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The Rite Journey

Rediscovering Rites of Passage for Boys

Andrew Lines and Graham Gallasch

The Rite Journey is a program to allow Australian Year-9 male students age 14-15 years to share a year-long partnership with a teacher-guide as the boy explores what it means to become a respectful and responsible man. Given the current view that rites of passage need to be rediscovered for young people in Western culture, a feature of the program is specially created ceremonies held throughout the year. These celebration points follow the seven steps of a hero’s journey. Curricular content is based on four topics: relationships with self, others, the divine and the world. This paper recounts the program’s background and form and includes feedback of boys who have participated in the program.

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T.S. Kalandarov and A.A. Shoinbekov

This article describes some aspects of funeral rites among indigenous people of the Badakhshan autonomous region in Tajikistan, for most of whom the religious denomination is Ismailism. The ceremonies focus on ritual purification and seeing off the soul of the deceased person into another world. A set of obligatory rituals and rites are described, including lamp lighting, mourning rules, and memorial foods and celebrations. After analysing a wide range of data, the authors conclude that Western Pamir Ismailites believe that a dead body is inhabited by a corpse demon that brings harm to people. Although the described customs and rituals are generally Muslim and reflect features of the traditional Pamir world view, they are most probably part of the region's pre-Islamic heritage.

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Women and Carnival Space

Gender and Carnival in a North Aegean Island Community

Regina Zervou

This article focuses on gender relations through the performance of carnival rites in a North Aegean island rural community. Based on qualitative research, it approaches the women’s use of public space during carnival and the changes under the influence of women’s emancipation since the 1970s. The percentage of women, especially young girls, participating in carnival rites has risen dramatically over the last decade. However, not all carnival public spaces are equally open to women. The article examines the way women try to impose their presence on the strictly male universe of the carnival space and especially the marketplace, the traditional and timeless core of the carnival rites, where only men can pronounce the obscene carnival language, fruit of the kafeneion male discourse and the reactions of the male community to the novelties brought by feminism into the village.

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Michael Roberts

The hegemony of the 'secular' is challenged through an exposition of the hero rites for the fallen among the Tamil Tigers. Overemphasis on the secular strands in LTTE ideology betrays a textual formalism and disregards the cosmological background of the cultural producers-cum-audience. Such a perspective neglects the embodied practices of Tamil followers. Tamil Saivite worship is permeated by sacrificial symbolism. In Sri Lanka, belief in śakti, divine energy, is displayed in diverse ways that can attract Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists. The rites of Hero Week reveal practices that echo Saivite forms. The LTTE's investment in this event involves massive co-ordination. The climactic moment is a simultaneous act of widespread commemorative grieving. The rite is also an undertaking that mobilizes, remembers, respects, legitimizes, transcends, inspires, and renews.

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"I Feel Older"

Investigating the Impact of a Father and Son

William John Jennings

This article reports on the impact of a school based father and son, “rites of passage” program on its participants in two Australian Catholic boys’ schools. The author conducted a mixed methodology study investigating quantitative differences between 15- to 17-year-old adolescent participants and non-participants in how they rated their “father relationships” and the impact that specific program elements (the “rite of passage,” planned conversations, and public acknowledgements) had on both program participants. The research found evidence to support the program’s positive impact on father-son relationships. As a result of planned conversations with their fathers in the program, participants reported feeling “older” and more mature.

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Karine Michel

Among religious Jews, hair is described as an application of religious law. This article proposes to study the place of hair in Jewish life, based on texts and social expressions. Hair appears to be linked to every important and ritual moment of life, symbolising the movement from one social status to another as a rite of passage. However, based on age and sex, and also on an analysis of different religious tendencies, hair reveals itself as more relevant in terms of social than religious use.

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A Bar Mitzvah Year

Rethinking Ritual

Ilana Korber

This article describes the journey of the author’s secular Jewish family as they grappled with how to celebrate their sons’ bar mitzvahs. It is a personal reflection, based on diary entries kept throughout the period of planning a Jewish rite of passage; creating new rituals outside of the conventional religious practice marking a boy’s transition to manhood. This process led the author to consider both what it means to be a secular Jew as well as alternative ways to celebrate Jewish culture.

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The Red and the Black

A Practical Experiment for Thinking about Ritual

Michael Houseman

This essay reports on the performance of an initiatory rite of the author’s invention, undertaken as a practical experiment for thinking about certain recurrent features of ritual action and, specifically, of (male) initiation. In keeping with an approach that sees ritual as the enactment of special relationships, this initiation, The Red and the Black, was designed to demonstrate the importance of interactive patterning both for the structuring of ritual performance and for the participants’ commitment to the relationships they ritually enact. Its meaningfulness, as well as its capacity to affect the participants’ perceptions and ideas, is shown to derive less from the (minimal) explicit symbolism it employs, the beliefs it presupposes, or the social functions that can be attributed to it than from the relational entailments of the coordinate interactions it involves. Framing, simulation, secrecy, imposed suffering, symbolism, ceremonial efficacy, ritual condensation, and the complex interplay of in-group and out-group perspectives are among the issues that are illustrated and discussed.

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Kamila Baraniecka-Olszewska

The article aims to show how ethnographic data concerning religious rites, both Catholic and pagan, circulate in culture and thus become a kind of historical source for re-enacting other, invented religious rites. In the example of the Rękawka fair in Cracow, it is demonstrated how religious content present in nineteenth-century ethnographic descriptions, originally ascribed to pre-Christian paganism but incorporated into a Catholic fair, was separated from it and used in recreating and performing a neopagan rite. Investigating an Early Middle Ages re-enactment movement, the author focuses on the process of transforming ethnographic data into historical ones. Analysing the problem of authenticity of such sources, she points out the particularities of achieving authenticity in a re-enactment movement: to some, the contemporary Rękawka fair remains only a kind of historical re-enactment, while according to others it is a true neopagan rite.

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The Exquisite Corpse of Ganymede

A Cursory Overview of an Ancient Gender Studies Discourse

Andrew Calimach

This essay examines surviving traces of the Zeus and Ganymede myth and identifies two interwoven discourses on male love in antiquity: one, a tradition integral to a Cretan initiatory rite and its didactic nature evidenced by an analogous and opposite Boeotian cautionary myth; the other, a nucleus of polemic and shifting male love constructions from Minoan times through Late Antiquity. The mythic tradition is discussed as an archetypal key to identifying the ancient pedagogical and erotic functions of male love and the ancients’ evolving attitudes toward such relationships. As the myth and its offshoots, which are presented here in the form of a pastiche evocative of the atmosphere of the tradition, reflect their Classical and modern echoes through Western and Oriental interpretations, a recurring male love ethic and aesthetic is seen to take shape.