This week: Celebrating Transition and GrowthEdited by: warpedsanity
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"The boys of my people began very young to learn the ways of men, and no one taught us; we just learned by doing what we saw, and we were warriors at a time when boys now are like girls." - Black Elk (Oglala Sioux elder and medicine man)
The most basic definition of a rite of passage is a ceremony that marks a transitional period in an individuals life. Many times this includes ritual and/or teaching activities designed to strip individuals of their original roles and prepare them for new roles.
Within my personal Pagan belief system, we celebrate the transition from childhood to womanhood when a young woman has her first menstrual cycle. When a boy reaches the age of thirteen, we celebrate his transition from boyhood to manhood. Then aging is celebrated through a croning ritual after a woman experiences menopause. Men have a saging ceremony at approximately fifty years of age. These are mostly Nordic Wiccan traditions, but they are often celebrated among the Pagan community in general, no matter what path they are on.
I've actually only attended one croning ritual, but I've attended many coming of age rituals for young women. A coming of age ritual in the Pagan community always varies because it is tailored for the young woman who has come of age. At the last ritual I attended, all of the women brought a gift which carried a message of wisdom. My gift was a handmade journal and I shared the importance of self-expression and independent thought. Other gifts varied from more elaborate to something simple like a stone with a particular meaning.
When my oldest daughter came of age, we had a ceremony in the Lakota tradition. Basically, elders in the community and other young women who had already come of age gathered in a moon lodge for the night. We shared life stories and words of wisdom, while my young daughter was free to ask questions from the more experienced women in the group. Then we sang Lakota songs and prayed.
Not all rite of passage is based on religion. Some are simply tradition. My boyfriend did not grow up in a religious family, yet he had a right of passage initiated by his father. For him, his first kill while hunting was a mark of manhood. It was actually a tradition for him to drink the blood of the animal. For some of you, this might seem disturbing, but similar ceremonies were quite common among many indigenous tribes in America. This ritualization helped drive home the message that the animal was giving its life so that they may live and that killing is not something which should be taken lightly.
Rituals like my boyfriend experienced as a young man do not make me uncomfortable, mostly because Indigenous rite of passages have always fascinated me. Recently I watched a documentary about a girl's rite of passage among the Mescalero Apache. Every fourth of July on the reservation they have a coming of age ceremony that lasts for four days. During that time girls are symbolically taken through the various stages of growth, from infancy to womanhood. It is quite beautiful. Check out the video if you would like to learn about it.
Is there a rite of passage you celebrate within your culture, family, or religion? If so, share it in the comment section. I'd love to read about it.
In my last Spiritual Newsletter, I challenged readers to write a fictional story that included elements of a religion other than their own. One person submitted a story. It is a wonderful tale for those who like horror fiction. They did an excellent job entwining Jewish customs, culture, and language within a creative plot.
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Most people who would classify themselves as people of faith have very little or no idea at all what their faith really teaches. Writing about a belief system that is different from their own makes little sense until they fully understand what they themselves believe.
I can see where you are coming from. Although, maybe researching to write would actually help them on their journey to discovering what they believe. Or, maybe they might have less bias since they are not devout to any particular belief system.
From: Write 2 Publish 2020
I began to write story about a man in an Islamic cell in the USA, ready to wreck havoc at the SEATAC airport. He is exposed to Christianity in a way he can't ignore. It causes him to rethink his own beliefs. I didn't go into either religion, only the root basic of what is the purpose of man? The young man comes to respect the older Christian man's beliefs out of curiosity and when the time comes for the attack on SEATAC he has to make a choice, allow his friend to be killed or try to save him? There is a lot more to the story with twists and character interweavings. I was told my young man would never live in the place I put him. He would live near others like himself and therefore never be in the situation I put him in to meet the older man. I put the story away. I still love it and really want to write it.
I say write it. Maybe reevaluate some aspects, like why he would be living where he is. Rather than not write it because of the unbelievable gaps, reevaluate aspects to make those gaps more believable. You are a good writer. I'm sure if you think about it you could find a way to make it to where it makes sense for him to live where you need him to in your story.
From: Robert Edward Baker
Hi! Yes, it's important to be able to put yourself in others' shoes if you want to be an effective writer. In fact, that was exactly Virginia Woolf's point in the concluding section of A Room Of One's Own, about the best writers in history being capable of becoming androgynous in their minds. Thank you for plugging my short story, too. :)
Response: Thanks! Ah, yes, what a great observation from Virginia Woolf. I'd have to agree with her. Some of my favorite authors do just that. I particularly love when a man writes well from the female perspective, creating strong female characters.
There were some great responses in "Note: View this Note" in reference to my last spiritual newsletter. Below are some of them.
I believe it to be critical that if you are speaking of any religion, you speak with accuracy. More wars are caused by someone saying something incorrect, people die.
Response: I totally agree. I would also like to add the power writing has. A skilled writer can sway public opinion for better or worse.
Historically, not very. Countless religions have come and pass before ours today and there is little to do but conjecture about them. Facts are obviously important, however, more important are the implied meanings, the very stories we can tell!
Yes, unfortunately, especially when we study more ancient belief systems, we can only go by scholarly evaluation. Many of those observations change as science advances. In this case, yes, all we can do is speculate on the limited knowledge available. Many great works of fantasy and science fiction have used ancient beliefs as a muse.
From: Ray Scrivener
I believe that it's very important to do your research on any subject before you write about it! Especially when it comes to religion, there are so many fascinating things to learn. I recently did a story about the Jewish custom of mourning, something I had no knowledge of going in! :)
I enjoyed reading your story and highlighted it in this addition. I agree religion and the various customs within are fascinating. One doesn't have to be part of a particular path to appreciate its beauty and history.
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