Revisiting the Ancient Rite of Passage.
Readership: Christian Men
Reader’s Note: This is Part 3 of a series.
Length: 1,500 words
Reading Time: 5 minutes
If you haven’t yet noticed, the theme for the month of June 2021 is Patriarchy, Masculinity, and Maturity involving growth and change.
Previous posts on the topic of masculine maturity are listed below.
- Σ Frame: Redefining Manhood as Boyish Immaturity (2021 June 14)
- Σ Frame: Do men need talk therapy? (2021 June 16)
In this post, we’ll break away from the prideful feminist viewpoints and faux masculinity, and review an important event in the process of male maturation — The Ancient Rite of Passage.
The Rite of Passage
Jayson Gaddis: Why Many Men Are Still Boys and What Can Be Done About It (2009 April 5)
Gaddis describes a social dynamic that has existed since the dawn of time, which has been almost totally forgotten over the last two decades [lightly edited].
“For thousands of years, tribal and indigenous cultures initiate young boys into manhood through formal rites and rituals.”
“The ordeal is something challenging we must face and on the other side is the reward that we must bring back to our community.”
The entire initiation process leads a man toward deeper and deeper self-knowledge, the key to fulfillment and realizing one’s potential in life.”
“And if we look to indigenous and traditional cultures, a formal initiation into manhood (the hero’s journey) is the one common thread in all of them. Within this, a boy must, and does, come face to face with himself, his mortality and his life’s calling.
In being initiated, the boy will receive some kind of training or transmission from the elders of the community about how to be a man in their village or tribe. Not only is the elders’ role pivotal, the separation from the mother is poignant and a necessary moment in a boy’s life. It’s not just left to father’s, teachers or coaches in the community, where in this culture these men often fall short.
The boy leaves the safety of the protective womb, his mother, and village, and must be tested by the wilderness and the men in the community. As long as humans have existed, boys have been cast into a ritual in order to become a man. It was not uncommon for some boys to die and never come back. Without these trials and rituals, men are less likely to access the unique gifts inside them.”
“…in order to successfully move on to the next developmental stage in our life, we have to go through a rite of passage.”
“Do men in our culture have this opportunity? How does this all fit into our modern situation? Is it really necessary to face death and go through such ordeals? If it is true that initiation is a necessary step along a man’s journey, what happens if he does not receive an initiation?”
To answer Gaddis’ last question, he won’t learn his human limitations until he gets his @$$ kicked by the world (e.g. career competition, military service, marriage, divorce, etc.). He never learns to trust God because his own father wasn’t there by his side in the wrestling arena of life to guide, support, and encourage him. His life outcome will be severely curtailed and less likely to go well.
Case Study – The Bike Trip through Hәll
Here, I’ll tell the story of my own “rite of passage”. When I was 14, my father and I bought two mopeds (a Sachs and a Minarelli) and we spent a couple months making modifications. We made an extra-large gas tank and attached it to the Minarelli. We also fitted it with a small cooler and an extra battery. We constructed storage containers and mounted them on the side of the Sachs. We bought a 6’ dome tent and a propane cooking stove. We put together a first aid kit, a mess kit, and a tool box that had extra light bulbs, spark plugs, and metric wrenches that fit the bikes. We loaded all this onto the two bikes, complete with bags of clothing and some food. At 6:00 am on a Tuesday morning, and with $150 in our pockets, we left on a two week camping trip. We traveled all throughout the rural areas of Ohio and Kentucky. We had only an atlas, a compass, and the position of the sun in the sky to guide our way. We rode all day in the sun, and got sunburned. We traveled through mountainous roads that were too steep for the 50cc engines to power. So we had to walk and push the bikes uphill. On the way down the mountains, we wiped out on the pea gravel roads and had to break out the first aid kit. Some days we rode all day in the rain. All our gear and clothing got soaked, and then it smelled. I contracted a urinary infection and p!ssed blood for a couple days. I kept on riding anyway.
