Initiation Rituals



Initiation Rituals


Our group will collect and examine social initiation rituals. The consequences and social aspects of the rituals will be the emphasis of our topic. We will focus on rites of passage and initiation rituals from Slavic, Jewish, Russian, and Latin American cultures. In addition, we will look at cultures around us here at Dartmouth (sports teams, Greek life, and acapella groups). By examining these spaces, we hope to compare and contrast how initiation rituals have evolved over time. In addition, we hope to see if there are relationships between intra Dartmouth traditions and global cultural traditions.

Overarching Comparisons

Within Dartmouth groups, we saw that initiation tasks often involved things that were central to the groups, and were largely focused on freshmen. In addition, it appears that Dartmouth groups had an emphasis on teambuilding. For example, sports teams would have physical activity revolving around something related to their team for a teambuilding exercise, and acapella would ask their members to sing and get breakfast for teambuilding purposes. This makes sense as Dartmouth, as a social space, has an emphasis on community and close relations (seen through First Year Trips, the Bonfire, Candlelight ceremony, etc.). While they differ in activity, the essence and principle behind these activities are generally the same: to create a stronger sense of community.

When we examined our ethnic and national groups, we saw that there was a strong trend of transition with regards to age. For American traditions, the quinceanera or sweet sixteen was a tradition for women as a way to become an adult. In addition, within the Jewish culture and religion, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah was also a symbol and vehicle for transition. These two cultures seemed to have an emphasis on the individual’s transition.

In South Slavic cultures, religion and society seemed to play a bigger role in initiation rituals. In things like the weddings, integration into the community was the focus. These events were often influenced by religious organization, such as the Serbian Orthodox Church. While these traditions may have been focused on the individual, a common sense of community is apparent (introduction to the community and departure from the community). This was unique about South Slavic culture and was a similarity to Dartmouth’s initiation rituals. The tight knit and small national identities of South Slavic nations, which many of our informants discussed, may be a potential reason for explaining this.

Across ethnic and Dartmouth items, these initiation rituals were strongly governed by the three stages of separation, initiation, and incorporation.


In-class presentation



Andrew Yang (Group leader), Bee Hollier, Caroline Elliott, Darien Jones, Edward Lu, Elliot Adams, Evan Muscatel, Gyorgy Brevnov, Henry Patrick, JP (John Pierpont) Morgan Mortenson, Katarina Nesic, Matt Tanenblatt, Mihovil Mandic, Reg Anderson, Vanessa Choa

We all collaborated on collecting and the presentation.