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  • Writer's pictureCyncie Winter

Stage 2 of the Hero’s Journey: Initiation; Tests and Trials

Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu

In my last blog, I talked about the first stage of the Hero’s Journey—Separation. Once we have decided to Respond to the Call and Cross the Threshold in that stage, we enter into Initiation; Tests and Trials.

Like it sounds, this stage might be tough…or long…a part of the journey that can feel dark and difficult, filled with uncertainty, which is a kind of initiation. In tribal cultures, Initiation is seen as a sacred ceremony. The Elders of a tribe, conduct a ritual that is designed to symbolically replicate the challenges and difficulties of a stage of life. As the initiates pass through the tests and trials, they gain dignity, status, maturity—qualities that can help them grow from whatever life offers them in the future.

You may remember the story of Pinocchio, who is a wooden puppet, carved by his father, Gepetto. Brought to life by a Blue Fairy, he is given the challenge to be “brave, truthful, and unselfish.” If he can accomplish this, he will become Real.

But Pinocchio runs into lots of trouble, trying to figure out how to become real. He gets involved with all sorts of bad influences, succumbs to friends who tempt him to go to Pleasure Island, where “naughty” boys teach him to smoke, drink, gamble, and steal. When he lies, his nose grows long. He narrowly escapes being turned fully into a donkey and sold into slave labor.

Meanwhile, Geppetto, having learned about Pinocchio, has ventured out to sea to rescue him but is swallowed by a giant whale named Monstro. Pinocchio goes to sea to save his father, but is also swallowed by the whale. In its belly, they light a candle, and Monstro, consumed by smoke, coughs them out, giving them a chance to escape. More on that later.

The story of Pinocchio is all about the tests and trials associated with Initiation. In fact, The Belly of the Whale is one of the most challenging parts of this stage associated with the journey to become Real. Along the way, Pinocchio is assisted by the Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket—wise, loving, and compassionate guides.

While it can seem dark and hopeless, there are actual allies that can show up during this stage—others who have been through this stage and know how to bear the Light, animal helpers, Wisdom Figures, messages from dreams. If we can endure the difficult times associated with Initiation, we can also learn to become more Real.

Throughout the tests and trials of life, if we can focus on our BrightStar— it can help us find our way. In fact, the darkness of Initiation can often help us see that Guidance more clearly.

So here’s a little writing exercise to help you with this stage of the Hero’s Journey:

Identify a difficult time you have gone through in your life. Make lists or write freely for about five-ten minutes about what that time was like. Who or what helped you find a light to see your way? What did you learn, how did you grow, as a result of going though that Initiation. How has it changed you for the better in the world?

And because this stage of the Hero’s Journey can be difficult to navigate alone, it can be helpful to work with someone who is familiar with the terrain. That would be me!


Cyncie Winter’s practice has been honed by decades of having traveled along life’s paths herself. She brings a warm, intuitive, and compassionate approach, to help others create their lives as a work of heart. Weaving together her skills as a therapist, life coach, and creativity coach, she provides integrated guidance to support and empower personal direction, find balance and clarity, to enhance heartfelt vision and purpose.

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