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Rites of Passage are Ceremonies that Ritualise the life transitions or milestones that we all experience. It is considered a universal phenomenon which has enabled anthropologists to understand what social hierarchies, values and beliefs are important in any specific culture. Rites of passage are often ceremonies surrounding events such; puberty, coming of age, marriage and death. Initiation ceremonies such as baptism, confirmation and bar or bat Mitzvah are also considered important rites of passage for persons of their respective religions.
Honouring these important milestones in our development with a Rite of Passage Ceremony assists us to stay in touch with our own life spiral, both as an individual, therefore also assisting us to align with the natural world and our Spiritual selves and as a culture, reconnecting us to those who share these experiences with us and our heritage. We all transition from from conception to death, one life stage to the next on our life journey. Regardless of our biological age during these times, it is the inner child, that experiences these significant, and sometimes traumatic, internal shifts (physiological, emotional, mental, spiritual, and sexual).
These transitional stages will occur whether they are acknowledge or not. When they are not recognised and placed within a context that allows the individaul to process, accept and incorporate them into the psyche, the individual seeks acts which will allow them to do so. (Our modern culture which is often bereft of such ceremonies shows in a clear manner the downside of not celebrating these transititions. Note the violence, drug and alcohol abuse and unlawful acts commited increasingly by our teens as they seek answers and guidance, to who they are, where they belong and what their future holds). Rites of Passage that are recognised and celebrated through ceremony and ritual, not only celebrate the individual and honour their growth, but also provide an essential context and spiritual connection from one phase of life to the next. It is vital that we embrace and celebrate these times in our lives and the lives of our family and friends, so that our maturation reflects a life lived fully,with health, hope, happiness, harmony, and humour
Within Paganism a Rite of Passage is a ritual event that marks a person's progress from one status to another. These Rites of Passage are considered to have three phases:
Separation - The person withdraws from their current status and prepares to spearate from that place of being and move on to another. There is often a detachment or ‘cutting away’ from the former self in this phase, which is signified in symbolic actions and rituals. (For example, the cutting of the hair for a widow, who has just lost a loved one, to signify they are in morning. She is 'cutting away' the former self - the wife).
Transition - This is the period between states, during which one has left one place or state but hasn't yet entered or joined the next; the person adjust to the new status.This is often marked by a time of seclusion which allows the individual time to think, adjust and accept the changes happening to them. (For example in some tribes, the vision quest of a young man who has left childhood behind and is becoming a warrior) This may also be marked by a period of trials in which one shows the abilities required in their new phase of life (such as tattooing, scarification etc in which a new warrior shows his ability to endure pain), or a time of seeking answers from those who have gained that phase previously (as with a young girl entering womanhood, recives advice from the older woman as to her place as a woman and a future wife and mother). Each of these steps and stages within the transition depend very much upon the Rite of Passage being celebrated.
Re-incorporation - In the third phase, having completed the rite and assumed their 'new' identity, one re-enters society with one's new status. Re-incorporation is often characterised by elaborate rituals and ceremonies, (in modern society the most commonly understood being debutant balls, college graduations, and wedding ceremonies).
Note: This is not a complete list of all Rites of Passage, as many Cultures and Traditions celeberate their own version of these and others which are specific to their beliefs, however I have tried to include as many as possible in a chronological order of celebration (not all these events will occur for everyone nor will they occurin this exact order for all individuals)