‘Rites of Passage’: What is it?


  • Author Heidi Thompson
  • Published May 31, 2019
  • Word count 1,177

What are Rites of Passage?

Rites of Passage are special ceremonies that mark and honor important stages or events in a person’s life. These ceremonies are community gatherings that celebrate an individual’s or group’s completion of one life phase. They also provide a way to pass on wisdom so people can move through their next developmental stage with maturity, stability, and success.

‘Rites of Passage’ are an important way to support human evolution. When we say human evolution, we are describing the processes of growth and maturation that occur from the moment of birth through death. Known as "life transitions," these times of change can be an incredible opportunity for development when the individual has the recognition, knowledge, and support of their community. In this way, Rites of Passage provide both education and a resource circle for successfully moving through major life changes.

Rites of Passage Ceremonies

These ceremonies have existed for thousands of years; yet many people in modern society have never experienced a ‘Rites of Passage’ and some may not even know what they are.

Without this kind of encouragement, people are more likely to go through hardship, stress, or chaos. Our children and teenagers are especially at risk, and many of them seek to create their own rites of passage as a way to initiate themselves and their peers into adulthood. This vital need has often manifested into dangerous behaviors such as hazing, bullying, and risk-taking. The Sweet Medicine SunDance Path is contemporary spiritual tradition offering many of the "Rites of Passage" ceremonies. One central focus in all ‘Rites of Passage’ ceremonies is the connection humans have with nature.

Rites of Passage and the Natural World

The nature of our planet is cyclical, meaning there are patterns of change that occur across time even as the world continues to evolve. Seasons and the waxing and waning of the moon are some examples of the cycles of nature. Winter, spring, summer, and fall happen year after year even as new species are discovered, other species becomes extinct and the planet’s climate patterns shift.

Like the changes that occur in the natural world, humans experience cycles and evolution in their bodies and lives. Women have menstrual cycles each month and all human bodies age. Even in mainstream modern life, it is noted that more chaotic events happen on the night of a full moon. Many women who spend time together or live closely may have their menstrual cycles sync up with each other. These are some examples of how planetary cycles relate to the changes in people's bodies, minds, emotions, and souls.

Wise men and women from cultures around the world long ago recognized this relationship and acknowledged the importance of providing support to people as they grow. When people learn how to be in alignment with planetary cycles of evolution, they become more open to living with creativity and deeper connection to others. ‘Rites of Passage’ were born from the gathering of wisdom into teachings and ceremonies that could offer this level of encouragement and initiation for all people throughout their life.

Why are ‘Rites of Passage’ Important?

The Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society (DTMMS) is a spiritual organization bringing ‘Rites of Passage’ to individuals and communities around the world. For over 30 years, DTMMS has been home to the Sweet Medicine SunDance Path (SMSD), a body of teachings and ceremonies designed to support human evolution and the quest for enlightenment. Rites of Passage are one category of SMSD ceremonies that are changing they way people learn and grow.

Each ‘Rites of Passage’ ceremony is unique and contains elements significant to the ceremonial purpose. They may include purification lodges and community gatherings. Teachings specific to the ceremony's intent are also provided. The overall goal is to help each individual commemorate the milestone they have reached and explore their present-day values and concepts. Qualified ceremonial leaders impart new wisdom that is relevant to the individual’s next stage of development. This gives them the opportunity to have success at the greatest level as they move through their next maturational cycle.

There are two categories of life transitions supported by ‘Rites of Passage’ ceremonies. One is designed for specific ages and the other is for major life changes such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or loss of a loved one. Puberty and menopause are two examples of this later group.

Age specific ‘Rites of Passage’ ceremonies are offered at ages 27, 30, 33, 45, 54, 57 and 60. These critical turning points in life are key opportunities for people to face their challenges, gain greater self-awareness, and empower their next phase of development. The 27, 30, 33, and 45 year ‘Rites of Passage’ ceremonies are offered to a group of individuals and are led by a trained specialist.

Rites of Passage: Ceremonies for Life Transitions

The second category of ‘Rites of Passage’ support our life transitions from the moment of birth. Before a young person reaches the age of 18, there are 22 chronological ceremonial opportunities within the SMSD path. Puberty and adolescence for boys and girls fall within this category. All 22 ceremonies are designed to support the child as they mature into adults. Many of them are attended by extended family and the community. These include ceremonies when the child is born, naming ceremonies, and others at various phases of the child’s life as they develop into young adults.

Another example of a life transition celebrated through ‘Rites of Passage’ in the SMSD path is for women who are experiencing menopause or perimenopause. These women learn about the physical and hormonal changes happening in their bodies and how to cultivate greater health during this time. These ceremonies are led by a qualified facilitator who can help demystify this phase in a woman’s life so she can access greater beauty and care for her body and her passions.

Rites of Passage: Awakening the Planet through Knowledge that Works

‘Rites of Passage’ ceremonies are an opportunity to shift the way each person experiences growth and maturation. They offer essential support as a person moves through birth, puberty, maturity, aging, and death. Without these ‘Rites of Passage’ ceremonies, the speed of an individual’s growth can slow down.

Each person is capable of moving through the various phases of life transitions with wisdom, skill, and joy. No longer is it necessary to live with unpleasant confusion, loss, or regret. We can provide children, young people, and adults of all ages with the choice and opportunity to catalyze their greatest potential. ‘Rites of Passage’ ceremonies are one way the Sweet Medicine SunDance Path is seeking to bring hope, joy, and tools for enlightenment to the planet.

The Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society (DTMMS) offers ‘Rites of Passage’ ceremonies to all people through the Sweet Medicine SunDance Path (SMSD). These special ceremonies mark and honor important stages or events in a person’s life. These community gatherings celebrate an individual’s or group’s completion of one life phase. ‘Rites of Passage’ are one category of SMSD ceremonies that are changing they way people learn and grow.

Visit dtmms.org to find out more about the ‘Rites of Passage’ specialist in your area.

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