This involves the adult male members of a tribe taking the young boys to a remote place and through ceremony, teaching and ordeal, guiding and assisting them over a period of days to move from boyhood to manhood. They leave their village as boys and return to their village as men.
In modern Australia, even among our aboriginal peoples, it is extremely rare for such a process to take place.
Rites of Passage
The transition from boyhood to manhood in our culture is very vaguely marked only by such things such as leaving school and entering the workforce; being permitted to legally drink alcohol in public; or getting a driver’s license. I believe that this is a pretty poor way of initiating our boys into manhood.
I have fathered two boys through to young adulthood. As my first son neared the teenage years, I began to feel that I needed to somehow find a way of helping him to become a man. I spoke to a few good male friends of mine who were also actively fathering young sons and they felt the same.
After some conversation and collective research we decided that we would create for my oldest son Gregory, a rite of passage.
So on a sunny Autumn morning in 2001, a convoy of cars containing myself and Gregory; his two grandfathers; his two uncles and some good male friends of mine headed up into the mountain hinterlands of the Gold Coast to stay for a week on a rainforest property just behind Natural Bridge.
Over the week each man had an opportunity to share with my son something of their own experiences and understandings of manhood – there was a Grandfather’s Day, where my father and my partner’s father each had half a day out in the forest speaking to my son about what they had learnt so far in their life’s journey; the mistakes they had made; their successes; how they learnt to cope with loss and suffering etc, and concluding their time with him by offering him a symbolic gift.
Wisdom of the Elders
Similarly there was an Uncle’s Day where each of my brothers shared something of their own lives, pledging to my son that they would always stand by him, and be available as mentors to him throughout his life.
Each morning we would begin the day with meditation and one of my friends who is a monk would offer a spiritual teaching. We spoke to Gregory about the importance of living generously and creatively; of how to relate to women as friends and lovers; of how to live a rich and meaningful life.
The last night of Greg’s Rite of Passage concluded with an ordeal – he was required to stay up all night and keep the fire going. Each man volunteered an hour each of their night to stay up with him throughout the long dark hours.
Prepared for Adulthood
Today my eldest son is 25 years of age, and studying medicine at UQ. He is an extraordinary young man – very focused, self-disciplined, generous and kind, fun-loving and spiritually alive and he and I enjoy a very close and loving relationship. He maintains that the Rite of Passage was one of the most formative experiences of his life and he has participated as an adult in the Rites of Passage of his younger brother and the sons of my other friends.
I would be very happy to share my knowledge, experience and insights with fathers who long to find ways of wisely fathering their adolescent boys through to adulthood.
Author: Matthew Ryan, B Psych (Hons), MA (Marriage & Family Therapy).
Matt Ryan is a senior psychologist with over 25 years of experience, and has seen great success in helping individuals to work through their problems and difficulties.
To book an appointment with Matthew Ryan call 1800 877 924 or book online today!