things.
They rarely get the opportunity to think deeply about, "Where am I going?" Or to really focus on the future in a
constructive way within a community context.

We planned to have the final ceremony during Kwanzaa, because it falls during school vacation and because it is a
time of celebration. We, as a community, were welcoming the young people as new adults, but they had
responsibilities as new adults. Each of the kids had to prepare a statement of commitment to the community which
they delivered to the assembled guests. Since there were about a hundred people attending, this was a real public
speaking exercise. Also during the ceremony, one of the kids played the trumpet, and another sang. We were very
adamant that the kids not be dictated to, or preached to. We wanted the ceremony to be as interactive as possible.

After reading their own statement of commitment, and hearing a statement from their parents, each young person
stepped forward while two of the adults - representatives of the "community," draped a strip of kente cloth over his
or her shoulders.

I think that if we had known in June how much work we would have had to do by December, we may not have taken
it on. It's one thing if you have a staff person, but to do all this in addition to your job, and your other commitments,
was really a lot of work. But at the conclusion of that ceremony, we really felt that it was worth it. People connected
with it. People were saying, "Yeah, we need to do this for all our kids. This is important."
from Reviving Rites of Passage in America, by Pamela B. Nelson

Coming of Age

In traditional societies, the period marking the transition from childhood to adulthood was relatively brief, occurring
over the course of just days or weeks. Sexual identity was a central aspect of most corning-of-age rituals. For girls it
established their eligibility for marriage and child-rearing. For boys it initiated them into their responsibilities of
supporting a family, and taking on civic and religious duties. These rituals reflected the societv's basic beliefs of
what it means to be adult.

Since the end of the nineteenth century, however, Americans have treated the transitional period as an entire stage of
life called adolescence. Lasting years, adolescence now encompasses physical maturation, sexual initiation, the
attainment of educational and vocational experience) possible or actual military service, and the legal entitlement to
drive, drink alcohol, and vote. American boys and girls alike share many of the same coming-of-age events,
reflecting the modern breakdown of traditional adult gender-role differences.

As the process of growing up has lengthened, the point at which an individual actually becomes an adult has become
less clear. In contemporary America, rituals that used to signify the clear and complete passage from childhood to
adulthood now function only as one of the many transitions of adolescence. For example, a Jewish- American boy
might view his bar mitzvah as an important step toward maturity, but he would hardly consider himself an adult at
age thirteen, as he would in traditional Jewish society.

Of all the life-cycle rituals, those that mark coming of age are perhaps the most vulnerable to acculturation. Because
teenagers tend to adopt mainstream values, and try to fit in with their peers, ethnic coming-of-age traditions often
seem irrelevant or in conflict with other priorities. Recently, Carla Goseyun's traditional Apache Sunrise ceremony
conflicted with her selection as an All Star in a Little League baseball tournament. Initially, Carla was extremely
reluctant to give up the status she would gain within mainstream society as an All-Star ball player. In the end she
went through with the Sunrise ceremony and came to value it in the process.(4) (See "Sunrise Ceremonial" case

Some coming-of-age rituals are being revived or reinvented as many Americans begin to recognize the value of
ritual in marking the entrance into adulthood. One group of Philadelphia African Americans in particular,
recognizing the difficulties their children face in a society where racism is still a powerful force, has created a new
rite of passage for their teenagers. Called Unyago (a Swahili word which refers to tribal ritual), it uses African-
inspired ritual to affirm the youngsters' African heritage, and builds their self-confidence through weekend retreats
on such topics as leadership, money management, African-American history, and sexuality.
African Traditional Religions And The Promotion Of Community-Living In Africa.
By Christopher I. Ejizu

ii. Initiation Rituals: Rites marking the transition of individuals and groups from one significant stage of life to
another abound in traditional African societies. Similar rites are also found in several parts of the world outside
Africa. But, as Ikenga-Metuh rightly points out, rites of passage tend to reach their maximal expression in small-
scale, relatively stable societies like those of Africa, that are cyclically-oriented in their pattern of time-reckoning,
societies where change is bound up with biological and meteorological rhythms and reoccurrences rather than with
technological innovations (E.Ikenga-Metuh 1987;197). Initiation rites have far-reaching implications for the life of
individuals and the community at large. They involve different aspects of life including the psychological, social,
economic and political. The religious dimension is clearly important as traditional African groups rely on the
supernatural power and divine authority of ancestors and other spiritual patrons to validate their worthwhile
activities and to ensure the lasting success of their initiation events.

