The Social Ecology of Religion

By Vernon Reynolds; Ralph Tanner | Go to book overview

7
Adolescence

Initiation Rites for Adolescents

In small-scale societies studied by anthropologists the change to adolescence is usually marked by rituals of one kind or another whereby designated elders formally bring children out of the state of childhood by what are called rites of passage, and bring them into the adult world, where new rules apply, new forms of dress are used, and new kinds of behavior patterns are expected. 1 In nearly all such cases, religions play a major role in reorienting the child to his or her new status.

Where these rites occur they often concern themselves with both physical puberty and social status and recognize the movement from what is considered to be a presexual world, in which individuals are considered to be incapable of complete sexual relations (although they may in many cases have already indulged in sex play), to the sexual world of adolescence, in which sexual relations of certain kinds are expected to occur and are, in fact, actively promoted by the teaching of sexual techniques by older men and women.

For both boys and girls these rituals are often followed by a period of segregation in which the initiates learn the proper approach to teenage sex and also details of the adult society toward which they are now moving. Boys may be shown sacred objects (such as Australian bull roarers); taught the names of the gods and shown how humans impersonate them, as among the Hopi with their Kachina gods; toughened up by tribal scarification marking, as among the Nuer of the Sudan or the Iatmul of New Guinea (see fig. 7.2); or led to seek for personal visions,

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The Social Ecology of Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents *
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - Why Religions? 3
  • Notes 18
  • 2 - Prior Approaches to the Study of Religion 19
  • Notes 28
  • 3 - The Challenge of Modernity 29
  • Notes 50
  • Part II - Religion and the Life Cycle 51
  • 4 - Conception and Contraception 53
  • Notes 75
  • 5 - Infanticide and Abortion 79
  • Notes 97
  • 6 - Birth and Childhood 101
  • Notes 126
  • 7 - Adolescence 131
  • Notes 147
  • 8 - Marriage 149
  • Notes 180
  • 9 - Divorce and Widowhood 185
  • Notes 197
  • 10 - Middle and Old Age 200
  • Notes 209
  • 11 - Death 211
  • Notes 230
  • Part III - Religions and Disease 235
  • 12 - Faith and Sickness 237
  • Notes 261
  • 13 - Religions and the Enhanced Risk of Disease 267
  • Notes 282
  • 14 - Religions and the Reduced Risk of Disease 285
  • Notes 300
  • 15 - General Conclusions 305
  • Notes 312
  • Index 313
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