Monday, April 16, 2012

Initiation and the woman in green

In the post about MGTOW, it was brought to my attention that I had got the whole 'initiation' thing wrong. This neither surprises nor perturbs me.
It just informs me that my curiosity on the subject is as yet unsated.
So, here I am turning up for 'Initiation - Round 2'. I really, really want to understand this well.

It is correct that I know next to little about initiation. I am afterall, a woman. Bellita stated a while back that some women do go into their own 'initiation'. I kind of 'get' that. It is possible that I myself have experienced this initiation or seen it in other women, but maybe I have a different name for it.

But that aside, the only other 'initiation' I am familiar with is of the monthly variety where no matter how reasonable and sane a woman might be usually, all bets are off for a few crazy days on a lunar basis :-)
OK, I exaggerate a bit for effect, but there is some truth to this.

I shan't get into why the word 'lunatic' irks me somewhat, but in related info, BeijaFlor does a brilliant job of analysing the etymology of the word hysteria.

Much of what I know about male initiation is what I gleaned from the man who wrote the following (bold annotations are mine):

"As a result of initiation, a man starts his life in the village as a boy, and he returns to the village as a man. His journey has changed who he is and what he does. A man's journey starts in community and ends in community. Yet all his relationships are changed. This new man is given a new name by his elders. His community recognizes him by a new name because he is a new person to them.

The initiated man returns with a boon, often described by his name. This boon is his newfound identity and the talents and vision he finds in his ordeal. The boon is for the renewal of the community, which can atrophy in patriarchal rigidity. His gift, as well as giving his life meaning, is also meant to transform his community. Indigenous societies waited excitedly for the new man and his boon.
If a community is not open to his gift, as happens in an elderless, modern society, his message can bring estrangement, ridicule, even danger and death. 

So, this is what is happening in the current SMP? This is why some men are not coming back (again)?
Because they came back once and all they got was 'this lousy tee-shirt' and so they left again, saying: Veni vidi verti (I came, I saw, I turned around and kept it moving)?

He continues:

For instance, modern societies do not particularly want mature men. Mature men are not blindly obedient.
 Society: True alphas are a threat to society. Let's shame these alphas and keep the betas toiling.
(And then the betas are not rewarded for their good behaviour by this same society).

Am I getting it right so far? Or am I missing something crucial?

It gets better:

Yet a man who has been to the other side has a certain peace that is untouched by fear of death or its counterparts, scorn and debasement. This is because he has already faced death and found deep, inner values unshaped by popular opinion.

The mark of an initiated man is a deep peace that could be described as otherworldly. This is the peace that the Bible says passes understanding. This is Yoda's 'calm.' There is a detachment that seems like despair. Actually, it is a detachment that comes from a vision that the community does not yet understand, especially a modern community."

I think I saw this in Mark Wahlberg. And I was shaken to the core by it, in a good way. It was scary but familiar.

It starts to get a little fuzzy for me here:

A mature man seems to know that a higher power, at least a higher wisdom, exists because he has experienced it. Through initiation he has learned more and more of the topography of his inner life, the terrain of the Self, the wilderness within. This is the place of the soul. He has found that soul yearns for otherworldly answers, as a boy yearns for manhood.
Indigenous people saw the wilderness as the place where their higher power, their Spirit, dwelled. Initiation not only introduced a boy to his soul, the message from his elders was that his soul was intimately connected to Spirit. Elders experienced Spirit, assumed Spirit, taught about Spirit. Part of the initiatory experience was the explanation of how their people existed through the action of Spirit. Elders always taught this spiritual context, the myth of their people. In the elder's eyes, their people were continually upheld by Spirit, as each man's life and life direction would be connected to Spirit through initiation.
I believe that a modern man going through this ordeal of transformation takes a psychospiritual journey that finds both the potential of soul identity and the existence of something sacred beyond the ego's ability to understand. This something is sacred because it has the effect of bestowing a goodness to a man's life.
It is up to every man to go on this journey alone, to find out for himself. Then he can define Spirit for himself. As a psychologist, I can talk of the steps that a man has to take to painstakingly get himself ready for the wilderness. As an elder, I can tell a man he is meant for the wilderness. As a counselor, I have observed that most every man who has struggled with ordeal has emerged with a spiritual sense. As a man, I can attest to the Spirit that dwells there.
This Spirit is not the Spirit that is automatically in a church or in a religion, though this power can also be there. This is a bigger, more powerful, more mysterious Spirit who cannot be contained by one church or one religion. This is a Spirit of paradox. This is a Spirit who seemingly doesn't go by his own rules. This is the Spirit who teaches the mystery of tranformative pain. This is a Spirit of the wilderness, without and within. This is a Spirit only accessed from deep inside every man, from his own soul. This is the Elder of the elder.
OK, I won't try to understand this bit too much.

