A world away, in the Australian Outback, boys become men in a waterless place. For generations, cultures have preserved manhood and societal health through challenging journeys like the Aborigines’ venture into the outback.  The “walkabout” is Australian Aborigine’s rite of passage in which indigenous males undergo a journey, typically between ages ten to sixteen, into the untamed wilderness and equip themselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for adulthood. They leave as boys, but return with a new identity — as men.

In the busy, the mystery of what it means to be a man is decoded and then encoded during the days and weeks of these rites of passage. Boys are male, but being a man is much more than being male. The difference between boys and men is one of heart and thought. Reaching a certain age, or boasting of a particular possession doesn’t make a man.  Manhood resides within and roots itself in the unseen soul. Being a man is always a matter of what is inside. Rites of passage facilitate this process.


While rites of passage have been practiced from ancient times, the study of them began in the early 1900s when the French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep (1909) is credited with coining the phrase ‘rites of passage.’[1]  His interest in this field laid important foundations for the study and development of three markers into community. Later, Joseph Campbell, around 1949, renamed Gennep’s markers as:

  • Separation – – The time of stepping away from the old, from what has been before, sometimes including even physical separation from our old lives. During this stage, we begin to shed old ties, old roles, and old ways of being so that we can be open to what is yet to come.
  • Liminal Space – – when we have left all we know behind and enter fully into the unfamiliar where we forced to rely on our inner resources to move forward. This stage has also been referred to as liminality – – the place of ‘no longer and not yet.’
  • Incorporation – – the time to return to the community and relate to what we have learned to the world we are re-entering. This stage is about integrating and applying what we have learned on our journey. In completing this stage, we re-create our new lives and the gifts we have received flow from us into our communities and families.

We agree with Gennep and Campbell though we have renamed these stages and added a very significant fourth we call ethos because it is our view that the rite of passage is not an end in itself, but rather the first stage of a life-long process. “Ethos as originally used by Aristotle to refers to a man’s character or personality, especially in its balance between passion and caution. We believe the term ethos well describes this necessary fourth component in a boy’s passage into manhood, and use the acronym C.O.R.E. to for the four stages our rite of passage we call a manabout.

  • CALLING approximates Campbell and Van Gennep’s  separation or severance stages. By Divine decree, males are designed and designated to move toward the original ideals of Adam. Calling is that moment a youngster’s internal clock urges him to move ahead, leave childishness, and accept his invitation to join the men.
  •  ORIENTATION is the experience the unfamiliar, the unknown, the period between where an initiate was and where he is going. It is Gennep’s liminality when initiates are in a state of disorientation and in which the initiate re-orients himself. Through orientation a new confident identity emerges assured that, “Yes, you have what it takes.”
  • RE-ENTRY is the highly emotionally charged moment of return to the familiar. This initial re-connect with community is a time for celebration, reception and recognition and involves patriarchs, matriarchs, and influential persons in the initiate’s life as they gather to receive, embrace, and welcome him as a contributor rather than a dependent.
  • ETHOS is the final stage bringing the rite full circle. Where stages one, two, and three launch manhood, ethos applies it. Ethos is the fulfilling of commitments verbalized and symbolized early in the rite of passage, for a man is only one in theory until he lives like one in everyday reality.

The manabout rite of passage is described in greater detail in a FREE PDF expert from The Manabouts Manual: A Guide for Leading a Boy’s Rite of Passage into Manhood.

[1] Arnold van Gennep “Rites of Passage” (1908), Chapter 1. Translated by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee.