Ritual and Rite of
Passage
What is a ritual?
• Any regular activity done in a set
pattern
• Autopilot that guides us through our
daily activities, behaviors, attitudes
and relationships
What rituals can do
• Tell us how to relate to and give
meaning to experience
• Aid or guide life’s transitions
The difference between
habit and ritual
• A ritualized activity is habitual, but it
serves a psychological purpose or need
Everyday rituals
• Greeting friends
• Handshakes
• Dress and behavior at a dance or a
concert
• Types of address used with a superior
What are some rituals you
have that …
• Help you get ready for school?
• Help you get ready for an athletic event,
performance, etc.?
• How does the ritual help?
• What happens if your ritual is
interrupted?
What is the meaning of
experience?
• Experience is “polysemous” - it has
many potential meanings - so it actually
has no meaning until we give meaning
to it
• We make experience mean what we
want it to mean
However…for a culture to
function
• Certain experiences must have
common meanings
• Rituals help everyone understand,
accept and follow standards,
relationships or roles
• Think of examples …
Where common meanings
apply
• Getting your driver’s license
• Graduating from high school
• Getting married
The Rite of Passage is …
• A ritual that gives significance to the
experience of becoming an adult
• An essential step for the growth of
individuals and communities
The Rite of Passage has
three stages
• Separation
• Initiation/transformation
• Return
Traditional cultures and
rituals
• Early people lived in harmony with the flow of
life by using rituals …
– To celebrate rebirth of the sun at the winter
solstice, rebirth of life at the spring equinox
– To install leaders
– To prepare warriors
– To send dead to next life
Modern culture and rituals
of transition
• Where are the rituals to accompany
these Rites of Passage?
– Graduating from high school
– Receiving driver’s license
Military service as a Rite of
Passage
• Basic training = separation, producing a
shift in consciousness
• Close-knit team ready to follow orders =
initiation/transformation
• ????? = return?
The psychological power of
ritual
• Harmonize our attitude toward a
transitional situation
• Prepare us to do something difficult or
significant
• Help us heal after a trauma or tragedy
• Connect us with the “divine”
Rituals can …
• Emphasize and validate change
• Help community acknowledge “initiate”
as an adult
No more Rites of Passage?
• Do we have clear points of passage that
separate the child from the adult?
What happens without
them?
• The line between childhood and adulthood is
blurred
• “Child adults” (non-initiates) act without
regard for how behavior affects the
community that supports them
• They may become dangerous to the common
good
• They do not realize that what benefits the
community benefits them
• They take support of society but do not give
support in return
Metaphors/symbols of
rebirth
• Cave (or other deep, dark place)
• Water
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Ritual and Rite of Passage