There are several rites of initiation for boys as well as for girls into adult status. These rites like the Ima Muo among
the traditional Igbo, the Egungun of the Yourba, Poro for young boys and its counterpart Sande for young girls in
Liberia generally mark their transition of young adolescent boys and girls from 'social puberty' to full adult status
with all the attendant roles and responsibilities. The Luguru of Tanzania refer to their initiation of young males as
'ng'hula', a word that in fact means growth and maturity. It begins with the seclusion of the candidates in camp under
the supervision of a specialist male elder known as 'kisepi'. During the period which lasts between two and four
weeks, the period long enough to brew the beer to be used for the rites, the candidates are fed on a rich diet of
chickens. They learn to share everything in common and they are exposed to the 'treasured secrets', including the
historical landmarks, myths and symbols of their community.

At the end of the training in camp, the candidates are prepared for the climax ritual. This comprises series of ritual
dramatisations in a thick forest. The candidates are lead through a ritual dance in which awe-inspiring masks feature.
The tree that is used by the community to brew local beer is uprooted and cut into short lengths, mixed with other
materials and tied into a bundle with cloth for the boys to carry. The grandfathers of the candidates assemble in the
forest and instruct the initiates on the norms of acceptable behaviour of the community. Extracts of the instruction
may read like this; "Now you are big. Never be rude to anyone older than yourself, especially, not your mother,
father, father's brother, and mother's sister. If you do this your mother and father will die, and you will be poor ...
and no one will care for you. This is a very evil thing.. You are big now! Do not do these things, to us Luguru they
are taboos. Never lie with young girls. If you do you will die". ( E.Ikenga-Metuh 1987;207).

The instructions given to the candidates are comprehensive, covering all aspects of life of the community. The
initiates are taken back to the seclusion camp. On the final day of their stay there, a large crowd from the community
gather in front of the camp and welcome with loud songs and dancing the candidates now ready for their graduation.
The initiates are blind-folded. They are led into the open square through the bush with their heads totally covered.
Male elders encircle the candidates forming a fence with pieces of cloth around the initiates. Some rituals are further
performed including lowering the candidates individually into a stool. The candidates are anointed with castor oil by
their respective fathers' sisters and then are sprinkled with sorghum seed. The ceremonies conclude with the
graduates carried shoulder high. They sway to the sound of the drums.

Prior to the introduction of Western-type schools, initiation rituals provided a most effective avenue for socialisation
and transmission of keybeliefs, ideas and values of the community to successive generations. Against the
background of the oral culture of traditional African groups, people relied on such oral media as speech-forms,
dramatic performances, and ritual symbolic forms to communicate their important ideas, beliefs and values to
members of the community. The awe and mystery that often characterised the initiation ceremonies proof
particularly favourable for the successful communication of the accumulated wisdom of the people, including the
ideal of harmonious co-existence in the community. In the case of the 'ng'hula' for example, the deep and mysterious
communion of the candidates and supernatural beings, symbolically represented by the thick forest that provides the
theatre for the initiation, the community ideal is impressed in the minds of the young initiates.
Masquerades and several ancestral symbols feature prominently in traditional African initiations. Such is the case
for example, with initiation into the Poro for young men and even Sande for young girls in Liberia, as well as the
Ima Muo for young adolescent men among the Igbo. Roy Sieber was able to arrive at the conclusion following his
study of the Poro that the masquerades are symbols of the spiritual forces that validate the acts and the precepts of
the elders. They serve as the visible expression of a spiritual force or authority that validates the basic beliefs of a
society, and reinforce acceptable social modes of conduct and symbolise the spiritual authority that eradicates social
evils (N.S. Booths (ed) 1977; 146-7).

