Outdoor Education
Psychology of Growth

Rites of Passage
(What are they?  How to create?)

James Neill
Last updated:
22 May 2005

What's new?

  • Wilderness-based Rites of PassageTime out for fatherhood & boyhood: Executives head for the bush with their sons
    (Simon Canning, 8 December, The Australian)

    Boys have a biological need for several hours of one-on-one contact with males each day.  Yet modern culture has fathers spending surprisingly little time with their sons.  In a recent "Pathways to Manhood" program, a group of high flying Australian bank executives spent a weekend hiking and camping in the bush to bond with their sons. For some, it was the most time they had ever spent together.

  • Sweat therapy heals traditionally
    (Colmant, 2003, Sweat Magazine)

Methods for creating rites of passage


What is a "Rite of Passage"?

Rites of Passage refers to the processes by which a creature moves from one state, level, or role to another.  This process is usually psychologically, physically and spiritually intense.  Many Rites of Passage, such as human birth, adulthood status, and death have become ritualistically celebrated and are experienced in various ways depending on the culture.

Models for Creating Rites of Passage

Belgian anthropologist van Gennep coined the term in his book book, "Rites of Passage" in 1909 (translated into English in 1960).   van Gennep suggested that "rites of passage" generally comprised of three components:

  1. Separation from the familiar
  2. Transition from old state to new state
  3. Reintegration into original social structure

Maddern (1990) conceptualised 5 stages in indigenous Australian rites of passage.

  1. Symbolic journey
  2. The challenge
  3. Opening the door to the dreaming
  4. Responsibility
  5. Community participation

Rites of passage involve a symbolic, often exhausting journey or challenge

Rites of Passage References