Where's my coming of age rituals, where's my validation into the community, where are the psychological demarcation lines for becoming an adult? I asked this about four years ago, only a couple months after having started my LJ.
Our [default american] culture being what it is (meaning -- lacking, or shoddy, as far as initiations), I figured that I had to do two things. One was, to remember carefully and take comfort from the few rites of passage the mainstream culture does offer (getting your drivers license, registering to vote, school and university graduations, marriage, buying a house). (Ok, so, those are not really rites, more like accomplishments or simply passage of time, but still. We take everything we can get.) And two -- figure out what sort of trials or rituals I was still craving, and to try and make them happen for myself.
I listed and set a small handful of trials for myself. They were very simple, things I felt I should be able to do in order to feel minimally competent and adult. Like being able to build my own computer from the component parts (well, anything that didn't involve printing integrated circuits on silicon or soddering wires), triple-booting Windows and Linux and MS-DOS 6.0, and setting up an Apache web server and various other programming tools. Many of you know how to do this stuff in your sleep, but for me at the time, it was something I haven't done before. Another one involved being able to put my sailboat on the trailer, trailer it to the body of water of my choice (in this case it turned out to be the Mississippi River), lower it, rig it up, take a long cruise, break it down and trailer it home. Again, something I've never done before then. And yet another involved very basic self-discipline and being able to keep a word to myself -- for a period of two months, getting up at the same fixed early time in the morning and running for several miles, even on the weekends or nights where I had no sleep. Or, for a similar period, working for more than an hour on my own programming project, every single day.
As time went on, I completed these. They made me a little bit happier, let me stand a little bit taller. They are my own and I don't really talk about them; I only bring them up for ideas, in case you for some reason feel the urge for similar things. I had my tasks (I suppose I still have one or two left), and I figured to just keep an eye out for any more initiation or rites of passage rituals, and leave it at that.
But something remarkable happened a couple of weeks ago. I don't just mean that I turned 30. That's fairly easy to do -- middle class North America gives you a good chance to survive to that age, if the bloody gods of car accidents don't claim you for their own. Although of course, turning 30 prompted a lot of thoughts about where I was and what I wanted out of life; very necessary mild-midlife-crisis stuff. No, something else happened.
On the morning of March 30th, catvalente woke me up, told me to dress, blindfolded me, and told me to wait. I had the vague sense that something cool was planned, vaguely birthday-related, but had no idea what. Maybe.. a surprise giant piñata.. filled with more delicious cake and.. video games. Instead, I was led out to the forest behind the house and...
There was a Guide, and walking through a tangled forest while blind. There was a black-veiled Guardian at the Gate, and I had to make a choice, like Neo and his pills. And there was a Guardian of the Forest who I had to fight, and even now when I take a very deep breath, I feel a fading pain in my ribs from where I fell heavily while wrestling with him in the forest mud. And there was a Guardian of the Earth, and they gave me a knife and made me dig in the cold ground for my life (and I was sure I was digging my own grave, a memento mori), but no, there was treasure there instead, oh and there were rows of black cloaked and masked figures on each side of the clearing, and they gave me gifts like witches to a fairy tale princess, and welcomed me to their tribe. There is so much I don't know how to describe. All I know is, I was sobbing loudly by the end, with amazement and gratitude, looking at their now-unmasked faces, and up at the still bare trees of the spring forest.
I... had a coming of age ritual. And there were pancakes afterwards.
And.. I am so grateful, to all who were there (and who couldn't make it, but were there with me in spirit), to my tribe, and especially to my two urban shamans, catvalente and vrax, and to grailquestion for her words. I had no idea, four years ago, that a ritual like that would be actually possible. And yes, I am change'd. And I am still slightly stunned and amazed, and still processing it.
The Sarmatian Protopope
his desires inscrutable but surely base
- Turning 30: Coming Of Age Ritual