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Valar Qringaomis

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Male vs Female Rites of Passage

"According to van Gennep, all rites of passage, wherever they are celebrated and whatever transition they mark, contain the same basic structure. Each entails a three-stage process of separation, transition, and incorporation (or, in van Gennep's terminology, preliminal, liminal, and postliminal phases). In each case, the individual is separated from the known status; undergoes a ritual transition, passing through the unknown dangers of the "threshold": and is then incorporated back into society with a new status. For example, in male initiatory rites among the various peoples of Australia. initiands are taken from their homes into the bush (separation), where they undergo a series of ordeals as well as religious instruction (transition), before being returned home to be acknowledged by the community as adults or, in some instances. as “those risen from the dead" (incorporation)...

Have women's rites of passage historically followed the same structure as men's? In his landmark book, Emerging from the Chrysalis (1981), a cross-cultural study of women's initiation rituals, Bruce Lincoln took up this question and concluded that wornen’s rituals have been marked by the stages of enclosure, metamorphosis (or magnification}, and emergence.

What accounted for this difference? According to Lincoln, it was due largely to the fact that in many cultures a woman's status cannot outwardly change, so the rite was focused on her "symbolic" elevation rather than on any real-world advancement. In the initiation rites that Lincoln studied, women did not spatially separate as men do in the classic “territorial passage"; they stayed close to home and in some cultures were even secluded. Magnification, or metamorphosis. described the expansion of a woman's experiences and capabilities, but only in the realm of women's biology; she moved from daughter to wife and mother. Unlike men, the threshold phase was never really open to women. Emergence described the process of coming out of seclusion. For example, Tukuna (Northwest Amazon) initiands in the Moca Nova festival are literally described using the metaphor of insect metamorphosis - the caterpillar, the cocoon, and finally the butterfly.

Women did not ritually die to be born anew in traditional rites of passage; rather, they became, through their passages, more developed forms of their original selves."

--- Women's Rites of Passage: How to Embrace Change and Celebrate Life / Abigail Brenner


Related: Precarious Manhood
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