A STUDY OF A RITES OF PASSAGE PROCESS WITHIN A WALDORF
SCHOOL THROUGH THE PARZIVAL LEGEND
An individual Educational study submitted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a
Bachelor of Education D
THE CENTRE FOR CREATIVE EDUCATION
I, Ruby Klazen, hereby declare that this is my own original work. It has not been
submitted previously for any degree or qualification in any other university or educatio
institution. All sources used and quoted have been indicated and acknowledged as complete
I would like to express my sincere gratitude and acknowledge those who have assisted and
supported me during the pro
cess of completing my dissertation.
To God, for giving me the ability to do all things in Him!
My family, without their help and constant support, my degree would not have been obtained.
Dr. Anita Davis, who partially assisted in making my dream a reali
Rhonda Roberts, for her support, acceptance, patience and encouragement.
Professors Clive Millar and Mugsy Spiegel, for their assistance.
Constantia Waldorf School class eleven’s of 2009, for allowing me to experience the Parzival
journey and observe t
Norman Skillen and Felinda de Bryn, for their assistance with research.
Batya Diatz, for taking the time to share Parzival, as well as the loan of materials and your
marvelous enthusiasm and encouragement.
To Enrico Coulson, for making the tim
es to proof read and edit my dissertation, as well as your
continual encouragement and support.
To my colleagues, for their continued support and encouragement.
The Centre For Creative Education, for being so supportive and for making allowances to assist
us with our research.
CHAPTER ONE: DESIGNING THE RESEARCH PROJECT.
trying to find a
The Research Focus
The Research Question(s)
Purposes of the research
Research perspective and conceptual framework
CHAPTER TWO: RESEARCH METHOD.
2.1 Using a qualitative approach
2.2 Description and justification of research method
2.3 Selection of an appropriate rese
2.4 Method of recording data
2.5 Ways of dealing with possible threats to validity
CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH FINDINGS.
Report on personal observations
3.4 Report on interview
CHAPTER FOUR: ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION.
4.2 Is it still appropriate for the curriculum?
4.3 Is i
t meeting the correct audience?
4.4 Is it beneficial?
4.5 Strengths and limitations of the study
4.6 Possible applications of research findings
CHAPTER FIVE: BIBLIOGRAPHY
5.1 Bibliography an
not the real na
me due to the request to remain anonymous
Designing the Research Project:
Trying to find the Research Focus.
As a child growing up in the diamond mining city of Kimberley, stories were my constant
companion; they followed me through my
days at school and my nights at home. Having
been raised in a small country town by two avid readers, I naturally wanted to explore this
aspect of teaching. However; I was not really intrigued by the notion of children’s reading
interests as much as I was
interested in the various activities which helped them to grow and
develop as individuals.
It was on this basis that I turned my attention to the Waldorf Curriculum. I was a Third year
student, who had already engaged with different aspects of the curri
culum through practical
experience and yet, I was still not able to hone in on something that truly had me intrigued on
both an educational and personal level. That was until; after interacting with a Waldorf
family at a totally unrelated Waldorf event, di
d I come across the term of “
the impact these experiences have upon the children and adults who attend them.
This made me question certain things with regard to my training thus far, why is it that I have
never heard of this terminology p
rior to this event? Is it actually a part of Rudolf Steiner’s
Curriculum?, or is it something that was added into the syllabus to accommodate some
teacher’s urge to either get a break from school, or to utilize this as a means to exert their
beliefs upon t
hese poor unsuspecting souls?
It was only upon further perusal of the curriculum and discussion with various teachers
involved in this process that it dawned on me! Rudolf Steiner created and developed various
specialized descriptions for teachers to fo
llow with regard to educating children according to
their developmental needs. Steiner’s Curriculum is inclusive of all the vital “
which each individual encounters throughout their lifetime. Within the Primary School a
child entering into Class
One, experiences this in a rather dramatic way; coming from
Kindergarten, where everything was done to ensure harmonious play and imaginative
development, to a classroom filled with desks and chalkboard has to learn to adapt to its new
surroundings and ta
sks. This transition is assisted by both the parents and educator, through
various activities such as form drawing and picture rich stories to assist with the development
of reading and writing. However; after all the in
depth discussions with various teac
the upper Primary, I was still not too taken by what was happening in the Primary school, I
wanted to know what happens to these children once they reach High School. What happens
to them once they are out of the nurturing environment cultivated wi
thin the Primary School?
How are they assisted to deal with the “
” experiences which they surely face upon
reaching adolescence? I wanted to know the secret behind the fuss! Why, was it that only
certain people knew about this and why did not all
schools establish a space in which to
assist these young adolescents to achieve their “
It was after yet another discussion with a fellow community worker that I was able to find
direction for my research. We had just finished a sessi
on with a group of young people
within the community of Ocean View, where crime, teenage pregnancy and drugs are the
order of the day. That It struck me! I was passionate about seeing young people develop to
their full potential and it was during this wee
kly session where a few young people got
together with a group of “mentors” who assisted with homework or counseling that the
importance of initiation or rites of passage experience came to me. Now; only to find
something that was suitable for all young pe
ople. I yet again turned to my colleagues to get
their take on this; it was whilst discussing this that Lionel Chanarin suggested the Parzival
story. Now; this intrigued me and caught my attention, for this was the very thing which had
initially been intro
duced to me as a “
” experience, by the Waldorf mother at the
very beginning of my search to finding a suitable topic to research for my dissertation. Could
it be that I had found something of substance to research that would not just benefit me; b
those around me as well? Would this be something that I could take back to those adolescents
who so desperately needed to be integrated into themselves and their community in a positive
The Research Focus:
By now during discussions on how to go
about conducting research with Professor Clive Millar;
I began to really grapple with what it was that I want to do. I was passionate about young people
and I wanted to find a way in which to assist them with the possibility of improving on their lives
ough a means that was very relevant to them and the modern society from which they stem.
