Rite of Passage

by David Romanelli

"Wise are they who have learned these truths: Trouble is temporary. Time is tonic. Tribulation is a test tube." William Arthur Ward

A "rite of passage" is defined as any ritual in which one "passes" from one condition of life into another. Throughout history, people have honored a new stage of life with a ceremony. Joseph Campbell writes in The Power of Myth how a boy becomes a man in Aboriginal culture. The boy is brought into the field and put thru an ordeal involving circumcision, subincision, and drinking of men's blood. After this rite of passage, the boy is officially a man and as Campbell said, "There's no chance of relapsing into boyhood after that."    Granted, who in their right mind would want to perform or endure such a traumatic experience?! But Campbell points out that because modern culture lacks such rituals, you'll have a confused 45 year old man still trying to be obedient to his father. 

Maybe the rite of passage doesn't need to be so extreme as drinking blood but there's something to be said for a ceremony that defines a new chapter, a new era, a new leg in the journey. Some examples of rites of passage include the sweat lodge (see photo above) which in Native American culture was symbolic a womb from which one is born into a new era. One enters the sauna-like atmosphere, sweats out their worries, fears, demons; and leaves a new person. Another example might be a broken heart in which case one enters an emotional chamber of pain only to leave with a purified heart. In today's world, we leave one with a broken heart to sulk in sorrow. In some primitive cultures, there were spells and ceremonies to honor the broken heart which enabled the afflicted to perceive a broken heart with respect and humility rather than sheer anguish.

Campbell points out that the trial-like nature of most rites of passage is to see if you are a match for the task; if you have the courage, the knowledge, and the capacity to go the distance in life.  Often, "the distance" refers to something much more significant than ascending Mt. Everest or becoming CEO of a company. Rites of passage are signposts on the inner journey. As Julien Green said, "The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the one who descends to the depth of their heart."

Find out more about David Romanelli at www.yeahdaveyoga.com