young men's initiation

Saturday, June 24 - Sunday, July 2, 2017

wilderness journey into manhood for 14-18 year-olds

"If we do not initiate the youth, they'll burn down the village just to feel the heat" - African Proverb

"If we do not initiate the youth, they'll burn down the village just to feel the heat" - African Proverb

At some point, boys grow up. The change from adolescent to man happens. Until quite recently, when a youth was going through these changes he was brought away from his family and community by a group of elder men. In a secret place, often deep in wild nature, he died to his life as a boy. Through the community supported initiatory experience, he was born into the power, beauty, knowledge and responsibilities of manhood.

The Young Men’s Initiation is a contemporary wilderness rite of passage based on the old ways of manhood initiation. It is a 9-day process – including 2 days and nights of solo time – facilitated by skilled guides, and assisted by a circle of initiated men. The experience is meant to sufficiently challenge the initiate to leave behind his life and psychology as a boy, and return with the courage, vision, knowledge and support to take up his life as a man.

How does one know it is time for initiation? Rapid physical growth and change, self exploration, wanting more responsibility, vivid dreams, attraction to challenge, soul searching...  "Negative" signs/expressions of the need for a rite of passage: rebelliousness,  contrariness, angst, anger, excessive risk taking, confusion, low self-esteem, violence,  relationship troubles, self-harm, and more.

 

YMI 2016 pulling cart_2.jpg

What you'll receive:

  • Challenge and guidance to make the transition.
  • Strong male role models.
  • Men's knowledge and wisdom.
  • Skills to survive in the wilderness of nature and daily life.
  • Follow-up support including a welcome home celebration, monthly mentorship, and quarterly group meetings.

           Cost: $1,300-1,600 sliding scale
          (includes breakfasts and dinners)

 

Young Men’s Initiation FAQ

Whose decision is it for a young person to do a rite of passage?

The short answer is: the parents... with their child’s willingness.

According to Dr. Arne Rubinstein (Australia), author of The Making of Men, "When they are children, the parents make the choices. When they are adults, they make their own choices and have to live with the consequences.  The rite of passage is the turning point. It may be the last major decision you make for your child."

Traditionally, rites of passage or initiations were brought to the youth by the elders and mature initiated adults. They had the knowledge and foresight to know that initiation was necessary to temper the fiery forces that are unleashed with puberty and adolescence. It was understood in the community that initiation was necessary to ensure the well-being and continuity of their people. Parents- and the larger community- raised their children with the expectation that some day they would be released into an initiatory experience that would return them as young adults.

Today it is usually the parents- ideally with the blessing and support of elders, family and community- who sign their young person up for this type of rite of passage. Although the young person may resist, which is a normal and healthy part of adolescence, they need to be willing to go along with their parent’s choice. And there are many young people who understand this and enthusiastically dive in. Our experience is that resistances and fears fade quickly once they are out in the desert with us.

How do I speak to my son or daughter about doing a rite of passage?

In an honest, authentic and heart-felt way.This is an important conversation. You may have been thinking and dreaming about their rite of passage for years, or even their whole lives. That time is finally here. let them know how important it is for you and what you wish for them.

A few other suggestions:

  1. Make a special time for the conversation, e.g. a special dedicated dinner or walk, a weekend away, etc.
  2. Speak to your child when they are most likely to hear you. Are you speaking to them when they are likely to be receptive or resistant? Be aware of their and your emotional states. Again, create conditions where they are likely to hear you.
  3. Listen deeply and with "fresh ears". Acknowledge what they have to say. Make the effort to really see them, and let them know that you hear them. This doesn't mean that you have to agree, or change your decision, but acknowledging and considering their view is critical.
  4. Avoid distractions such as TV, cell phones, other interactive technologies.
  5. Be clear about who has decision making power. This varies with age and family dynamics. Speaking with a largely dependent 15 year old (tell them with enthusiasm) may be different than an independent 18 year old (persuasively asking them or offering the initiation to them a gift to help them transition out of the house).
  6. Check in with yourself. Are you ready to acknowledge that they are growing up, will soon be or already are a young adult? Are you grounded and ready for the conversation?
  7. Faith and prayer can be helpful.
  8. Call us and talk it over. We'll do our best to help.
  9. Birthing a child is a big deal, perhaps even your reason for living. Taking this major step of letting go of them as a child so that you can welcome them as a young adult is huge. Prepare yourself, create the right conditions, and most of all be authentic and speak from the heart.

What is the best age to do this?

When they are developmentally ready. 14 is possible but often peaks at 15-17. 17 and 18 year olds are usually further out the door, yet often take to what we do most readily. Look for some of these signs : Rapid physical growth and change (increased height, foot size, and girth, voice changes, growth of facial and body hair, increased odor, signs of increased testosterone, night emissions), self exploration, wanting more responsibility, vivid dreams, attraction to challenge, soul searching...  "Negative" signs/expressions of the need for a rite of passage: rebelliousness,  contrariness, angst, anger, excessive risk taking, confusion, low self-esteem, violence,  relationship troubles, self-harm, and more. 

It is much better to have a meaningful rite of passage at this age than spend the next few decades feeling as though they missed something or seeking often harmful ways of self-initiating... Most adults who do our adult vision fasts are seeking to have the rite of passage they never got as a youth.

What do you actually do out there?

Our program brings together the worlds of primitive skills, nature awareness and tracking, nature based ceremony, the practice of council, vision fasting, and mentorship. Hands on skills (tarpcraft, knot tying, camouflage, friction fire, plant i.d., herbal medicine, etc.), inner (emotional) work usually through the medium of physical activities or games, talking circles, intentional “medicine” walks, guided hikes, solo time, work shifts (kitchen, clean up, etc.), story telling, music and singing, and more combine to make a holistic impactful journey.

Because the element of surprise is so critical to that impact we don’t share the exact details here. If parents/guardians would like more specifics they should contact Rob Miller- program designer and lead guide- at 458-201-2868 for a confidential discussion.

We encourage you to watch this short film on the importance of youth rites of passage:

We invite you to visit the creators of this film, and support their work at warriorfilms.org which is so generously supporting ours.