Initiation is a part of most religious traditions; at its heart it is a ceremony for beginning and an important part of the spiritual journey. Van Gennep (1909/1960) coined the phrase “rites of passage” to refer in general to those moments of transition where one moves from one social status to another. There are age-graded rituals, rites of passage from childhood into adulthood, from single to married status, and the final rites of burial after death. But in addition to these major life passages, there are in each society a number of special groups one can join or is invited to join that have their own initiation rituals as part of entering into the community.
Initiation is an essential component of most esoteric constituencies within larger traditions; but rites of passage are also celebrated in the exoteric or more publically available forms of the tradition. Initiation is a particular type of beginning, one marked by a special process of preparation, often involving physical or...
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