It always struck me as a bit odd when I’d see interviews with survivors of accidents, natural disasters, violent encounters, etc., and they’d talk about how – now that they’d faced death or grave injury – they realized life is short and they shouldn’t waste it, and they should appreciate all they have and pursue their dreams and all of that. As a Dionysian, these revelations seem rather obvious. I have always been acutely aware of the limits of my lifespan and eager to live each moment to the fullest. I wondered if perhaps this mindset of other people was indicative of our screwed up culture that encourages them to be mindless, consuming drones (because if you know the value of life and want to do something significant with it, you may not be interested in working 60-hour weeks or spending all your money on useless junk). In other words, it takes a life-threatening disaster to wake them up.
But then it finally occurred to me that it was not only the pervasive cultural somnambulism to blame, but more specifically the lack of traditional initiation rituals, especially the sort that are physically and/or mentally challenging in the extreme. When – in order to enter adulthood or become a full member of your group – you have to go through an ordeal, then you have already had something terrible happen to you and survived. You come to that same place, where you know your purpose and don’t take things for granted, and you come to it much earlier in life and with the full support of your community.
Some spirit-workers refer to ordeal rituals as a “hunt for power” because of the mojo you gain from facing your fears, facing physical pain, and getting through it to the other side. Well, better to go out hunting for it than to have it knock you upside the head and destroy your whole world-view! And better to do it early than live half your life without really having lived it. Just some food for thought.