Ritual "death and rebirth" ceremonies in primitive cultures produces a vital, psychological shift which not only prepares the youth for tribal duty but also initiates him into the deeper realms of his own psyche. Such rites were, and remain, spiritual in their processes and results. The initiated youths are brought into contact with their subconscious, wrathful "shadow side" no less, where they must overcome its terror and volatility and integrate its vital power. The Western world never had these ritual structures and we are spiritually poorer for it. In our society, the shadow side of the psyche is not confronted or integrated. Preserving the knowledge and practices of tribes and rites that knew how to face and overcome the psyche's shadow becomes all the more important, and Eliade does a very good job indeed. He does repeat himself and say the same thing twice in virtually every chapter, but that's a trivial complaint. This sort of scholarship is like an endangered species. This book is to be treasured.
A must have if you are studying anthropology or shamanism. originally written in 1958, but the academic research still stands. A difficult read, worth going over complex passages for a second pass, but at least it is one of the author's shorter books! Packed with examples and information. Content is about one of the common and central themes to shamanism practised throughout the world. See also "the Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and history" and "Shamanism: Archaic techniques of Ectasy" by the same author.
This is one of the major ethnographic and sociological texts, indeed a landmark in the philosophy and science of consciousness transformation - what it is and how it has been practiced around the world, from coming of age to shamanic development. Casts light on the various arcana of human history including the unwritten lore that has so influenced the world's cultures. Consider for example that Mandela was initiated to be a man in the traditional ways of his native tribe. It also therefore reveals some of the undrlying patterns that go into the shaping of culture - there are many rites and symbols for the passage through life, marriage, barmitzvah, first football game with dad, hunting lions. It is a brilliant scholarly work