Finding a possible organization or group that has experience with initiating young people was the
next objective; here I was a student studying a Primary School curri
culum and methodology;
wanting to undertake the task of adolescent training. Why? You might ask is my interest so
focused upon the adolescent child, well for two reasons related rather closely to me; firstly, I am
actively involved in a youth development p
rogram within the community of Ocean View and I
was keen to know any information that would better assist these young people to be better
positive contributors to the community and the world. I am also interested in knowing how
things progress within the W
aldorf curriculum pertaining to the High School; for if we as
Primary School educators have laid the foundation, how do things follow from what we have put
in place to certify that these young people engage fully with their looming “
”. I soon
alized that my focus was still too vast and that I would have to do some further down
To better get the essence behind Rudolf Steiner’s recommendations to assisting young people at
a very pivotal point in their lives. I turned yet again to the cur
riculum and made my focus the
adolescent child living in a very modern society, how is this child assisted to deal with certain
aspects of growing up? Has there been something done in an era before that could help us to
relinquish emotionally stable adults
into this world that is fast deteriorating.
My focus finally narrowed down to the following
I wanted to carefully observe and understand the seemingly importance of an initiation process
in an adolescent group. I wanted to find the relevance of the Parz
ival story in the Twenty
Century; how it was implemented and the impact it had on the social engagement of those who
partook in it. I basically wanted to see that these young people had the assistance needed to help
them with reality as we know it to
day. My initial thought was to interview as many of the young
people as possible, but this would present too great a task and possibly not be advantageous to
my research. I chose to go with a total of four individuals to minimize interpretations and
e the various ways in which certain groups related and interpret the exact same process.
I needed two willing young people and two more senior persons who would be willing to share
their experiences with me. As I ultimately wanted to know the impact the Pa
rzival story had
experientially on young people.
The Research Question(s):
Based upon the Research Focus defined above, the Research Questions which guided my
What is a “Threshold” experience or an initiation*?
In order for me to ful
ly get the correct analogy to my research I firstly needed to clarify
something for myself; that being the question of initiation. What is the real definition of
this word within the context of my research? I know that in modern African society when
eaks of initiation; it usually gives the image of tribal doctors performing a cultural
ritual of circumcision on young men to welcome them into manhood. As is the process in
local African culture, however; the Parzival story is not that form of initiation,
rather; it is
a ritual more focused upon the emotional, physical and spiritual well
being of the
individual, its outcomes are more internal and long
term than that of any other tribal
culture. Much in the same way, it also deals with taking the initiates
away from their
materialistic and domestic comforts; it separates the individual embarking on this journey
from all forms of distraction, removing all contact with the world in which they live,
proceeding on the journey with only the bare essentials. The
Parzival experience includes
all genders and allows for personal and social development through activity and
*initiation is the colloquial reference for Rites of passage.
What is the Parzival story all about?
What is it about this Arthurian
romance that commends itself to modern day rites of
Being a lover of poetry, dramatic plays and ancient myths and legends, I was interested in
finding the link between an Arthurian romance and Twenty
first Century adolescents. I
want to know how
they engage with the text and language of an almost forgotten era.
How does it enable young people to relate to their world? Does this young man’s quest
hold in their world? Do they too have a grail quest?
Are there any common threads between Parzival
and young people today, or do they
totally miss the objective? How do they go about achieving their dreams and aspirations?
Do young people gain from this or would it better suit an older audience?
I want to know if the grail story is best suited for
adolescents, are they mature enough
within their thinking to fully comprehend the valuable gift which Parzival brings, or
would these best suit adults, who are more mature and ready to deal with issues of
emotional probing and mental reasoning.
How are t
he educators prepared for this process? Do they know how to go about
implementing the Parzival rites of passage?
I want to know if those who do the Parzival story with these adolescents have the
necessary training and qualifications to do so. Do they hav
e personal experience with the
factors regarding rites of passage? And what have they discovered works best?
Purposes of the research:
My personal reasons:
As an active member within a community filled with troubled youth, I am trying to find a
that would aid me to better understand the process and reasoning behind rites of
passage activities and in turn my being able to assist with helping these young people to
find for themselves a way that would better serve them and in turn their community a
the world in a positive way. I believe that it is through an active approach that this needs
to be implemented; I want to discover the value of physically integrating young people
into themselves and their community. I believe that through my research I
will be able to
gain a better understanding of my role as an educator within the Waldorf movement. I
wanted my research to not only assist me in obtaining my teaching degree, but I also
wanted it to benefit my community and enhance my teaching skills.
My Practical reasons:
As the concept of Rites of passage is not taught fully at the Centre, I have taken to
explore this aspect of Waldorf Education through the experience of the facilitators and
participants. I want to know the relevance of it within
a society so bombarded with
technological gadgets and multimedia exposure.
It is also my interest as a student
studying Waldorf Education, to uncover the reasoning behind the Rites of passage within
the schools. I believe that through my research I will be
able to attain valuable knowledge
that will assist my teaching efforts in the future.
My theoretical reasons:
Studying to be a Waldorf teacher, one needs to have a good comprehension of Rudolf
It is once this understanding is cem
ented within your being that you will begin to fully
realize the magnitude of your actions and teachings. A vital aspect of this research
pertaining to Waldorf Education is the school curriculum; which commences in
Kindergarten and is particularly aimed to
meet the developmental needs of the children in
each year through the various main and running lessons, until they complete their
schooling in Class Thirteen; as well developed adults who are able to enter into the world
rounded individuals on the
brink of adulthood. If teachers theoretically, were able
to support the healthy development of their bodies, souls and spirits through the
conscious use of the curriculum to feed and sustain these young vulnerable minds; as
indicated by Steiner in his man
y lectures and publications. The fundamental basics on
which Waldorf Education is founded upon can be found in three publications
recommended and used by Waldorf teachers throughout the world:
The Study of Man
(1919), Discussions with Teachers (1919) and P
ractical Advice to Teachers (1919)
. It is
with the assistance of these documents that the education of our children; especially the
training of adolescents can be of great success in releasing positive people into the world,
who are able to change and redi
rect the social conditions placed upon them by society.
