Bridging the Gap: Adolescent Rites of Passage
General Purpose: To inform.
Specific Purpose: At the end of my speech, my audience will understand how cultures use adolescent rites of passage to help people mark the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Central Idea: Adolescent rites of passage have marked the passage of children into adulthood around the world, and elements of those rituals are being used in modern American society.
How did you celebrate your eighteenth birthday? Do you recall your graduation ceremony? If you’re like most Americans, such events marked the moment you became an adult. It may have been the day you walked off a lighted stage, clutching your diploma to your chest. Yet if you were an Arunta from Australia, it might be the moment you rose off of the smoking tree branches you were lying upon and were proclaimed an adult. Regardless of which are the most personally significant, we all have moments in our life that we would consider “rites of passage”—moments that carry us across the threshold between two lives. In societies around the world, collective rites of passage have been seen as ways to initiate young people into adult life. In researching on this topic, I have discovered the important role rites of passage play for youth around the world, and I would like to share this with you this afternoon. Today we will look at the ways in which cultures throughout the world have used rites of passage to mark the transition to adulthood for both boys and girls, and how elements of those rituals are being used today in American society. (Transition)
To begin, let’s look at some of the different rites of passage from around the world that show traditional coming-of-age ceremonies in other cultures that are the basis for new American rituals.
I. Rites of Passage in Cultures: Puberty is often a signal in most cultures that a boy or girl is ready to become an adult. A. The Navajo of the American Southwest celebrate this milestone with the vision quest. 1. The ritual begins when a fifteen to sixteen-year- old boy is taken into a sweat lodge, where he will be purified in both body and soul before he begins his quest. 2. During the period before he leaves he will also be advised by a medicine man regarding his coming quest. 3. Finally, he ventures into the wilderness or desert on his own, fasting until he receives a vision that will determine his new name and the direction of his life. 4. When he receives his vision, the community welcomes him back as a man (Transition)
Like their male counterparts in the Navajo, females also have special coming of age rituals. B. The Okrika of Nigeria celebrate coming of age with the Iria ceremony for seventeen-year-old girls. 1. The highlight of this ritual is when the girls enter the “Fattening Room.” 2. Only leaving to travel to the river, the girls stay in the rooms to gain the weight that the tribe considers attractive. Girls are forced to eat large quantities of food. 3. Female friends and family teach the girls how a woman should act. 4. When a girl leaves the Fattening Room, she is considered a woman. (Transition)
These examples of the rites of passage for Navajo males and Okrika females show us how different cultures mark the transition from childhood to adult status in the community. Now let’s look at the increasing popularity of traditional rites of passage in the United States. II. Increase in Rites of Passage in United States: The United States is an ethnic melting pot of cultures and traditions. A. Yet our diversity...
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