The Circle of Life (Edited by David Cohen)


Blackfoot - hold child to sun - naming ceremony.  (so radiance of sun will follow child through life).

Christians - name child after parent or grandparent

Ashkenazi Jew, !Kung (Namibia) - never name after living relative.

Sioux - name child to guide, something to live up to.  Prior - purifying ritual: clay altar- passes through smoke of sweet grass - Palms marked with red ochre - horizontal lines below eyes, above mouth.

Baptism = rebirth, naming completes entry into human race: spirit and body.

crying is seen as good in by many; imitates baby's cry at birth.

Mormons - baptize at age 8.  Father gives blessing and enters name into register.

Palau, Micronesia, mothers are frequently isolated to protect mom and child from blood of birth (impurity, evil power).  Mom's body rubbed 8 times a day and bathed.  Navajo and Shinto do this too.

Yemeni recent mothers: isolated 40 days. Baby is bound during this time. Also in China, Parts of Russia, with some native N. A. Indians.

Newborns seen as prey for evil spirits,  hence spells, prohibitions, incantations,

Enkundu-Enkundu (Cameroon) face painting protects newborn.

Bris done by mohel : Abraham's pact with god. Genesis 17:10

Greek Orthodox: god parents take baby from mother (it belongs to community).  3 times in font (trinity)  Archbishop cuts baby's hair in three places in shape of cross. Given symb. body and blood.  Candles extinguished -saved 5 years - relighted to thank God for protection.

Burgos, Spain: man jumps over baby: lands safely = child passes safely through childhood. (compare Herod's men killing newborns)

Kimberly, Australia.  Baby smoking.  Shallow pit, spiral in sand, twigs and bark of konkerberry tree.  Fire  - smoke: purification.  Mother gives child to her mother.  Mother squeezes breast milk into fire.  (why?) Grandmother waves child through smoke - blessing includes those of Earth Mother, and tribal mothers.

Papua, New Guinea on the Middle Sepik River.  Belief that they are descendants of crocodile.  Boys run beneath effigy of croc.  to be reborn from the croc's spirit, as happened in their creation belief.

Orthodox Jewish boy, 3 first haircut (opsherenish).  All hair is cut by parents and friends.  Only sidelocks (peyot) are left.  Signifies baby is changing to boy.  Same in Bali among Hindus, Massai Warriors (Kenya) and US army.

Mandalay, Burma. School boys' ceremony Shin Byu = transformation of Siddhartha into Buddha.  Day 1: paraded through streets as rich prince.  Day 2: boy denounces opulent life.  Head is shaved, monastery 2 months (approx)

In West: fist day of school is a right of passage.


Rituals tell children when they become adults and what is expected of them as adults.  NA = high school and college rituals of graduation resemble similar rituals

If a person here doesn't graduate, are they missing something, feeling left out?

NA (native Indians), SA, Africa: women at menses secluded and taught by elder the art of womanhood.  Boys undergo trials to affirm their passage. (first hunt, wilderness alone, warfare (Borneo Tribes).  Candomble initiate in Brazil (see below).  Dangers in this passage can provide great growth potential

Lesse tribe, Zaire: girls reach menarche, secluded with other girls.

The Zulus of South Africa,  and the Cuna of S. America: girls are secluded during the onset of puberty (safe place).

The Ndembu of Zambia: girls secluded 3 months: communicate with outside only with melodic messages played on a harp-like instrument.

In Kampuchea : seclusion several years.  In all cases, women emerge as women and potential brides.

Mexico: first communion: wear white = purity to receive God.

Spain: prepubescent girl: goddess of spring

Turkey: sunnet = circumcision (7-8) so boy remembers when he became a "man".  Paraded on donkey before sunnet, white robe with red ribbon.  After, boys take off red ribbon  and sit in a lavishly decorated bed to receive gifts and compliments for bravery.

Clitoridectomy (female circumcision): Egypt (even mummies) and other Muslim countries.  In Egypt, 75% of the females are circumcised. 1) end the girl's phase of androgyny, 2) curb woman's sexual desires as adult (reduces infidelity).  If woman is not circumcised, considered unfit for marriage.  Not mandated by Islam, but by culture.

