passage, rite of

passage, rite of

Any of numerous ceremonial events, existing in all societies, that mark the passage of an individual from one social or religious status to another. The term was coined by the French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep (1873–1957) in 1909. Many of the most important rites are connected with the biological stages of life—birth, maturity, reproduction, and death. Other rites celebrate changes that are wholly cultural, such as initiation into special societies. In modern societies, graduation from school is a rite of passage. Scholars often interpret rites of passage as mechanisms by which society confronts and incorporates change without disrupting the equilibrium necessary to social order. See also secret society.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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