But I can identify with this part:

The journey of manhood is a psychospiritual one that demands modern man's attention. Society's and the world's survival depends on men consciously taking up this mission toward inner wisdom and purpose. Men who do not take the journey are dangerous men...
A man, though alone, never makes the journey just for himself. Though he may not realize this while in the midst of loss or ordeal, many will need the wisdom and active courage that he finds on the other side. Many will be lost, with less of a chance for healing, because he did not risk. A man's initiation is not a luxury for himself, like the holodeck of the Enterprise, with little consequence when the game is over. People are waiting for his presence though they don't know it. Many are counting on him though they've never met him...

Initiated men and women are the last real hope that we can save the earth and the dignity of every being on her. I believe we are in the middle of a tragedy for earth and its people. And this is a tragedy of our own making. In this case, it is not only men and women and children who are being wounded, even destroyed in their spirit. The earth itself is being grievously wounded.

Is he talking about...gulp...Red Pill men and women here?
I personally feel that the village has failed the initiated man if he does NOT feel the need to return.
But that's just me.

This is where I REALLY get lost:

"Out of nowhere, in place of where the tree had stood, appeared a tall woman dressed in black from head to foot....Never before had I felt so much love... There are no words to paint what it felt like to be in the hands of the green lady in the black veil." - Malidoma Some, Of Water And The Spirit.
Initiation brings a man to a different view of all his emotional and spiritual connections, especially to his relationships with women and the feminine...
Malidoma experienced Spirit as woman in his initiation. His elders expected this epiphany. They knew because they had found her before him. This is why they laughed at him when he made up a tree story about seeing an antelope on its hind legs. He was so embarrassed at being behind the other initiates that he made up a story after fruitlessly sitting in front of the yila tree for three days. The other initiates had all seen long ago. Many elders felt because he was raised by white men, so contaminated by our Western cultural values and even literacy, that he had lost the power "to see through the veil". One of the first things Malidoma saw when his vision pierced the veil was the loving green woman.

Who exactly is this green woman who replaces a tree?
Has any man seen her?

Could this be the Face of Mercy Bellita talks about?
Why is she in green?
Is she representative of Mother Earth?

Is the point of masculine initiation an attempt to connect with the feminine, in the truest purest sense or to get as far away from it as fast as possible with the result that the feminine comes seeking the initiate in an unsolicted manner?

On a related note, I notice that some men who would fit the description of 'mature' are known for acquiring inanimate objects later in life that are promptly 'femininsed'.
By this I mean the typical 'mid-life crisis' man who acquires a boat/yacht/fast car/luxury property and lovingly describes it as 'she's a beauty'.
Is this a symbolism of sorts or just a quirk of language?



Caelaeno said...

Out of curiosity, how would you describe the female equivalent of initiation?

Anonymous said...

Whenever I think of rites of passage, I always remember something a friend of mine wrote:

(It's a "new" post because of the date, but he shared the original draft with me a long time ago.)

