Many cultures have rituals and traditions to mark milestones in their lives. Kottak (2011) describes these “rites to passage” as culturally defined activities which are associated with the transition between one stage or place in life. (p. 354) These rituals are performed both individually and collectively. It involves a male going from boyhood and becoming a man. He will be separated from his parents and village. Then, he will experience periods of isolation, tough challenges, and finally, the vision that will become he guardian spirit. Kottak (2011) states that all rites are three-phased. They include separation, incorporation, and liminality. The first phase involves people leaving society. The most fascinating phase, the liminal, is the second. It is the “timeout” or limbo phase, in which people are able to leave one status but not enter or join another. . This paper will focus on two passages, one from Brazil and one that I have personally experienced.
In Central Brazil, the Kalapalo have a custom that requires boys to pierce their ears. This ritual is performed by most of the boys from this culture. This ritual is called ipone by the Kalapalo and symbolizes the difference between men and women. Two months are required to prepare for the ceremony. The village’s men and women would prepare the boys for this ceremony every day by singing, dancing and applying an herbal infusion on their ears to stop them bleeding. This is a liminal mark, which indicates that the ceremony has been extraordinary by putting the herbal infusion on their ears. The boys’ fathers collect valuable ceramics to pay for the ear piercers while the dancing continues. After that, the date for the ritual is established. Only the hosts and their assistants attend, though other village groups may be invited. The village representative makes the decision to separate a boy from his village. A sponsor is an ordinary villager who has sons aged six to nine years old. They also take part in the ritual. As the boys dance around and sing, their liminal symbol are the yellow feather headdresses, cotton belts, and shell collars that they wore during the ritual. The second night sees the boys stripped off their decorations. After the participants have taken a bath, the ear piercing began. The guardians take the boys to the bathroom and start cutting their hair. The fathers begin to feed their boys and tell them to share with the others. The ritual is interrupted by the fathers who allow the boys to relieve themselves. After the boys return, they go back to the sponsor’s house to be painted with soot. Once the paint is dry, the ceramics provided to the earpiercers and guardians can be seen for several minutes.
The sponsor imitates a bird’s cry and puts the boys back to their original seating. He then hops up onto his back and he takes the ear piercing stick off. They give the ear-piercers the ear piercing tools and begin to polish and make instruments. The instruments are being made and the boys are sat down by their guardians while they finish preparing them. Once the tools are prepared, the ears piercers are handed a stick. The sponsor gives the sign that the earpiercing is about to begin. To ease the pain, the ear piercers are quick as they can quickly insert the sticks into the ears of both the initiate and the boy. The second phase is still not completed even though the boys have had their ears pierced. They remain in seclusion for three months. They can’t leave their place and can’t be seen. They cannot be fed by their father unless they have an opening. They are also required to fast the first five working days. They can eat any food except fish in the second month. In the third, they will be sent on a fishing expedition with their father along with other adults. They are then officially released from isolation and can return to their homes. This is the first step to becoming a man. Perforating the ears of a boy is one way to confer adulthood. It allows them to wear earrings made of toucan feathers, which are important ornaments for males, and it also grants them the ability to obtain adult names.
From my personal experience, graduation is one of the most modern rites. It’s a time when you go from being a high-school student to being a high-school graduate. There are so many options for you to choose from. There are steps you need to follow to prepare for graduation.
The first phase is when you are removed from normal society. After four years of high school, each student is required to wear a cap and gown, which are liminal symbols. Our families were not permitted to join us. Instead, 500 of us were assigned to our respective class rankings according to gpa. We then sat in that order.
The liminal or second phase is when you have graduated from high school but left your current status as a student. I spent two hours in second phase sitting in a chair with people I didn’t know that went to my highschool. Then I listened attentively to faculty and administrators talk about the class and what they thought of it. As a high school senior, I heard the school’s song being sung. This was an opportunity to show pride in your accomplishments and hear speeches from the salutatorian as well as the valedictorian. Four faculty members call out names alphabetically if they wore green, or by rank if the white dress is worn.
The third phase is when your status has been changed and you have reentered the society. After your name was called, you were able to shake hands with the faculty and administration. You are now a high-school graduate. Many would celebrate the passage of time by throwing graduation parties. You can now apply to college and learn a trade.
My graduation was much shorter than the Kalapalo’s ritual. The Kalapalo took months to complete, while my graduation was completed in one to two hours. The Kalapalo had to live in isolation for three months because they could not participate in ear-piercing. They were also forbidden from being visited. They could only eat fruit for the first month. Fish was not permitted for the second. My experience at the graduation ceremony was not without its challenges. I had been required to attend rehearsal and my liminal sign, which was the cap & gown, was required. I also had my rank assigned seating so I could be with my class. Both rituals created a shared experience. It was much more fun to know that your friends were also graduating and that this was not a solo experience. Although it was difficult, I preferred to share the experience with my family and friends. A rite to pass is a significant ritual event that marks someone’s transition from one stage of life to the next. They are valuable and important for many cultures, whether they be old or new.