Andaman Islander Female Puberty Ritual: A Rite of Passage
Tessa Bartges, Spring 2016
The Andaman Islander female initiation ceremony was described by R.F. Radcliffe-Brown in his ethnology The Andaman Islanders. This ceremony can be considered a rite of passage according to the model outlined by Arnold van Gennep in his book Rites of Passage. Gennep states that a rite of passage is comprised of three stages; segregation, liminality, and re-aggregation. All of these stages can be identified the Andaman ceremony.
The segregation stage occurs when initiates are separated from their community for a ritual bath and remain isolated in a hut for the duration of the ceremony. This is supported by Peter Carsten’s analysis of the Nama female puberty ritual.
The liminal stage of the Andaman female initiation ceremony is supported by evidence that the initiates are between social roles. Initiates lose their personal names, are viewed as ritually impure, and undergo symbolic deaths and rebirths. The works of Victor Turner, Mary Douglas, Peter Carstens, and Marion Kilson are used to support this interpretation.
The re-aggregation period is brief and straightforward in the Andaman Island female puberty ritual. The girls are allowed to return to the community after three days in the hut. At this point they have a new social role and are welcomed into the community.