The most essential quote from it:

One of the reasons for this "rebirth" is to pull away from the mother, who at her worst is represented by the motherly/destructive/seductive mythic goddess Kali (today, she's the Borg Queen), and these days by society-destroying radical feminism. This pulling away is necessary for boys to be introduced to the world of men, otherwise, under the influence under the worst aspect of the feminine, they can end up as gang members . . . or maybe even far, far worse.

Being male, he focuses on the effect the loss of these rites has had on boys rather than on girls--but interestingly, the real-life example he cites is a woman.

I think that the agony that men have reported after "swallowing the red pill" is very much a rite of passage, inasmuch as it involves "pulling away from the mother." But the MGTOW phenomenon that follows it is an unprecedented twist.

Every rite of passage is meant to have two ends: the personal growth of the individual and the health of the society in which he or she lives. You hinted at the second end, ST, in your controversial post about whether MGTOW is good or bad "for women"--and the men who flooded your thread seemed to reject it altogether.

But while they reject the idea that they owe society anything and must pay up, they are very aware that choosing to GTOW will have an effect on society that even they might describe as positive. They seem to take delight at the thought that their actions will make more women start to change as well, which will lead to a better world, and so on . . . although their driving emotion seems to be schadenfreude rather than hope. (Hahahaha!)


just visiting said...

@ Caelaeno

In a natural world we ARE initiation. Our initiations are us. Every month, the beauty and power of transformative adolecence , when the hymen breaks and or marriage(A ritual that requires a ritual not of us because of the man.) every child born, menopause, grandchildren. We travel through our bodies in order to touch the spirit . We touch and are the rhythms of life.

In an un natural world, where the natural rhythms are disrupted . where we are disconnected and rushed and distracted, where the body is neglected, we lose something.

Spacetraveller said...

@ Caelaeno,

Thank you for your question.
It seems I arrived at the party a little late :-)
I see you got two excellent answers to your question already. I shall just add my lowly two cents if I may.

@ Bellita,

I really enjoyed that post from Bob. I think your whole answer and JV's tie in with the idea that there is also some sort of 'initiation' for women which involves simply following her natural propensity towards connectivity and creation, i.e. mate-finding and nest-building at its simplest. Hence fertility rites for young girls in primitive societies, some of which are still practised ala 'Bat Mitzvah' and so on.

Something else you touch on which is my current fascination fix is the whole idea that men need to 'flee the mother', or, as you put it in your post about 'The face of mercy', women being seen as the face of sin, certainly by the Manosphere.
And then somehow the process is not complete until they return to this 'feminine'. In other words, 'return to the village' whatever form that may take.

I'll step away from this issue now, before I get some 'hazing' of my own LOL...

@ JV,

Yes, I see your point. A woman's initiation is simply her life. I know it's a bit dramatic to see one's life as one big 'initiation' but in the case of women, it's true :-)
Hence anything that 'tests' the attainment of this goal, eg. physical imperfection as in the case of the girl Bob describes, an ailment that affects her fertility, a society which promotes the MGTOW movement all contribute to her 'initiation'.
I can't help feeling though that 'initiation' is the wrong word to use in this context.
I just can't find a suitable description for now.
Help, anyone?

Caelaeno said...

@Bellita: Great post! Thanks for sharing.

@JV: That's an interesting perspective. If our lives are our initiations, however, when do we become adults? Or were we always adults? Hrm.

@ST: In your response to Bellita, you say that "...somehow the process is not complete until they return to this 'feminine'." Maybe initiation hasn't been completed until their masculinity has developed to the point that femininity no longer threatens it?

Spacetraveller said...

@ Caelaeno,

Yes I think so. Something like that.

Anonymous said...

In your response to Bellita, you say that "...somehow the process is not complete until they return to this 'feminine'." Maybe initiation hasn't been completed until their masculinity has developed to the point that femininity no longer threatens it?

If I may butt in . . . :)

I would have been more neutral and said that the process is not complete until the return to the village, but your and ST's wording works, too. It is only after the rite of passage is complete that a boy is allowed to take his place among men--and in the societies that best understood the rite of passage, being a man involved marrying and siring children. He may have "escaped" his mother, but then he found his wife.

