Rites of Passage
“A rite of passage is an experience by which an individual or a group formally expresses the attainment of a new life status, a symbolic experience of dying and being born in a new way.”
— Steven Foster, The Book of the Vision Quest
A rite of passage is a ritual to mark an important life transition. Human development is not merely physical but encompasses the psyche and the spirit. Thus rites of passage have personal, social, psychological, and spiritual meanings. Cultures around the world are rich with initiations and ceremonies as symbols of the changing seasons and life transitions from cradle to grave.
Indigenous people were deeply connected to the supernatural or spiritual world through nature. Nature was revered from many layers- as a provider of physical nourishment and shelter, as messenger from the spiritual world, and as an extension of humanity with the same origin. In the wilderness, nature, man, and spirit are deeply intertwined and mirrors each other.
The modern 'civilized' world has become separated from nature and have taken the changing seasons for granted. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays mostly for its commercial values, time away from work and time spent with family and friends. However, the psychological and spiritual meaning of most of these are often lost in the superficiality of traditions.
Yet instinctively, our psyche and spirit yearns for initiations and clear marking of life stages. Without clear marking and processing of our own inner and external life stages, there is no clear "letting go", no clear "dying of the old self". One is left with childish habits, addictions, unreleased emotions, destructive personal, social, and ecological behaviors. Rites of passage help us transform physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually through deep self-inquiry and tapping into our ancestral wisdom to heal, to grow, to serve, to live as our own true self.
In nature, even the sand has its purpose but it does not judge its purpose. It knows what it has to do and does so seemingly without effort. Each human, each soul, each pilgrim has a purpose to live his/her/their highest and fullest self. Human development is more complex than that of the sand, thus the transitions and transformations one goes through are just as complex and multi-dimensional. The more essential it is for us humans to learn how to die as a way to fully transform (in each stage) into our true self, in relation to our soul, to our communities, and to our ecosystem.