Rites of Initiation and War Paint

Although my son had not witnessed it before, he was especially intrigued with the old confirmation method of agreement done by each party spitting into their hand and then shaking upon their agreement. It’s a boy thing, I guess.

The biblical initiation rite of marriage had to be broached as our family continued through our study of Wineskins, but we didn’t dwell on it. Instead we took the moment to discuss types of initiations and why they are used.

It seems that most initiation rites fall into one of four main categories:

  1. Exchanges of bodily fluids
  2. Sacrifices of life or Promises to give up life
  3. Acts of fear
  4. Acts of embarrassment

Dogs on the other hand have a very simple but humanly undesirable method for verifying friend or foe: “Tail” sniffing. Perhaps they have discovered that the back end is more trustworthy than the front end.

How much more simple life would be if we could just trust one another to follow through with their commitments based upon a simple “Yes” or “No”–you know, to be able to take them at their word without requiring additional antics (James 5:12).

Sometimes, however, the ritual is less about keeping one’s covenant and more about demonstrating acceptance. Years ago, on a cross-country bicycle trip in New Zealand, I recall a special initiation welcome at a native indian lodge where we were scheduled to spend the night. After a 100+ mile trek, some 60 bikers, faces coated with different colored zinc sunblock (like the kind used by lifeguards at the beach), lined up to enter the lodge. Several Mauri elders welcomed each and every one of us by rubbing noses. By the end of the line, the Mauri’s looked like they were painted for war, complete with all the sweat of battle already coating their faces.

 What initiation rites have caught your interest?


About grahamAlive

Christian Author
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