Understanding Rites of Passage as an effective ritual towards Self -development

A ritual can be defined as a traditional and ordered sequence of communal actions in which a sacred purpose is achieved by means of an inter-play between the sacred and the mundane world.

Initiation Rituals

A rite of passage is a Ritual action by means of which the initiate is ‘separated ́ from one ‘world’ and taken into another. Rites of passage are performed on special occasions and mainly deal with entering a new stage of life. Many cultures perform birth rituals, puberty rituals, marriage rituals and death rituals; In the Catholic Church for example these turning points in life are celebrated with Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony and the Extreme Unction. Besides initiation rituals to demarcate stages of life, there are also initiation rituals for special occasions, such as a coronation, ordination of a priest, membership to a (secret) society or the initiation of the shaman.

Rites of Passage

Arnold van Gennep (1873–1957), a French anthropologist, born in Germany with a Dutch father, is famous for his study on rites of passage. In his book Les Rites de Passage (1909). Van Gennep argues in this book that rites of passage comprise of three ritual stages; the so called tripartite structure: séparation, marge, and agrégation (separation, transition, and reincorporation), or preliminal, liminal, and postliminal stages (before, at, and past the threshold).


In these rites the initiate will be symbolically—and in many cultures physically—removed from the world to which they have belonged. Separation rites often involve symbolic actions as removing clothing or removing parts of the body. After the rite of separation the initiate is in what van Gennep calls the liminal world, a social and religious nowhere land. The word liminal is derived from the Latin limin (threshold).


During the performance of these rites, the person is in the liminal world, between old and new states. During this stage, the initiate gets instructed in the responsibilities of the new role. Transition rites express the liminal condition of the candidates.

In this condition they are often considered to be in danger themselves, or a danger to others. To mitigate this negative influence, they are provided with a sponsor whose role it is to protect the candidates.


In the final step of the tripartite, the initiate is confirmed in his or her new status, the initiate crossed the threshold so to speak. These rites may include spiting on the new member, or investing the candidate with new clothes, rings, tattoos etcetera. These marks of identity publicly announce that the individual belongs to the new group or status.

Some scholars stress the psychological importance of rites of passage. According to the psychological approach, all people have a psychic need to have the support of ritual at transitions in their lives. Many assert that western societies do not have initiation at puberty, instead of ritual, we have disturbed teenagers and infantile adults. At the age of eighteen teenagers are magically converted into adults. Besides the religious rites of passage—such as practiced in the Catholic Church—there are numerous examples rites of passage in secular western culture. The rites may be less ceremonial and without the intent of actually being an initiation, but the psychological drive is still apparent. Examples of secular rites of passage are birthdays—especially the 21st—marriages and also funerals. The most apparent difference between the secular rituals and examples from other cultures is the intent of the activity.

Secular initiations are not formalized and participation is voluntary. In postmodern western society one can choose to marry or choose to be buried formally. In many other societies, one is not fully or properly a human being until he has undergone the rites of passage appropriate for his or her age and sex. For these people there is no choice to participate in the ritual or not.

The Healing Lodge Rites of Passage Program: Formalizing Rites without sacrificing spirituality

To some, traditional Rites of Passage is considered a dead practice. However, we believe a tradition is dead if it is ineffective or if it is not practiced and passed on to the next generation. The Healing Lodge believes that Rites Initiation is an effective means of self-development and that it is a tradition worthy of preservation and practice.

Therefore, we’ve worked to extract the best principles and practices from many cultures of the world and paired those practices with didactic and experiential methods of teaching the skills that are deemed most valuable and essential to our lives in this day and time. Then, we added the use of technology to strengthen our connection and support the seamless communication that is imperative in this process. We also added the all-important element of self-reflection work, peer relations and community engagement assignments to build upon the Initiates understanding of the value of self-awareness, sisterhood and community development. Finally, we added lots of fun and creativity to reflect these necessary components of today’s healthy and balanced adult. We built all this on a foundation of spiritual and intuitive practices that will forever sustain our work and we believe we are successful because our faith in the oneness of creation and the intrinsic value of this age-old practice is the reason we commit ourselves to this work.

We give honor to all those who came before us; leaving their beautiful prints on the path so that we too can practice in the ways of our ancestors and so that our daughters and our sons will know the way. And welcome you to join us on this most beautiful journey back to the ways of old so that we can truly know who we are and learn how to manifest the very best of that magnificent being going forward!


Brain, Robert, ‘Passage to adulthood’, in: Rites black and white, (Penguin, 1979).

Eliade, Mircea, Rites and symbols of initiation: the mysteries of birth and rebirth, (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), Originally published in 1958.

Habel, Normal, O’Donoghue, Michael, and Maddox, Marion, Myth, ritual and the sacred. Introducing the phenomena of religion, (Underdale: University of South Australia, 1993).

Kennedy, D.J., ‘The Sacraments’, in: Catholic Encyclopaedia, (New Advent, 2001), Originally published in 1912.

Moore, B. and Habel, N., On religion related to education, (Adelaide: SACAE, 1982).