Janet Miles, CAP-OM (janetmiles) wrote,
Janet Miles, CAP-OM

YaaD Work: Class 5: Rites of Passage

This is one of the reflection papers I wrote as part of my Year and a Day (YaaD) of study with Fieldhaven Coven.

The question is drawn from the Greenhaven Tradition; the YaaD course is not published on the Greenhaven Tradition website, but is made available on a person-to-person basis. Material that is not so closely held is available at http://greenhaventradition.weebly.com/

Class 5, Paper 2 (after class discussion): Make a list of however many rites of passage you consider important to observe, and put them in approximate chronological order. For each one, explain the significance of the milestone and include a few symbols commonly used in honoring it.

My feeling was that I really don't attach much importance to most rites of passage, so a list of ones that I "consider important to observe" would be very short. Instead, I offered to list all the major passages that I could think of. This is the final version after several drafts and considerable discussion.

Assignment submitted November 21, 2011

Writing Assignment: YaaD Class 5 – Rites of Passage

A Schema for Lifetime Milestones


  • USAian family, probably of European heritage, with sufficient physical, emotional, and financial resources.

  • Reasonable health.

  • No abusive relationships, either as a child or an adult.

  • Not everyone will pass through every milestone. For example, someone might decide as an adult that s/he is an agnostic or atheist, and skip everything having to do with religious / spiritual communities.

  • Not all milestones are positive; that is, most people do not celebrate the death of a parent, but do want to recognize it in some way.

Milestone Religious or Secular Approximate Age New Privileges or Freedoms (examples; may not be comprehensive) New Responsibilities (examples; may not be comprehensive) Recognition, either extant or proposed
Before birth Either or both -9 to 0 months You are beginning a new life. Grow, little fishie, grow! A blessing ritual, for the health and well-being of the baby and the family.
Birth / naming Either or both < 1 month You are recognized as a separate being with a life of your own You need to absorb and integrate everything around you. Most religions have some variation on a naming ceremony, such as a baptism, christening, wiccaning, or bris. A non-religious family might simply choose to have family and friends over to meet the new baby.
Additional milestones you probably won't remember but your parents will, e.g., first tooth, first word, first step, first haircut, toilet training Mostly secular birth to about 4 years You can engage in self-directed movement and locomotion, and limited decision-making You continue to learn, absorb, and integrate an essentially infinite supply of information. You develop physical skills such as walking and excretory control. You develop the ability to make appropriate decisions for your age. Your parents may take pictures or videos for a scrapbook. These will also be brought out later, when you start dating, to embarrass you.
Starting school More likely secular 5-6 years You begin to spend part of the day away from parents or carers (unless home schooled), and to make friends on your own. You may have the freedom of walking or bicycling to and from school on your own, or riding a bus with your friends. You are now bound to someone else's schedule; you go to school every day. You are expected to do the work and follow the rules. You need to treat teachers, staff, and other children appropriately. In some Jewish traditions, children starting Hebrew school are offered honeycake cut into the shapes of the alphabet, to show them that learning is sweet.

Most families will recognize start of school with an almost ceremonial shopping trip for school supplies, a backpack and new clothes.

Some schools will have a welcoming event, maybe before classes start, to help the new kindergarteners find their rooms, find the restrooms and the cafeteria, and so on.
Starting an understanding of a spiritual or religious life Religious 5-6 years You begin a journey that could lead you almost anywhere. You are expected to learn about your parents' spiritual choices. Depending on your parents and your religion, you may be expected to accept these beliefs without question or to integrate them into your own. Existing ceremonies include First Communion for Catholics. If you're attending a formal religious education class, there may be some sort of welcoming service. For Pagan families, your parents may start teaching you at home, and possibly including you in appropriate rituals.
Puberty Either or both Generally early teens, but could be earlier or later You may be seen by parents as approaching adult status You'll need to begin additional self-care, especially for girls dealing with menstruation. One secular marker would be the discussion with parents about how your body is adult but you aren't.

Some families do celebrate the physical change, with something equivalent to a birthday dinner.

