Rites of passage are activities and rituals to recognise, enable and celebrate the move from one life stage to another. We can see a faint vestige of this currently for teenagers finishing secondary school. Traditional tribal cultures placed great importance on rites of passage, and I believe modern society would benefit too: including the start of elderhood.
The Vision Quest is a traditional rite of passage for adolescents moving towards adulthood, and I have helped lead several of these at Hazel Hill. Central to these is spending 24 hours or more alone in a natural setting, with the support of older guides to prepare for and come out of this time.
Since 2011, I have led several groups for older men and women, and have been working on my book, Out of the Woods: A Guide to Life for Men Beyond 50. This has led me into a lot of pondering about rites of passage for the move into elderhood. I’ve concluded that this is a very different process than approaching adulthood.
The initiation of teenagers into adulthood is typically led by older men or women, and includes instructing them in the norms, values and codes of adult society. Whereas my sense of initiation into elderhood is that it should be more a self-guided, gradual process, which a mentor can support rather than direct. There are many other differences: for example, a teenager may seek a vision around personal fulfilment, whereas new elders are often moving towards being, presence and enabling. And in a Wisdom Quest, the level of physical challenge/comfort can be tailored to each person.
My main ally in exploring this is Jeremy Thres, who is the best guide I know for Vision Quests, and similar processes. We have coined the term Wisdom Quest to describe a rite of passage for elderhood, and we are offering the first of these at Hazel Hill Wood on July 3 – 8.
The maximum group size will be 8, so that we can tailor the event closely to the needs and life situation of the participants. We are intending to have a solo time of up to 48 hours as the heart of the event, and the wisdom and healing of Hazel Hill Wood will undoubtedly play a big part. Our intent is to create a process suitable for men and women approaching elderhood, entering it, or already well into it. Facing our dying to enrich our living is also likely to be an important part of the event, and is a major theme which Jeremy and I have already worked on.
For more information and bookings:
contact Alan on 07976 602787 or email@example.com,