Among Apache: pubescent girls are chanted into womanhood over 4 days by elders. They call the primordial mother was the White Painted Woman.  Elders build a ceremonial lodge: 4 main poles (4 directions of earth, 4 seasons, 4 stages of life, 4 myth grandfathers who hold up universe  Before dawn, first day, girls dressed by godmothers. (guides).  Outside, sprinkled with yellow cattail pollen (fertility).  Close ceremony, girls run 4 times around a basket filled with fruit, nuts, candy, and money. (4  times symbolizes: infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age).  While running reenacts White painted Woman's travels : 1st West, as old woman, and returned from East as young girl.  After 4 times round basket, it is tipped (bounty is out: easy for her to get).  Girl returns to lodge: godmother explains responsibilities of sex and motherhood.  4th night, girl dances for welfare of community - sunset to sunrise "You will become the mother of a nation" (need to pass genes on)

Gabon, Africa: Eshira girls painated white and wearing red adornments for Mabandji rite.  Red = life force, white = strength and good reproductive health.

Kota people of Congo: paint faces Ghost-like colour blue = transformation of boy to man. (age 9-10)  Used to sacrifice wild animals, now, after schooling is completed, gifts of money take the place of sacrificing wild animal.

Candomble: Brazil in the Yoruba religion (transplanted with slaves from West Africa, early 19th century).  Catholicism forced on these people.  Exu=Yaruba is the trickster god: portrayed as having 2 heads: 1) J.C. 2) Satan.  Oxosse is the god of the hunt (portrayed as Native American with war headdress).  One is chosen to be a Candomble initiate by an orixa, a god of the Yoruba pantheon.  Note:  there are three classic parts to all rites of passage (tripartite): 1) separation from normal life, 2) liminal (on threshold) state of betwixt and between, 3) reincorporation into society with new status.  During the Candomble, initiates are separated for 6 months and their heads are shaved.  They enter a trance (in and out of reality, spirit (entidad) enters them, they become a horse of the god that rides them.  Then the initiates return with new power of the orixa.  Ends with big celebrations.

Jacarepagua (Rio de Janeiro) : initiation with the blood of a goat and feathers from seven birds.

Calcutta, India: 10-12 year olds in sannyuas ceremony (to follow a Swami Narayan).  Students leave home to work for swami in return for sacred and practical instruction (Upanishads, math, literature, mechanical skills)

Russia: Young Pioneers promise to love Mother Russia:

Russia: young catechumen (catechism graduate): receives cross on palm of hand in oil and water in instruction prior to baptism.

Rastafarians: male and female use marijuana (wisdom weed, Solomon's grave) before puberty.  It binds the group as do incense, alcohol, or hallucinogens used in ceremonies in other cultures.

Jews: bar mitzvah - boys: aged 13. They are now accountable for their actions.  They can now join the group for public prayer (minyan).  They can now bless and read from the Torah and Haftorah (prophetic)  1920s, the bat mitzvah for girls.

Italy:  virility initiation.  Prepubescent boy carried through a split sapling.  Virgin Mary's picture hangs on inside of split sapling.  parents pass the naked son between the two halves, three times.  Then the tree is bound back together with picture buried inside.  Makes boy connected to earth and God.

Texas boy, Innuit boy: hunting is a necessary milestone on road to adulthood.

The !Kung in Namibia  cannot marry women till they have killed an animal.

The Dani boys in Irian Jaya Highlands in Indonesia, until 1960s would war with neighbouring tribes.  Now they compete in ritual battles and archery competitions. (compare rugby, football)

The Surfista (young teen boys) in Rio ride on top of train ducking overhead rails and wires.  They also have rituals of transvestism and humiliation.

Vanuatu boys (Brazil) dive from 50 ft towers with elastic vines tied to foot just long enough to stop them from crashing (bunji jumping)

Note: if boys have no rituals, they will invent them.

Fraternities: hazing rituals

East Los Angeles: gang members pummel new recruits.

Massai of Kenya: group together for circumcision.

Kau women, Sudan (Africa) cicatrized (scarred).  Increases social status.  Three stages: 1) pubescent: from navel to breasts; 2) sexual maturity, more scars to torso and shoulders; 3) after weaning of fist child, back and back of legs.

Massai: head shaved, skin painted with ochre (lighter than skin colour) preparation for marriage.

Robert Brain (the Decorated Body) says all societies have a map of the body.  It includes 1) erotic, 2) beautiful, 3) magical, 4) socially significant figures.  Body ornaments represent symbols and signs forming a kind of language understood by others in the community.

