The topic of initiation was a big topic at one of “our” chats last week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people present to the chat and completely animated by the topic. There were lots of questions and lots of sharing. There were also synchronicities all night and it was great to have so many people leave totally inspired. If we look up the word “initiation” in the dictionary it basically says “it’s a ceremony, ritual test or period of instruction with which a new member is admitted to an organization or office or to knowledge.” The dictionary also adds: “it’s a condition of being knowledgeable.” At the end of any kind of study, exploration or hunt for knowledge there is always a challenge or test to see if we’ve understood whatever we were exploring. Right? The concept of initiation is basically to evaluate whether or not we’ve grasped whatever we were studying; and to prepare us for the next step in the journey.
I personally like the word “rites of passage” better than “initiation,” but then I’m more traditional. The notion of “initiation” for me has taken on some technological meaning in the last decade. We often talk about “initiating a program or a hard drive or modem” for example. It basically implies that we’re starting a procedure or process of steps, which will bring forth an end result. From my point of view, this perspective doesn’t say much. Rites of passage on the other hand denotes the importance of ceremony, or ritual and suggests that we’re somehow chosen to learn sacred knowledge; which in time will bring us to take a role that will help our personal growth as well as others.
I believe some rites of passage are natural which means all of us go through them and they are attached to nature and cosmology. For example we all move through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and we all grow old. None of us can stop the seasons. We experience spring, summer, fall and winter, every year. Going to school, finding employment and mates, becoming parents and grand-parents are also other types of natural rites of passage. If you go through a divorce, a death in the family or get sick these too are natural rites of passage. Not everyone lives through these “initiations” but nevertheless they touch many people all around the world. No matter how you look at it, these kinds of “natural challenges” force us to learn, to access knowledge, to heal and to grow.
Parents, teachers, mentors, or institutions in Western society, control initiations through structured plans of study and testing. It’s more about books, intelligence and our mental abilities. In Shamanism there’s a lot of emphasis on the word initiation because it’s a natural and cosmological reality. It’s understood that we are meant to be challenged physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I believe that if we take the time to become more aware of our rites of passage we can move through them easier and get the most out of them. If we think that life is always out to get us or that we’re constantly victims to the challenges we meet, we’ll never grow, change and find wholeness and wellness.
Some rites of passage are more important than others because they touch deep self-discoveries or they are more intense and hence, leave more of an impact. In Shamanism an initiation is part of life. From experience what impresses me is that the Cosmos always knows how to initiate us. Some people will be tested in the simplest ways whereas others are challenged in the harshest ways. Almost a decade ago, when G and I were giving a workshop in Fredericton, N.B. a First Nation man said very categorically that God punishes people who are evil by giving them tragedy. I was stunned. I remember shaking my head in complete disbelief.
I replied: “NO!”
We are all touched by tragedy at some point or another in our lives and it would be horrible if people would shy away from us just because they assume we’ve done wrong. I don’t argue with the fact that some people do call tragedy to their lives and even create it; but others carry the burden of their ancestral realities; and so many are just learning and growing through natural and cosmological events beyond their control. The whole point behind the word initiation is awareness, growth and change. I think we can learn from the tragedy of others even and that it makes no sense to label, run and hide from life’s challenges.
Are there tragedies or challenges that come from such realities as demons, mischievous spirits, ghosts or even negative landmarks? I believe so; but before anyone can make such a diagnosis there’s so much one needs to learn, to explore, to experience and to know. Lets put it this way: “You can move through countless initiations before you ever experience supernatural phenomenon.”
EM wrote this paragraph about her Dreamer initiation:
“I recall stages of my Dreamer initiation more so than initiations in my other roles. I see the Dreamer initiation (from what I’ve experienced) as a game of sorts, I focus on moving forward, passing each level, not looking back. I don’t recall how I even passed through some of the stages; it’s just a knowing. Sometimes I wish I had journalled it all; but most of the time I just go with it; moving forward all the time, not analyzing everything, just experiencing each part.
