The Hero Cycle as Rites of Passage

The Return is a significant stage of achievement in a Hero Cycle adventure, marking the hero as ‘bringing home’ the strengths and wisdom s/he has attained through facing life’s arduous challenges and fulfilling their Quest. As the Hero returns, s/he benefits all Life and the family and community s/he serves more selflessly after having individuated as a mature, dynamic Self.


But there is more to the story. Keep in mind that the Hero Cycle represents the mythic structure of a Rites of Passage ordeal which the individual (or group) undergoes to bring about a transformation of his/her/their Identity or to rebalance a situation tending toward decline. The three phases of a complete Rites of Passage cycle include rites of Separation, Transition, and Reintegration. These three universal phases of Rites of Passage cycles are mirrored in the three primary stages of a Hero Cycle adventure: Departure, Fulfillment, and Return.

The Return phase of a Hero’s Adventure involves a Reintegration back into the web of relations, roles, and aspirations of the hero’s Home Base; yet the hero returns to bring bounty to the Whole from having achieved individuation as a powerful, more loving and self-actualizing Self.


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Reintegration means rejoining a community you had departed from in order to gain maturity and to refine your talents. You rejoin this community with a higher order of Identity, from which you can better serve the growth potentials of the Whole.

Thus when Dorothy returns to Oz as a Self-integrated, mature Person, somehow we know that Toto is going to be okay. Dorothy brings back with her the integrated strengths of Courage, Heart, and Wisdom that she had lacked, and in this more aware, empowered Self she expresses the ultimate realization:

“There’s No Place Like Home!”

2 thoughts on “The Hero Cycle as Rites of Passage

  1. Rites of passage are sooooooo important. They keep everyone on the same page and make sure it’s the right page.

    The rite of passage that’s totally missing in our culture is the transition from child to teen. This is a difficult period–just ask any middle school teacher. We did a rite of passage for our twin boys when the were 13 or 14 (can’t remember which). Not sure who it helped more, those of us who participated in the ritual or them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments, Clavielle! Some anthropologists have suggested creating rites of passage for transition to adulthood in our society because culturally we are so individualistic that we don’t have a formal rites of passage cycle for coming of age for all children. Margaret Mead is famous for drawing attention to this gap in American culture, saying it gives rise to the ‘generation gap’. What sort of ROP did you do for your boys?


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