Rites of Passage

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Rites of passage are culturally patterned ritual or ceremonial co-activities to mark such events as birth, puberty, adulthood, courtship, marriage, death, accession to office, admission to membership, and expulsion. In various forms, they are found in all societies, although particular individuals may or may not participate in them. Rites of passage are symbolic activities, generally understood scientifically to have social functions. Perhaps the commonest function identified is publication or ratification, within a particular group, or change of social condition. By definition, rites of passage are forms of ritual and the inferred evidence of ritual in general is extensive, widespread, and ancient. Except for the inferred evidence of death rituals, clear evidence for rites of passage in particular is largely confined to those societies that have been observed in historic times. Rites of passage have no clear analogs among the great apes. Rites of passage may result from and/or contribute to the more complex and culturally variable nature of human social organization. 


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