Literally 'leading or taking near'. It also means 'introducing the novice to the stage of studenthood'. Upa means
'approaching towards, by the side of'. Nayanam means 'leading, directing, bringing'.
Upanayanam or the thread ceremony is the sanskara performed to mark the beginning of studenthood or
Brahmacharya ashram for a Brahmin, Kshatriya or Vaishya boy, to formalise his eligibility to read and study the
sacred books Varna Prior to the ceremony, a child of any caste is considered 'once-born' or a Shudra. With the
performance of the Upanayanam, he becomes 'twice-born'. Or dvija. This initiation rite marks his second, spiritual
birth after his first physical one, for not only is he now admitted to the privileges of his caste and into society in
general, but also embarks on adolescence.
A muhurta is selected for the performance of the ceremony. Different seasons are considered auspicious for different
castes. For example, the Upanayanam of a Brahmin is performed in the spring, of a Kshatriya in the summer, and of
a Vaishya in the autumn.
The child spends the night before the actual ceremony in isolation and absolute silence, preparing for his second
birth. This is symbolic of being in the womb again. The next morning, the mother and child eat together for the last
time. If the Chudakarana has not already been performed, it is now done. The child is then bathed and, adorned in a
loincloth, is taken to the guru. The guru accepts him and offers him a mantle to cover his upper body. Since every
Hindu is required to cover his upper body during religious ceremonies, this symbolises the beginning of a religious
life for the child.
The guru then ties a girdle around the waist of the student. This is supposed to support the loincloth, to protect his
purity and chastity.
Next is the investiture of the sacred thread, or Yagyopavitam, now considered the most The Yagyopavita or sacred
thread is 96times the breadth of a man's four fingers. An important part of the ceremony. Initially, the guru made the
thread during the course of the ceremony. Nowadays, however, it is usually made in advance. Then, while reciting
mantras, the guru places the thread over the boy's neck, so that it hangs across his chest from his left shoulder.
Bestowing the sacred thread has not been mentioned in the Sutras at all. The concept is believed to have originated
from the mantle and the girdle. The thread is spun by a virgin girl and consists of nine strands, which are three long
threads, each folded thrice over. This is then knotted, with each knot marking a distinguished ancestor. The length of
the thread is 96 times the breadth of four fingers of a man, which is believed to be equal to his height. Each of the
four fingers represents one of the four states that the soul of a man experiences: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep
and knowledge of the absolute. The three folds of the thread represent the three qualities from which the universe
evolved: passion, representing Brahma; reality, representing Vishnu ; and darkness, representing Shiva. The three
folds in the thread also remind the wearer of the three debts he owes: to the gods, to the sages, and to his ancestors.
The sacred thread is worn differently for different occasions. When performing an auspicious ritual, like the naming
ceremony Namakarana or marriage Vivaha, the thread hangs across the chest from the left shoulder. For the funeral
rites Antyeshti, the thread hangs across the chest from the right shoulder. When a man is engaged in physical
activity, the thread hangs down from the neck like a garland. While bathing and defecating, the thread is looped up
securely around the ear.
After bestowing the thread, the guru gives the pupil a staff, symbolising the beginning of a long journey to
perfection. With this, the student is fully equipped with the necessities of student life. Then the guru fills his cupped
hands with water, which he sprinkles on the pupil, to cleanse and purify him Sanskara. He touches the heart of the
student, symbolising harmony, sympathy, and wholehearted communion between the two. The student then mounts
a stone to imbibe its firmness. This is followed by a formal introduction between the guru and the student, where
each tells the other about him. The student is fed yogurt as a sign that he should clear his mind and ingest what he is
taught. Then, after circumambulating the sacrificial fire (see Agni), the student is shown the sun and explained that
the quest for knowledge should be like the light of the sun, which permeates through all things. Next the Gayatri
Mantra is recited by the guru and repeated by the pupil, who memorises it.
This is the climax of the ceremony and takes place with the guru, the student and his father huddled secretively
under a cloth, to prevent unfit people from hearing the mantra. The teaching of the sacred Gayatri Mantra is called
