Initiation
Overview
Initiation is a rite of passage
Rite of passage
A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person's progress from one status to another. It is a universal phenomenon which can show anthropologists what social hierarchies, values and beliefs are important in specific cultures....

 ceremony
Ceremony
A ceremony is an event of ritual significance, performed on a special occasion. The word may be of Etruscan origin.-Ceremonial occasions:A ceremony may mark a rite of passage in a human life, marking the significance of, for example:* birth...

 marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components. In an extended sense it can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is 'reborn' into a new role.

Examples of initiation ceremonies might include Hindu diksha
Diksha
Diksa also spelled deeksha or deeksa in common usage, translated as a "preparation or consecration for a religious ceremony", is giving of a mantra or an initiation by the guru in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism...

, Christian baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 or confirmation
Confirmation (Christian sacrament)
Confirmation is a rite of initiation in Christian churches, normally carried out through anointing and/or the laying on of hands and prayer for the purpose of bestowing the Gift of the Holy Spirit....

, Jewish bar or bat mitzvah
B'nai Mitzvah
Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah are Jewish coming of age rituals. According to Jewish law, when Jewish boys reach 13, they become responsible for their actions and become a Bar Mitzvah . The age for girls is 12...

, acceptance into a fraternal organization, secret society
Secret society
A secret society is a club or organization whose activities and inner functioning are concealed from non-members. The society may or may not attempt to conceal its existence. The term usually excludes covert groups, such as intelligence agencies or guerrilla insurgencies, which hide their...

 or religious order
Religious order
A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of initiates and, in some...

, or graduation
Graduation
Graduation is the action of receiving or conferring an academic degree or the ceremony that is sometimes associated, where students become Graduates. Before the graduation, candidates are referred to as Graduands. The date of graduation is often called degree day. The graduation itself is also...

 from school or recruit training
Recruit training
Recruit training, more commonly known as Basic Training and colloquially called Boot Camp, is the initial indoctrination and instruction given to new military personnel, enlisted and officer...

.

A person taking the initiation ceremony in traditional rites, such as those depicted in these pictures, is called an initiate or initiand.
The English word derives from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, initium: "entrance" or "beginning," literally "a going in." The related English verb, "initiate", means to begin or start a particular action, event, circumstance
Circumstance
- Legal terms :* Aggravating circumstance* Attendant circumstance, a legal concept which Black's Law Dictionary defines as the "facts surrounding an event."* Exigent circumstance* Extenuating circumstances- Films :...

, or happening
Happening
A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art. Happenings take place anywhere , are often multi-disciplinary, with a nonlinear narrative and the active participation of the audience...

.
A spiritual initiation rite normally implies a shepherding process where those who are at a higher level guide the initiate through a process of greater exposure of knowledge.
Encyclopedia
Initiation is a rite of passage
Rite of passage
A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person's progress from one status to another. It is a universal phenomenon which can show anthropologists what social hierarchies, values and beliefs are important in specific cultures....

 ceremony
Ceremony
A ceremony is an event of ritual significance, performed on a special occasion. The word may be of Etruscan origin.-Ceremonial occasions:A ceremony may mark a rite of passage in a human life, marking the significance of, for example:* birth...

 marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components. In an extended sense it can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is 'reborn' into a new role.

Examples of initiation ceremonies might include Hindu diksha
Diksha
Diksa also spelled deeksha or deeksa in common usage, translated as a "preparation or consecration for a religious ceremony", is giving of a mantra or an initiation by the guru in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism...

, Christian baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 or confirmation
Confirmation (Christian sacrament)
Confirmation is a rite of initiation in Christian churches, normally carried out through anointing and/or the laying on of hands and prayer for the purpose of bestowing the Gift of the Holy Spirit....

, Jewish bar or bat mitzvah
B'nai Mitzvah
Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah are Jewish coming of age rituals. According to Jewish law, when Jewish boys reach 13, they become responsible for their actions and become a Bar Mitzvah . The age for girls is 12...

, acceptance into a fraternal organization, secret society
Secret society
A secret society is a club or organization whose activities and inner functioning are concealed from non-members. The society may or may not attempt to conceal its existence. The term usually excludes covert groups, such as intelligence agencies or guerrilla insurgencies, which hide their...

 or religious order
Religious order
A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of initiates and, in some...

, or graduation
Graduation
Graduation is the action of receiving or conferring an academic degree or the ceremony that is sometimes associated, where students become Graduates. Before the graduation, candidates are referred to as Graduands. The date of graduation is often called degree day. The graduation itself is also...

 from school or recruit training
Recruit training
Recruit training, more commonly known as Basic Training and colloquially called Boot Camp, is the initial indoctrination and instruction given to new military personnel, enlisted and officer...

