Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life


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Note the military symbolism and ritual acts of this formal religious wedding in Canada. Rites of passage in many cultures are used to mark the socially recognized transition to sexual maturity. Among some of the indigenous societies of Africa and Australia, intentionally painful genital surgery has been an integral part of such rites of passage.

Circumcision is removing all or part of the foreskin of the penis, usually with a knife. Subincision is cutting into the side of the penis or making a hole entirely through it. Clitoridectomy is cutting off all or part of the clitoris and sometimes all or part of the labia. Infibulation is partially closing off the opening to the vagina by sewing, pinning, or clamping part of the vulva. Many Native American societies publicly celebrated a girl's first menses. The girls were partly buried in heated sand at this time. They were not permitted to scratch themselves or eat salt, and they were given instructions by older women about the physiological changes that were occurring and how to behave as a woman and wife.

For most North American girls today, public announcements that they had begun menstruating would be considered humiliating. However, it was a matter of personal and family pride in many Native American cultures. While boys do not experience such clear physiological markers of transition to adulthood as menstruation, their rites of passage to this new status in some cultures are more severe than for girls.

Among the cattle herding Barabaig culture of East Africa, the boys' heads are shaved and their foreheads are cut with three deep horizontal incisions that go down to the bone and extend from ear to ear. This scarification leaves permanent scars that identify a male as having received " gar. They were also given toloache , a powerful hallucinogenic drug that made them ill and apparently sometimes caused their death. Among some Australian Aborigine societies, a boy being initiated was expected to repeatedly hit his penis with a heavy rock until it was bruised and bloody.

He also had several of his incisor teeth knocked out with a sharp rock by the adult men who were instructing him in the duties and obligations of manhood and the secrets of their religion. All of these rite of passage rituals were intended to be painful in order to increase the importance of the transition to adulthood.

Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Man's Life - CRC Press Book

In order to demonize these cultural practices, they refer to them as "genital mutilation" and usually insist that it is violence against women done as part of the male repression and control of women. The latter assertion fits Moslem dominated countries more than the non-Moslem sub-Saharan African societies that follow these practices. The reality in many non-Moslem African societies is that the surgery is performed by older women and is an integral part of the initiation of girls into the world of women.

Men usually are not allowed to be involved in anyway.


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Some indigenous African women's organizations have responded angrily. Most notably, a Masai Tribal women's group from Kenya has accused European and North American women of practicing cultural imperialism. Funerals and the many different funeral customs mark the separation that takes place when a death occurs. Funerals can also help those left behind to make the necessary changes needed to adjust to being separated from loved ones.

The transition phase is the time that the participant learns the appropriate behavior for the new stage they are entering. This phase can include the time when a person becomes engaged to be married. At this time, they are learning about the new stage of life they will soon enter -- marriage. They are also adjusting and preparing for it, or making a transition.

The transition phase may also include the time that children enter adolescence and leave their childhood behind. This is the time when people learn and grow and prepare to be an independent adult in the real world. The last phase, incorporation, takes place when the participant is formally admitted into the new role. Marriage is a good example of a rite that would take place in the incorporation phase. After people are married, they have taken on a very new and different role, having prepared for it in earlier transition and separation rites. There are many, many rites of passage in our lives.

Some are considered to be more significant than others, but almost every day we live can bring about transitions. However, there are five times in one's life that are often considered to be the most significant times of change.

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These are the rites that we will learn about in more detail as we study the significance behind rites of passage. To recognize these significant times in our lives, societies typically hold elaborate ceremonies. Each different culture or society may choose to mark these rites in very different ways. Each ceremony is unique and meaningful to one's own culture. In this mini-unit we will study these significant rites of passage and how different cultures uniquely mark these changes as they come to pass in the lives of their people. Tiersky, E. Customs and Institutions.

Slave Narratives-Part 3. Ask students if any of them know what a rite of passage is. Allow for a few different responses before revealing who was right, or if no one comes up with the right answer, to tell them the actual definition. A rite of passage is something that marks an important change in one's life.

Ruth A. Meyers

Have students brainstorm all the things they can think of that would be considered a rite of passage in their lives. Write their responses on the board. Naming a baby is a part of this birth rite. There are many unique customs that different cultures observe when naming their children. For instance, some people belonging to the Jewish faith believe it is improper to name a child after someone who is still living. They also believe it is improper to discuss names before the birth of the infant. Have students share with a partner where their names come from. Who are they named after, what nationality is their name, etc.

Then assign students to go the library and look at a name book and find out what their own name means.


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  4. Ask them to talk to parents at home about what family customs or traditions their parents observe when naming their children. Literature Extension. Read to class, A Boy Called Slow.

    Rite of passage

    In this book, Sitting Bull performs a deed which is so courageous and significant that it earns him a new and more respected name. Have students write about something they have done or would like to do that would prove them worthy of leaving their childhood behind and gaining a new respect for themselves by becoming an adolescent. This could include things like, saving a cat that was stuck in a tree, teaching a little brother or sister how to read, etc.


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    Have students give themselves a name that describes their worthy deed they have written about. Example: Teacher of the Young. Their ideas will be much more creative than mine could be. Have students design a poster with their new name and an illustration of their deed. Group Discussions.

    Another important rite of passage is that of leaving home, although not all people choose to do this. Some people move out as soon as they are through with high school to attend a distant college or to seek independence from parents. Some people choose to attend colleges close to home and continue living at home until they get married, while some choose never to leave home at all.

    Group students into groups of three or four. Have them discuss in their groups the advantages and disadvantages of leaving home. Have a leader from each group tell the rest of the class two of their group's choices of advantages and disadvantages. Numbered Heads Together. Form class into small groups 3 - 4 students and then give each group member their own number. Hand out to each group the included information on different wedding customs and ceremonies and the attached questions.

    Have groups read the information thoroughly. Then give the groups a certain amount of time to go over the questions together. Tell students that in order for the team to do well, everyone has to know the answers. Ask student to make sure that everyone in their group knows the answers and can explain them. Call out a number.

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    The student with that number answers the question for the team. Students will answer by writing answers on the board. Talk with groups about the answers and how they made sure everyone in their groups knew the answer. What helped?

    Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life
    Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life
    Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life
    Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life
    Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life
    Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life
    Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life
    Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life Marrying & Burying: Rites of Passage in a Mans Life

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