Throughout life, we shift from one identity to another as we pass through various milestones on our personal journey. Time honoured rites of passage are particularly important within indigenous cultures which help hold the social and spiritual fabric of the tribe together. The significance of the rite of passage in our modern society is less well defined and has lost much of its potency, which results in a poor acknowledgement of transitions that define the end of one chapter in our human development and the emergence into the next.
When we are in the process of these profound changes, either dictated by our natural biological maturation or by the circumstances life imposes upon us, there can be a tremendous amount of confusion and uncertainty. Rites of passage are relevant and meaningful ceremonies to highlight and sanctify these profound shifts. They not only provide a sacred container in which these important life events can be consciously acknowledged and witnessed by members of the individual’s community, family, or group of friends, but it also provides answers to questions that would be difficult to answer otherwise.
Rites of passage in modernity when practised authentically can be hugely relevant. They may take the form of childhood and adolescent transitions, initiations into adulthood, vision quests, ceremonies of separation and ‘letting go’, celebrations of union such as a hand fasting, or acknowledgement of some form of attainment.
Honouring these various milestones through rites of passage supplies us with a map of how to navigate through life’s changes, from the beginning of life to the end. In fact, they all contain within them symbolic representations of birth and death and within the larger cycle of life, rites of passage become experiential reminders of the continuum of life, that with every death there is a birth, and vice versa.