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Rumspringa, the Amish Rite of Passage Essay

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Updated: Aug 15th, 2020

The phenomenon of rite of passage is an integral part of any culture, yet in some cultures, it may take rather weird shapes. Defined as “a ritual marking an important ceremonial moment” (Halivand et al. 325), a rite of passage also exists in the culture of Amish people. Known for their rigid set of moral standards, Amish people, in fact, allow their children to decide whether they want to join the Amish culture or not.

Therefore, by reaching the age of sixteen, Amish children partake in a rather weird rite of passage called rumspringa. Despite the fact that this rite of passage presupposes that the teenagers are allowed to experience the outside world and do everything that is otherwise considered inappropriate or downright immoral in their community, it is rumspringa that cements the principles of the Amish culture in young Amish people.

One might argue that rumspringa is pointless, as most Amish people choose to live in their communities even after experiencing it. A closer look at the specified rite, however, will show that it is absolutely crucial, as it allows young Amish to explore their natural act of rebellion. Thus, the journey phase, which the rite starts with, can be identified as the separation process. It is technically not necessary for an Amish person to leave their community once the rumspringa starts, yet the process of alienating from the community members and the “removal of an individual from an everyday society” (Halivand et al. 325) is obvious.

The “period of ritual isolation” (Halivand et al. 325), which Amish teenagers have to go through, cannot technically be considered alienation from the world, as they still continue communicating. However, the pressure of parental and community control is barely noticeable at the given stage. As a result, young Amish have time to gain new experiences and learn about the secular world. Therefore, the specified stage can be considered ritual isolation, as it removes Amish from the traditional environment and places them in an entirely new one, thus, blocking their way to the traditional lifestyle.

Finally, the stage of incorporation, which involves the process of making a choice between the life that rumspringa opens to Amish teenagers and the traditional one, also coincides with the incorporation process of a rite of passage. The “readmission back into society” (Halivand et al. 325) occurs quite literally, as Amish teenagers return to their daily chores and abandon the practices of rumspringa. Obtaining “a new status” (Halivand et al. 325).

Therefore, the specified part of the rite can be interpreted as the closing stage of the rumspringa process. It should be born in mind, though, that, unlike other rites, rumspringa does not involve the threat of failing the ritual and not gaining a new status. According to the traditions of the Amish people, no matter what choice an Amish person makes, rumspringa still signifies the process of entering the adult life. By making a conscious choice between the values of their society and the ones of other cultures, Amish people prove that they are mature and reasonable enough. Though inviting basically every opportunity for young Amish people to break the laws of the Amish culture, rumspringa is a rite of passage works in most cases, as it shows young Amish that their community will provide them support.

Works Cited

Halivand, William A., Harald E. L. Prins, Dana Walrath and Bunny McBride. The Essence of Anthropology. 3rd ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.

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