Wow, does our culture ever lack rights of passage!
Ever since I was young I have been drawn to tribal initiation ritual. As a young boy I would flip through pages of National Geographic looking at the tattoos and body piercings of indigenous peoples around the world.
For me the attraction has never really been about art as much as about ritual and initiation. It was a way of becoming what so many ancient cultures called a "warrior". To them, a warrior is not just someone capable of waging war, but rather someone who is capable of confronting themselves.
The ritualistic initiation is usually designed to thrust you out of your comfort zone... often way out! Whether the pain and blood of tattoo or scarring, the mock death of the psychoactive brews, or the hunger and thirst of the vision quest, these rituals powerfully silence the voice of doubt and introduce a child into the world of adulthood.
Without this in our lives many of us seek to re-create it...
I think that many of us seek opportunities to create a "proving ground" experience for ourselves, whether this is a daring sport adventure like rock climbing or skydiving, something more ritualized like a Native American SweatLodge or Peruvian Ayahuasca Ceremony, or maybe even acts of nutritional resolve like lengthy juice or water fasts or rawfood diets, these things help us to prove to ourselves what we are really made of.
Is this simply ego, or is it something more fundamental to the needs of Fully Formed Humans? Though I understand (and have finally accepted) that we can not go back to the indigenous ways, I do feel that they offer us important insight into how we can move forward in the creation of a sustainable and functional culture here on Earth.
Enter the Bullet Ant...
A few nights back I was talking to the owner of a local wine bar about the native meads, wines, and beers of indigenous peoples. He asked if I had ever seen the "Bullet Ant Initiation" from the Amazon.
When I told him I hadn't he pulled this video up on his iPhone... I had to share it!
The video is intense, and at first perhaps a challenge to fully understand. As someone who has been through a few painful initiations I can appreciate why something like this has been built into their culture. Imagine really knowing what your allies are capable of, what they have been through, and how very committed they are to you, your family, your tribe, your culture.
Is it possible that the lack of such ritual actually hurts us more than the ritual itself?
I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below!