Anthropology - Ritual and Symbol

Essay by jgousieA+, March 1996

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I. Classify using Van Gennep's categories and point out aspects which would be of

particular interest to Turner and to Chapple and Coons.

The Mescalero girls' puberty ceremony is an example of a 'Rite of Passage,' a ceremony

that marks the transition of an individual from one stage of life to another (Chapple and Coons,

p. 484). The ceremony marks the transition from girl to 'mother of a nation' (p.252). The ritual

serves as a means of establishing equilibrium after the crisis of puberty (Chapple and Coons, p.

484). It is a method of making this transition from girl to woman easier. I classified this

ceremony as a Rite of Passage, rather than a Rite of Intensification, because it is held in

response to a non-periodic change (puberty) and it affects the participants individually. The

community plays an important role in supporting the girls-by building the tepee, for instance.


times, as when the boys join the Singers, the community actively participates in the ritual.

However, the community is involved only because of its members' relations to the girls.

Van Gennep divides Rites of Passage into three parts: separation, transition and

incorporation. In the Mescalero puberty ceremony, separation is achieved when the girls move in

to their camp homes. During this stage, the Godmothers and Singers take the role of the parents.

This may be described as a 'cessation of interaction between the individual and the group in

which he or she has been interacting' (Chapple and Coons, p. 485). However, there is not a

complete separation from the girls and the community. There are instances (such as the time

when the participants sleep while the community holds contests) when the two are physically

separated, but they are near their families and friends during most of the...