Therefore, we need to assume that theoretically these young people have been guided
adequately through past
Research perspective and conceptual framework:
My research perspecti
ve had narrowed down to focusing on the adolescents in Class Eleven;
as these individuals were around the same age as those young people within the community
where I worked. Not only were these Class Elevens around the same age; they also had the
of having the Parzival story as part of their curriculum. Therefore my reasons for
choosing this group of individuals seemed pretty obvious to me. The next thought I had was
with regard to my ability to conduct my research, I am a student studying a Prima
curriculum. I have not the slightest idea of how things are done in the High school
curriculum as there is no formal High school training centre around; I needed to consult with
those educators who are actively involved within the High school to
ascertain how things are
done in comparison to the Primary school.
This left me a little distressed, here; I had a hunch on how certain things could give me
insight into dealing with young people in a more positive manner, yet I had no concrete basis
n which to base my intuition. I was conscious of my assumptions and the amount of
effort it would take to gain the result I desired. I was aware that for all the assumptions I
made. The answers to my research questions might have been differed immensely du
e to the
people I interviewed and their interpretation of the questions asked; I could be mistaken or
mislead into thinking that certain things were cut and dried which would hamper the progress
of the study. However; all these ways are unknown to me at th
is point in time.
Much has been written on the importance of Rites of passage and its beneficial qualities for
those who attend and see the process through to the end. The varied articles are a testimony
of the importance is has in th
e development of preparing young people to enter into society;
as more positive adults with a rich sense of accomplishment and belonging.
Many of the articles and books on this subject have a common thread which speaks of
misguided initiations occurring a
mongst young people more often than before, here I am
referring to a particular article written by:
John Davis (2003)
; It clearly speaks of the innate
urge within each of us to find for ourselves that sense of accomplishment that says we are
worthy to be a
part of society, that we are “adult” enough. However; many of these initiations
end up badly, for many it could mean the end of their lives.
As young people today are exposed to so many things on television and the ever increasing
amount of easily acce
ssible multimedia facilities; the criteria for entering into society today
has changed dramatically. The essences of good human values have been swept under the
carpet in exchange for a more outward physical appearance and status. The world today is
ocused upon the external appearance of an individual than its mental and spiritual
Alduino Mazzone; Evolution of Consciousness: 23)
. That is why, so many
young people choose to create their own rituals sensing the innate need for them within
many gangs have initiation activities and know the impact it has on those who
excel at it; it promises loyalty and acceptance, which to young people around the world is of
major importance. The fact that they are part of a group and belong is t
he most important
factor in any young person’s life, in fact not only in a young person’s life but it also features
on Maslow’s pyramid of needs. However; with all these individuals being mislead into
believing that they are on the correct path. Crime and
economical situations increase and
deteriorate, which leads to the negative impact on our communities and the world.
Steiner, in his wisdom, saw the value that these Rites of passage held. For even within
today’s society it is much needed. As people liv
ing in the Twenty
first Century we have been
dead to the consciousness of human evolution, we have lost sight of the spiritual realm and
need to reconnect our thinking and our will in order to create a harmonious balance within
ourselves. Many know this, y
et do not know how to go about finding a process which enables
them to consciously make that connection.
They therefore have to rely on the psychoanalysis’ report given to them by someone else, due
to their inability to undergo transitions with support
and assistance from skilled members of
their community. Trying to undertake the difficult task of going through a transitional phase
on your own is rather daunting. Many are not able to come to terms with emotional issues
and therefore end up doing somethi
ng drastic, such as committing suicide, dropping out of
school or becoming involved in gang related activities.
Ways to safeguard this is through enabling young people to experience these transitions in a
controlled manner. As outlined in Steiner’s curr
iculum and the many authors who have on
hand knowledge and experience with regard to the subject matter.
summed up the
lack of an initiation process beautifully;
“…And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to
die and so to grow, you are only a tr
oubled guest on the dark earth.”(1814:70).
In life we
each need to lose part of ourselves in order to grow; taking into consideration the transition
from a baby to a child entering into the first year of school, certain things needed to occur in
that child to become ready for school. Not only the physical but also the emotional
and mental appearance of the child. Each phase of our development is a transition in its own;
with each transition we have had assistance. Therefore how much more assistanc
e is needed
by adolescents as they enter into the world of mature adult. Let the gift we give them be
confidence in who they are and a sense of belonging.
All the articles on this subject are in consensus; we desperately need to assist our young
n their development of self and community.
With regard to the Parzival aspect of my dissertation; it appears as though I am not the only
person intrigued by this Arthurian romance, for many books have been published in honor of
the grail quest. All the bo
oks read on the subject have proven both useful and insightful. Few
who undertake the study of Parzival; even if it be through the reading of books related to the
subject leave the same. The legend and the many books trying to unpack the essence of
l do it great justice and leave the seeker with a renewed sense of self and others.
