This was a critical time of life where the young man would enter into greater responsibilities and larger understandings.
Across time, all cultures have understood that without the clear marker of initiation into manhood on the journey of life, young males often have a difficult time making the transition into adulthood, therefore it was understood that these rituals were one of the community’s most important ritualistic celebrations. Whilst the coming of age ceremony of many ancient cultures may appear particularly gruesome by today’s standards of initiation into adulthood, these cultures for prehistoric times onwards, created these rites of passage for a specific reason, to initiate boys into manhood. Today these ritualistic ceremonies are almost extinct, and young boys have no clear mark on their journey towards becoming a man. Today you may see this phase as being when a young man graduates college and gets a desired job, or when they are married and have a child. The issue with this in today’s society that these markers of adulthood occur latter and later into life especially in regards to marriage and children. So with these traditional rites of passage being left behind, and our modern markers of adulthood being delayed until later in life, many young men are left feeling stuck somewhere between boyhood and manhood.
In the western world there are very few male initiation rituals in modern times. The most common coming of age ritual that occurs in Australia for young men is the 21st birthday celebration, with the excessive alcohol consumption being the worst thing the initiate experiences; which is by today’s standards a pretty tame way of marking the passage into adulthood, in comparison to the ritualistic practices of scaring of the body, land jumping or circumcision of ancient cultures. With all this being said, the process of entering into adulthood and becoming a man does not occur within a single moment. These ritualistic rites of passage into adulthood are an important celebration to let the young man know that the community will begin to think of him as a man and that he should start to behave as one, learning to deal with the responsibilities of adulthood.
While modern rites of passage such as a Confirmation or Bah Mitzvah often signifies of a young man entering into adulthood. Males who are not part of these belief systems can be helped along by the fathers and father figures within the family and community, where the young man is celebrated and welcomed into the community as an adult. But it should not mean that you need to be of a religious faith to celebrate a transition into manhood. It is important that from an early age that men are showing their sons the importance of the role of a man in their culture or religion, and this can then be a lead up to the important celebration of the coming of age ritual. Creating a unique ceremony for this special occasion is only going to give the occasion more importance. For others a father and son road trip or camping trip to celebrate a young man’s entrance into adulthood is another form of marking this important occasion. Whatever way is chosen to mark this occasion, it is defiantly one that needs to re-introduced into modern times, to assist the young males of the coven or wiccan community to transition themselves into adulthood, as this is an area where our culture does not do well at. An effective coming of age should begin early in life where children are shown how to act as adults and the responsibilities and privileges that will be bestowed upon them at their coming of age ritual. a young male who has learned that responsibility comes with entering into manhood is likely to accept these responsibilities when they are given to him. In the past Pagan cultures were very good at making the coming of age rituals an important celebration, therefore in today’s society, we need to bring these ceremonies back into existence, to aid our sons in the transition into manhood.
For female children traditionally the Coming of Age Ritual occurred at following their first menstruation, and was a celebration of life. In the past this ritual was an important step on the road to adulthood, where in the present day many cultures do not signify the relevance of this stage of life, and period of transformation from child to adult.
It is now a stage of life that is not discussed and hidden away, often leaving young girls confused and with a feeling of shame. The “curse” as it was named in more modern times, was something that was seen as simply that – a curse that all young women would encounter. In the present day when a young girl becomes a teenager they may have bestowed upon them more responsibility around the household, attending to more chores and caring for younger siblings whilst the parents are away from the home for short periods. In some cultures they celebrate this stage of life between the ages of 13 and 16 with celebrations such as Bat Mitzva for Jewish girls, Quinceanera for Spanish girls and Sweet 16 parties for girls who are not of any specific faith. These celebrations signify the entrance into adulthood and the time when a young girl will encounter increased responsibility. They may be able to get their first paid employment and learn to drive a car. Here in the south, especially within Australian culture of the present day, this tradition is lost completely. There is no celebration specific with this stage of life. Young girls begin their Secondary schooling at the age of 13 and this is when they are considered a teenager and gain more responsibility. It is not until the age of 18 that they are considered an adult. It is a great shame because young girls need this forgotten celebration as a reason to feel special, especially at a time when they are dealing with the stressors of peer pressure, body image and developing an identity for themselves.
It is important to redevelop the traditions and utilise the essence of the old rituals, and adapt them to suit today’s society. These rituals then can be adjusted to suit the development, personality and specific needs of the young woman. We are now beginning to realise the importance of this ritual, and the need for them to re-introduced into today’s society. There is a hope, especially with regards to girls’ coming of age rites, that we can give onto our young women the knowledge of the past, as well as the belief of themselves as a special, worthy and important part of the Coven or Wiccan family group. If this can be accomplished during the present generation, the ritual purpose may have a chance to be renewed; and with this we give the next generation of young womem a vital foundation on which to build their own decisions regarding their spiritual and personal growth, chosen career for the future, and choices surrounding sexuality, coupling and children; and with this the strength and courage to stand against discrimination if or when they may encounter it.