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Rites of passage are rituals that mark what are conventionally agreed to be critical or landmark stages in the life of an individual, such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death. The Belgian anthropologist and ethnographer Arnold van Gennep (1873–1957) used the term rites of passage to categorize the rites of what he described as “life crises,” the accompanying stages that mark the transition of individuals from one stage of life to another. In his seminal text Les Rites de Passage, which was first published in 1909 (with the first English translation, The Rites of Passage, appearing in 1960), van Gennep considered rites from within the standpoint of their religious and social context.

A rite of passage usually accompanies a change in biological or social status. The ...

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