But this is heresy to the magisterium of the Manosphere . . .


Spacetraveller said...

@ Bellita,

"But this is heresy to the magisterium of the Manosphere."

Yes. Because they feel that the village they left is now unrecognisable as the same village.
Which to be fair, is true to a large extent.
So now we all have to figure out a plausibly positive outcome of the modern type of initiation in a flawed village.

Although I have never been a fan of the whole 'fire and brimstone' thing, I can't help but muse, "burn down the village of Sodom and Gomorrah and let the inhabitants flee. And anyone who looks back will be turned into a pillar of salt."

But that's just crass I guess.
There's got to be a nicer solution than that :-)

What's more, I suspect I'd be the first to look back!
I have a lot of sympathy for Lot's wife :-)

just visiting said...

@ Caelaeno

Her whole life isn't initiation. What I've listed starts happening in adolecence, which has traditionally been the onset of adulthood in indiginous societies.

It sounds boring. Why should the guys get all the fun of some ritualistic test of manhood. But it makes sense. Over the ages, they occupy and contend with the outer world, women the inner.

Grasshopper said...

Women who brave the manosphere are both a curiosity and an enigma to me.

They are the "woman in green" to me.


just visting said...

@ Grasshopper

A very touching and inspiring compliment. Thank you.

Spacetraveller said...

Awwww, Grasshopper,

That's so sweet.
You are one of our resident 'Men in black' i.e. superhero ala Will Smith in the film by the same name :-)

Caelaeno said...

@just visiting:

Maybe it's a lifelong thing because our culture is constantly changing. If we posit that a major indicator of feminine maturity is the ability work within social networks, changes in the way we relate to each other will change the "requirements" for adulthood...maybe. It depends on how we define feminine adulthood/maturity.

just visiting said...

I could see that. But indiginous cultures didn't change quickly. There was a rhythm we were in tune with. And if we touch and are that rhythm, that's a series of initiations because we are connected to it. I would suggest that when the rhythms become artificial, we impede our own initiation. We become disconnected. We start needing outside ritual, like men, but it becomes warped. (Bridezilla anyone)
I suspect it's part of the problem modern women are experiencing.

The hallmark of initiation is the paradox of transformative pain. We have that in spades. (And motherhood changes everything you ever thought you knew about yourself or the world)

But in modern life, we rush through some of these experiences. and delay others and so the natural flow and wisdom eludes us. We may even disdain such things. Instead of these experience fermenting, they spoil. Spoiled princesses who never experience mature womanhood.

just visiting said...

Hmn, I should be clear about something here. Transformative pain doesn't have to take place in this manner. There are other processes, but I think that when we skip the feminine process, there's a feeling of unfinished business.

Spacetraveller said...


"Transformative pain doesn't have to take place in this manner. There are other processes, but I think that when we skip the feminine process, there's a feeling of unfinished business."

Could you please explain further? I am totally lost :-(

Bellita said...

Maybe it's a lifelong thing because our culture is constantly changing.

What if it's not because our culture is so fluid but because our culture demands the redefinition of concepts that were defined perfectly to begin with?

I started thinking about three age-old archetypes of the female. They were--and still are--very simple . . . The Maiden . . . The Mother . . . The Crone.

Our present age seems to want to replace the Crone with the Cougar and the Maiden with the Spice Girl (or something). I'm not sure what's happening to The Mother, but her domain of birth and nurturing may be the only one still sacred to us.

The hallmark of initiation is the paradox of transformative pain.

There's another thing . . . Our culture doesn't seem to understand pain very well. I once wrote a defense of Santa Claus that included the argument that pain is an inevitable part of growing up, and that children as young as seven used to be able to deal with the first painful transition from believing in Santa to not believing in Santa. You can take that away so that that you can be "honest" with them about everything, but you won't have anything that innocent to replace it. (You will also lose the fun, selfless transition from not believing in Santa to playing Santa.)


just visiting said...

