Rites of Passage

Indigenous Activities

Ways of Creating Rites of Passage Experiences

James Neill
Last updated:
13 May 2005

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

  1. Minimize barriers between self and nature: Observe your feelings and reactions.  For example, walk barefoot, sleep under the stars, drink from a stream, eat natural uncooked food for a while; the longer the better.

  2. Seek out adventurous/challenging experiences which are particularly difficult and confronting for you as an individual: If you are leading others, help them to plan their own major challenge which will require them to overcome significant barriers within themselves.

  3. Create nature art (such as mandalas) by finding materials within the bush and building/making patterns and structures.  This helps one to become more intimate and familiar with both the wilderness environment and the patterns within one’s psyche.

  4. Seek out sacred place in nature and return there to spend time, meditate, etc.

  5. Build a relationship with an indigenous person (hopefully from your local area) and ask them to educate yourself and students about the meaning of the environment.

  6. Find someone who can take you through a Native American Indian visualisation to meet your totem animal.

  7. Ask others to share their most meaningful experiences in nature, adventure, rites of passage: This will give you access to some powerful knowledge and stories.

  8. Research and read about different kinds of initiation rites and ceremonies especially in other cultures.  Discuss the ideas with others and try some of them out.  With students, talk about how rites of passionate occur in other cultures.  If receptive, students may feel drawn to create their own ceremony.

  9. Drama-based exercises, debriefs and reviews can help to allow symbolically act out the inner feelings and growth of students.  Even better, play with some kids :)

  10. Mini-solo experiences and solo walks can provide even busy people with small but important moments alone in the wilderness, and give opportunity to have profound insights.

  11. Make the effort to see sunrises and sunsets.  Star therapy (watching the stars) is ideal for fostering cosmic consciousness.

  12. Heighten awareness of mortality, e.g., get directly involved in life/death struggles, whether human, animal or plant.  Becoming more aware of the cycles of life, transition and change, will help active natural inclination towards experiencing rites of passage.

  13. Recount stories about your own past successful growth experiences -- this helps to motivate and embolden motivation for current efforts at transition and change.

  14. Bring symbolic objects, practices and rituals into your life.  e.g., with students, use a ‘conch shell’ or ‘talking stick’, develop your own language to describe your dream, etc.

  15. Journey to a symbolic place -- Journeys have a way of activating an inner process of unfolding, challenge, and change.

  16. Sequence challenges to follow stages of rites of passage models such as Van Gennep's 3 stages - separation, transition, and reincorporation or Maddern's 5 stages

  17. Role model desired behaviors -- by acting out and behaving as though you are already in the new role that you seek, you help to speed up and direct the change process -- all those kids can't be wrong, they're busy playacting their futures - why stop?

  18. Draw a life-line: Create a personal time-line, from birth to death, marking personal significant events.  This help participants understand their past patterns and future visions / trajectory, as well as their mortality.

  19. Use goal-setting and goal-monitoring strategies

  20. Surround yourself with the literature of change and inspiration - immerse yourself, put quotes up, posters, listen to music that excites you about the process of passage