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“Leaving childhood”


Titled: Coming of age, Manhood/Womanhood rites, Growing up, First Hunt, First Blood

When: Any time during puberty from the first signs of maturation up until a child is legally an adult. This might be signaled by a girls first menstrual blood, a boys first body-hair, wet-dream or voice changes or sometimes a specific age, like the 13th or 15th birthday, is picked out, or an event like graduation or earning a drivers license can be used as the signal time for such a rite.

Why: This ritual signals several things. First, that the child is coming into sexual maturity and passing from childhood to early adulthood. Also that the child is coming into mental and spiritual maturity and will be given more responsibilities and will also be given the freedom to… or rather will be expected to… make their own independent decisions about their lives. This may or may not be a time for young people to start taking on a spiritual study of some sort in earnest.

Typical features: This might be a time for parents or mentors to reinforce lessons about sexual responsibility. While most children at this age will probably already know and understand the facts of life, puberty is a time when those facts are starting to become more then pictures in a book or ideas on a page and having those lessons about safety and responsibility, and what is morally expected of them by their family, made part of their coming of age cycle can help a child take them seriously.
An ordeal or challenge may be presented to the young person, be it a physical challenge or mental one. A test of some skill or some other proof that the child is ready to move forward in their life gives the young person a sense of accomplishment and that they deserve this status improvement. The listing out or explaining of the new rights and responsibilities the young person will undertake as an adult may be done. Gifts representing the new adult status and the new privileges and duties may be given.

General themes: Responsibility and freedom go hand in hand and may be the primary theme of such a ritual. Leaving behind childhood or entering into an adult setting may be part of the theme. Chosen emblems of identity may play a part as the child makes its mark on the world and the changing of relationship to the parent from caregiver to mentor may be addressed.

Examples: Depending on the gender identity of the child and the types of responsibilities that may be expected of it as it grows, the rituals might differ. Female rituals might center around the sexual maturity, bleeding and future motherhood of the girl. Sometimes, for a male, his possible future as a caregiver, protector and provider might be emphasized, however, the gender identity and stereotypes inherent in these sorts of rituals may not be appropriate for every child and thought should be given to what values might, inadvertently or purposefully, be expressed by the ritual.
Tasks might include finding a hidden object or going on a first hunt. It may involve competing in a wrestling match or other test of strength with someone who is already an adult. It may be solving a puzzle, passing through a maze, completing a craft item made entirely by the hands of the young person or demonstrating proficiency in some learned skill.
There may be a project to be completed before the ritual can be done. The child may need to compose or memorize a poem or essay and then recite it to all those gathered.
The ritual may involve, like initiation rituals, a scene of rebirth where they are hidden by a blanket or robe and later revealed or pass themselves between the legs of the women present. A list of new chores or responsibilities may be listed off and then repeated by the child as an acceptance of those duties. A recitation of the new house rules by the parents and mentors may also be given as the young person is allowed more freedoms like a later curfew or permission to use certain items without supervision.
This may be a time when the child has made some choices or discoveries about their own faith and may choose to explain their beliefs. They may choose a totem animal or describe the totem, patron or guide that has chosen them and use the moment to honor that entity. A human mentor or sponsor may have also been chosen by the child and agreed upon by the community to help them in the future. This role might be taken by one of the godparents or by some other trusted friend.
There may be a changing of clothes or props where childhood things are exchanged for adult things and they may be asked to make promises or affirmations to stand as an individual and take responsibility for their own actions.
The creation or adoption of certain ritual tools might become part of the ceremony, and gifts of such items might be appropriate.

How is the person’s life changed after the rite? – A young person will no longer be considered a child after this and, though he or she will be expected to continue following the rules of the house, they will think of themselves and be thought of by the family, as an individual carving its own path and will be expected to take on more responsibility both in support of the home and family and also in making and taking responsibility for their own independent decisions.