Pagans are going to vary by tradition, but some sort of ritual to mark your physical adulthood might be offered. In my limited experience, Pagans are also more likely to take your preferences into account as to whether or not you want to make a big deal of it.
Finishing elementary, junior high, and high school More likely secular About 11-12 years, 13-14 years, 17-18 years You will have more freedom to select your own classes and schedule at each level You'll be expected to do more difficult, more self-directed work and to work in groups. There are graduation ceremonies for each of these, and sometimes even "graduations" from nursery school to kindergarten.
Making an adult or near-adult commitment to a religious path Religious Generally not earlier than about 12-13 years; any time after that You have the right to make a choice that may be different from your parents' choices This will depend on your religion, but generally, you're expected to take on or begin to take on full adult responsibilities for participation and for consequences of actions. Judaism has the bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah to demonstrate your ability to take on obligations under the commandments (the ceremony doesn't grant the obligation, just recognizes it).

Some Christian denominations have confirmation.

For Pagans, it seems likely that this will occur later, around 18-21 or older, and might be something like formally joining a coven or being initiated into a path.
Driver's license Secular 16 years or older You have just achieved ease of travel, especially if you have your own car. You'll be expected to help your family by chauffeuring other members and running errands. You may be expected to pay for gas, maintenance, and insurance. You'll have to obey traffic laws and will face consequences for not doing so. The ritual recognition is taking and passing the exam, and getting the permanent license. The personal ritual is likely to involve something like driving around to all of your friends' houses to show it off.
Reaching age of consent for sexual activity Secular Varies from state to state, and whether you are attracted to opposite-sex partners, same-sex partners, or both: http://www.avert.org/age-of-consent.htm Once you've reached the age of consent, you can start exploring partnered sex without the risk of your partner(s) being convicted as a sex offender.

Most people think sex is a lot of fun. If you're not one of them, if you're asexual (ace), that's okay, too.
Ideally, your partner(s) should also have reached the age of consent so that you aren't at risk of being convicted of statutory rape, either. If you can't wait, see if your state makes allowances for people close to the same age, and if so, try to find partner(s) within those guidelines.

You'll need to use contraception and safer sex practices, and have a plan for dealing with an unexpected pregnancy or STI. You need to be ready to take responsibility for your reactions and treat your partner(s) well.

If you're fairly sure you're not ace but sex isn't fun, you may want to check with your doctor (to see if there are any physical issues) or a therapist (to see if there are any psychological ones). You may also want to read some guides to better sex and talk with your partner about trying different things or doing things differently. And, bluntly, you may need different partner(s) or a different emotional connection with your current partner(s).
If you're a Unitarian-Universalist, you've probably gone through the Our Whole Lives curriculum.

In a perfect world, your first attempt at sex would be with a loving partner or a very good friend, and would be a ritual in and of itself, with the foreplay and the fumbling and the sex and the pleasure and the afterglow.

In the real world, there's probably going to be more fumbling and less orgasm, but there should at least be enough friendship for shared laughter.
18th birthday Secular 18 years You've reached legal recognition of adulthood except for one thing. You can leave school, work full time at pretty much any job you qualify for, enter into contracts, and join the military, but not sell, buy, serve, or drink alcohol. You're no longer a juvenile, and if you get into trouble with the law, you face harsher penalties and no way to seal your record. Generally speaking, not much. My observation is that most families stop throwing birthday parties around the early teens, and will tell you "you're too old for that".
21st birthday Secular 21 years You can now legally have contact with alcohol. If you're going to drink alcohol, do so responsibly - don't drink and drive, and if you think you're having trouble not drinking or are getting addicted, get help. Your friends will probably want to take you out to bars and get you drunk. If you choose to celebrate that way, prep ahead to minimize and treat the hangover. Or at least drink a LOT of water before you go bed. Do not take Tylenol (acetaminophen) for the headache; take aspirin or ibuprofen. http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/human-biology/hangover8.htm
Finishing college More likely secular 21-22 years for a bachelor's degree, 24-26 for a master's, 26-30 for a doctorate You will be recognized as minimally educated for our society (bachelor's degree) or your career path (master's or doctoral degree). You'll need to find a job and begin paying off student loans. As with elementary and secondary school, the primary ritual is the graduation ceremony. The secondary ritual is the job hunt.
24th birthday Secular 24 years Car insurance companies will drop your rate, and rental car agencies will let you rent cars. n/a n/a
First full-time job Secular Any, but probably early twenties You're on your way to self-sufficiency. You're no longer dependent on your parents for money, so you are less obligated to their rules and beliefs. "It's called work because if it were fun, it would be called play." You'll need to do your job even when it's unpleasant, and comply with work rules even when they're dumb. I propose doing with your first paycheck what a friend of mine does with his holiday bonus: cash the check in singles (or fives if you're making really good money or only getting paid once a month), go home, throw them all into the air, and let them shower over you. Repeat as desired. Revel in the knowledge that you have earned this money fair and square.