'Brahmopadesham' (Brahma's counsel). It is only after learning the mantra that the student is accepted as 'twice-
The student then puts a piece of wood into the sacrificial fire. This signifies the beginning of his contribution to
religious rites. The ceremony concludes with pradakshina. The pupil now collects alms for food, for as a student he
must live on the town's charity and later repay his debt to society by giving alms himself to other students when he
graduates to being a householder. Now, on his very first foray, he symbolically augurs his survival by begging first
from his mother and aunts. His refrain is bhavati bhiksham dehi. (Literally "Whichever honorable person is present,
please give alms").
According to the Grihyasutras (see Sutra), the Upanayanam for a Brahmin should be performed when the child is
eight years old; for a Kshatriya at the age of 11; and for a Vaishya, at 12. This was so because Brahmin children did
not have to leave their own homes, since their father became their guru. Kshatriya and Vaishya children, on the
other hand, had to be older because they could live in their guru's home only when they were capable of looking
after themselves. Another reason is that the Brahmins had to know the Vedas and other texts more thoroughly than
the children of the other two castes, since this learning was the mainstay of their lives.
Later, when the Upanayanam became merely a means to being accepted as a 'twice-born' Hindu, the ages were
extended. For a Brahmin, the Upanayanam could be performed any time until the age of 16; for a Kshatriya, until
22; and for a Vaishya, 24.
The Upanayanam is an ancient ceremony, preceding the Aryan arrival in India. A corresponding Parsi ceremony,
Navjot, in which initiates are invested with a sacred thread called the kusti before a sacred fire, testifies to the fact
that this rite developed when the two communities were one. References to the life of a religious student are found
in the Rig-Veda (see Veda), where the Upanayanam is described as a simple ceremony. Any child seeking an
education came to a guru, who took charge of him. The guru symbolically bore the child as an embryo within
himself. He placed his hand on the child's right shoulder, by which he symbolically became pregnant with the child.
After three nights, the child was considered reborn, or 'twice-born'. From this time onwards, his formal education
Until the Sutra period, this ceremony was compulsory. Anyone who wanted an education was required to pass an
elementary test given by the guru. In addition, the student was initiated anew each time he wanted to learn a new
branch of the Vedas. The Upanayanam became fully established at the time of the Grihyasutras (see Sutra)
. At the time of the Upanishads (c. 600 - 400 BC), the Upanayanam became compulsory, probably because the
importance of education was recognised by then. It became an insignia for an individual. Anyone who did not
undergo the Upanayanam was not considered 'twice-born' and therefore could not participate in any social rituals.
This belief continued to be held, and it is largely for this reason that the Upanayanam is performed even today.
Without it, it is widely believed that a man cannot be married. Another reason that the ceremony became
compulsory is that the Aryans wanted to maintain a separate identity from the Dasas. Since the Dasas were largely
Shudras, who were forbidden the Upanayanam, this preserved the difference between the two and emphasized
Aryan superiority.
According to the Haritadharmasutra (see Sutra), girls could also have their Upanayanam performed, with two
options. They could have the complete ceremony performed, just as boys did. Or, if their Upanayanam was not
performed in their youth, it could be done just before the marriage ceremony (see Vivaha). However, by the time of
the Manusmriti, the Upanayanam became an exclusively male prerogative. By Manu's reckoning, caring for the
home and husband were duties equivalent to those performed by a student for his guru (see Ashram). Therefore,
women were not required to go through the ceremony. In time, the Upanayanam lost its original significance.
Initially supposed to mark the beginning of a child's studenthood, it became a process of initiation into one's caste.
The investiture of the sacred thread, once a minor aspect, became the main purpose of the ceremony, as the thread
was the identification of a 'twice-born' Hindu.
Today, the Upanayanam has become a mere formality for most Hindus. Once the sacred thread is bestowed and
token alms collected, the modern 'twice-born' takes a short walk near the house, symbolising his journey to Benaras
or any other holy city, dedicated to learning. His return to the house symbolises the end of his Vedic student life.
The ceremony is now usually performed only for men, and takes place a few days before their marriage (see

