The present study originated as a PhD essay, the concise version being first published on-line in „The Romanian Magazine of Ethnohistorical Studies” in October 2007 . The subject exceeded its initial secondary role within the initiatory journey and acquired, step by step, a status which imposed special attention. As one will see, the reasons are numerous. The research, which is to a great extent a pioneering work, is necessarily limited to the Romanian fantasy folktale, any further studies on the subject having as a requisite a serious scientific research.
From a researcher’s perspective, the initiatory journey seems a paradoxical subject, not just in itself, but also regarding its status among the cultural inquiries. On the one hand, there are many debates about the journey and the initiation, and the initiatory journey itself. On the other hand, genuine studies about the initiatory journey are extremely difficult to find. There are, as known, a series of collateral researches about some forms of initiation as well as about some aspects of the rites of passing (which are simultaneously initiation rites). Certainly, however useful these researches are, they are still far from being a well-organized theoretical framework, an instrument of study, a referential analysis, such as the ones given for the fantastic tale by Vladimir Propp (and Claude Brémond) [Propp, 1970:XV and XXXIII].We could by no means find such references for the initiatory journey. Actually, even when one speaks about the initiatory journey, the researchers’ attention, and implicitly the research, is focused on other aspects, and first of all on the initiation itself.
The climax of this paradox is provided by the contradiction between the reality of the research and the statements which have apparently no connection to reality, but are nevertheless pertinent from a certain perspective. For instance Ioan T. Morar wrote the following in June 2007, in a commentary to Yann Martel’s Life of Pi:
„The initiatory journey was, throughout the history of culture, the basic matrix of thousands of creations, collective or individual. In other words, one is faced with a well-trodden path .”
But from what point of view does Ion T. Morar make this unequivocal statement? From a literary point of view!
„As a writer, [continues the author of the above-mentioned paragraph] one gives the measure of one’s originality when it seems that ones’ initiatory path does not encounter, at too many cross-roads, the other travelers’ initiatory journeys.”
Consequently, “the well-trodden path’’ that concerns the initiatory journey represents in this case its usage in the literary work, its existence as a basic matrix of ’’thousands of collective or individual creations’’. Well, it is precisely this reality, this normal and general presence of the initiatory journey that deterred it, strange as it may seem, from an in-depth research in itself. When discussing the initiatory journey, one had a presumed knowledge of the subject. The objects of dispute centered mainly over the initiation and its meaning, form, rite, and possible ontology. Amazingly, this very interest in the initiation made the journey itself unnoticeable, although an initiation without a journey cannot actually exist, be it physical or towards the ’’place of the heart’’! Moreover, this transition to the background takes place notwithstanding the numerous references to the initiatory journey, despite its multiple conjunctions with different aspects of social life.
Many famous writers adopt this involuntary and reflex classification of the initiatory journey exclusively as subordinate to the initiation. Arnold van Gennep gives a structure of the rites of initiation and talks about rites of separation which partially apply to the act of going on a journey as well. In a similar category are Van Gennep’s rites of return which can also be connected to the initiatory journey [Van Gennep, 1996:31, 43, 76, 162, 167]. All these rites, although useful when making analogies and deductions, are parallel to the subject matter. […]
You can read more on the subject on the link below, where the whole book – in pdf format – is posted.
1 Basmele Românilor (Romanian Folktales), written by Lazăr Şăineanu, is the best Romanian folktale typology until now.