Coming to Our Senses: Rediscovering Rites of Passage for Contemporary Youth

Patrick Amos


Cross–cultural research on the initiatory rituals and education of youth suggest that initiatory processes are archetypal and intrinsic processes of the human psyche, and will occur regardless of whether or not they are legitimized by any particular, official adult culture. However, in our secularized (modern, Western) society, a youth’s transition from one life–stage to the next, while acknowledged, may not involve a profound transformation of his or her identity. As a contextual framework for this discussion, I will examine adolescent issues in light of the initiatory processes conceptualized by French anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep. Following is my presentation of a recently developed and implemented wilderness–based rites of passage experience, influenced by traditional Aboriginal cultures. It is designed to expand the initiate’s self–concept from one that is egocentric, to include a more eco–centric supra–personal (larger–than–individuated–self) identity with human and more than human relations. Finally, I will consider reasons for resistance to such practices in our contemporary society, including paradigmatic constraints, incomprehension, and the perceived dangers of engaging initiatory processes.


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University of Victoria
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ISSN (Print): 1705-2947
ISSN (Online): 1712-5634