TOPIC: #7 Rituals and Identity
TITLE: Separation to Re-integration: The Ritual Journey to Shamanism
SOURCE: Margolin, Malcolm. The Way We Lived: California Indian Stories, Songs & Reminiscences. 2nd. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1993.
RELATION: Conformity and Conflict (p. 300)-Definition of a shaman, Cultural Anthro (p. 139) – rites of passage
Although rituals are commonly associated with religious practices, Robbins has chosen to categorize them within his Cultural Anthro chapter on identity (Chapter 6). I find this to be justifiable, because although they are typically in relation to religion and spirituality, the purpose or rituals accomplish a more societal change in identity, so persons in a society can “learn who they are” (Robbins 139). Throughout many cultures, the rite of passage ritual is prominent. These rituals, as conceptualized by Arnold van Gennep, “mark a person’s passage from one identity to another” (Robbins 139). He laid out three key stages pertaining to such a passage:
1. Separation- leaving the old identity behind.
2. Transition (Liminal) – a marginal state of alienation and learning.
3. Incorporation- achieving a new identity and place in society.
A local example can be found in the Shaman training practices of the Yurok tribe of Northern California. A shaman is as Spradley defines, “religious specialists who directly control supernatural power” (Conformity and Conflict 300). I think a more precise wording would be an intermediary between the natural and supernatural world, who uses visions, song and/or dance as a form of healing. The training of a shaman follows the rite of passage formula where there is a separation (sometimes completely isolated from the tribe, sometimes ignored), a liminal state (fasting, dancing, a complete devotion to ritual until attaining a vision), and finally a re-incorporation into the society as a shaman, who is able to use their knowledge for healing (Margolin 104-106).
I think I would classify myself as being in a liminal state, especially with the transition to a university setting. I left home (my separation), and am now completely alienated from my family and experiencing an almost constant state of learning. I would like to think the reincorporation will come with graduation, but graduate studies will most likely begin a new passage.