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Rite Of Passage Into Manhood

Author: Panisch Lockelear
Posted: June 5th. 2011
Times Viewed: 6,838

I am concerned over the lack of coming of age rites or rites of passage for our young men today, especially our young men within the Pagan communities. I am certainly not saying that there is nothing that marks our young men's coming of age out there at all, however, I think the old traditions of the past are fading into the fabric of time… and I, for one, think it is a shame.

Ancient pagans surely had traditions in which young boys ebbing into manhood would be required to endure or experience. I can recall my youngest son, Tyler, coming to live with me. At the age of 13, he and his mother had a falling out. I saw this as an opportunity to sit him down and explain the rules of living with me and to also help to set some goals that he would be required to rise and meet.

"My job is to guide you and to help you to become a good man." "Your job is to learn what it means to be a responsible good man, " as I would tell him in our discussion.

We got off a rocky start.

I gave him some freedom to do the things he wanted to do. However, I explained to him, those things would have responsibilities attached to them. Just as in life, you have choices. You can choose to follow the rules and be a responsible person or you can take the long length of rope I give you with those freedoms and hang yourself.

Well, he tested that length of rope and failed his responsibilities from the very start. When he did, there were drastic consequences for his lack of meeting his responsibilities and following the rules. When I came down on him, I came down hard sometimes. I can recall on one occasion, I had to come down on him pretty hard. My wife felt I was being too harsh and got between him and I during this meeting of father and son and man and boy. I knew that I was going to have to explain things to her in a way she would grasp and understand.

In private, I asked her if she thought I was a good man. She told me that she thought I was, for sure. I then explained to her that she didn't have any idea of how a good man is made. This did not go well at first, because surely she knew the traits of a good man. She knew and had references of many good men from her life and she also knew some not so good men. I explained, that in the life of a male child he needs his mother surely throughout his whole life. However, there comes a time in which he will need to distance himself from the mothering (Not from the mother) and find his own way into manhood and because she was NOT a man, she had no idea what that meant. No more than I would know what it means to find my way into womanhood.

The traits of a good man, pagan or otherwise, do not just descend upon a young boy just because they reach a certain age. I know a lot of 40-year-old boys, who have no more idea of what it really means to be a good man, than any 13-year-old male anywhere. I know many men who fancy themselves as men, but who would fail badly if they had to meet certain life challenges.

I then explained that often, what she saw as ‘harshness’ in my dealings with my son, would be nothing compared to what life as a man would have in store for him. In conjunction with that, the consequences he would experience due to his irresponsible actions would be far worse as well. As a man, I can muster everything I have learned - often the hard way - and I can try to teach and instill in my son. I can be hard and harsh, but also teach him in a way that lets him know that no matter what, I am his father, and I love him, and am there for him.

However, what I can only TRY to teach him is the relentless cruelty and harshness of life outside our home walls and on his own. Life is often cruel and harsh and often we must have some reference of how to handle those harsh lessons of life. I can't help but look and see that these same life lessons were taught to our sons long ago in the form of rites and coming of age rituals, rituals in which women had no place.

Men and warriors of the tribe or clan would gather up the young men of the camp and go off into the woods to a secret life for secret meetings and rituals done to live and hunt and to transform those young boys of the clan into men. These lessons required transformation of harshness, learning the life's wheel, and how to acquire respect, honor and knowledge and the elders offered up encouragement as well. These rituals began a transformation, not of the body alone, but also of the mind and the understanding of a man’s place in the world and his role of responsibility to the great wheel as a man, as a good man.

I think that in our society, the lack of close clan ties and the moderation of the relationships between men and woman today, we have lost our traditions and our rites of passage as men. We have given up our responsibilities to our young men in favor of skate parks, video games and television to raise them up instead. Today I see young boys on the doorstep of manhood who are disrespectful of women, not ready for life, often out right criminal and have a ‘give to me’ or ‘provide for me’ mentality, a mentality that allows them to continue to suckle from the mothering stage of their life. This in turn makes them into men who fail to be providers, and warriors of life.

These young boys are left to their video games in which they come to think that because they can obliterate a village in a video game, they can command a life as a real man. Some parents throw lavish gifts at their sons in an effort to keep them happy and their own lives free of their responsibilities to them. Later these ‘young men’ find that real life is harsh and nothing like a video game. They grow up without real respect for themselves as men and therefore show no known respect for anyone or anything else. Life will be hard, harsh and unforgiving and they whine and complain and will not understand why things are so hard for them.

Sadly without passing onto them our knowledge and our rites of passage, and indeed rite of entry into manhood, we make our sons into hallow forms of what a man truly is. These types will curse openly without respect, play at being tough, demand everything be provided for them, demand attention to their actions, have no work ethic or respect for money or how important work is. They will have social problems relating to authority or other male or females.

Parenting as a father is not easy and far too many fathers rely on the mothering stage of their children's life for far too long into boyhood. Our time to step in and help them into manhood comes and goes and pretty soon we are simply a father who works all the time and takes no real interest in helping our son's be a good man or in even finding out what that means. I feel very lucky because I grew up having had the advantage of my uncles taking me on. And through traditions and rites of passage, they made me into a good man.

I can recall, in a tie cutting ceremony, I was led to my uncle with a rope tied around my mother and me. When I reached him, he removed a large knife and symbolically cut the rope between my mother and I. She left me there in a room with him and my other male family members. She was sobbing and I didn't understand until much later what a positive impact that rite had on me. To follow would be hunting trips, trips to the woods, camping trips, and working on cars, going to the bank, working beside my uncles and all the while learning from them the right and wrong in how to be a man.

Sometimes I got hurt. I was told and learned that sometimes life hurts, and when it happened I was asked, did you learn something? My uncles were hard on me. Sometimes they were harsh, but it was always tempered with love for me and for what I was becoming. I did learn. At sixteen, I took part in the Rite Of The Spike, a rite of passage in which the other important men in my family and life truly saw me as a part of them.

However, I still had no voice of my own within the group. That too had to be earned, as did everything else. Worth, respect, knowledge, cunning, patience, honor, honesty and many other things, I would learn. These things would reveal their worth to me in my life. Later, I would go through the Rite Of The Stag at age 18, a rite in which I would get my voice in the group of men that was my family.

Today, it seems as if we have taken part in sort of devolution of tradition and rites of passage. To me, this is something we cannot afford. We cannot afford it as a species of men.

My son will graduate from high school this year and will go off to make his way in the world. Yes, in some ways, I do not see him fully ready. I do see him lacking in some ways. The difference is, he has gone through the rites of passage and has been taught how to be a good man. I often see him next to some of his friends who happen to come to our home to visit. The difference between my son and them is staggering. When my son leaves home, I will have done my best to get him ready for what waits for him outside our home walls. I know that my two sons are, and will continue to be, good men. They will be so, because of traditions and our rites of passage.

Our sons will always love, respect and need their mother, but in my opinion, there comes a time in which the mothering must be set aside temporarily and the cord be cut. Then they must make and find their path through tradition, rites of passage and participation into manhood.


Panisch Lockelear

Location: houston, Texas

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