A phenomenon of the mid 19th century marking the last moments of a man's bachelor years. Back then, Stag Do’s were single-sex events of 16-men out to have a ‘good time’. Fishing, cards and magic shows might have been on the agenda but these were not explicitly linked to marriage. In the 1960’s something shifted and the Stag Do’s we know today began to emerge.
Stag Do’s are Rites of Passage. They are a preparation for men entering marriage to gather together, harness connection to the men in their lives and celebrate what is to come. Preparation is the first stage of any Rite of Passage. However, as with so many phases of a boys/man's journey, the stag do has been hijacked by our wounded, subconscious, shadowy inner selves and societies. If you have never been on a ‘classic’ stag do, it goes something like this…
Hectic organisation in gathering the men (including friends old and new, brothers/fathers in blood and law plus colleagues and associates) for a given weekend. Destination selection (typically a city with recent traditions built in Bratislava, Malaga, Prague or the UK). The weekend: first drinks on the train or flight, heckling passers by, drinking games, strip clubs, fights and the odd event thrown in. The main focus of the supporting men is in shaming the stag; finding the most efficient ways to embarrass him, public nudity, throwing up.
The Stag Do has become the ultimate shadow initiation. We (culturally) plan and participate in these landmark weekends from a place of darkness; the are the parts of ourselves that we hide, suppress or deny. The outcomes are inevitable. Stories of sickness and sexual encounters, regret, secrets and a sense of something shared (with shadowy-pride). The men gain connection in having experienced madness together, in the sharing of secrets, but the connections are fragile and shallow and the secrets are kept in shame, not in honour.
The hallmarks of healthy rites of passage are mostly present: efforts to connect (drinking), marking of a change in the man's life (the event), arduous tasks (tequila, bodily revealing, punishments), song (chanting), threshold crossing (in geographical movement). All of this is done unconsciously. We have constructed, to the best of our abilities given present masculine lostness, something to honour this man, but we have failed. Miserably.
So I am sitting with a question. Without appropriation or triteness, how do we construct this all important preparatory phase of a man's marriage in a healthy way? How do we mark this man’s preparedness so that he is recognised for his wholeness by his whole community? Honoured for his effort to be the best man he can for his partner, family and community?
A healthy stag do designed as a rite of passage is a transformational experience, not a blowout. It flips the goal from shaming to honouring. It gives permission for men to connect on a level beyond what they know in the day to day. It demonstrates the genuine support available to the man getting married. It challenges the men into accountability and integrity. Men will return with a secret held in pride and connection, not in shame nor fear.
We at Kingly Stag are constructing one such offering in order to support the paradigm shift of the unconscious, toxic masculine to its true potential; the healthy, balanced man who is aware of his shadows and working, with the support of other men to shed light on them. A man who knows he can call on his healthy archetypes when needed; the King, the Warrior, the Magician, the Lover.
When in shadow both individually and cultiurally, men are ashamed to be men. When men step into wholeness and name shadows, men can be proud men again, and the women will celebrate.