.

A person taking the initiation ceremony in traditional rites, such as those depicted in these pictures, is called an initiate or initiand.

Etymology

The English word derives from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, initium: "entrance" or "beginning," literally "a going in." The related English verb, "initiate", means to begin or start a particular action, event, circumstance
Circumstance
- Legal terms :* Aggravating circumstance* Attendant circumstance, a legal concept which Black's Law Dictionary defines as the "facts surrounding an event."* Exigent circumstance* Extenuating circumstances- Films :...

, or happening
Happening
A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art. Happenings take place anywhere , are often multi-disciplinary, with a nonlinear narrative and the active participation of the audience...

.

Religious and other spiritual initiations

A spiritual initiation rite normally implies a shepherding process where those who are at a higher level guide the initiate through a process of greater exposure of knowledge. This may include the revelation of secrets, hence the term secret society for such organizations, usually reserved for those at the higher level of understanding. One famous historical example is the Eleusinian Mysteries
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance...

 of ancient Greece, thought to go back to at least the Mycenaean period
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

 or "bronze age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

".

In the context of ritual magic and esotericism
Esotericism
Esotericism or Esoterism signifies the holding of esoteric opinions or beliefs, that is, ideas preserved or understood by a small group or those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest. The term derives from the Greek , a compound of : "within", thus "pertaining to the more inward",...

, an initiation is considered to cause a fundamental process of change to begin within the person being initiated. The person conducting the initiation (the initiator), being in possession of a certain power or state of being, transfers this power or state to the person being initiated. Thus the concept of initiation is similar to that of apostolic succession
Apostolic Succession
Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, which asserts that the chosen successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day, have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were...

. The initiation process is often likened to a simultaneous death and rebirth, because as well as being a beginning it also implies an ending as existence on one level drops away in an ascension to the next.
Initiation is a key component of Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu, or his associated Avatars such as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God....

, Sant Mat
Sant Mat
Sant Mat was a loosely associated group of teachers that became prominent in the northern part of the Indian sub-continent from about the 13th century...

, Surat Shabd Yoga
Surat Shabd Yoga
Surat Shabd Yoga or Surat Shabda Yoga is a form of spiritual practice that is followed in the Sant Mat and many other related spiritual traditions...

 and similar religious gnostic
Gnosis
Gnosis is the common Greek noun for knowledge . In the context of the English language gnosis generally refers to the word's meaning within the spheres of Christian mysticism, Mystery religions and Gnosticism where it signifies 'spiritual knowledge' in the sense of mystical enlightenment.-Related...

 traditions. It denotes acceptance by the Guru
Guru
A guru is one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom, and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others . Other forms of manifestation of this principle can include parents, school teachers, non-human objects and even one's own intellectual discipline, if the...

 and also implies that the Chela
Chela
Chela has two main meanings. One derivation comes from Hindi from Sanskrit , meaning "slave" or "servant". In English, the word means a religious student or disciple...

 (student or disciple) agrees to the requirements (such as living an ethical lifestyle, meditating, etc.)

Trade union initiations

In unionised
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

 organization
Organization
An organization is a social group which distributes tasks for a collective goal. The word itself is derived from the Greek word organon, itself derived from the better-known word ergon - as we know `organ` - and it means a compartment for a particular job.There are a variety of legal types of...

s, the "initiation" is typically no more than a brief familiarization with basic procedures and the provision of a copy of the appropriate collective bargaining
Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and the representatives of a unit of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions...

 agreement
Contract
A contract is an agreement entered into by two parties or more with the intention of creating a legal obligation, which may have elements in writing. Contracts can be made orally. The remedy for breach of contract can be "damages" or compensation of money. In equity, the remedy can be specific...

 that governs the work performed by members of the union. Some unions also charge a one-time initiation fee, after which the joining person
Person
A person is a human being, or an entity that has certain capacities or attributes strongly associated with being human , for example in a particular moral or legal context...

 is officially deemed to be a member in good standing.

Naval and military initiations

Some communities on board a military vessel and also of military soldiers tend to form a closed 'family' which absorbs in members, who are often formally accepted, generally after a form of trial or hazing
Hazing
Hazing is a term used to describe various ritual and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group....

.

In addition, there can be similar rites of passages associated with parts of naval and military life, which do not constitute true initiations as the participants are already and remain members of the same community. One such rite is associated with crossing the equator on board a naval ship, but it can even be taken by passengers on board a cruise liner, who are not and do not become members of anything but the so-called "equator crossing club". Another form, “Kissing the Royal Belly” or “Royal Baby”, calls for initiates to kneel before a senior member of the crew, who wears a mock diaper. This “Baby” usually has a huge stomach covered with greasy materials ranging from cooking oil to mustard, shaving cream, eggs, and oysters. Junior sailors must lick the Baby’s navel area, while the "baby" grabs and shakes their head to better smear the goo onto their faces.