Lome, (West Africa) girls initiated into Vodun religion (voodoo).  First they are secluded, then instructed.  Then they are reunited with family.  Public recognition and full participants in their society.

America: sweet 16 = womanhood.  The American elite hold cotillions (coming out parties) for daughters signifying their "eligibility."  Hispanic Americans have similar (quinceaneras = 15 year olds).   St. Louis: first debutante to dance the first quadrille becomes the "Belle of the Veiled Prophet Ball."  Opulent pageantry involved.  Begun 1878 at Agricultural and Mechanical Fair.  Gave spice to fair.  Based on Irish poet Thomas Moore's "Lalla Rookh."  Fictional Persian warrior named Hashimal-Maqanna.  This shares many puberty rituals with other cultures in the world: 1) elaborate clothing; 2) special head feathers (both identify initiate); 3) masked character guides woman through the liminal phase: from girl to woman.

Brazilians: coming out party: Festa de Quinze Anos.

Kansas City: "Jewel Ball"  Common to introduce daughters at dances.

West Point Cadets escort girls at NYC debutante ball.

NA: candidates graduating: (candidatus = Latin: dressed in white) from Roman times.  Caps and gowns come from 13th century Europe when monasteries were the centres of learning (monks garb).

Westover School: graduation circle = union and completion (all wear white).

Graduation shows that we value education: childhood is ending and adulthood is beginning.

Prom: biggest event for adolescents in the year.  Break the rules as a last vestige of adolescence (in our society).  People dance the night away, stay out all night, get close.

Papua, New Guinea: on island Losuia: teens from neighbouring villages meet under a full moon celebrating the yam harvest.


Prior to 12th century Europe the world's partners married based on the matches chosen by parents and matchmakers.  Marriage was to strengthen kinship lines and improve family status.  Then -  romantic love arrived.  Marriage then tried to combine into one ceremony love, sex, life-long commitment, procreation, and the continuance of society as a whole.

Burgundy, France.  A married couple lead a procession through the town on foot.

Japan - a fog machine is used in modern ceremonies.  White dresses and veils.  Marriage in western-style hotel.  Only one third of marriages are still arranged.  Couples now frequently have a get-acquainted period.  Traditional wedding: Woman in white makeup, kimono, elaborate hair and headdress, usually held at home over 2 or 3 days.

Monrovia, Liberia.  Couple surrounded by children and flowers (universal symbol for fertility in marriage.  cf deflower a girl)

500 B.C. Syria.  Women held sprigs of orange blossoms = fruitful marriage.

Ancient Rome and Greece: brides carried stems of wheat and wreaths of holly.

Victorians - surrounded by garlands of flowers, ring bearers, and flower girls.

Purpose of veil: old girlfriend is replaced by new person: a wife.  Roman women covered themselves with red veils = purity and protection from evil spirits.

Kazakhstan, Caspian Sea = Women wear conical crown headdress (in China too).  Probably Buddhistic ritual (found on rock painting of Buddha 2 000 years ago).

Berber girls, aged 10 - 16 (Atlas Mts, Morocco) are told each year who they will marry at a big market lasting 5 days.  With big fanfare the parents conclude the pairings.  Then, the parents allow the daughters to "divorce" and marry who they wish.  That way tradition has been preserved while allowing the girls freedom of choice.  The reason for the freedom is based on the story of Isli and Tilsit (like Romeo and Juliet) = two young lovers kept apart by parents.  In the legend they grieve and drown themselves in the lake.  Parents wish to avoid this.

India - a Guijjar boy and girl marry at age seven.  The girl's parents' anxiety level is reduced.  The boys also, for they get a dowry.  This also helps keep the caste system strong.  On day one of celebration, women perform rituals using water from the Ganges and earth.  These are offered to Ganesha, the elephant-faced god.  The boy and girl march through the streets for 8 days (twice daily).  After each walk, their bodies are rubbed with tumeric and milk (soft smooth skin).  On day before wedding, the boy dons a garland of money, and rides his horse followed by 100 friends and relations to the girl's village/ house.  The boy and girl ride side by side in the bullox cart after the reception.  The pandit (Hindu priest) chants mantras.  Their clothing is tied together in a nuptial knot. The boy wears kalgi (ornamental crest) to show his new stature in society. They walk 7 times round a fire.  She lives with the boy for three days then returns to her father.  She returns to the boy when she reaches puberty.

