Rites of Passage: Traditional and Term Paper

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It is believed among these people that young girls form romantic attachments to water spirits. Before they are considered marriageable and allowed to receive mortal suitors, they must first free themselves from these attachments. This is accomplished by the coming together of the girls at the river on successive dawns to sing the songs they have learned. On the final day, the initiates return to the riverbank and the water spirits are expected to attempt to seize the girls by force. This can be prevented by the Osokolo, a member of owuper society (the male counterpart of the egbelereme). He strikes the girls with sticks, driving them back to the village, ensuring both their safety and future fertility." (Delaney)

These rites of passages play an important role in the life of adolescents. Sadly in our modern society, such rites have lost their significance and these important phases of life are either neglected or celebrated in meaningless ways. celebrating the entrance into adulthood by awarding high school diplomas, giving robes on graduation day etc. are all our ways of celebrating this new phase in life. But do they have the same impact as traditional rites?

In modern America, laws regarding child labor and mandatory school attendance, and also the organization of the educational system into age grades have served to isolate adolescents from the rest of society. The obligation to spend the day together in a scholastic environment has led to a strong tendency for adolescents to socialize among themselves during their leisure time." (Delaney)

It is believed that the entire high school entry system and when the person is actually with his peers in high school, it serves as an important rite which is similar in significance to the rites of passage. Students are surrounded by peers their age, teachers treat them differently and they are constantly reminded of their high school status.
This results in psychological growth where child comes to term with his growth and understands that he is moving to a new phase in life.

But it is believed that the difference in old and new rites lie in the persons involved. In traditional societies, families play an important role in marking the new phase in life and in helping the child enter the new phase. However the same is not true of modern societies where teachers play an important role. Parents cannot be replaced by teachers in this important activity and thus the impact may actually be quite different.

In spite of the presence of many elements common to rites of passage, such as traditional robes, ceremonial structure, and speeches congratulating the students and welcoming them into adulthood, graduation may lack depth of meaning for the students. Often, important aspects of their development have never been addressed; as a result, the transition remains incomplete." (Delaney, 1995)

This is the difference found in new and old ways of celebrating important stages in life. Modern societies do not understand the importance of these rites and because of this, they do not focus on family involvement as much as they should. In traditional societies, families played a very huge role and thus children would get the opportunity to bond with their family members. The disintegration of family system in the U.S. may actually be the cause and result of this abandonment of rites of passage.


Cassandra Halleh Delaney. Rites of Passage. author. Journal Title: Adolescence. Volume: 30. Issue: 120. 1995. 891+.

Eliade, M. (Ed. In Chief), Adams, C., Kitagawa, J., Marty, M., McBrien, R., Needleman, J., Schimmel,….....

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