Sunday, 30 November 2014

Boys become men-a Rite of Passage

I just got back from a 'Rite of Passage' event where young men are initiated into the circle of men. No 21st yardglass, no meaningless key to the door that's long been opened, no first beer, no car accident and funeral-no 'self initiation' that is commonplace in this country and the 'civilised world' generally. No, we took boys gently through a loving, supported, but difficult experience that acknowledges their transition from the world of the boy to the world of men.
We acknowledge birth, birthdays that are important, marriage and death. We mark these transitions in rituals built up by our group-our culture.But we have forgotten how to bring girls and boys into the world of women and men. We must therefore journey it alone in confusion and 'hunger games' -like sacrifice to the gods of the marketplace. They show the way. For boys that way is the way of the eternal boy-exterior displays of power over others, bravery and machismo that are rarely felt within as true sources of power, Witness these on the internet and the news media. Uninitiated men look to uninitiated older men, who themselves are still boys, for guidance, reassurance and encouragement acknowledgement and acceptance. They find almost nothing and they become the vacuous spirits of today's men.
Contrast this to the full strata of men being present to the boys dreams, struggles and demons. Contrast this to the honest sharing of stories from the elders and the youngers, themselves ceremonied into the men's circle in earlier ceremonues. Men from 16 to their 70's taking them through a major and difficult mental, emotional and physical challenge that will push them to the limit; but not alone. They will be held in the arms of many fathers (usually with a ratio of 4 men to each boy). These men and boys are taken from their homes and families in ceremony and reality; taken to the place of men and mentored and then returned to the family, the community and the world.
This is no secret handshake ra ra ra funny hats stuff.
It was a moving, powerful, exhausting, exhilarating 5 days. it takes everyone to the edge of their comfort zone. I took a young man through with me-I stood in for his father who was not available. When I first wanted to take my son through this transition I sought knowledge from other cultures who still keep these rites alive. A friend was also looking for something for his son. I was relating our journey to a friend, when he said Oh you mean like Tracks? I said Tracks, whats that? That was the beginning of a connection with an organisation that has been doing these rites of passage for girls and boys for over 10 years. It came from the men's movement- groups of men who freely chose to enter into a hallowed space of shared experience, encouragement, belonging. When I first went with my son to his own rite of passage 5 years ago, my experience of meeting with men was limited, like many men, to the pub, the sports dressing room or clubroom-culturally acceptable ways men tried to get together. I had had some experience, through the Catholic church, of groups of men getting together, but it was always filtered through our shared Christianity and so missing some of the grime and reality of our patchy lives. And not fully concious of the value of men getting together.Or able to accept men regardless of beliefs.So it was with great relief, comfort, grief that I was able to be a part of a group who supported the boys through the transition. I felt great sadness both because of my own extremely poor transition and also for letting go of my son,I found other men with similar stories; some much worse and sadder. How we initiated ourselves then.
My life partner has just returned from a similar journey with our daughter
My hope and dream is realizing this vision for all our youth. It is part of my desire to reform the village with it's humanity and it's sanity!
Pink Transformer by Duncan Hill-a painting about aborted rites of passage and the aftermath
Oil on canvas (for sale POA)
Over the week you notice a change in the young man's way of  what I call 'standing in their own presence'-which is the best way I can describe a certain look in the eye which does not hide itself in the grass, a straightening of stature, a confidence in the voice. you notice a joy and peace that you normally associate with older men.
The organisation Tracks is open to applications to take boys through the Rite of Passage for men, as is its sister organisation, Tides. Check out 

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