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A Blog Post

Rites of Passage

Once settled in Gabon, our team encountered its first challenge; to undergo one of the Bwiti’s most rigorous ceremonies—the Rites of Passage.

Our men became one of 18 Western men in the world to ever experience this initiation, and our women are among only nine other Westerners in the world. 

For four days and four nights, men and women were separated and taken into the jungle, under the premise that we’d be broken down in order to be built back up.

No Iboga is taken during this journey. 

“This is a very serious journey, the Rites of Passage,” said 10th Generation Bwiti Shaman Moughenda Mikala, of the experience. “It’s all about breaking the fear. It’s going to break you. Break your mind. Give you more peace and light.”

According to Mikala, the Rites of Passage is about fear and courage. 

“When you’re fearless, you have courage. You’ll be able to take anything coming your way, and know how to process it,” he said. “To be able to live free, and happy. Because that’s what we’re here for. To live happy in this life. This life is for us.”

Westerners are presented with a very different version of the Rites of Passage than what Africans withstand. 

Traditionally, Africans can enter this passage as young as six years old. They are treated much more harshly, conditions are worse, and the experience can last up to three months with no break. 

But Westerners are broken to boundaries they can endure. 

And our men’s journey began one day prior to the women’s. 

“It was intense,” said American Iboga Practitioner Anthony Esposito, who took part in the men’s Rites of Passage ceremony. “It taught me more self control and discipline, because the experience tested my patience. Not being able to control anything was a good lesson in practicing to be still through difficult times and go with the flow—because this, too, shall pass. 

“Physically, it was tough on my body. The physical play from the natives was also challenging, though it passed quickly once I surrendered and accepted the situation,” he said. 

But after pushing through the physical and mental challenges, the experience presented its gifts. 

“I felt a sense of union with my brothers. At times we leaned on one another, so it became clear that I am not alone in this life journey,” Esposito said. “When it was over, I got this overwhelming sense of freedom, and to not take that freedom for granted.

“I feel extremely honored to have gone through a traditional Rites of Passage. Observing how seriously they take this initiation took my respect for them to another level,” he said. 

Our women experienced the reality of what a woman is in her true essence. 

Gabonese women work steadily, from sunup to sundown, making sure their community is provided for. Women of the village took us into the jungle, to the river, and taught us to fish in the traditional manner. 

The level of work—and hands—required to fill one bucket with fish took 15 women all day. 

As the sun dropped down, settling into the day’s end, we took our yield—one bucket of fish—and walked back to the village. 

But a filled bucket wasn’t the only thing we took back from the river that day.

We returned with deep appreciation. The bucket of fish, which took most of the day, and nearly all of our physical energy to catch, could hardly feed the women who caught them. 

It taught us to honor what we put into our bodies, never to forget the effort it takes to truly make a meal from scratch. 

To conserve in all ways, to not be wasteful. To have gratitude for all we are given and all we create.  

The lessons, for our men and our women, were arduous. We were pushed to limits, challenged by humiliation, fear, and physical exhaustion. 

We were hurdled through levels of initiation and experienced things that can not leave the jungle.

Though the sacred details of our journey remain secrets kept by the river and the trees, we emerged from the jungle with precious tools to navigate our lives. 

Where fearlessness and courage abound, there is no limit to one’s greatness. 

By Deena DiBacco

Sacred Soul Therapy House

Check back for detailed accounts of our Full Initiation ceremony, and for trip highlights.

Sacred Soul Therapy House is an Iboga wellness center located near Vancouver, Canada. For more information, visit our website, or contact us at 604-898-HEAL (4325) or