One stage I recall strongly (because it took me ages to get through it!) was the time in my dreaming where I had to defeat this woman who was constantly trying to kill me in my dreams. For years I had those dreams, she was always chasing me, I tried so many ways to kill her, setting her on fire, shooting her; even surrendering etc… The dreams carried on for a long time. Then, one day I remembered being tattooed in the dreaming. You (Lisa) told me I wouldn’t dream this dream anymore. And you were right. I have not had those dreams since then. No more - woman trying to kill me. It was a great relief I just wanted to move on. Fore sure it would be great to know the different stages for each role.
For those who know the Medicine Wheel, the stages for each role are explored through the Moons. Remember what I said earlier in my blog: “Initiations are natural and cosmological.”
• Welcome your rites of passage. Be ready for them.
• Affirm yourself in each initiation. Take responsibility; make strong choices and stand proud behind your actions.
• Express yourself. Know what makes you unique and use those abilities wisely.
• Give value to the experience, to your actions and choices, to the knowledge you’ve acquired and the hopeful end result.
• Show omnipotence. YOU CAN DO IT.
• Claim your territory; set your boundaries; and attempt to know and understand the territory that you are acquiring.
• Inter-relate. Make sure that you’re in control of yourself, your emotions and don’t react too quickly. Assess the situation and inter-relate appropriately.
• Surrender and trust that the Cosmos knows what its doing. Concentrate on learning, healing and growing.
• Break the masks. During an initiation it’s never the time to resist and deny. Let go of illusions, lies, expectations etc…. Initiations are meant to strip us bare and reveal our true nature. Be ready for this.
• Reason soundly. Keep note of synchronicities. Make sure you hear all sides of the story. And remember that no initiation is about “punishment.” Find the lesson and learn it well.
• Let go of arrogance and misplaced pride. Make sure that you humbly accept the end result. No matter what you come out with a gain. Remind yourself of this.
• Finally, walk out of every initiation by acknowledging growth and change. Let go of the past and embrace who you’ve become. Renew.
Every initiation moves through these 12 steps. What’s amazing is every step takes a different form for every individual. EM spoke of a woman attacking her in the dreaming. I remember she called her the “witch”. I went through the same thing except it was a thunder being who wanted to kill me. For every dreamer initiation there’s a tormentor who appears to teach you the value of dreaming. Do you let the dreaming in you die or do you fight for it?
Perhaps, you could send me stories about your initiations and in another blog entry I could return to the 12 steps and show which stories convey which phase within the process? For example where would you place KIM on the list after reading her dream?
Last night I dreamt that OK and NZ were with me here in NC. I had to face a few challenges. I got the Impression that NZ was surprised at how I handled some of the tasks... like it wasn't the typical way most people go about problem solving. One I remember was about facing a ghost in a mirror. I blew at the mirror with my breath and the ghost started to fade. I blew again harder and it disappeared. Afterwards OK and NZ had me lay down on the ground on my back. I was naked. A small fur was placed over my lady bits and a larger fur was laid over me like a blanket. They were bear skins. Then a mask was placed on my face. It was a bear mask. Right after the mask was put on my face something reached out from under a nearby bed and pulled me under. My husband woke me up before I could see what it was. He said I was hyperventilating again.
From my point of view, KIM is at the breaking the mask point. We can’t tell with this small scene what she’s being initiated into. It seems more about what the knowledge she’s acquiring at this point. She’s learning to face ghosts and she’s becoming more confident in herself and in her new abilities. I have a feeling this is new for KIM and important… Since the initiation is in the dreaming there’s a strong chance that she’s developing her dreamer role.
I hope that I’ve given enough information on the topic of initiation or rites of passage to answer some of the questions that were raised last week. Don’t be shy to leave more questions on the comment section of the blog as they come up. I do look forward to hearing some of your stories. Send them to my e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please write on your e-mails that you give me consent or not to share your stories here on my blog. It would be my pleasure to go through the list of steps again and help you see where you’re at on your personal wheel of your rites of passage.