We camped outside. Most nights we found a state campsite, but other times, we camped wherever we could find a place where we (hopefully) wouldn’t be disturbed. We collected firewood from the woods to build our campfire. We made our own steaks, sausages, and hamburgers. We ate eggs and buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast. My Dad (who was a Baptist deacon back home) told dirty jokes and flirted with the waitresses and the rural backwoods women, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I really knew my Dad, not as a disciplinarian father, but as a man. During this trip, whenever something broke or got lost, we had to make things work. When we were in need, we had to ask strangers for help. We ran out of food a couple times, and some of our food spoiled. We ran out of propane gas, we ran out of toothpaste and toilet paper, and had nowhere to buy more. We wiped our butts with leaves and corncobs. We drank the melted ice in the cooler, water out of springs, and boiled water from creeks. My Dad told me that “God will provide” and to my amazement, He did. We found things we needed in the most unexpected places and times.
We saw Mammoth Cave (western Kentucky) and Old Man’s Cave (central Ohio). We saw 150-year-old brick and pottery kilns in Nelsonville. We saw Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and many other log cabins. We saw Civil War museums, battlefields, and cemeteries. We saw the aviation museum in Wapakoneta. We saw Indian mounds. We saw my Dad’s boyhood home in Marion. We met my Dad’s 3rd grade teacher. We saw my grandfather’s boyhood home in Scio. We saw an old general store and a cottage on a lake that once belonged to my great-grandfather. We visited the grave of my great-great-grandfather who was one of the original settlers of eastern Ohio. We were also accosted by drifters, motorcycle gangsters, and hookers. To my astonishment, most of them were friendly.
On the way back, just as we passed by Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, my rear tire blew out. We got out the toolbox, patched the inner tube and taped up the tire a few times, but eventually, it was totally shot. The rear tire was worn completely through the rubber and steel belts, and the tube was swiss cheese. We passed by an old grey farmhouse, and knocked on the door. A woman answered and my Dad explained to her the situation and asked if we could pitch a tent in her backyard for the night. At first, she was suspicious, but as my Dad kept talking, she became rather friendly. She said we could camp in her yard in a certain place and told us where to find firewood. Early the next morning, my Dad took the dilapidated tire and rode for more than two hours to the nearest city, which was Danville, KY. He spent most of the day searching all over the city for a replacement tire. Eventually, he found a motorcycle shop that had just bought a load of odd surplus tires at a discount. Dad searched through the tires until he found one that matched my bike. After examining the tire, the manager said that company (Carlisle) stopped manufacturing that particular tire years ago, and that it was only by chance that he happened to have it, as it was probably the last one in the city.
The Lord provides!
The measure of a man is in the lengths he is willing to go, in his fight to survive, to impose his will, and to preserve his ways of life. The ancient rite of passage puts a young man at the forefront of his own masculinity, and instils a much needed sense of confidence and self-reliance.
In today’s comfort culture of Googling, gaming, and immediate satisfactions, the ancient rite of passage has been almost totally forgotten. Institutions that once offered structure, discipline and purpose to young men, like the Boy Scouts, have been subverted, their values ripped out, and destroyed.
Men, if you have a son, you need to take him on a road trip, or go to the mountains or to a foreign culture, etc., sometime during his early post-adolescence years (14-16). Put yourselves at the mercies of God, nature, and the kindness of strangers. Let him discover the beauty and cruelty of nature, his own raw masculinity, the hard-core discipline of mind and body, the limits of his human ability, and the knowledge that God provides and protects. Make the decision to do this yourself and let it become a bonding experience. Don’t wait until he learns his human limitations by getting his @$$ kicked by the world (career competition, military, marriage, divorce, etc.). If you don’t take this by the horns, you’ll miss this grand chance to achieve a father’s primary purpose — enhancing your son’s confidence and trust in God by going through a life challenge together with you there at his side in the arena to guide, support, and encourage him. If you fail to do this, his life will be significantly more difficult and less fulfilling.
- Σ Frame: The Dispensation of the Red Pill (2018 April 7)
- Σ Frame: Stepping up to the Challenge (2018 April 29)
- Σ Frame: A Brother Is Borne Out Of Adversity (2018 June 10)
- Σ Frame: Ladies Should Respect the Man and Love the Boy (2018 June 28)
- Σ Frame: Where is your life headed? (2019 February 8)
- Σ Frame: Life education beats the smarm (2020 May 6)
- Σ Frame: Archetypal Therapy and Innate Personality Traits (2021 March 20)