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Rumspringa is a traditional rite of passage in the Amish religion, and describes a period lasting months or years
during which adolescents are released from the church and its rules. The custom is part of the Amish belief that only
informed adults can "accept Christ" and be baptized, along with the belief that the unbaptized cannot enter heaven.

After turning sixteen, Amish teenagers are allowed to live among the "English", or non-Amish North Americans,
and experience a way of life outside of Amish culture through the utilization of technology and experimentation
with sex, drugs, and alcohol. Traditionally, they are welcomed back in order to be baptized in the Amish church no
matter what they do during this time. Most of them do not wander far from their family's homes during this time,
and an estimated 85 to 95 percent ultimately choose to join the church. However this number would vary from
community to community, and within a community between more acculturated and less acculturated Amish.
Swartzentruber Amish have for example a higher retention rate than the New Order Amish within the Holmes
County, Ohio community. This figure was significantly lower as recently as the 1950s, and among the first colonial
Amish families it is said that there was not one family on record where all the children in the same family were all
baptized into the Amish church. It is not uncommon for those individuals who choose not be baptized into the
church to be shunned by their community - including their family.

The nature of the rumspringa period differs from individual to individual and from community to community. In
large Amish communities like in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Holmes County, Ohio, and Elkhart-Lagrange,
Indiana, the Amish are numerous enough that there exists an Amish youth subculture. During the rumspringa period,
the Amish youth in these large communities will join one of various groups ranging from the most rebellious to the
least. These groups are not divided across traditional Amish church district boundaries. In many smaller
communities, Amish youth may have a much more restricted rumspringa period due to the smaller size of the
communities. In the smaller communities, Amish youth may be less likely to partake in strong rebellious behaviour
since the anonymity offered in the larger communities is absent.

Sarasota, Florida is a popular destination for Amish youth during the rumspringa period, as well as for Amish and
Mennonite retirees.


The word, literally meaning "running around" in Pennsylvania German, is a contraction of rum, an adverb meaning
"around" (also used as a separable prefix as in the case of rumschpringe), and the verb schpringe, meaning "to run"
or "to skip."

The word rumschpringe is closely related to the standard German word herumspringen, although the rum has more
of the meaning of "around" than "about". Omitting the he syllable leaving only the rum is widely accepted in
colloquial German and does not change the meaning of the prefix. The modern German word springen means "to
jump" and bears no meaning in the form of "to run" anymore. In Swiss German, springe however does - besides
meaning "to jump" - also mean "to run". In modern German "to skip" would rather be translated with the verb
hüpfen. The German noun Herumspringen (literally "to jump around") correlates with the Pennsylvanian German
word rumschpringe, describing a state of change or unrest, but bears no correlation to the Amish custom of

Recent popular exposure

Rumspringa is the subject of the film documentary The Devil's Playground, as well as a UPN reality television
series Amish in the City. The practice has also been the subject of plotlines on the TV shows ER, Las Vegas, Strong
Medicine and Judging Amy, as well as being a part of the Abram's Daughters series of novels from Beverly Lewis.
The Dutch band The Nits had a song named Rumspringa on their 2003 album entitled 1974.
Vision quest

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Disambiguation note: Vision Quest is also a 1985 wrestling movie starring Matthew Modine.

A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. In traditional Lakota culture the
Hanblecheyapi (vision quest, literally "crying for a vision") is one of seven main rites. Vision quest preparations
involve a time of fasting, the guidance of a tribal Medicine Man and sometimes ingestion of natural entheogens; this
quest is undertaken for the first time in the early teenage years. The quest itself is usually a journey alone into the
wilderness seeking personal growth and spiritual guidance from the spirit Wakan Tanka.

Traditionally, the seeker finds a place that they feel is special, and sits in a 10 foot circle and brings nothing in from
society (not even clothes) with the exception of water. A normal Vision Quest usually lasts two to four days within
this circle, in which time the seeker is forced to look into his soul. It is said that a strong urge to leave the Quest area
will come to the seeker and a feeling of insanity may set in. However, the seeker normally overcomes this by
reminding him or herself of the overall outcome of the quest, causing the mind to stop wandering on random
thoughts. The individual can generally find solace in the fact that he or she will not die in just two to four days. It is
noted that few have claimed grand visions on their first Vision Quest. Native American totems are said to be capable
of speaking through all things, including messages or instructions in the form of an animal or bird. Generally a
physical representation of the vision or message such as a feather, fur or a rock is collected and placed in the seeker's
medicine bag to ensure the power of the vision will stay with the individual to remind, protect or guide him.

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