Rite of Passage
“Every human being on this earth is born with a tragedy, and it isn’t original sin. He’s born with the tragedy that he has to grow up. That he has to leave the nest, the security, and go out to do battle. He has to lose everything that is lovely and fight for a new loveliness of his own making, and it’s a tragedy. A lot of people don’t have the capacity to do it. ” A coming of age is a young person’s transition from childhood to adulthood. In most modern societies this transition takes place on an adolescence’s 18th birthday.
The celebrations of these transitions vary from culture to culture as well as religious beliefs and hence affect our opinions, views, beliefs and attitudes towards rites of passage and the foreign processes incorporated into rituals and initiations. My name is Kali Collado and I welcome you to “All the World’s a Stage Festival” where I will share with you why 18th birthdays mean different things to different people. In modern-day Australia most 18th birthday celebrations consist of large-scale consumption of booze, clubbing, strippers and drug-induced parties.
When an adolescent turns 18 society recognises them as adults and are therefore given more responsibilities, choice-flexibility, benefits and independence from their parents. Turning 18 here in Australia doesn’t require us to undergo physically and mentally perilous initiations or rituals. In fact these benefits, freedom and responsibilities are handed to us on a silver platter. Unlike Vanuatuan culture, villages build wooden towers reaching heights of 100 feet or more, where boys as young as five are to jump off a certain platform with vine ropes tied to each ankle.
Summoning all the courage they have, they dive from the platform headfirst. The goal of the jump is to land close enough to the ground that contact between the divers shoulders and the ground is made. These dives are two-fold; in that it’s performed as sacrifice for their gods to ensure bountiful yam crop or to initiate the tribe boys into manhood preceded by circumcision. The higher a man goes along the platform, the manlier he’s considered amongst the tribe. Vanuatuans believe this ritual necessary because it ensures bountiful crops whereas in Australia food is readily accessible in supermarket isles.
This rite of passage isn’t just about initiating tribesmen anymore but for what they believe is the survival of the tribe. As the quote goes “Initiations aren’t just for mental wellbeing but for the survival of the tribe” Another example of a religious initiation is from South East Asia. There, adolescence’s are initiated into adulthood to become a novice monk or nun by dressing as Princes or Princesses after their Prince Gautama. They take three Jewels and have their heads shaved and then change into saffron robes.
They stay with the monks from a night to a few years to practice meditation and prayer, marking a time of purity and innocence as well as awareness of the sins in the world. Although this ritual is far from the perilous Vanuatuan initiation it still differs from the rituals of 18thbirthday celebrations in Australia; in that religion implements preservation of innocence, chastity and prayer. 18th birthdays does not signify booze, drugs or partying in these cultures but rather maturity and acceptance of their new roles into their society or tribe.
It’s not about leaving the nest and its security to go out and explore the world by themselves. It’s not about swimming into the world of uncalled maturity for the benefit of their culture. It is difficult to judge whether these cultures are right in the way initiations should be incorporated because it’s specific to their beliefs, their culture and their religion. Their culture “Every human being on this earth is born with a tragedy, and it isn’t original sin. He’s born with the tragedy that he has to grow up.
That he has to leave the nest, the security, and go out to do battle. He has to lose everything that is lovely and fight for a new loveliness of his own making, and it’s a tragedy. A lot of people don’t have the courage to do it. ” “Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence.
And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. ” ? C. S. Lewis