Spain: when the woman leaves her home, she crosses the threshold for the last time as the "daughter" to cross a new one as a wife.  The threshold is the boundary between the domestic and foreign worlds.  When crossing the threshold in a temple one unites symbolically with the new world.

Japan: families of the bride and groom attend a prenuptial (premarriage) agreement.

Check Republic:  women dance in honour of the bride.

Bali women have upper teeth filed before marriage.  If young female dies before marriage, teeth are filed before cremation.  Canines (beasts) and incisors are filed.  The beastly passions are thereby reduced: kama (lust), krodha (anger, lobha (greed), moha (stupidity), mada (intoxication), and matsarya (jealousy). Commencement: offerings made to the gods to promote sexual love.

Ecuador, S.A.  Couple are married in civil court.  Two years later in church.

Afghanistan: man and woman marry having never seen each other.

Mass marriage: Seoul, South Korea.  Moon marriage.

Weddings in Rome - people throw rice.  NA people throw confetti and rice.  In the Middle Ages the couple was showered with seed, corn and grain to cries of "plenty! plenty!" = fertility and good fortune.

Gays celebrate their legal partnership at City Hall in San Francisco (Domestic Partnership Act). 

Stages of early Christian marriage:

1) The partners said " I take you" or "Be thou consecrated to me"

2) By 900s A.D. monogamy and faithfulness became part of the vows.

3) 1439 Council of Florence sanctified marriage as a sacrament, one of the

    seven channels of grace.

One third of all US marriages are remarriages.  Seventeen thousand marriages involve brides 65 and older.

Yemen (Arabian State) women wear headdress, colourful with long woolen braids.  Symbol of strength and fertility.

Marakesh royal wedding: colourfull layers on the woman.

Niger, Africa: at a Geerwol festival among the Wodaabe (Fulani man): a man is dressed in a whitish pink headdress.  Face is painted, beaded strands represent locks on the side of his face.  He tries to attract a female.

Rumanians: show a great display of food (seen in poorer countries) to show their hospitality as a couple.

India: a maharajah's (till 1947, a powerful, regional ruler) wedding: On wedding morning he receives the dali (dowry) a public display of wealth  The brides' male relatives arrive carrying platters of money.  Older relatives carry larger denominations.

Cutting wedding cake.  From 300 B.C. in Greece when newlyweds ate wedding pie made from sesame seeds (fruitfulness in marriage).

Japan: couple cut cake with a sword.  Eat from each other's plates (affirm sharing nature of the marriage).

Java, Indonesia;  Muslim tradition mixed with local folk traditions.  Parents provide wedding ceremonies for daughters (and circumcision ceremonies for boys).  Marriage ceremony (kepahggihan) is held at the bride's home - 6-8 days long.  On eve of wedding a spirit called dunken manten gives its blessing.  then the bride is secluded and sits motionless till midnight.  During this time an angel enters her body and stays for five days.  Next day the couple dress like royals for the ceremony.  The man registers the couple with authorities.    The couple meet outside the bride's house.  Attendants for each partner exchange plants with each other.  A bowl of white and yellow rice are mixed.  Inside, they eat from each other's plate.  The spirit Dunken Manten ends the ceremony with prayers honoring Allah and the guardian spirits of the village.  Then, after the five days, the spirit ascends to heaven.

Groom removes garter from bride's leg in front of the community.  Garter = virginity.  In public = she's mine.  Annapolis Naval Cadets watch as groom removes garter with his teeth.

Louisiana, Cajuns: older sisters dance on metal washtubs and sweep their brooms at their younger sister's wedding.   They are jokingly mocking their single status: they are drawing attention to the fact that they are available.

Men carry brides over threshold. = enters new live together, girl leaves childhood behind.

Usually marriage is consummated on the wedding night.  Among the Hausa of Nigeria, grooms bring brides perfume and blouses to persuade them to be romantic.  In Taiwan, the bride and groom are teased for a considerable amount of time before consummation.  In Zambia among the Ndembu, the bride walks backwards into the grooms house.  She's escorted to her wedding bed by an older woman who has acted as her sex and marriage instructor.  The bride gives the groom beads which represent future children. 

Bombay, India: fathers open a new dowry account for a baby daughter's future wedding.


Before modern medicine and growing life spans, children were considered the primary commitment in marriage.  Our life expectancy is now so long that new transitional phases exist.  What happens after the children grow up.  The mid-life crises was not known in earlier cultures (nor is it prevalent in some modern cultures). 