I had the privilege of consulting books under the Grail motto and found these to be of
The Speech of the Grail
Spear of Destiny
The Cup of Destiny, The Quest for the Grail
The Journey of the Hero
The tree of life and the Holy Grail
The Rites of Passage
Arnold van Gennep
Wolfram von Eschenbach
She and H
Robert A Johnson
Evolution to consciousness, Rites of Passage and the Waldorf Curriculum
Wilderness Rites of Passage: Initiation, Growth and Healing
Using a qual
For the purpose of my research I chose to utilize a qualitative approach as apposed to a
quantitive method. The quantitive method is a more structured one and would be too rigid for
my research, I needed to be more flexible in my approa
ch and this qualitative method best
suited me. For what I was researching I needed to take an anthropological approach. As
anthropologists utilize qualitative methods to research the way people think, live and work in
a natural daily setting to gather info
rmation, so too; I needed to engage with the participants
in order to gain the very best results for my study.
I went on to find further grounds for utilizing this method and found convicting advice in the
book written by Maykut and Morehouse for Begin
ning Qualitative Research.
“Qualitative researchers are interested in understanding people’s experience in context. The
natural setting is the place where the researcher is most likely to discover, or uncover, what
is to be known about the phenomenon of i
(Maykut & Morehouse, 1994:45).
was the exact approach that I was seeking that would connect me directly with my research
material; it meant that I would have to actively participate in order to see how things were
done. It also meant that I
would be able to observe and obtain my questions based upon how
these modern day young people interacted with the actual Parzival journey.
My aim was to explore the process
Observe on hand the participants and their engagement with the story
be able to divert from the story to observe the social influence impacting on the
I would not claim to generalize, based upon the actual experience.
I would be able to describe and interpret the occurrences as they occurred.
I am attempt
ing to make sense of the theoretical aspects of initiation in reality.
and justification of research method:
The methods I utilized to conduct my research included active observation and interviews. I particularly
chose these methods du
e to there flexibility
was able to structure these based on my needs and
upon the needs of those participating within my interviews.
A very simple framework guided
both my observations and my interviews: I was strongly interested in knowing how these y
people interacted with the Parzival story and how it was brought to them. I was also keen on the
themes within this story and the underlying meaning behind each of them. Ultimately I was
interested in finding the relevance of the Parzival story for ad
olescents living in the Twenty
I chose to conduct my in
depth interviews in an unstructured manner; I felt that this would
benefit me best if I could engage my participants in an informal way and thereby gain vital
information through info
rmal conversations. The idea for the unstructured interview schedule
came from the succinctly provided description given by
). I felt
that this would suit and support the focus of my research. I had a clear idea of what I want
ask; yet felt that in order for those participating to not be subjected or restricted in their response
or personal expression due to formalities imposed upon them by formal questioning. I wanted the
instinctive response to the various questions whic
h came from the discussions.
Selection of an appropriate research site:
The location for my research site was obvious; I wanted to observe the Parzival story in process
and no other high school in the country be it National Curriculum* or Waldorf bas
ed went about
implementing the Parzival Story in the same manner as Constantia Waldorf School, located in
The choice of research site was ideal, as not only does this school actually implement the
Parzival story into its curriculum for the hig
h school, but it also had the practical experience of
wilderness rites of passage combined with the actual story. This has been in the curriculum for
just a little over the period of seven years.
*National Curriculum schools within South Africa do not o
ffer the Parzival story as a means of
many of these schools do not even have an initiation aspect within their school.
Methods of recording data:
My observations would require me to attend the Parzival camp for its duration of six days.
the camp I would be able to select possible candidates to interview and observe how the group
engages with the entire process and story. I will then be able to transcribe my observation notes
into a coherently accurate report for my dissertation.
he duration of my interviews I will be making use of a Dictaphone, that way I will be able to
capture all the essential data required and eliminate the non
essentials of the conversation. This
will be done to clarify and correlate my interpretation of disc
ussions. It will also make the write
up of interviews easier to do.
I initially wanted to use a camcorder for the observations on camp, but was not allowed due to it
being a banned item on the list of things to bring and as I was being anthropological in
approach of this I needed to adhere to all the stipulations in order to gain insight into the matter.
Both means of data collection used would provide evidence on which I could later draw
interpretations and conclusions.
For my research documentation I
have chosen a narrative approach, this way I am able to give
the reader clarity and insight into my findings and the thought processes involved in drawing my
Ways of dealing with possible threats to validity:
As my qualitative research
depended solely on interpreting the various types of evidence
provided through my collection methods; I needed to guard against inaccurate data collection
which would lead to misinterpretation of evidence. I needed to certify that my evidence was not
rted and ways of guaranteeing that was through:
Not allowing my personal opinions to influence my findings and interpretation of data.
up interviews, to verify data and interpretations with interviewees.
xposing my interpretations w
ith an informed outsider for critique.
Having data cross
Conducting personal reflection and practice, where I could share my insecurities and
uncertainties regarding my work.
Attempting to explain to the reader of my dissertation what my though
ts were and the
assumptions I was making regarding the direction of these thoughts.
Making the grounds for interpretation as clear and accurate as possible.
All these precautionary measures against safeguarding needed to be observed as strictly as
ble to ensure an accurate interpretation of all data collected.
In order for me to study and gain an understanding of the initiation process within the Parzival
legend, I needed to accompany a group
of young people between the ages of sixteen and
seventeen on their journey into the unknown. I believed that this would be an appropriate means
to observe and collect data.
On the first day we journeyed into a beautiful part of our city and our souls. As
our journey with a hike up and down the cliffs of Cape Point; we had a tiny taste of things to
come. With our spirits high and energy levels at its optimum, we were all filled with eager
anticipation! Upon reaching the very tip of Africa; Norm
an commenced his brief background on
Prester John. As we all stood in the crisp morning air; we marveled at the beauty of nature all
around us and were intrigued by the relevance of this information (the story was not given to the
learners prior to the cam
p, hence them mulling over this information).
I chose to be an active participant, as I have never experienced an initiation process of this
magnitude. I felt that since my approach was an anthropological one; there was no better way to
really getting in
to the subject matter and conditions subjected onto those whom I was observing
and later interviewing; I wanted to be able to relate to their experiences. However, the real
reasons for my participation were due to my search to finding a means with which to
young people in their personal development. If I was able to encounter for myself all the pro’s
and con’s of this process, then surely I would be able to either fully endorse or reject this method
In this chapter I structure my ob
servation reports and interviews as follows:
Report on daily observations, divided into two sections:
Personal observations with regard to actual initiation process.
Observations regarding the daily social interaction of the participants and their
ment with the story.
I have taken every effort to ensure that these recordings are as authentic as possible. In each
section, I am reporting on the method used to engage these young people and my observations of
the effect this process has on them and me.
on personal observations
Initially when starting on this journey into the unknown abyss of the Parzival story; I was filled
with a rather acute sense of awareness. I found that through the process of journeying with the
toryteller a different atmosphere was created at the end of each day.
Cape Point as the start of Parzival
Observing the arrival of the participants at the designated meeting point; I was immediately
drawn to the interaction within the group.
There was definitely a tangible tension within this
group and I was keen to see how things would change over the next few days. Once all the
members and guests accompanying them had arrived; Norman Skillen, an educator at the
Constantia Waldorf School; who
has undertaken this journey many times before gave a brief
introduction of guests and a breakdown of the rules. These rules needed to be adhered to in order
for the success of the initiation process. Each person present needed to team up with another
on; someone with whom they did not usually associate or know and be that persons buddy
for the day (the buddy system was incorporated to dispel the tension within the group and to
certify that each person within the group made contact with someone other th
an their regular
friends.). The reason for this is due to the fact that the current Class Eleven’s have been
integrated into one class; many of the learners come to Class Eleven from the other Waldorf
School in the area that does not go further than Class
As we began our first tentative step into our initiation, many of the young people were eager to
reach the destination and move on to the next step in the program. Yet for others in the group,
being subjected to physical exertion through the tough te
rrain of the mountain and the blaring
rays of the sun was more than they could bear. Pretty soon into the day the buddy system began
people soon became irritable with those whom they were paired with; for some
reason or the other, they either f
elt that their partners were either too hasty or too slow on the
walk. Looking at this; I could comprehend their frustration and harshness. As young people we
are generally kinder to those people whom we consider our allies, we are more supportive of our
riends than we are to those whom we are acquainted with. I took this to be a symptom of them
trying to establish for themselves their exact position in the grander scheme of things. This was
clearly a case of the trying to grapple with the withdrawal sympt
oms they were experiencing due
to the separation of all the comforts of home, family and technology.
At the end of the first day, after a tedious walk filled with physical and emotional strain we
arrived at our campsite for the night. We were greeted with
a lavish feast and a warm shower; to
ease the tension within our aching bones. Whilst observing the atmosphere in the camp after
these familiar luxuries, things changed slightly and some of the tension evaporated. During the
evening session of the initiat
ion process, we sat around on comfortable mattresses and listened to
the beginnings of Parzival’s journey, told beautifully by Norman. Looking across the room, the
expression on each individuals face as the story is told is testimony enough of their engage
with this story.
Viewing the first day’s observations in retrospect, I have found that perhaps there might be some
benefits to engaging young people in a strenuous physical activity before telling them the actual
story, however I am still doubtful of
this; I am not too certain how much of the story is actually
being heard, due to the levels of alertness being at a minimum after a meal and physical strain.
Parzival embarks on his quest for knighthood dressed as a fool with advice from his
Red Hill to Noordhoek
Commencing the next stretch of our journey with a different buddy added interest to the journey.
By now the idea of sharing various aspects of themselves with someone relatively new to them
was a welco
med idea. Yet, they still approached this with caution and I understood this
completely; for it is human nature to want to protect ourselves from scrutiny.
Observing the pairs as they walked across the beach at Noordhoek; was evidence of the
hat had already occurred within this group. Today they each appeared a little more
tolerant of one another; this was a definite change from the group of young people who had set
out on a similar mission the day before. I marveled at the occurrence and was
by the openness that suddenly developed in this group. There were still some who were hard
pressed against fully engaging with the experience of exerting the physical body and the mind
into undertaking the challenge at hand.
ed to join in the discussions of these young people on our break at Noordhoek beach
was highly welcomed; for it meant that their tough exterior was cracking. The prospect of being
a part of their private thoughts and ideas appealed to me and it was an indi
cation of their
acceptance of me as a part of the journey.
During the conversation on the beach this particular group of young people (of mixed sexuality);
openly expressed the concerns they had with regard to the tension within their class, they felt tha
it was a direct by product of the school setting. They were accustomed to the people in their
class and each individual understood his or her function within the classroom setting (in a
Waldorf School learner’s progress from one class to the next with t
he same teacher in the
primary school and remain basically unchanged as a class throughout the high school years,
teachers however; are exchanged with class guardians and specialized teachers.). They went on
to explain their initial feelings of anxiety and
apprehension with regard to the first day’s activity;
and their response to being separated from friends within the group. With the work I do as a
youth developer I know that if it’s one thing you do not do is try to separate friends from each
other; if y
ou want their cooperation it is best to keep them together and gradually separate them.
However; I understood the need for the exercise and its value to the process. They needed to let a
part of themselves die
their prejudice as well as their tolerance an
d acceptance of others. They
needed to give birth within themselves the ability to be flexible and open to experiencing new
things. Not only for the benefits of camp, but also for their life’s journey.
Parzival arrives at Arthur’s court; dressed as a fool
and demands to be knighted
tasked to challenge the Red Knight before consideration for knighthood.
