Rituals & Rites of Passage (closed to public)–
August 19-26, 2012
The School of Natural Wonder has been leading this trip for incoming
students at Marlboro College in southern Vermont for the past 17 years. What
better time to conduct a modern day rite of passage than when the young people are
transitioning from home to a new life at college. Before they enter the college we
take them out into the woods for 9 days where they make new friends and also have
time alone where they can learn more about themselves. It has proven to be very
popular among the students.
The trip begins with a mythic journey by canoe across a large lake into the
wilderness of the Green Mountain National Forest. During the first four days we
weave together instruction and experiential exercises. Instruction is given in the
dynamics of rites of passage as found among indigenous peoples throughout the
world and in a Native American Medicine Wheel that beautifully charts the
psychological and spiritual significance of the soul’s journey through the stages of
life. We also go over the flora and fauna to be found and safety protocols.
The experiential exercises are designed to draw the participants closer to the
voices and rhythms of the natural world. We help them descend out of their heads
and more into their bodies as the sensitive receptors to the sounds, smells, touch,
and movements of the world around them. For example, a blindfolded trust walk
helps them to get in touch with other senses than the eyes and to surrender control
Another important activity of these days is our Council process. Each person
is given the opportunity to share his or her life story in the safety of sacred space.
They are encouraged to go as deep as they wish. Their stories are beautiful to
witness; they contain all the longings, the anguish, the pain, the fears, and the joys of
young people struggling to come into their own.
After these days of preparation, they set out on their sacred quest into the
unknown where they spend 2 days and nights fasting alone in nature. The solitude,
silence, and fasting of the quest opens them to the mystery and beauty around them.
They connect with nature in ways they may never have before. They tap into
strengths and resources they may not have known they possessed. They learn soul
truths about themselves that can serve them in their life ahead at the college and
When they return to base camp, they are shining. During the next 2 days we
celebrate their accomplishment. In Council, they are given the opportunity to tell
their vision quest story, what happened while they faced their fears and opened
their hearts to the mystery around them. Their stories filled with their courage, the
innocence of their self-discovery, their pain and joy, and the depth of their wisdom.
Their passage culminates in the heat of a Purification Lodge, in which we pray, sing,
hoot, and laugh. The next day we canoe back to “civilization” profoundly changed
and happy with new friends.