BIRTH = The First Initiation…

** A Harmonious Existence Is The One That Has A Balanced Relationship Between The Physical & Spiritual Realms **

Initiation is a rite of passage marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components. In an extended sense it can also signify a transformation in which the Initiate is ‘reborn’ into a new role. Examples of initiation ceremonies might include: Christian baptism or confirmation, Jewish bar or bat mitzvah, acceptance into a fraternal organization, secret society or religious order, or graduation from school or recruit training. A person taking the initiation ceremony in traditional rites, such as those depicted in these pictures, is called an Initiate.

Initiation Rites: It is common in many Cultures, Religious or Otherwise, to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood by some ceremony. The importance of these ceremonies is two-fold. Firstly, it acts as a watershed for the individual concerned and secondly it gives the community an opportunity to acknowledge the changing status of the young.

African Initiation Rites which are fundamental to human growth and development.  These rites were originally established by African Ancestors while they were living in order to link the individual to the community and the community to the broader and more potent spiritual world.  Initiation rites are a natural and necessary part of a community, as are arms and legs natural and necessary extension of the human body.  These rites are critical to individual and community development, and it should not to be taken for granted that people automatically grow and develop into responsible, community-oriented adults.

The process of Initiation concerns undergoing a fundamental set of rites to start a new phase or beginning in life.  It marks the passing from one phase in life to the next more mature phase.  Initiation fundamentally has to do with transformation, and has been a central component of traditional African cultures since time immemorial.  The details of the rites vary among the different societies, but these rites are nevertheless basic components of the society as they help guide the person from one stage in life into the next stage of one’s life and development, that is, from birth to death and beyond.

The rites are Birth, Adulthood, Marriage, Eldership, and Ancestor ship.  A rite is a fundamental act – set of rituals performed according to prescribed social rules and customs.  Each of these rites are a key component that are a part of traditional African cultures.  Some societies have more elaborate and extensive ceremonies than others, but these five themes are the thread that links families and villages in traditional Africa and provide the necessary structure for individual growth and development.  The rites briefly represent an integrated Initiation system that has given indigenous African cultures the stability and longevity to provide a model of consistency and inter-generational unity.

They represent a complete set of devices that prevent the inherent conflicts between various age groups or the systematic ill treatment of women, children, or elders.  These problems are commonplace in western cultures, but they are virtually unknown in indigenous African cultures.  These African cultures were not “perfect” as all human societies have problems, but they do provide a viable example in the modern world of how to solve social conflicts and contradictions and give individual the societal support to discover and fulfill their life mission and unique contribution.

The Rite of Ancestor Ship, which concerns passing over into the spirit world.  This final Initiation rite is an extension of the elder/older distinction because the status that a person has in life is the same status that they bring with them when they pass on.  There is virtually no African society that believes that when a person dies this ends all ties and communication with the living.  Rather, African philosophy from one culture to another agrees that the spirit of the deceased is still with the living community, and that a distinction must be made in the status of the various spirits, as there are distinctions made in the status of the living.

One of the most important distinctions is the difference between an older person who dies and who is seen as nothing more than a “dead relative,” and a respected elder who passes on and is revered as an honored “Ancestor.”  The dead relative dies without honor and is someone who is not remembered as a great person or someone who should be followed or emulated.  On the other hand, a respected elder  who passes on becomes a respected Ancestor and is given the highest honor.  This group of Ancestor wield great power and are often called upon in matters of trouble or uncertainty to help influence a favorable outcome.  Thus, Ancestors are respected elders who have passed away and who continue to serve as an extension of the family and community.

** In the religions of Africa, life does not end with death, but continues in another realm. The concepts of “life” and “death” are not mutually exclusive concepts, and there are no clear dividing lines between them. Human existence is a dynamic process involving the increase or decrease of “power” or “life force,” of “living” and “dying,” and there are different levels of life and death. Many African languages express the fact that things are not going well, such as when there is sickness, in the words “we are living a little,” meaning that the level of life is very low.

Every misfortune that Africans encounter as “a diminution of vital force.” Illness and death result from some outside agent, a person, thing, or circumstance that weakens people because the agent contains a greater life force. Death does not alter or end the life or the personality of an individual, but only causes a change in its conditions. This is expressed in the concept of “Ancestors,” people who have died but who continue to “live” in the community and communicate with their families.**

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INITIATION: The Most Profound Journey Of All = Is The One That Brings Understanding To The Truth Of Your Soul.

2 thoughts on “BIRTH = The First Initiation…”

  1. Excellent and broad reaching explanation of initiatory rites and how they create connections between people and the communities they are part of.

  2. Wow. I am impressed with the explanation of degrees of living and how that concept is carried on into the realm of the afterlife and back into life. There can be so much healing for an individual when life is taught this way. Instead of seeing this life as a one shot chance for some sort of reward after death, it recognizes the challenges the individual is faced with over time and gives opportunity to the individual in life & afterlife to grow. As our world is global, and we come from all types of cultures and all types of ideas this thought process gives grace to that fact and explains why we are all on different paths, and that it’s ok. It honors personal growth and it recognizes the depleted lifestyle we experience when we are off our individual path.

    Thank you for this post. It brought up memories of my son’s ritual, and how it was unique to him but also called on the community to encourage and support him in his path. These rituals give honor to the individual and tighten the bonds within community.

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