Camped at Noordhoek for the day:
Witnessing the pleasant interaction within the group at breakfast was a noteworthy experience.
ne before me resembled a family gathering together for a meal; there was shared laughter
and genuine interest and concern for the person seated next to them at the table. This was a clear
indication of how after only three days the selfish impulses were ef
fectively removed; the focus
within each of them had shifted from me to us. It clearly meant that they were already embracing
the next step into consciousness.
Today, we remained at our location as the group had some work to do with Dave; who is a
ional speaker and youth developer invited by the school to do a workshop with all the
students in each grade. This could not be done at another time due to Dave’s schedule. The
educators and guests were not allowed to be a part of this workshop as it was f
ocused on the
needs of the class and their personal development as a group.
After their workshop; the group of young people I saw at breakfast had metamorphosed into
beautiful beings who strived to support and assist in an emotional manner; they were more
respectful of each other and those on the camp and had settled into a focused attitude.
It was refreshing to see such a positive change in each of them. I was now even more convinced
that this form of initiation was a relevant form for modern society, if
this group of young people
represented the future, then things looked promising indeed. I felt such an immense focus from
them that evening at the storytelling of Parzival. They proceeded to engage more in the
discussions after and related on a more perso
nal level within their groups (prior to today’s event
every discussion of the Parzival story was a vaguely brushed over topic to be discussed more out
of obligation than of interest).
Parzival ventures out into the world and accomplishes many challenges
aves a country
From Noordhoek to Hout Bay:
At the start of today’s journey we were all in high spirits and eager to hike to our next
destination. Starting out well
rested and refreshed for the long day ahead, we aimed to keep our
spirits high with songs and jokes. This was the direct result of spending time the previous
evening working on enhancing the social interaction amongst each of us. It clearly worked to
have covered our basis the night before, for today was extra tough; tem
peratures were high and
the effort of hiking up an incline after a day of rest proved to be rather difficult and trying.
I observed the camaraderie within the group and enjoyed being a silent witness to the radical
development of each soul present. I am c
ertain that the strain placed upon each of them was more
than just a physical one; for when we stood at the very top of the mountain over looking the
beautifully panoramic vista of Hout Bay we were all in agreement that every drop of sweat was
worth all th
e effort in the end.
On the hike down the mountain each person out of their own accord assisted the next on the
tough to manoeuvre decline sections. This spoke volumes of the maturity and transition within
each individual (looking back at the first day; t
his was a vast improvement).
Parzival is restless and wants to return to his mother to share his joy with her and to bring
her back to his home.
Oranje Kloof to Table Mountain:
In the beautiful setting of the Disa valley the atmosphere was fi
lled with exhaustion and
resistance. Tension was brewing yet again as the desire to have the camp completed settled in;
many were longing for home and its promised comforts, others wanted to continue on the
journey and perhaps never return home if the choi
ce was given to them.
The Parzival journey was near its completion and we were privileged to experience a magical
place hidden with the mountain; it was here that each person had to reflect upon their own life’s
journey thus far. They had to rest with th
e soothing sounds of nature and find a means of
releasing the tension they felt through either quietly writing in their journals or reflecting their
experience through some form of art. This proved to be a useful way of releasing the tension.
As we waited
for the temperature to decrease Norman proceeded with another part of the story. I
felt that the setting was perfect for the continuation of Parzival’s journey. The tranquility of the
space was exactly what was needed to capture the scene and the essence
of Parzival’s struggle
and it was also directly related to how the group was feeling.
Having spent the night on the top of Table Mountain and hearing the conclusion of Parzival and
his ability to eventually, find the Grail C
astle and release the Fisher King of his affliction. It was
as though the curtain blinding the light of truth had finally been drawn, for after hearing
Parzival’s ending; the young people were all silent and contemplative of their own grail quest.
As we e
mbarked on our final leg of the hike
, the sense of accomplishment was felt by all, as
comments of “I can’t believe I survived that”, “I’m proud you” and “hey! We made it!” were
passed around. This was an indication of how much this group has grown through
this activity. It
is remarkable to see and experience the constructive transformation of young people. As a final
homage to the Parzival journey, we erected a cairn; a symbolic dedication of our journey, as each
of us placed our stones individually on the
ground we left a part of us behind that we felt was no
longer needed as a part of our entity.
Coming down from the top of the mountain and being met by members of their family was an
even greater part of their initiation. It symbolized the community welco
ming back the newly
initiated members of society; welcoming back “adults” and not the same adolescents.
I left the Parzival journey as implemented in this manner, with a renewed hope for my
community, however; I needed more than just the practical experie
nce I needed to gain an
understanding of the underlying themes. I needed to be clear before attempting to suggest a Rites
of passage ritual, as a means to assisting youth in their development.
Report on interview with Rose Young*
Whilst observing an
d experiencing the Parzival initiation I spoke with Rose one afternoon and
got her take on the Parzival story and its relevancy within today’s society. Rose has been through
the Parzival process with an adult group and readily agreed to assist me with my r
Through our conversations these key questions arose:
How has the themes within Parzival influenced you as an individual?
(Well) it has been a big break through for me to be able to attend the workshop
when it was presented. I saw the ad on the s
chool notice board and was interested
in knowing more of this Parzival story. I remember the very first evening when
entering into the classroom door; I was so nervous and afraid, I did not know what
to expect. After the first evening I thought okay, that
was not so bad and then
when we went in to expressing ourselves through the theme of the word I closed
up. I did not like speaking about myself and my “problems”, I wanted to
immediately get up and leave, but thought better of it. This time round I would
xpress myself openly. That is just one example of a theme within the story that
has been a big impact on me.
How was your experience different from this?
