We have few real rites of passage in our western civilization. When we are of the age of sixteen in Ontario, one can acquire a drivers license, and two years later, are of legal age limit to drink. At twenty we are generally considered an ‘adult’ and are given new responsibilities but what are we doing to attain these rites of passage and new privileges? I would argue, not a heck of a lot, and though rites of passage, ceremony, and ritual is a topic that is dear to my heart, one I can write at length about, I will just give an annotated version of what that means for me.
People believe that things acquire for free or gained without effort intrinsically do not have value. To simply reach a certain age is not a requisite in my opinion of having reached a personal stage in ones maturity and development where they are capable of taking on new roles, embodying man/womanhood, gaining new privileges that may or may not be reliant on a persons emotional intelligence, behavior, skill ability, and common sense. The majority of people between 18-40, don’t know how to handle their drink, because they were never taught how to, as banal as that sounds, and the sense of entitlement that young adults feel still eschews so many juvenile and immature tendencies as to wonder, how they were given certain autonomous ‘rites’, and responsibilities. This is because we lack the proper techniques of rites of passage and coming of age rituals in this age. Fortunately there are some cases where these tenets have been preserved still. The training of a hunter and fisherman.
Most folks I know who hunt, and fish have it in their blood. Their father taught them from young how to cast a line, how to reel in a big one, how to skin small game, or fillet a fish, how to stalk, track and spend days out in the woods at camp, hunting dinner with old school weapons and your wits. This aspect of the hunting and fishing world always appealed to me, that there is still a sense of tradition, even if it may not be as savage as it once was, there is a continuity of practice, a lineage, it’s the art of manliness, man as hunter/provider, and allows a boy to become born in his hero/fathers image as he takes up a shotgun/bow/baitcaster, and goes out into the wilderness to procure himself a lot more than just dinner, but his reputation as a independent, and also aid to his legacy. Hunter education in the 21st century can be fairly cut and dry but there is also a wealth of practical insight, application and first hand knowledge from real world hunters. The outlet has changed, learning in a workshop or classroom, maybe not from your blood born father or grandpa, but someone’s for that matter, and one who has lived the reality and walked the talk before teaching you. It is still much like a guild in that sense. Here we have something called the Ontario Federal Anglers and Hunters Association, which is first a group of hunters, but largely a large conservation act, which ties in the natural truth that humans are part of natural ecology just as much as a moose, salmon, or deer can be.
I recently passed my hunter education and firearms safety course. Though the firearms training portion I have levied to take at a later date to get a pal license (license to acquire firearm for hunting), the rites of this particular course will open me to more freedom of acquisition of meat, fish, and game. While I intend to start with more intimate/primitive/skillful hunting using a bow, as the years progress I see myself opening up to using a shotgun or firearm for longer range and bigger game hunts. The course itself was engaging and laced with many relevant stories, comprehensive educational photography, tool/equipment handling, and thorough rules and regulations. As a celebration I cooked up a nice rainbow trout, with its brilliant red striping of scales for a reward to myself.
I have wanted to move into the hunting world for two years now and finally made the dive, after over a year of research, exposure, and dabbling with various hunting modalities on the fringes. To start I will probably save money for a used bow, and begin with small game, or deer hunting. I have always seen the deer as an icon of the wild, and it is one of my favorites animals, and venison, one of the tastiest protein rich meats in my opinion. I already feel very close to this animal, and the symbol of what it represents, to take the life of one would be hard, but also exhilarating and ancient feeling. From the forest to the table, this is where I believe our sustenance of meat should come from. Supplement mountain/lake/field, for this wild range, whence the living and breathing beasts of the land, share this space with us, and us them. We are all the descendants of hunters and gatherers, and this is the biologically appropriate diet I have come to realize we should be eating, as conscious omnivores. Knowing where your food comes from, and how it came to your hands, how it was slaughtered, and ultimately realizing that it too lived a full life, and life feeds on life. This is the first rite of passage in many that becoming a hunter of the land entails, and a ceremony of age that is determined by a keen sense of maturity, discernment, embracement of ones place in the universe, and awareness of our impact on the earth. To be a more sustainable human being, and actively involve ourselves with the nature around us, the way we always have from the time we peeked out of our caves, to the times of now, when we track, trail, and trust our instinct, that our instinct will not fail us, and in the end the encounter of predator and prey is the only thing that exists, and it is a fair hunt. It is there we realize just who we are as mortal creatures, and hunt to face another day.