Throughout many cultures, rite of passage rituals are prominent. These rituals, as conceptualized by Arnold van Gennep, “mark a person’s passage from one identity to another” (Robbins 139). He laid out three key stages pertaining to such a passage:

  1. Separation- leaving the old identity behind.
  2. Transition (Liminal) – a marginal state of alienation and learning. 
  3. Incorporation (Reintegration)- achieving a new identity and place in society.

A cultural example can be found in the Shaman training practices of the Yurok tribe of Northern California. The training of a shaman follows the rite of passage formula where there is a separation (sometimes completely isolated from the tribe, sometimes ignored), a liminal state (fasting, dancing, a complete devotion to ritual until attaining a vision), and finally a re-incorporation into the society as a shaman, who is able to use their knowledge for healing (Margolin 104-106).

Another example you may find familiar is that of a student’s journey through the college system. We leave home in pursuit of new identities. We learn and change during courses and activities. Finally, graduation brings a new identity and supposed place in society.

Do you have another example of this journey you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!


Margolin, Malcolm. The Way We Lived: California Indian Stories, Songs & Reminiscences.                       2nd. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1993.

Robbins, Richard H. 2012. Cultural anthro. Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth.


Published by Nikki M

Applied Anthropologist and Digital Dance Specialist

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