A Vision Quest is a rite of passage, an initiation rite, a transition ritual.
It contains the devotion of a person to die and be reborn.
And after this process, returning from this encounter anew to their 'community'. This is a ritual, and a ritual can be a catalyst.
By dedication, focus and connection it guides us to another reality. According to Jung they affect our psyche because they connect with our archetypes. They increase our consciousness by entering our subconsciousness, letting light shine upon.
Part of the ritual of the Vision Quest takes place by going out into the nature on your own. Usually for the duration of three or four days and nights, with little comforts of the profane world. Without food, tent, phone or any other object that could dim boredom or loneliness. The solitude will create an unfolding in your own unique way. The old will make place for the new. And you will know what it is that you need to reclaim and initiate yourself into.
'"Initiation rites symbolise the death of the novice (marking the end of childhood, ignorance and the profane) as well as the rebirth of the novice (marking their return to the tribe with another mode of being).
This death-rebirth ritual is also a symbolic microcosm of the society’s creation myth – the symbolic repetition of the creation myth is intended to foster the presence of the gods. In initiation rites, ‘death’ corresponds to a temporary return to the primordial Chaos out of which the universe was born, while ‘rebirth’ corresponds to the birth of the universe. Out of this symbolic re-enactment of the creation myth, a new individual is born.
Eliade highlights that “initiatory death is indispensible for the beginning of spiritual life. Its function must be understood in relation to what it prepares: birth to a higher mode of being.” Initiation rites can be viewed as an expression of the death-rebirth myth which is so ingrained in human psychology. In almost every ancient culture you will find the myth of the ‘dying-and-rising-god’ – Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Queztalcoatl (Aztec), Osiris, Isis, Horus, Ra, Tammuz (Babylonian), Baldr (Norse), Izanami (Japanese), Dionysus, Adonis, Persephone – all died and were reborn.
The Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, argued that death and resurrection are archetypal (universal) processes which are part of the collective unconscious (the innate realm of the human mind containing archetypes – universal symbols which shape our personal experiences). For Jung, the archetypal processes of death and resurrection can be utilised in the task of psychological transformation and growth.
Initiation rites, especially those which involve pain and struggle, can also be viewed as expressions of Joseph Campbell’s idea of the ‘hero’s journey’. The ‘hero’s journey’ or ‘monomyth’ is a basic pattern that Campbell argued is found in many myths around the world.
This universal pattern was described in detail in his
famous book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949). Campbell summarises the monomyth in the following way: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” The hero’s journey also includes a number of distinct stages, which can be applied to countless ancient myths, as well as modern stories and films.
The two important stages relevant to our discussion of initiation rites is ‘A Road of Trials’ or ‘The Ordeal’ and ‘Crossing the Return Threshold’. The Road of Trials includes a series of tests, tasks or ordeals the hero must undergo in their transformation. Crossing the Return Threshold involves retaining the wisdom gained on the journey, integrating that wisdom into their life and sharing that wisdom with the rest of the community. Initiation rites are clearly reflections of the hero’s journey because the initiate has to undergo ordeals in order to achieve spiritual/psychological transformation.
With regards to the second relevant stage of the hero’s journey, Crossing the Return Threshold, the initiate returns to the society with a newfound sense of the sacred and of belonging. It is this newly attained wisdom which allows the initiate to function as a valuable member of that society. Initiation rites are re-enactments of the monomyth, a narrative which is universal because it mirrors something universal and deep about human psychology – the desire for personal transformation, growth, the mastery of one’s own destiny and acceptance into the group.
As social animals, humans have depended on group affiliation for survival and today we depend on it for our own well-being. It is easy to see, then, why initiation rites are so widely practised and why they still persist in modern society. Perhaps it could be argued, however, that the loss of meaningful initiation rites in modern society partly explains why so many individuals feel isolated and cut off from any sense of community.'"
A rite of passage knows three phases: severance (separation), threshold (liminality) and incorporation. Before you enter the threshold, the border to the sacred world, you enter time of severance. Severance is about giving space in the process to deliberately leave everything behind. In a way it can be seen as preparing your own spiritual death which can be ‘physical’, emotional and spiritual.
This inner process will already start long before the actual threshold and is centered around goodbyes and preparations.
When time has come to leave the old behind, one enters threshold which is your time out there in nature. This can be symbolically seen as the time in the womb waiting for birth. Or the space between death and birth. In this place you lay the old to rest and breed on new life.
This is a unique encounter with yourself and nature.
And you will know how important it is, after this time, to come back.
To return a full man or woman, joining your people, coming back home. It is here where you enter time of incorporation. This can come with challenges as our profane world doesn’t always feel like a sacred, safe space. However, that what you have gone to (re)claim in your time of solitude burns inside of you. And as so beautifully written by the School of Lost Borders: “you must nurture the flame of your purpose and carry its warmth to the darkest corners.” There will be a whole world waiting for your return.
of initation rites
interesting read on
The Vision Quest originates from the Native American tradition and provided a way to enter the spiritual world. And thereby stepping into their role within the community. However, rites of passages have been used in many traditions and still are. There was and is a strong belief that we as humans are here on earth by means of a destiny. Due to our way of living and the loss of contact with nature we are often not able to hear and feel the echoes of our path. In these modern times it's easier to feel lost, not knowing what our purpose is and carrying on with heaviness in our hearts. The rite of passage, that has been used for thousands of years, is there as a portal. A portal to get attuned to something bigger, (re)claiming our legend. Entering our own path and purpose in this life, time and place.
VISION QUEST, THREE STAGES, ORIGINS, CIRCLE, MEDICINEWHEEL AND STRUCTURE
Peneda-Gerês. Portugal, 2017
A circle has no beginning and no end.
It is a steady foundation on which a ritual can take place.
When we are together, we will be in circle. We will share our experiences, our fears, our thoughts, our emotions in this circle. It will carry our quests and we can always return here and to each other.
The windshields are of importance on a Vision Quest. They provide a framework from where we can understand ourself, our life and our journey. This is a holistic way of looking at the human psyche where ideally we are at the center of it. See the diagram below.
Which direction do we go on our quest? In which shields do we need to be in order to return to our center again? Have I fully claimed my adulthood or am I trapped in adolescence reflecting on my mistakes? Have I really honored my purpose, beauty and strength or is a part of me hiding? Do I truly choose freedom and selflove or do I allow something in me to be more 'focused' on putting myself down?
Only when we go to those places, that are in the shadow, can we step into the new and turn the wheel.
THE FOUR WINDSHIELDS
(Source: the School of Lost Borders)
language and communication
love for others
the awakened one
death, birth and reneweral
love for spirit and mystery
creativity and potential
vision and illumination
psyche and soul
love for self
going to our wounds
reactive, raw emotion
innocence and trust
altered time perception