Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

This takes many forms in fantasy, the common feature being a Rite of Passage or Ritual of transition (sometimes literally, through a Portal) to a state which is spiritually higher, or more adult, more powerful for good or Evil, more socially responsible, etc. Initiation is an important threshold in Magic and Religion, though it may be a Thing Bought at Too High a Cost – initiates of Cybele (> Goddess) suffered castration, and lesser Conditions and Prohibitions are frequent. Secular initiations attend entrance to the company of Illuminati or other Secret Masters. One form of essentially solitary ordeal or initiation is the Night Journey. Initiation into adulthood is often via Sex, as allegorized in Jorge Luis Borges's story "The Sect of the Phoenix", but may alternatively involve inflicting or narrowly escaping Death. Such Human Sacrifice is required of the incoming Autarch in Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun (1980-1983), who must kill his predecessor and eat the brain. [DRL]

see also: Guardian of the Threshold; Monomyth.

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.