Mythopoetic Perspectives of Men's Healing Work: An Anthology for Therapists and Others

By Edward Read Barton | Go to book overview

well. I presented it again at a men's international conference in Austin, Texas, with about twenty men, and there it went extremely well, ending up with a drumming procession through the hotel where the conference was located.

Another ritual that my partner and I devised for an international conference on the island of Lanzarote went extremely well ( Rowan 1997) with twenty men and thirty women. This was more elaborate, and we never found the occasion to repeat it, but it was a wonderful experience, and I think went quite deep.

On the other hand, I was not so pleased with a ritual some of us devised for an international men's conference in Koszeg, Hungary. One of the men was leaving one day to get married. Before he went, he wanted to feel that he had attained manhood. Some of the men devised a spontaneous ritual that involved the elders gathering round him, lifting him up high, speaking some words about manhood, and giving him a blessing. It seemed to do something important for him. This impressed the group so much that other men wanted to do the same thing. Eventually something like twenty men went through it. Yet in spite of the fact that this was referred to as initiation, it was relatively superficial, and I wonder how much it really meant in terms of different consciousness or action after the conference.

I believe that long-term therapy rather than a brief workshop is needed for a true initiation. We do not have a quick fix to offer, so I am perhaps less sanguine than Holly Sweet about the possibility of large-scale success. That does not mean that such a desirable outcome is not worth talking about or working for-- just that I want to be realistic about what can be achieved. Reality is better than illusion, even if it is not so comforting in the short run.


NOTE
1.
It is true that John Stoltenberg ( 1990) wrote a striking book called Refusing to Be a Man, but this is a rare exception, which went too far for most men.

EDITOR'S NOTE

Regarding the reference to the "initiation" of men at the first European Men's Gathering, I was the one who developed the ritual with the help of other men.

My contribution was initially called 'a gift to Peter'. . . . Peter was leaving early to go home to get married. [I offered to give him a gift.) It was an initiation by the elders. What could be more appropriate than to initiate one who was leaving later that day to get married?

After that initiation, there were several concerns expressed to me because I had offered to repeat the process on the last morning for the other men who wanted to be initiated. One man suggested that I had not followed Joseph Campbell's three stages of initiation sufficiently. Another indicated that there was not enough participation by those who were not elders.

Accordingly, by Saturday morning, in consultation with the other elders, modifications evolved and many more men wanted to be initiated than I had expected. It was the traditional lifting by the elders after being drummed into the room, with the outer circle chanting in concentric circles. It was an interesting touch to have the effect of 'monks' chanting in the outer circle as each man was

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