My experience of Parzival was in a workshop format. It was one session a week
for two hours. In the
sessions we had to have done our reading of the story and
bring our thoughts on it, each week we would look at how that part of the story
related to us; were we masculine or feminine in our decisions, were we aware of
how emotions when making those choices
and could we relate to the various
characters. My experience of the story was based on relating to and overcoming
emotional hurts in order to believe in myself, it was way different from this,
although both are equally challenging in various ways, one mor
e emotionally and
the other more physically.
Do you feel that the Parzival story is relevant in today’s society?
Indeed I do feel that the story holds fast in our modern culture; if it didn’t we
would not be using it as part of our curriculum. Many of th
e themes within
Parzival relate clearly to how things are in the world today, we too have wars and
battles, many people are oblivious to their ignorance and go about doing the exact
same things day in and day out. I feel that society as we know it is no di
the time of Parzival’s conception.
How has the Grail story helped you to finding your place in the scheme of
When I initially did the workshop I was not too sure whether or not I wanted to
remain in the teaching profession, while doin
g it (Parzival) I was sure that I had
found my grail. I believe that I am destined to be exactly where I am! I would not
have known this with as much conviction as I do now if I had not gone on the
What would you say is the main reason for doing
it in this way for the
adolescents and not doing it the way you did, as a workshop?
This way is much better for the kids, it gives them time away from home and all
the distractions they have there and it doesn’t have to be rushed due to time. Also
ildren are not ready to handle all the emotional things that come with the
workshop format. Having it done in this way is much more beneficial to them and
their development, it is an unconscious form of the initiation process and it
enables them to connect
deeper with their peers
this is like the cement which will
hold them together as a class in future when they have to write their external
Report on interview with Batya Diatz:
Whilst researching the Parzival story I was told that a
valuable person to approach
this topic was Batya Diatz; who had a long rich history with the
Parzival story and its themes. Batya is still actively involved in many Parzival and
Grail related workshops and lectures. I met with Batya after m
y experience of
Parzival as done by Constantia Waldorf School to get her take on The Rites of
Passage literature and its themes.
I had one basic question for Batya; from her in
depth response I was able to rest assured that my
findings and feelings with r
egard to the Parzival legend were both in concurrence.
Do you feel that the Parzival legend still holds within Society today, are
people living in this era able to relate to the story?
Oh, yes, Parzival most definitely still has its place within our worl
d! It speaks
volumes of the times we live in; if we look at the Fisher King and his ailment we
shall see that it is a direct indication of our time
we are living a society so
focused on instant gratification and sexual satisfaction that it is hard to miss
importance of the underlying meaning behind this character and his ailment. If we
look at the various diseases around today, either crippling or killing off millions
of people around the world, we will find that the majority of these illnesses are
Three major themes
The theme of ‘the word’
‘In the beginning was the Word’
this is a vital part of teaching, for as educators
We utilize our gift of speech to connect and communicate daily. Th
should be conscious of how we use this gift for creative speaking; in order to
encourage and empower the individual child to develop his
There has to be
a connection between your Spiritual, Ego (I) and Physical
consciousness in order for you to be a well
balanced person. Steiner saw the
significance of this and incorporated it in the school curriculum. Therefore; we as
educators need to constantly be striv
ing for equilibrium.
The union of opposites:
Masculine and feminine
Black and white
East and west
Light and dark
Heavy and light
Right and wrong
As an educator we need to find the polarities and join them, we need to find our
grail space and work there;
for it is within this space or place that we are able to
empty ourselves and collect for ourselves and our students those things which are
beneficial to our development. We need to believe in destiny and appreciate all
those moments when we feel our most
vulnerable; for it is in those moments that
we begin to fully comprehend our humanity and appreciate those around us much
The use of the Parzival story
is simply a medium utilized to assist those who are in a transitional
to grapple with the ma
ny issues lying just beneath the surface
it prepares them in a way
for the on
which life will bring, when they emerge into society as young
After meeting with Batya, I better understood the role of the teacher with
in modern society and
the implications of having Rites of Passage rituals to assist with the transitions that each of us
undergo at some stage or another. I fully understood the relevance of the Parzival story,
therefore; in the next chapter I will be look
ing at which questions were answered through my
Analysis and discussion:
Maykut and Morehouse
“The outcome of any qualitative study is not the generalization
of results, but a deeper und
erstanding of the experience from the perspectives of the participants
selected for study.” (1994:44).
I hope that what emerges from this discussion and analysis will provide an answer to my
research question and achieve my research purposes.
I had two co
re questions which guided my research:
What are Rites of Passage or initiation?
Do young people gain from this or would it better suit an older audience?
As I embarked on my own Grail quest I realized the importance of having certain rituals in place,
to aid with the transitions that each of us experience throughout our lives. Whether it be a baby’s
baptism, the first day of school, confirmation, a bar mitzpah or someone graduating from high
school or obtaining a degree, all of these are a part of our t
ransitions and form part of our lives.
What are Rites of Passage or initiation?
Rudolf Steiner said that
“when you live with questions you live in the Spiritual world.”,
today’s society we live so far removed from our Spirituality as we are constantly
with technological gadgets to keep us distracted and hinder our connection with the Spiritual
world. A means of reconnecting with this aspect of our humanity is through a physical separation
of the world. A way of doing this is through undergoin
g a Rites of Passage experience. It is when
a conscious effort is made on our part to ask those burning questions deep within us that we are
able to proceed in living good lives filled with confidence and value.
wilderness initiation process is a life
transitional process a sort of dying and a rebirth at the
end of the process; it brings a sense of community to the initiates. Through the initiation process
each individual experiences a sense of personal growth and
development which helps aid his or
contribution within modern day society.
It is a journey to consciousness which benefits each
aspect of our existence.
Do young people gain from this or would it better suit an older audience?