Then pick it all up and start working on your budget, so that it will last until your next paycheck.
Enlisting in the military Secular 18 years to early forties depending on branch of service (17 years with parental consent) You will receive training that may be useful in civilian life. Depending on how long you stay in and the political climate when you separate, you may get funding for academic classes after your tour.

You may have the opportunity to travel, but you may not have much choice as to when and where.

If you stay in long enough, you may receive excellent retirement benefits and lifelong healthcare.
A military member has tremendous responsibility, and you may be making literally life-and-death decisions for yourself and your unit. You will be required to follow orders, and also to recognize and take the consequences for refusing to follow illegal orders.

You may have to kill people.

You may be killed or permanently disabled.
The military in general is very ritualized, with specific ways of speaking, moving, and performing any task. When you enlist, there will be an induction process and an induction ceremony in which you take a binding oath.
Moving out of parental home (college dorms don't count) Secular Any, but probably early twenties or after college You're much closer to self-sufficiency. You're no longer under your parents' roof and so you're no longer bound by their rules. You can come and go as you want. In an apartment - you'll need to pay your rent on time, possibly pay for your own utilities, and keep things to the standards of the landlords. In a house - you'll need to pay your mortgage and utilities, and keep up with maintenance. Ideally, your friends and family will help you move into your new place. Once you're settled in, you can have a housewarming party.

If you're Jewish, you'll want to hang a mezuzah on the front door.

If you're Pagan, you may want to perform a cleansing ritual (to eliminate traces from previous owners), set up an altar, or otherwise mark the space.
Joining a religious community (church, coven) separate from parents Religious Most likely sometime after moving out of parental home, especially if move any distance, but could be earlier You will be part of a community that will, ideally, both challenge and support you. This will depend on the community, but at a minimum, if you want community support you need to participate in community life. If you are entering a new religion entirely, there will likely be some kind of religious education or conversion classes, probably followed by a conversion ritual of some sort. Except for UUs; they just ask you to sign the book.

If you're moving to a different congregation in the same religion, most likely you will be welcomed by the congregation leader or a committee.

If you're Pagan, you're probably joining a new coven, and every one will be different, in terms of whether you can just walk in, or have to be initiated, or what. Some covens will have a formal course of study to be completed before you can be initiated, and may require additional study to progress through degrees.
Hiving off or otherwise creating a new religious community Religious Any; most likely after joining a community, but could decide to create one from scratch You can make changes to the community's practice as you see fit (depending on the tradition). You will have the responsibility of leading a group, and dealing with both interpersonal issues and spiritual ones. If you're creating a whole new tradition, then the rituals and recognitions are whatever you decide seem good to you.

If you're hiving off from an existing coven, there will likely already be some tradition of how to do so, or discussion on how to do so if it's the first time.
Marriage or the equivalent Either or both Any time from late teens on; statistically, late twenties You will be seen by even more people as a "real adult". Depending on your religion, marriage is also your license for sexual activity. A friend of mine says marriage is not a 50/50 proposition: it has to be 100/100, where each person does their level best to maintain the relationship and the other's happiness in the relationship. This doesn't mean codependency, though. The wedding - usually religious even if the participants aren't otherwise very observant. However, some weddings are officiated by a Justice of the Peace or other person licensed by the state to do so, and are completely non-religious.