@ Bellita, so true. The culture has a hard time dealing with pain. In particular, we're seeing a coddling of children as never seen before.

Here in Canada, many schools have banned games of tag because children might get hurt. Recently they've suggested banning balls for the same reason. The parents are fighting this, but the academics think they know best.

In England there are schools that have banned having best friends because others might feel dis cluded. And the break ups are painful. Yet character is like a muscle. If it isn't developed it atrophies. I can see a lot of future adults coming out of that without appropriate coping skills.

The maiden the mother and the crone. As stated on your post on the face of mercy, I'm reminded of the Mists of Avalon.


There are other forms of transformative pain which can send you on a journey that brings depth and maturity.

Sometimes its a spiritual vocation , or a serious injury. It could be losing everything in your life, except your life. These are challenging things that require spiritual questioning and internal resolution. It can be a lot of different things that require the lessons of discipline, patience and love.

But there's another uniquely feminine journey through initiation that brings its own lessons. Ive touched on it as going through the body (And the inner world of emotion and connection)to touch spirit instead of outer initiation . There are certainly enough venues there for transformative pain. But also transformative patience and love.

On some intuitive abstract level, I keep seeing this as being connected to rhythm and movement. Just not sure how to bring it out of the abstract. Lol.

Spacetraveller said...

@ JV,

Thank you for that beautiful explanation!

@ Bellita and JV,

Your comments on pain remind me of a poster at my workplace (I have no idea who put it there).
It says: Pain is weakness leaving your body.
I always used to think it was slightly masochistic, but actually, it's perhaps about right.

Caelaeno said...


"What if it's not because our culture is so fluid but because our culture demands the redefinition of concepts that were defined perfectly to begin with?"

Well, I wouldn't say they were perfectly defined...but I get what you're saying, and I agree for the most part. We are struggling with the role of the feminine in modern society, and that's throwing a wrench into the process of female initiation.


"Ive touched on it as going through the body (And the inner world of emotion and connection)to touch spirit instead of outer initiation."

Even though I'm 99.99% sure this is not what you were talking about, my first thought was still sex. Baha. (I have sometimes the mind of a thirteen-year-old boy.)

Seriously, though, I think that sex is viewed as the primary rite of initiation, at least by virgins. Too many coming-of-age movies in which the lead loses it and walks off the set a Real Woman. As (it appears that) initiation is primarily an inner (emotional/mental) experience, this leads to a lot of disappointment for the would-be grownup. =/ Sad day.

Spacetraveller said...

@ Caelaeno,

"Seriously, though, I think that sex is viewed as the primary rite of initiation, at least by virgins. Too many coming-of-age movies in which the lead loses it and walks off the set a Real Woman."

Yes I see your point here. Strangely enough, the same can be said for marriage too.
An awful lot of people see marriage as the initiation - i.e. the 'coming of age'.
But it's not. They missed the point.
In ancient tribalistic rituals, the initiation thing was done to boys and girls to prepare them for marriage. It wasn't left to chance that they would arrive at 'Marriage' without the necessary tools to cope.

Anonymous said...

Notice I'm the first male to respond to this post?

The Navy Corpsman

just visiting said...

What's your take on male initiation NC?
I've wondered if it's part of the appeal of gangs.

Spacetraveller said...

@ NC,

"Notice I'm the first male to respond to this post?"


It's funny how this thread developed into a discussion about female initiation!

(Um, by the way, is this a covert way of telling me Grasshopper had a 'funny op'?
He is still male, right?
Grasshopper please confirm!!!

Bellita and Grasshopper stayed on course, but I think Caelaeno, JV and I hijacked the thread a bit by taking the scenic route!

Nevermind, it's all part of the learning curve. Might as well learn about female initiation here - saves me from working on a post about that later LOL.

So the floor is yours, NC. JV invites you above to take us back on course :-)

Grasshopper said...

Indeed I am a man ST!

