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Pagan Rites of Passage


The following is the result of five months of research (ok, that’s generous, I also ate, slept, worked and did two triathlons during that period etc) into pagan rites of passage. Originally done as a series of topics for my podcast “Lakefront Pagan Voice”, it reflects information gathered mostly from online sources, but also from personal experience, observation and discussion with fellow pagans.

I decided to do this topic when I was thinking about death and how we, as pagans, deal with it. This called to mind the seven sacriments of the catholic church. I had just recently seen a series of old paintings depicting the sacriments and realized I didn’t really know much about them. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, the seven sacriments are as follows, Baptism aka Christening, Eucharist aka communion, Reconciliation aka confession and penance, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy orders aka ordination and anointing of the sick or last rites. I had to consider the value of these rites and wonder what rituals and passages pagans and even non-religious people might have.

A rite of passage is a ritual that marks a change in a persons social status. Different rituals and different types of passages exist, but the phenomenon is universal and is not limited only to religious or spiritual events. Things like receiving a drivers license or graduating college are rites of passage.
It does seem to me, however, that some changes occur without a ritual marking them in this day and age. People notice a change, but don’t know how to address it, don’t want to admit that a change is occurring because it is confusing and unexpected. As we age and move into different stages of life, people might fight the transition, become confused, frightened and depressed, thinking that the change is bad or that they’ve done something wrong or that they’ve been left behind. They worry that they can no longer fulfill the responsabilities they used to and haven’t been told that their responsabilities are changing and that there is a whole new stage to look forward to. They feel trapped between two worlds, not a full participant in either.
I think traditional and modern rituals are needed to commemorate these important changes and let people know that the changes are good. Right now, I have a list of nine rites of passage that I’ve observed pagans celebrating in one form or another and spent an episode looking at and learning about each one.

These are:
Birth, Coming of Age, Initiation/Dedication, Marriage, Midlife, Ordainment, Parting of Ways/Divorce, Elderhood, and Death

Obviously, as in marriage, initiation and ordainment, not everyone in the world or even in the pagan community, will experience every one of these changes, but each are significant in the lives of those who do experience them and should be recognized in some satisfying way.
These rituals, be they public or private, can be some of the most profound rituals in our lives, changing not just our outward social status, but more importantly, how we view ourselves and our futures.
Follow the links below to be taken to the articles about each of the nine categories.

Life Stages:

Joining the Family – (Paganing, Baby Blessing and rituals for childbirth)

Leaving Childhood- (Coming of Age, Growing Up)

What Crisis?- (Midlife, Jubilee)

Elderhood- (Croning, Saging)

Crossing Over- (Last Rites, Funeral)


Choices We Make:

First Steps on the Path- (Initiation, Dedication)

Joining Together- (Handfasting, Wedding)

Parting Ways- (Handparting, Divorce)

The Call to Serve- (Ordainment, Priestly Vows)