Anthropology Ritual And Symbol Essay

1998 words - 8 pages

I. Classify using Van Gennep's categories and point out aspects which would be ofparticular interest to Turner and to Chapple and Coons.The Mescalero girls' puberty ceremony is an example of a 'Rite of Passage,' a ceremonythat 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 ritualserves 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 thisceremony as a Rite of Passage, rather than a Rite of Intensification, because it is held inresponse to a non-periodic change (puberty) and it affects the participants individually. Thecommunity plays an important role in supporting the girls-by building the tepee, for instance. Attimes, 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 andincorporation. In the Mescalero puberty ceremony, separation is achieved when the girls move into 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 inwhich he or she has been interacting' (Chapple and Coons, p. 485). However, there is not acomplete separation from the girls and the community. There are instances (such as the timewhen the participants sleep while the community holds contests) when the two are physicallyseparated, but they are near their families and friends during most of the ceremony.The stage of transition, or liminality, is a period in which the participants lie 'betwixtand between' two poles (Turner, p.95). For the puberty ceremony, this period lasts for fourdays. In these days, the girls receive instruction from their elders-especially from Godmothersand the Singers. For example, the Singer teaches the tribe's history through his chants and theGodmother teaches about sex. Gender differences seem to be exaggerated rather than abolishedduring this phase, however. The category 'female' is related to fire, the color yellow, and theidea of being protected. 'Male' is related to the poles, the color red, and the idea of being theprotector. Yellow pollen, symbolizing women, is applied to the girls early in the ceremony.Furthermore, rather than being stripped bare, the girls are ornately decorated. However, one mayargue that they have been stripped of the attire they wore before the ceremony. According toTurner, the liminal period is one of humility, obedience, and danger. The girls do exhibit thesequalities during the period of transition, particularly during the all-night dancing ordeal. I stillwould not interpret this as a 'low' because of the blessings the girls bestow upon the...

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