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Initiation: More Than Just A Ritual

This week, I’m reflecting on “Initiation”. The word initiation is not just about a ritual to admit someone into some obscure society or group. It also means the introduction of someone into a particular lifestyle, activity, or skill. You’ll find out more about this in a quote by Malidoma Somé at the end of this text.

A few days ago, I stumbled across a book “Of Water And The Spirit”. I found the book so interesting that I finished it in two nights. In the book, Malidoma Patrice Somé, narrates the experience of being kidnapped in the early 1950s at age four by a French Jesuit missionary, to be trained as a priest. For 15 years, he endured the harsh regimen of a seminary where his native language and tribal traditions were systematically suppressed. At the age of twenty, he escaped from the school to return to his people but he was rejected. To be accepted back into his culture, he had to go through several weeks of initiation into shamanism. He went through this profound initiation experience during which he journeyed to the ‘underworld’ but came back alive.

Unlike Somé, I was born into a Christian religion and household, but I’ve always had a certain curiosity about me which in effect made me open to other beliefs and faiths. Even as a child, I was never convinced that God was restricted to the four walls of a church building and I always scrutinised narrow-minded ways of thinking and doing things. Somé’s book opened my eyes to traditions which I know exists and are evidently part of the African history, but to which I was never exposed. These are ancient traditions similar to many others around the world, which existed long before christianity tried to take over the world, and long before people were being labeled witches and burned at the stake.

So, what makes one belief system good and the other bad? Is it not one and the same God we seek? Why do we have discrimination based on one’s belief or religion?

“God, the Great Divine, the Creator, The Source, or whatever name or gender one gives it, is a presence that resides in everyone, and from my experience, this presence is everywhere....My dream is to see a world where there are no separations or exclusions based on one’s belief or religion. Maybe it’s a long way to get there, but maybe if more and more people were open minded and started recognizing that we are all connected, we might get there soon” (Your Truth: Unlocking The Treasures Within, by Grace Denker).

So here’s the very important message on initiation, an excerpt taken from Somé’s book. It’s part of his last words in the book Of Water And The Spirit:

“Any person who is interested in his or her path, must be interested in his or her past...initiation is something that means the departure of one type of person in us and the replacement of that type of person with a different one, so it results in greater clarity and understanding of the reason why we are here in this world. I’m not telling my own initiation story so that people would go in search for that type of initiation. I’m telling it so that people can understand that the kind of subtle voices they hear within themselves, the dreams that bring them all the strange images, that encounter they may have had in nature in their walks, in their sleep, may not be the product of their own imagination but may be connected to some very concrete and solid reality having a lot to do with them...And maybe those people who are experiencing the magic everyday are probably being asked to use that magic to shed light in their day-to-day lives. Just as magic is connected somehow with something painful, people must understand that painful challenges that they face everyday are perhaps the kinds of clues that they must look at in association with initiation. In other words, it may mean that perhaps this is what their own initiation is. And by knowing that, develop a form of submission to it that can not only accelerate it but bring them closer to themselves and to the kind of home that this kind of initiation is meant...”

So as you too reflect on the word "initiation", it may be helpful to try and connect it with any kind of challenges you're currently going through.

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