|The term "rite of passage" was first used by Belgian anthropologist,
Arnold van Gennep. In his classic work, Rites of Passage,
he identifies three phases associated with a rite of passage: separation,
transition, and incorporation.
The separation phase
is marked by symbolic actions that emphasize the separation or
detachment for the individuals participating in the rite from a previous
status. In a literal or symbolic way, the participant is taken away from
his/her familiar environment and former role and enters a very different
and sometimes foreign routine that they are forced to adjust to and
become familiar with.
The transitional or liminal phase prepares the person for the
new status that she or he is to assume. This is the time that the participant learns the
appropriate behavior for the new stage they are entering. This phase can
include the time when a person becomes engaged to be married. At this
time, they are learning about the new stage of life they will soon enter
-- marriage. They are also adjusting and preparing for it, or making a
transition. The transition phase may also include the time that children
enter adolescence and leave their childhood behind. This is the time
when people learn and grow and prepare to be an independent adult in the
The last phase, incorporation, takes place when the participant is
formally admitted into the new role. Marriage is a good example of a
rite that would take place in the incorporation phase. After people are
married, they have taken on a very new and different role, having
prepared for it in earlier transition and separation rites.
One should not always expect to find all three of these phases to be
equally prominent in every rite of passage. Some rites emphasize
one phase over the others.