The Alaskan Yupik and Australian Aborigines reinforce their elders' sense of purpose and value by honoring them and their contributions to society.  (How do we honour our elders?)  How does the west mark the transition into old age?

1) retirement  2) menopause                3) golden anniversaries.

Shaman (from Siberian culture: tungus.)  = magician, healer, seer, spiritual travellers.  They connect people to the spirit world

Rome: novitiates having studied as many as 15 years prostrate themselves on the floor before the altar on the last Saturday in June.  Prostration = separation from previous life and acceptance of higher power.  Seven sacraments:" baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, last rights.

Freemasons - 1712 England - was founded as a craft guild for bricklayers.  It opposed Catholic doctrine and was forced underground.  (Later secret societies such as Chinese Triads and Kenyan Mau-Mau were forced underground as well.)  Freemason initiate is blindfolded, taken like a helpless child through a maze of obstacles: he passes through illusionary fire, his arm is pricked and made to feel like it is bleeding  profusely.  He passes into an inner sanctum and swears to the grand master to protect the secrets of the freemasons on pain of "having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the root and buried in the sand of the sea at low water mark."  Nothing holds people closer together than a closely held secret.  (Same was true of early Christian Gnostics, Greek Orphics and Alchemists of the Middle Ages.)  Initiations bring people from outside the circle of acceptance to the inside.

According to Robert Bly, because of the Industrial Revolution men went away to work and therefore could not pass on their knowledge to their sons.  This led to the male society disappearing.  This is negative for males have a harder time learning their roles and seeing how they are needed.

Men's groups in America are growing.  They feel that manhood does not gain full expression by itself; initiation and ritual guidance are required.  Men enter a meeting area (California) through a long dark hallway (threshold) and leave the other world behind. They enter a ritual space (sanctum).  Drumming accompanies this entrance and continues to permeate the evening.

India - Hardwar city - Kumbh Mela - a man's spiritual ascension ceremony.  Naked, the men cover themselves in white powder.


From the Talmud: "When love is strong, a man and woman can make their bed on a sword's blade.  When love grows weak, a bed of 60 cubits is not large enough."

A get is a ritual divorce in Judaism.  In it a man writes why he wants a divorce.  A woman goes before a council of rabbis to plead her case.  This ritual is called a bet din.  The husband throws the get (document)  into the air in such a way that the wife's male relatives can catch it.  The wife places it under her arm.  She now regains her former dignity and control.  She starts life anew.

Catholics make divorce hard, but have annulments.  In Islam, a man need only say "I divorce you" three times.  Most divorce rituals favour men.

Java - the male goes to the priest who simply cuts the ceremonial marriage knot.

Old cultures cherish their old.  In many, menopause marks women as elders.  The menstrual blood is seen by Jews as a life force.  When the woman's blood stops, the life force stays in her making her wise.  At this point, they celebrate her wisdom in the simhat hochmah ceremony.  She becomes a crone.  She can now  carry the Torah, traditionally carried by men.  Symbolically, the woman now carries the wisdom of her people.

School reunions are common when people get older.  They return to their "halls of wisdom."

In Tanzania, menopausal women are the lifeblood of the society.  The children were dominating the lives of the mothers.  Therefore, menopausal women were very important.  Also, grandmothers acted as "libraries", passing on knowledge of plants, poisons, etc.  Menopause occurs only in humans around age 50.  Mammals like whales and elephants are fertile till they die.

In Irian Jaya, the Togobak adult males meet again years after they shared initiation rites.


Death ceremonies honour the dead and consecrate their passage to the next world.  This forces people to realize they are not immortal.

Yunnan Province, China: Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism see death as rebirth.  Here wailing and tears are encouraged as signs of love and respect for the dead.  The oldest male relative washes the corpse.  Grieving relatives wear white to symbolize death.  Fire crackers ward off evil spirits as the body is transported.  Mourners prostrate themselves below passing the coffin.  The family throws dirt on the coffin (actively brings closure). 

Guatemala - the dead are honoured at funeral meal.  Friends and family gather.  The coffin passes in front of the church where a last blessing is offered.

England: body is sent in a Daimler Hearse, something unaffordable in the person's lifetime.

