The Heroic Journey

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of The Heroic Journey: A Rite of Passage Program?
Research indicates that there seems to be a natural, ingrained need for adolescents to challenge or "prove" themselves as they transition to adulthood. In addition, all adolescents face major developmental changes in five areas:

  • social
  • physical
  • psychological
  • intellectual
  • moral/ethical.

The purpose of The Heroic Journey: A Rite of Passage Program is to provide a structured program to meet the needs of young people to test themselves as they undergo major life changes to adulthood. It is designed to recreate some of the mystery of an ancient rite of passage ceremony in modern garb, under the guidance of adults.
Who can use this curriculum?
The Heroic Journey: A Rite of Passage Program can be conducted in any middle school:

  • public, private, charter, or home school
  • secular or parochial
  • urban or rural
  • large or small
  • any cultural background

It can also be adapted for religious programs, summer or day camps, juvenile facilities, or youth groups.
What materials are included in the Heroic Journey program?
The curriculum is in a three-ring binder, to allow pages to be duplicated for use by the guide and students, and consists of three main sections:

  • Resource Guide

    • complete background information
    • ideas for creating community service and challenge projects
    • description of the Council of Elders and suggestions for recruitment
    • discussion of the formal Rite of Passage initiation and ceremony
    • parent orientation packet with blackline masters of the program outline for an overhead projector presentation
    • all necessary forms, letters, and other support materials (these will soon be available on CD-Rom)

  • Complete curriculum

    • Lessons for each stage of the journey, including dozens of activities
    • List of materials needed and detailed steps
    • "Scripts" to read or follow for each lesson
    • Stories to accompany each section

  • Student Passport

    • Workbook of activities to accompany lessons in curriculum

In addition, there is a 2" rubber stamp of the labyrinth (the logo of the program) used to stamp the passport as each stage of the journey is completed.
What is the Hero's Journey, upon which this curriculum is based?
The Hero’s Journey is a similar pattern found in the myths and stories of cultures throughout history, on every continent. Joseph Campbell, perhaps the world's greatest authority on mythology, identified and named this human design in his bestseller, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, published in 1949. Despite cultural differences, the common pattern includes these features:

    The Call: The hero (usually a young man, but sometimes a young woman) starts as an innocent who is unexpectedly "called" to meet his destiny. Sometimes he goes willingly, but often he initially resists. Those who refuse the call find themselves victims, "stuck" in a meaningless life.
    The Road of Trials: The hero faces challenges – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – as he is sent to rescue a maiden, save a kingdom, or retrieve a sacred object. His journey may take many years to complete, with many cycles of searching, becoming lost, and finding himself anew, and he may suffer loneliness and secret fears. Surviving his trials and initiations is proof of his heroic identity.
    Meeting Allies: He is often helped along the way by "guardians" or "allies," beings who provide assistance for surviving the journey, often in the form of magical objects such as swords, cloaks of invisibility, or flying shoes.
    Confronting Ogres: He may encounter vicious "ogres" on his path, and may have to slay dragons breathing fire or immobilize wild dogs guarding the gates of Hades.
    Receiving the Boon: Eventually, he reaches his goal, receives the "boon" or reward for which he has traveled so far.
    Return: When he returns home to his country, sometimes he is celebrated for his accomplishments, other times rebuked by those who cannot understand or appreciate the gifts he bears (in the form of knowledge or other "keys" to a better life).

In popular PBS interviews with Bill Moyers, Campbell demonstrated the concept of the Hero's Journey by using the George Lucas film, Star Wars, in which Luke Skywalker follows the same journey as that in the myths of history.
Why do all cultures have such similar Hero’s Journey stories?
While most of us do not have to face a dragon or fight a foe as obviously menacing as Darth Vader, we all encounter obstacles on our way toward a goal, and we all find that some we meet are helpful in unexpected ways, and that others are "wolves in sheep's clothing," who pretend to be friends but are actually enemies or opportunists. According to Carl Jung, ancient myths and modern dreams have similar "archetypal" themes, characters and struggles.

Joseph Campbell believes that:

  • there is a built-in need for this kind of journey, for the testing of oneself
  • it is necessary to search for meaning and confront symbolic "dragons" in everyone's life
  • if myth and ritual do not supply images, they will develop in the dream world
  • the de-mythologizing of culture is a problem of modern society
  • the "scientific" nature of our lives has removed the symbolic and metaphoric benefits once afforded to humankind through the guidance offered in ancient stories.