Gang initiations

Gang
Gang
A gang is a group of people who, through the organization, formation, and establishment of an assemblage, share a common identity. In current usage it typically denotes a criminal organization or else a criminal affiliation. In early usage, the word gang referred to a group of workmen...

s often require new members to commit crimes before accepting them as part of the gang. New members may be physically beaten by fellow gang members to demonstrate their courage, also known as "beat in" or "jump in", which occasionally results in a fatality. One study indicates that young people are more likely to be hurt in gang initiation than they are by refusing to join.

Tribal initiations

Tribes often have initiations. The initiation done in the Bapedi tribe of South Africa is normally regarded as a stage where a boy is to be taught manhood and a girl to be taught womanhood. In many African tribes, initiation involves circumcision
Circumcision
Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin from the penis. The word "circumcision" comes from Latin and ....

 of males and sometimes circumcision
Female genital cutting
Female genital mutilation , also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined by the World Health Organization as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."FGM...

/genital mutilation
Genital mutilation
Genital mutilation can refer to:*Clitoridectomy*Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision*Genital modification and mutilation*Infibulation...

 of females as well. Initiation is considered necessary for the individual to be regarded as a full member of the tribe. Otherwise, the individual may not be allowed to participate in ceremonies or even in social ritual such as marriage. A man will not be allowed to marry or have any special relationship with a woman who did not go to an initiation, because she is not considered to be a woman.

Initiation may be thought of as an event which may help teens prepare themselves to be good husbands and wives. Where modernization is occurring, initiation is not taken so seriously as before, although there are still certain areas which still perform initiations.

In some African tribes, boys take about 3–4 months participating in initiation rites and girls take about 1–2 months.

Australian Aboriginal tribes usually had long periods of time to help prepare adolescent boys, teaching them the Law before they were ready to attend large elaborate ceremonies at the time of initiation when they were finally recognized as full-fledged men in their society. Most tribes had circumcision and scarification
Scarification
Scarifying involves scratching, etching, burning, or superficially cutting designs, pictures, or words into the skin as a permanent body modification.In the process of body scarification, scars are formed by cutting or branding the skin...

 as part of the male initiation rituals, while many Central Australian tribes also practiced subincision
Subincision
Penile subincision is a form of body modification consisting of a urethrotomy, in which the underside of the penis is incised and the urethra slit open lengthwise, from the urethral opening toward the base...

.

Mircea Eliade

Mircea Eliade
Mircea Eliade
Mircea Eliade was a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He was a leading interpreter of religious experience, who established paradigms in religious studies that persist to this day...

 discussed initiation as a principal religious act by classical or traditional societies. He defined initiation as "a basic change in existential condition," which liberates man from profane time and history. "Initiation recapitulates the sacred history of the world. And through this recapitulation, the whole world is sanctified anew... [the initiand] can perceive the world as a sacred work, a creation of the Gods."

Reasons for and functions of Initiation

  • "this real valuation of ritual death finally led to conquest of the fear of real death."
  • "[initiation's] function is to reveal the deep meaning of existence to the new generations and to help them assume the responsibility of being truly men and hence of participating in culture."
  • "it reveals a world open to the trans-human, a world that, in our philosophical terminology, we should call transcendental."
  • "to make [the initiand] open to spiritual values."

Types of initiation

Eliade differentiates between types of initiations in two ways: types and functions.
Types
  • Puberty
    Puberty
    Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...

     Rites- "collective rituals whose function is to effect the transition from childhood or adolescence to adulthood." They represent "above all the revelation of the sacred."
  • Entering into a Secret Society
    Secret society
    A secret society is a club or organization whose activities and inner functioning are concealed from non-members. The society may or may not attempt to conceal its existence. The term usually excludes covert groups, such as intelligence agencies or guerrilla insurgencies, which hide their...

    -
  • Mystical Vocation
    Vocation
    A vocation , is a term for an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.-Senses:...

    - "the vocation of a medicine man or a shaman." This is limited to the few who are "destined to participate in a more intense religious experience than is accessible to the rest of the community."

These can be broken into two types:
  • puberty
    Puberty
    Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...

    rites, "by virtue of which adolescents gain access to the sacred, to knowledge, and to sexuality-- by which, in short, they become human beings."
  • specialized initiations, which certain individuals undergo in order to transcend their human condition and become proteges of the Supernatural Beings or even their equals."
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