Reasons for and functions of Initiation

Initiation is a rite of passage marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components. In an extended sense it can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is ‘reborn’ into a new role.

initiationOukasie community and other communities in Madibeng are concerned about the running of initiation schools in Maboloka, Jericho and other areas. They called for a stop to those people coming in to their areas to recruit their children to join their initiation schools. This came after few kids went missing a month ago and later on were found at the schools mentioned above. “We do not want to see these people from Maboloka and Jericho who claim to be traditional healers and then kidnap our kids. If we see them again we will take further actions.” said one angry parent. Parents further claimed that the teachers at the initiation schools told them that they do not kidnap kids, but kids join the schools on their own free will. In some African tribes, boys take about 3–4 months participating in initiation rites and girls take about 1–2 months.


Examples of initiation ceremonies might include Hindu diksha, Christian baptism or confirmation, Jewish bar or bat mitzvan, acceptance into a fraternal organization, secret society or religious order, or graduation from recruit training. A person taking the initiation ceremony in traditional rites, such as those depicted in these pictures, is called an initiate. Mircea Eliade discussed initiation as a principal religious act by classical or traditional societies. He defined initiation as “a basic change in existential condition,” which liberates man from profane time and history. “Initiation recapitulates the sacred history of the world. And through this recapitulation, the whole world is sanctified anew… [the initiand] can perceive the world as a sacred work, a creation of the gods.”


Reasons for and functions of Initiation are, “this real valuation of ritual death finally led to conquest of the fear of real death.” “[initiation’s] function is to reveal the deep meaning of existence to the new generations and to help them assume the responsibility of being truly men and hence of participating in culture.” “it reveals a world open to the trans-human, a world that, in our philosophical terminology, we should call transcendental.” i.e. “to make [the initiand] open to spiritual values.” Puberty Rites- “collective rituals whose function is to effect the transition from childhood or adolescence to adulthood.” They represent above all “the revelation of the sacred.” Mystical Vocation “the vocation of a medicine man or a shaman.” This is limited to the few who are “destined to participate in a more intense religious experience than is accessible to the rest of the community.” Tribes often have initiations. The initiation done in the Bapedi tribe of South Africa is normally regarded as a stage where a boy is to be taught manhood and a girl to be taught womanhood. In many African tribes, initiation involves circumcision/genital mutilation of males and sometimes circumcision/mutilation of females as well.


Initiation is considered necessary for the individual to be regarded as a full member of the tribe. Otherwise, the individual may not be allowed to participate in ceremonies or even in social rituals such as marriage. A man will not be allowed to marry or have any special relationship with a woman who did not go to an initiation, because she is not considered to be a woman. Initiation may be thought of as an event which may help teens prepare themselves to be good husbands and wives. Where modernization is occurring, initiation is not taken so seriously as before, although there are still certain areas which still perform initiations.