Romania - an unmarried woman or man who dies is buried as a bride or groom to prevent the unsatisfied soul (stragoli) from lingering on and causing trouble for the living.  This ritual is called a nunta mortului or wedding of the dead.  A man in the village acts as a husband taking vows beside the coffin.  The family and friends act as brides maids and attendants.  Appropriate clothing is worn and a priest is present.  A small doll is placed in the coffin; the child she will never have.

In Ontavalo, Ecuador, a dead baby is dressed in new clothes.  The father places a wreath on its head.  Then prayers and the funeral follow.  The family dances all the way back from the graveyard and stop at nightfall.

Baptists cry abundantly.

All cultures have a circumscribed period of mourning.  During this time, community and family usually provide support.

The Kaluli of Papua, New Guinea, gather as an entire tribe to mourn in song.

The Tiwi of Australia find new husband for a widow. 

Parts of Indonesia: the family waits for several years to cremate loved ones.  This provides enough time for them to save enough money for a lavish funeral.

Cape Breton, Kentucky - Home wakes

Peru- village of Quiturara.  A father forgives his son before dying.  An official writes down his last will and testament.

In the Andes Mountains: on the anniversary of the death, the deceased's clothes are laid out.  Candles are lit, mourners chew coca leaves and drink araquito, a fermented beverage.  After a full night vigil, the man's spirit leaves completely.  Both the deceased and the living are now free to move on.

Among the Dani, Irian Jaya: 1) all deceased's property is shared among community members.  2) fat from a freshly slaughtered pig is used to anoint the body  3) funeral pyre and cremation follow  4) one man holds a bundle of grass above the body, another shoots it with arrows to release the spirit.  5) next morning- a prepubescent female makes a sacrifice: with a quick blow from a stone adze the upper part of her finger is cut off.  It is thrown on the fire.  The wound is bound with banana leaves.  This serves always as a reminder of the deceased.

A Biami man in Papua, New Guinea, wills himself to death.  Sometimes family members are invited.  Success has been observed within 12 hours.

In Judaism, a week of mourning (shiva) occurs.  The first three days involve ardent grief.  This is followed by four days of eulogy.  Sons cut neckties (tearing away of life).  They do not shave for a week, no haircut for a month.  All mirrors in the home are covered to prevent normal vanity during the mourning period.  Friends gather at the deceased's home to recite prayers.  Friends bring food, candles stay lit all week.

Kuku-Kuku - smoke dry dead relatives over fire.  The ceremony begins with four days of mourning, wailing and throwing themselves on the corpse.  Relatives eat dirt, tear out their hair, bash themselves on the forehead with a rock till bleeding begins.  The pyre is lit on the fifth day, self mutilation subsides.  The dried body is put in a place of honour in the home.

Mali, in the northern region.  The Dogon warriors dance to offer the deceased gifts for use in the afterworld.

Bali- if an aristocrat dies, hundreds or thousands attend the funeral.

The Bara of Madagascar believe that ancestors control their destiny.  The deceased is placed in a "house of many tears" where women weep three times daily.  Men and women are separated through the day, but meet at night to feast, drink rum, sing and dance.  ON the third day, the body is taken to the family burial house. Rum poured around the doorway announces the arrival of a new ancestor.

The Malagasy disinter the body of the deceased after the skin has rotted away.  The skin on the body signifies the liminal (threshold) state; neither alive nor in the spirit world yet.  The bones are then taken to be washed and then to a place that the deceased used to enjoy in life (ex: dance, event, soccer game, etc.).  The bones are then returned to the grave for good, the spirit has now gone to the other world.

The Tiwi of Bathurst Island in northern Australia paint themselves and cut and burn their hair at funerals.  They do this to disguise themselves so that the dangerous spirits (pukimani) don't recognize them.

North America: flowers and tombstones on the grave.

Hiroshima.  the path of candles lights the way as a reminder of Aug 6, 1945.  The survivors (hibakusha) retell their stories.  Near the epicentre, people fall to the ground to reenact the catastrophe.  At day's end, paper lanterns are lit and sent along the rives in parks.

Among the Miniaka in Mali, the word for initiation is "to die".

Manay tribes feel that headdress and paint set us aside from animals. 

Man is the only animal that knows it must one day die.

The Direh (Navajo) and Ladalch (Himalaya) both have doors of their houses facing the rising sun.

Among the !Kung !Kung, the bride and groom bring a brand from their own family fire and start a new one with them.

Can birth and rebirth be like the Big Bang and Big Crunch?