rite of passage:
1. Anthropology. a ceremony performed to facilitate or mark a person's change of status upon any of several highly important occasions, as at the onset of puberty or upon entry into marriage or into a clan.
2. any important act or event that serves to mark a passage from one stage of life to another.
People throughout the world have heightened emotions during times of major life changes. These stressful changes may be physiological or social in nature. They are usually connected with personal transitions between important stages that occur during our lives. These transitions are generally emotionally charged--they are life crises. Most cultures consider the important transitions to be birth, the onset of puberty, marriage, life threatening illness or injury, and finally death. Graduation from school, divorce, and retirement at the end of a work life are also major transitions in modern large-scale societies.
During the early 20th century, the Belgian anthropologist, Arnold Van Gennep, observed that all cultures have prescribed ways for an individual and society to deal with these emotion charged situations. They have ritual ceremonies intended to mark the transition from one phase of life to another. Van Gennep called these ceremonies rites of passage. In North America today, typical rites of passage are baptisms, bar mitzvahs and confirmations, school graduation ceremonies, weddings, retirement parties, and funerals. These intentionally ritualized ceremonies help the individuals making the transition, as well their relatives and friends, pass through an emotionally charged, tense time. Most rites of passage are religious ceremonies. They not only mark the transition between an individual's life stages but they reinforce the dominant religious views and values of a culture. In other words, they reinforce the world-view.
~ Dr. Dennis O'Neil; Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College, San Marcos, California
In 1995 a 20 year old "boy" walked in to the deep woods of rural West Virginia with nothing but a knife, tarp, tobacco satchels, and the clothes on his back. After being raised as a Catholic most of his life, he began to study other world faith systems a few years ago. Just one year earlier in 1994 he began to learn about his own bloodline rooted in the native people of North America. He learned some tribes celebrated a rite of passage for males to pass into manhood called a Vision Quest. The process follows Van Gennep's observation to include separation, liminality, and incorporation. A Vision Quest usually includes a complete fast for three/four days and nights, alone at a sacred site in nature which is chosen by the Elders for this purpose. During this time, the young person prays that they may have a vision, one that will help them find their purpose in life, role in community, and how they may best serve mankind. Dreams or visions may involve natural symbolism - such as animals or forces of nature - that require interpretation by an Elder or Medicine Person.
So, back to our subject in the woods of West Virginia. You can guess by now he had visions of... crows and thunder. He went into the experience with a gut feeling that he was put here to be a protector to the people. He walked away from the Quest with a confirmation of the same. Over the next 20+ years, he followed the path into law enforcement and global travel. After all that time, the journey is really just beginning.
While rites of passage still exist to this day in many parts of the world, we have lost this perspective in modern Western Society. Adolescence is spanning far beyond teen years, and men are left with a lack of identity and skill sets. This leaves us inept, ignorant, and vulnerable. (*cough* millennials *cough*)
A tight-knit group of friends and family who have walked similar paths, and have the same vision and mission as modern protectors, have formed Crow's Thunder Society to bring a "storm" to our modern culture. To reintroduce and celebrate rites of passage in our culture properly, to educate and coach each other with practical skills (both ancient and modern), to walk a line between order and chaos to protect our communities, and to support each other when the storms of life try to knock us down and derail our paths.
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Interested in more rites of passage from around the world? Check out this cool article from The Art of Manliness.