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On Becoming a Wolf Among Dogs: Male Ritual and Rites of Passage

Mar 4, 2021 | Leadership & Personal Development

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What does it truly mean, not simply to be a man in our society, but to be a man among men in our day and age?

The truth is that many modern men are little more than dogs, the everyday mutt variety you’d find in any household. And their values often don’t reflect more than this same mutt-ish blend of bastardized happenstance. For instance, the majority of them seek to please a master the way a common canine desires approval from humans. Who the master is makes no difference. This is how you get, for example, just about any politician you can name today.

Loyalty, whether to a cause or a community in this scenario, is an idea that’s long since gone extinct.

Or, in another example, these men will join a pack, any pack, in the hopes of being lead or simply finding companionship. Even so, they remain decoupled from any real, tangible connections to each other as men. And instead of a tribe with strong values or commitments, you get a disarray of weak, watered-down attitudes and conduct. This is how you get something like the following around Jordan Peterson. Or most groups focused on “masculinity.”

In this one, community doesn’t mean much more than social media likes. And it certainly is not brotherhood or alliance.

You’ve probably also noticed how, in modern society, we have few rites of passage. And this situation is worse if you’re looking for any only for men or among males. While, on the one hand, we have activities like driving or high school graduation, these hardly pass the test as meaningful or transformative.

Compare, say, the Spartan rite of passage, the Krypteia. In it, young men earned their place among society and their fellow citizens by being sent off into the countryside to survive. But not only to endure. They also had to kill as many of the slave class as possible during the dead of night. Armed with no more than a knife and the clothes on their back, they set out into the wild. And came back as men of the highest order and with high-reaching honor.

These things, our rituals and rites as men and the abundance of obedient mutts in our society today, are not unrelated.

Even so, my wife and I have joked for many years that I must have been raised by wolves. Wild, leery of other’s intentions, and always eager for a hunt, I’ve spent less time worrying about our domesticated definitions of masculinity and more about power, guile, and yes, also survival. For me, it was never a question of why you’d rather be a wolf rather than a dog.

Dogs are pets, wolves are not.

Either way, while our new world is filled with pacified pooches, our current circumstances are increasingly demanding men think and act like wolves. Yet, many of them are unprepared for what that means. Or how to go about transforming themselves.

So, let us also compare the wolf to the dog. And find a course of action.

First, lesser men often believe that, to become a wolf, you must run alone, separate from the tribe. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Wolves are, predominately, social and pack animals like dogs. But where they differ from canines is that wolf packs are composed of only the closest of allies. As apex predators, they’re territorial, uninterested in pleasing humans, and defined by being cooperative hunters among each other.

Wolf packs have also been known to dispatch an unsuspecting dog or two.

How might you use ritual or rites to go from dog to wolf and have a better chance of survival in our times?

  • Seek out other men who display your values and commitments

Although this is a no brainer, I’m surprised how many men spend time around other men who they share nothing more than surface interests with. When you share the same values and commitments, your relationships will be deeper and more meaningful.

  • Engage in real, risk-centered activity with these men

Too many mens groups focus on the most tame, domesticated activities. And in this, they lose any real investment. When men engage in risk-centered activities and share the rewards from these, they develop a stronger sense of who they are together, as men.

  • Foster rites of passage or rituals from the stories and experiences

From those activities, rituals will naturally develop. Sometimes you’ll need to identify when it’s happening, so you might encourage it, nurturing it, so that it becomes more official. Although anything can be a ritual, things that are more difficult or require a show of loyalty often work best.

  • Make those rites or rituals part of a schedule or calendar

And really, making your rituals or rites official only requires that you make them a regular occurrence. Whether you only have new members engage in the activity or it’s a whole tribe thing, it’s all up to you.

  • Embrace and celebrate

When someone passes through your pack’s rituals or rites of passage, make it a big deal. They’ve now attained a new status in part of an exclusive group that outsiders haven’t attained. That’s a victory both for them and for you.

Oh, and don’t forget, wolves always come to each other’s mutual aid.


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