Rite of Passage, Kyriarchic Warrior Mentality, or Issues with Father? Universal Elements of Male Initiation and their Potential for Men in the West
Fanning, Ian Robert
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The decline of male initiation rituals in the West is lamented by authors articulating a variety of perspectives. However, the full extent of the decline and the subsequent impact on men, women and children is difficult to measure. There are many different descriptions of male initiation and many different conclusions regarding its purpose. Rather than concluding that the decline of male initiation contributes to hypermasculine behaviours or that the decline of male initiation frees men from forms of oppression, in this essay I both review a number of approaches in an assessment of current literature and undertake a search for common elements in such rituals with a view to determining whether a “good” ritual or rite of initiation for men in the West is possible, and, if so, what it might include. Identification of universal elements of male initiation across different approaches provides a starting point for re-defining and recovering “male initiation” in the West. Three of the most prominent approaches to male initiation in the West are those of ritual theorists, those of Christian ministers and scholars, and those of secular practitioners and writers. This paper examines perspectives on male initiation and the sub-topics within each of the three approaches. It traces the development of each perspective and identifies common elements of male initiation. Arguments will be made for the rejection of certain elements not common to all three approaches. My concluding analysis will review the elements I find to be universal and potentially valuable to new rites for men in the West.