Adolescents living within the Twenty
first Century are in di
re need of assistance; they are
growing up in an uncertain world filled with the concern for physical wealth and materialistic
success. The values of childhood were brought to them in the Primary school through the
ables and story tales. As
need to be brought the
gifts needed to harness their
individual strengths through a kind of suffering process, which enables them to take cognizant
stock of their own individuality.
The Parzival story enables them to see that it can be done succ
essfully. It gives them the ability
to relate with the characters. It enables them to make
conscious decisions based upon their very
own life experiences
it enriches their tapestries and enables them to progress into life with
confidence and stamina.
is a story that is universal; each of us is able to relate with the various characters portrayed in
the story. Any individual, be it adolescent or adult can benefit from this initiation story
dependant however; on how you go about implementing this
Is it still appropriate for the curriculum?
According to the structure of Rudolf Steiner’s curriculum this fits in perfectly with meeting the
developmental needs of the adolescent child. The Parzival story holds within it all the secrets to
uishing the doubts of the emerging adult. As these adolescents are at the age of
questioning and reason, the journey as portrayed in the story speaks of their own questions and
reasoning and presents them with an example of having the courage to step outs
ide of the ‘norm’
to embrace the world and its opportunities. Even though young people are maturing a lot faster
these days, their development of soul, mind and body should be done in unison. Through the
characters in the story we can see what happens when
we lack one of the three.
Is it meeting the correct audience?
I do believe that the Parzival story will meet the correct audience; for the story is universal and
embraces the archetypes within each human being. The manner in which it is done however
should be adapted to meet the audience requirements and maturity.
The manner in which I have observed it being done works well with the adolescent group; as it
removes the hindrance of society and prepares them within their soul for the journey which li
ahead. Through the imaginative forces of storytelling comes a soul impression, through the
physical exertion of going on a journey to an unknown destination causes them to rely on their
physical and mental strength.
The method used meets the audience it
needs to; based upon their engagement with the various
activities and the text utilized for the process.
Is it beneficial?
The Parzival story or any Rites of Passage activity is beneficial to the development of each
individual. It enables a transiti
on to occur in a safely controlled environment and enhances the
participant’s soul and places things into perspective. It is a sort of outlet that encourages growth
It gives an awareness of self and others which lends itself to confidence
, concern and
consideration to others around. It successfully enables integration and healing and leaves a strong
sense of accomplishment, which is in its own beneficial. Another benefit of this process is its
social aspect; it draws a group of people toge
ther and the shared experience enables social
development to occur simultaneously with personal growth.
Strengths and limitations of the study:
I believe that the experiential part of my research is its strength; however, it also is an isolated
rience which weakens the validity of it.
I fear that due to the nature of my involvement with this research topic and experience I may
have developed a bias toward Rites of Passage activity and its implementation. Due to it being a
personal concern, I may
have projected expectancy onto those whom I have interviewed.
I do however; feel that in order for an in
depth comprehension of this study to be obtained the
reader needs to be familiar with adolescents and their behavior as well as have basic knowledge
of the Parzival legend.
I feel strongly that my study will give a renewed value to the education of young people and the
importance of being able to understand their plight and thereby; being able to assist through
experience; for we cannot teach what we
do not know or understand.
Possible applications of research findings:
I have already mentioned my desire to possibly utilize the Rites of Passage as a means of
assisting the development of young people within my community. I do however; feel that I
need to undergo a deeper experience of this within my life. I feel strongly that as an emerging
teacher I need to truly know myself and be strong in who I am as an individual, before I embark
upon my journey to teach others. I would like to suggest
that the Centre possibly find a way of
incorporating the study of the Parzival legend into its program to assist aspiring educators with
their unresolved threshold experiences and also to give a deeper understanding to its importance
within the school cur
What I have learnt personally from the research process:
search for the Grail has led me to a startling revelation; within the story there are archetypes
of each human being. The story holds certain key elements of human n
ature up like a mirror to
reflect the deep inn
ate nature hidden within each of us. As is human nature, we find ways in
which to adapt with our environment, yet we have become so fixed on outward appearances and
have in turn lost sight of our soul conscious
ness. Without our consciousness of soul we are
faceless intellectuals merely pacing through this world dead. I feel that in order for a lively
experience of the world we need to embrace all aspects of our individuality and strive to have
equilibrium with o
ur soul, ego and spirit.
As an aspiring educator, I feel that I should be ever conscious of the spiritual and soul forces
which influence the manner in which I would teach, for it is only through a conscious effort on
my part that the striving for a holis
tic education will be able to be fulfilled.
Through the research process, I have learnt skills which I may not have learnt otherwise, skills
such as having a more objective approach to things and not jumping to conclusions. Thinking in
a broader context a
nd being open to critism. With consideration to deadlines needing to be met, I
have learnt the value of time management. The research process as assisted with my academic
writing ability, I have learnt to express my thoughts in a detailed manner.
usion of my research, I have found the Rites of Passage rituals used by the Constantia
Waldorf School to be a universal theme not only for adolescent development, but also for the
further development of adults. I have found the research methods to be satis
factory and my
conclusion to be in agreement with the process experienced.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND REFERENCE:
Eschenbach, von Wolfram,
Vintage books edition, New York, (1961).
Evolution of Consciousness, Rites o
f Passage, and the Waldorf School
Wilkinson, Roy, (1975)
The Curriculum of the Rudolf Steiner School,
Rudolf Steiner College
Maykut, P. and Morehouse, R. (1994)
Beginning Qualitative Research, A Philosophic and
London and Washing
ton: The Falmer Press.
Grahl, U. (1973)
How To Help Your Growing Child. England: New Knowledge Books.
Davis, J. (2003)
Wilderness Rites of Passage: Initiation, Growth, and Healing.
University and School of Lost Borders.