The pagan ritual of transformation Julian Huxley once wrote that the basic elements in cultural transmission and transformation are psychological. This is how we change. Since time immemorial, high rituals have been performed to transform reality.
Ritual is a spiritual psycho-drama of consciousness; a deliberate action taken to facilitate change; changes to the whole of the environment people exist in, starting with the mental landscape of the people themselves; “the place where our reality exists is first born in a dream.”
Artist Sharon Devlin once bluntly described the true purpose of ritual as being a:
“… method to alter one’s mind. It’s a sacred drama in which you are the audience as well as the participant. And the purpose of it is to activate parts of the mind that are not activated by everyday activity.”
Ritual facilitates the mechanics of change through specific mechanisms; a rhythm to sync to; to merge and flow with; a magnetic draw, drawing one on the path toward transmutation.
Rituals are vehicles driving home those ideas; the information, the data, the symbols which upon transmission create the language by which new society members communicate after they are initiated.
This new language imparts a new understanding through definitions that the ritual generates.
A ritual initiation introduces and inducts one into “the way”; a new way of life or world view; a program to guide beliefs and actions, enabling the initiate to become a full and true member of the new society.
Note that ritual isn’t always a conscious action. Not everyone partaking in a ritual is made explicitly aware that they are participants. And yet, still, new patterns of thoughts, of significance, are drummed in; conscious or not of the ritual in which the initiate is partaking.
the pagan ritual of transformation The three stages of an initiation ritual
An initiation ritual typically involves three stages.
Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar to you.
The first stage is isolation for purification.
In this stage, the initiate is separated from the mundane. Did you know that mundane literally means “of the world?”
The initiate is largely removed from the otherwise familiar persons, places and things that they’re used to in order to be “cleared” of them.
An initiate is forced to become detached and insulated, purged and “purified.”
An essential element of this separation from one’s typical environment is the suspension of the normal rules of living that one is used to; the normal way.
Most of the initiate’s senses will become commanded and regulated at this time. In other words, the majority of what the initiate sees, hears, smells, touches and tastes, is deliberately controlled.
In the ritual, these senses may be bombarded, modified, limited or deprived. But, regardless, perceptions and experiences are ultimately overseen by the high priest and priestesses directing the ritual’s performance.
The ritual enables new light to shine through a newly opened window of thoughts.
With nowhere else to go except the places that we’re “allowed,” the insulated, isolated, initiated may be forced to confront his or her own reflection and inner shadows that have been ignored or buried somewhere deep beneath the average day-to-day.
These things suddenly become unavoidable.
Triggers are detonated; another purge.
Just as they involve surrender, initiation rituals also involve sacrifice; both the tangible that can be held in the hand, and the intangible, such as behaviors, must be given up by requirement.
After all, for something to be “given,” something must also be taken; a token of submission, an ounce of blood; a pound of clay to be remolded.
Whether dramatically overt or deceitfully subtle, the ritual reinterprets reality; a new definition of reality is given. Training in the form of new behaviors and knowledge, including myths and codes are introduced.
Things necessary for new members to function properly in the society they’re being inducted into are all imbued during this time.
Repetition is typical, as its use helps hammer home the spell on the initiates.
The wearing of masks for the initiates
The wearing of masks during an initiation ritual is almost always required. Masking has traditionally played an important role in the rituals of these kinds.
Masks hasten the suppression of ego to help facilitate the death of the old identity before the identification with, and the manifestation of, a new identity.
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Disguised under a mask and hidden away, the initiate is more easily able to transcend the self; pushed forward toward that invisible line between the physical and spiritual realms.
Trauma is yet another key aspect of this kind of initiation ceremony. It’s used mostly to personalize the fear of death.
Sometimes in the ritual, the act of dying is ceremonially role played; the dark beyond the darkness; the yawning abyss.
Only after death is confronted can the initiated by symbolically resurrected and reborn anew.
While the process that is playing out is quite coordinated and sophisticated in reality, it may be executed in a purposefully confusing manner; so that the goalposts seem to keep moving back and forth, up and down, here now there immediately after.
This renders the initiate unable to find solid mental ground from which to make logical sense of anything.
This disorientation is key in the transformation ritual.
The uncertain timing generates a general anxiety, further removing the initiate from reality while leaving him or her more susceptible to a type of pavlovian conditioning.
This weakens the defenses just as a virus would. Only this has the potential to break down the individual much more completely than a virus.
Whatever the finer details, the previous way of life is shed like an old skin at the end of the ritual; an end that comes before the new beginning.
The change begins.
This is the second phase; the transition. As the old self symbolically dies and passes away, the initiate descends into a state of liminality; a sort of fever-dream purgatory-nowhere land; the void in the middle.
At the same time his old existence and way of life dies, the initiate transcending it is gradually being processed, reprogrammed and incorporated into his new environment; reformed, reconstituted and rebirthed into the new world that awaits at the end of the tunnel.
At some point in the future, we will see the final phase of the transformation ritual; integration.
Does any of what’s been described in this article sound familiar to you?
The only question that remains is: do you consent?