Rites of Passage
For thousands of years Men have been mentored and guided on their journey to manhood. This was a critically important process; communities could not, and still cannot, sustain immature masculine behaviours in grown men’s bodies.
The vast majority of cultures had ‘rites of passage’ that supported the transitions and transformations that happen for all human beings from birth to death. For men these were the big moments of change:
- Boyhood to manhood
- Manhood to fatherhood
- Fatherhood to grandfatherhood
The famous author Joseph Campbell coined the term “Hero’s Journey” to describe this process, after studying cultures all around the world and finding the same story shared by all. The Hero’s Journey is studied in schools, is part of our life transitions, and is often the common storyline in hollywood movies, with Star Wars being the most iconic version of the Hero's Journey.
Contemporary Rites of Passage Programs
Sadly in western culture, rites of passage have been lost, whether that be Anglo-saxon, Celtic, Nordic or European traditions. This missing piece has created a huge amount of imbalance in the world, leading to a crisis in modern masculinity in European cultures.
There are a number of pioneers in Australia who have brought back traditional Rites of Passage in a new way for western culture over the last 20 years. These programs are in no way replacing traditional indigenous traditions, they are recreating the western traditions for modern Australian culture.
This work began in Sth East QLD and Northern NSW 20 years ago and has grown to include Rites of Passage programs for men and boys, annual men’s gatherings in QLD, NSW TAS, and VIC, and a range of services to support healthy ‘white men’s business’.
Connection to Indigenous Heritage
A lot of care, respect and attention has been put in by the founders of this work to seek support and give respect to the traditional owners of this land.
Because it’s been lost from western culture, there’s also been no one to guide us to re-establish this work. Therefore indigenous elders have been sought out to give counsel, guidance and blessing for this work, including the land it is run on.
In this way, it has been grown and developed alongside local indigenous communities in Sth East QLD and Northern NSW, with local elders often attending, opening the programs, giving permission to do the work on the land, and offering guidance to the work.
From having a local elder to give a Welcome To Country, to a gum leaf smoking, to the use of a talking stick, to circle traditions, to learning to sit together in deep listening in ways learning from “dadirri”. All these practices have been given with permission to use, and used with the intention to pay respect to the traditional owners of this land, and create better traditional awareness and respect in western men and boys who come through these programs.
Teenage Boy Rites of Passage (13-17yrs)
The teenage boy and fathers program run multiple times per year, and are connected into schools throughout Australia. They are very successful and 1000’s of families have benefited from these programs, which are run by 3 key organisations nationwide. These programs are also now expanding globally, with facilitators being trained in a variety of countries around the world expanding this important work.
There are also a range of faith and religious bodies across Australia who conduct their own rites of passage programs to help boys transition into healthy young men.
Men's Rites of Passage (18+)
Men’s Rites of Passage programs are for men who missed having this important transition experience as a teenage boy, or people looking for an experience that can support an important life transition e.g. divorce, career change, family death. It's also for men looking to become the best version of themselves, as a father, husband, friend, or colleague.
There are pioneering programs created in Sth East QLD, which have drawn the processes and techniques from our traditional Anglo-heritage, indigenous wisdom from around the world, and experience of working with men and boys over 20 years. These programs have changed many men’s lives, saved some lives, and have helped families all over the country.
There are also a number of other programs run around the world that link into their own local traditions and culture, as well as faith and religious-based programs to support their communities.
"If the young are not initiated in the tribe, they will burn down the village just to feel its warmth."African Proverb
How Has It Been Modernised?
In our modern culture, these Rites of Passage programs do not include the risk of physical death, unlike in traditional rites, but instead are focused on the mental and emotional changes needed to upgrade to healthy adult masculinity.
Much shorter than traditional Rites of Passage that can go from months to years, these programs have been built to fit in with the needs of western life. They usually run between 4-5 days in duration, and have been packed into a process that can still create deep behaviour change in men.
How Does It Connect To Pro Sport?
There’s a range of immature masculine behaviours that impair performance, like getting angry and throwing a tantrum at the ref, checking out when it gets tough, and complaining, blaming, gossiping, resisting, and avoiding things around the Club. It’s cutting corners, doing the minimum, acting selfishly, not being a team player, or not living the clubs values and standards.
Many performance failures can often be linked back to these behaviours either around the Club and at training, or on the field, and we all have areas we can improve in to become better men.
The All Blacks have a saying that "better people make better All Blacks". These programs help to continue to improve and grow the character and maturity of professional athletes.