Pagan rituals may include a handfasting or jumping a broom.
Pregnancy (women only) and childbirth (both women and men, because both are responsible parents) Either or both Any time from puberty on; statistically, mid-to-late twenties Again, some people will not consider you a "real" adult until you've had children of your own. You will now have the privilege of rearing a child, and you will tell yourself that you won't make any of your parents' mistakes. You will now have the responsibility of rearing a child, and whether or not you make your parents' mistakes, you will make plenty of your own. The secular rituals surrounding pregnancy include peeing on a stick and throwing up a lot, along with regular prenatal care and at least one baby shower. The secular ritual for childbirth seems to involve threatening to castrate your mate if s/he* ever does this to you again. Fortunately (?) for the continuation of the species, most women say that once the process is over, they forget the pain completely and want another baby immediately. I do not understand these women.

Many traditions impose restrictions on pregnant women, on the belief that her actions during pregnancy will affect her unborn child for life. (To an extent, this is true - her nutrition and stress levels, for example.)
Divorce or the equivalent More secular except for Catholic annulments Any You are now free from an unhappy relationship. You're back on your own; you don't have anyone else to help with day-to-day issues. Some people choose to have a party to celebrate their new freedom; others just update their Facebook status.

It would certainly be appropriate to ritually sever any remaining connections (if desired; some separations are amicable and the parties remain friends).
Death of a parent Either or both Any, but more likely as an adult than as a child This particular milestone doesn't really engender new freedoms or privileges. You may be expected to sit deathwatch. You may need to help with (or deal with) funeral plans, legal issues, and supporting your widowed parent emotionally. Every religion and society has some tradition for dealing with death. If you're an observant Jew, you will sit shiva for a week, observe specific depths of mourning for a year, and then say Kaddish once a year thereafter. If you're an observant Catholic, you will arrange for a funeral mass to be said.

If you're a Pagan, depending on your tradition, your ceremony may be based on guiding the spirit to the afterlife or to rebirth. If you're not religious, you will likely still have some kind of memorial service.

In any case and for any religion or no religion, your friends and community should pitch in to support you through what is likely a painful loss.
Death of last parent (not "second" because of prevalence of step-parents) Either or both Any, but more likely as an adult than as a child This particular milestone doesn't really engender new freedoms or privileges, although if you are the oldest child in your family, you may now have the privilege of being seen as the head of the family. You may be expected to sit deathwatch. You may need to help with (or deal with) funeral plans, legal issues, and family expectations. Same as Death of a parent
Death of a child Either or both Any This particular milestone doesn't really engender new freedoms or privileges. You may be expected to sit deathwatch. You will need to deal with funeral plans, legal issues, and supporting your mate and any other children emotionally. Same as Death of a parent
Death of spouse Either or both Any This particular milestone doesn't really engender new freedoms or privileges, unless your marriage was unhappy, in which case see "Divorce". You may be expected to sit deathwatch. You will need to deal with funeral plans, legal issues, and family expectations. Same as Death of a parent
Menopause (women). Men do have some age-related hormonal changes, but generally not as dramatic. More likely secular but could be religious Generally early fifties You no longer have to worry about getting pregnant or planning for menstrual periods. Depending on your community and/or religious tradition, this may be the point where you are seen as a Wise Old Elder, expected to dispense wisdom and solve people's problems. The Usenet newsgroup alt.support.menopause suggested that upon completion of menopause, a woman should paint her nails gold.

Many Pagan traditions offer or can develop a ritual to celebrate entering the Crone / elder phase of life.
Retirement Secular Mid-60s on, except for medical retirement / disability, which could be at any age You are no longer expected to work at a full-time job, and are free to do whatever you want with your time. Retirement traditionally comes about the time your children are having children and need a babysitter. You may choose to "elder-as-a-verb" in other ways, such as by volunteer work or mentoring younger people in your career path. Most companies will have some kind of retirement recognition, whether it's a formal dinner and presentation of a gold watch, or a pizza party in the conference room.
Death Either or both Statistically, late sixties, but could be any time from birth onward Depending on your beliefs, this particular milestone may not engender new freedoms or privileges. On the other hand, it may offer the privilege of a rest between lives. Depending on your beliefs, this particular milestone may not engender new responsibilities. On the other hand, it may offer the important choice of which new life with what lessons to be learned. Ideally, you have family or a community that will fulfill your wishes for how you want your death recognized.

Tags: pagan

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