Under any other circumstances I might have inferred such an inquiry from you as well … how can I put this… an invitation…. ;-)

Merci mon amie!


Spacetraveller said...

@ Grasshopper,

"Indeed I am a man ST!"

Hallelujah, Grasshopper!
*Phew, relief all round*

Now all that remains is for me to throw a 'Grasshopper still has all his equipment' party here at The Sanctuary.
(Yes, we Brits will find any excuse for a party :-)

"Under any other circumstances I might have inferred such an inquiry from you as well … how can I put this… an invitation…. ;-)"

You smooth operator, you :-)

Bellita said...


Ah, I wouldn't say they were "perfectly defined," either . . . which now makes no sense because I did say they were "perfectly defined." Hahahaha! So let me now qualify that . . .

I believe that if one admits nothing else into his or her calculations but what he or she observe of human nature and the world, then Maiden, Mother and Crone make a pretty good template. If I recommend this to the modern world, it is because I think the modern world has reverted to that sort of thinking. And I think that some rites of passage following a natural template are better than no rites of passage at all.

Anonymous said...

Don't conflate a primitive type society with a village elder teaching boys how to be men, with a modern society that devalues men AND elders in nearly all interactions.

There are just too many dissimilarities for the whole concept of initiation. I also prefer a different word, like you do, Spacetraveler. The word(s) are "role model". A thousand years ago, life was a bit slower, time was not urgently pressing on all sides, and an Elder passed along customs and behaviors in a ritual that probably was very close to the one described by your sources.

But, our modern world has no such thing, and probably has not had it since the Industrial Revolution. Of course, I am speaking of industrial nations and societies. I don't think feminism nor the scary divorce numbers started this retreat of ancient rituals, but I do think both made things worse.

In the Western World, our media, our society, and our minds have become conditioned to highly value youth, beauty and women. In only the past 25 years or so, the value of females has been accentuated greatly, usually at the cost of males. Take a good look at the local schools, in the USA, Canada, the UK, France... notice all the teachers, or almost all, are female? Read the newspaper, notice that fewer males are entering college or university? Take a couple days, read the radical feminist blogs, and note their attitudes towards males; it's a little difficult for a father to initiate his 10 year old son into manhood, when that boy is being told that he is a warmongering patriarchal animal at the age of ten, by teachers and other people of influence. Elders are shunted into nursing homes rather than cared for by their own family, how the hell can they teach anyone anything?

But the real killer of this concept of 'initiation' is that divorce has removed any male role models from millions of children. I've read that divorce numbers have gone from about 8% of marriage in 1960 or so, to nearly 50% today. Initiating young males and females, with or without a special ritual, cannot happen without an appropriate role model being present in the child's life.

Just Visiting, I suspect that gangs are another social dynamic all it's own. Mutual protection in dangerous urban areas, a rebellion against any authority, or perhaps an attempt to extend some kind of control over one's own life in a world that sometimes resembles a war zone, all of these would be more likely as to the big appeal of gangs. Certainly, the absence of a male role model would only drive the youth into gangs all the faster.

The main issue I have with 'initiation' is that I underwent such a thing with my grandfather as the Elder, with six other boys. It was a ritual, primitive yet highly spiritual. The key here is that it happened only because of my own heritage and culture surviving to the 1960s, and even then, the ritual was very rarely remembered by anyone. Such things simply were lost by industrial societies where the emphasis tended towards wage earnings to support a family, rather than agricultural or hunter-gatherer societies that had the time to do these things. I would venture a guess that fathers teach their sons how to be men, nowadays, and no ritual or spirituality is included. That is, if the father is even present.

Apologies to Grasshopper, my ignorance is staggering sometimes.

The Navy Corpsman

Grasshopper said...

@ NC….

No offence taken. In fact I thought you made a damn good wingman. After all your comment did prompt Miss ST to make a rather provocative invitation to me.

One she did not deny making BTW.


Spacetraveller said...

"One she did not deny making BTW."