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Initiation Ceremony

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"Do you swear to keep Atlantis off the map, the Martians under wraps, and all that other stuff?"

So, there's this really cool organization, and you've known for years that you want to be part of it. You've asked the leader really nicely. You've passed their tests, you've won or bought the respect of all the members, maybe you've even accompanied them on a few adventures. Now, you're finally going to get in. You'll have access to all the secret weapons, knowledge, and connections that they've been concealing from you. You're going to be one of the gang.

But first, you're going to be initiated.

This will be in one of several basic forms:

  • Rather pleasant and jolly, in front of all your family and friends.
  • Solemn and dignified.
  • Disgustingly humiliating.
  • Disturbingly horrific.

Rituals, as social scientists will tell you, are tools for dealing with the "liminal state:" the area between one standardized role and another. You were one person before you joined the group; you'll be a different one once you're inside the group. The initiation will mark the place where your status officially changes. Any of these varieties may be perpetuated by the Sinister Sorority Sisters.

Trope-wise, initiation ceremonies are a well of both comedy and drama since they show, perhaps for the first time, what the group is really all about — usually at a point where it's too late for the initiate to back out. What if the High Holy Order of Sacred Wisdom makes initiates tread grapes in their underwear while singing "Happy Birthday"? What if Taffy's Tattlers require a blood sacrifice?

See also Rite of Passage, a catalog of initiation ceremonies into adulthood. Knighting covers an initiation into an order of knighthood (and is usually of the solemn and dignified type). If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten! is a trope used exclusively by evil groups for initiates to prove their evilness (or that they aren't heroes in disguise). Gangs may use the Gang Initiation Fight as their ceremony.


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    Film — Animation 
  • Finding Nemo: When Gill invites Nemo to join the Tank Gang, Nemo must first swim through the "Ring of Fire" (a stream of bubbles over a fake volcano). Initially scary, but ultimately pleasant.

  • In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society, Alex remembers his: he was formally inducted in the Cloak Society when ten years old. This included Phantom's marking him, so she could find him in the Gloom.
  • In Distress, new residents on the artificial island of Stateless are encouraged but not required to go inland diving, an activity also open to tourists. It involves donning scuba gear and being lowered through a tunnel in the rock into the sea that underlies most of the island, where they can see the rock being eaten away. The purpose of the ritual is to remind residents that Stateless is artificial and requires constant maintenance - because the island is an anarchy, inhabitants have the responsibility to work together and act like responsible citizens, because discord could literally sink the island.
  • The Lost Fleet series features a line-crossing ceremony similar to the Real Life one for crossing the International Date Line, which takes place as the protagonist's ship enters the gravitational influence of Sol. It could have become the humiliating version, but Captain Desjani lays down the law about that early on and the whole event remains in good fun throughout.
  • The Red Tent: The "Ritual of Opening". At a girl's first period, the girl is bathed, dressed up, and ritually body-painted, and there is a party involving consumption of large volumes of alcohol and sweets, plus music and dancing. After sunset, the girl is taken outside and stripped naked, so she can masturbate with a fertility doll until she orgasms while all her female relatives cheer her on. The scene is described as nothing but enjoyable and deeply spiritual, and marks her as a fully-fledged member of the society of women.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In order to join the Midnight Society from Are You Afraid of the Dark?, an initiate must tell a sufficiently scary story, then receive approval to join from all the current members. The vote to allow a new member must be unanimous, or the member is rejected.
  • Ghostwriter: Whenever someone new joins the Ghostwriter Team, a black pen on a string is placed around their neck to signify them becoming a member. This is their official Ghostwriter pen, which they wear like a team badge, and it lets them talk to Ghostwriter wherever they are. The new member is then often encouraged to use it to ask Ghostwriter a question.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Those who wished to join the Ring of Honor Second City Saints branch had to swear to follow the Code of Honor. Those who wished to join The Straight Edge Society had to agree to have their heads shaved by CM Punk.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect: Being initiated as a Spectre is pretty nice, you just get a vote of confidence from the Citadel Council followed by a speech. With kickass music, of course. The scene itself plays out like a Knighting.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, being initiated into a clergy is a memorable moment. Axikasha Keiran experiences this first-hand when she joins the Clergy of Hephaestus with the blessing of none other than the clergy's patron deity himself, Hephaestus the God of Smithing:
    Axikhasa Keiran: Pawn or not, I won't sit by and let the world drown in darkness. I accept my responsibilities as your cleric, Hephaestus. I pledge myself to you and the people.
    Hephaestus: Go forth with all the strength of the Forge behind you, my High Cleric, and do not forget who you are. You are a worthy champion of the Light, a protector of those in need, a beacon of hope amidst the darkness of War and Chaos.


     Fan Works 
  • In The Ghost of Ochs, completing one's class-change certification exam ends with a short ceremony in the archbishop's audience chamber, where the student of honor receives an official seal and an appropriate battle-ready outfit. They are usually joined by their professor and/or anyone else who had previously completed the same exam.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • Assassin's Creed (2016): The first scene is Aguilar's initiation into the Spanish sect of the Assassin Brotherhood. It is a quiet and solemn affair where Aguilar affirms his intention to preserve humanity's free will regardless of the sacrifice this might require. The fingore is kinda horrific but it is a blink-and-you-miss-it moment. In contrast, Cal's initiation is quite pleasant. His deceased mom conducts the ceremony through an Animus hologram, his dad is also present and so are many of his ancestors. Instead of a theme of sacrifice, this one is much more about unity.
  • Unsurprisingly, given the film's title, one occurs in The Initiation. The scene with the girls holding candles that appears on all of the posters is part of the official initiation ceremony into the sorority. However, most of the film takes place during the prank that the pledges have to pull at the end of pledge week. The prank probably falls into the humiliating category (although it turns horrific).
  • Sisters of Death begins with a dignified, pseudo-mystic ceremony to gain admittance to the sorority. The whole thing then turns tragic due to a Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon.

  • The Brotherhood of the Conch: In The Conch Bearer, Anand is initiated into the Brotherhood in a ceremony that involves having water poured over his head and donning the uniform of an apprentice Healer.
  • In Warrior Cats, apprentices are assigned mentors at six months by the leader, with the entire Clan watching. Becoming a warrior requires an assessment of skills, an oath to defend the Clan with one's life if necessary, and a vigil. The new warrior must guard the camp alone all night, and is not allowed to speak until dawn, except to raise the alarm in case of attack.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Sopranos: Chris Moltisanti and Eugene Pontecorvo's initiation as "made men" in Season 3, Episode 3 "Fortunate Son" involves a lot of solemn oathtaking, pricking of fingers, and the ritual burning of an image of a saint. It's all done in a dingy basement in New Jersey, but between the ritual and the cinematography it could have been a church or a cave in Italy. (As noted in "Horrific" below, a prerequisite of Mafia initiation is generally committing a murder on behalf of the family, but all sources suggest this depiction is accurate as far as the actual ceremony is concerned.)


    Comic Books 
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • In their first story, Superboy must undertake three tests in order to prove he is good enough to join the team. He fails every test, and then learns the Legion was sabotaging his tests to ascertain what kind of hero he is...and because they loved a good prank.
    • The Death of Lightning Lad: "Marvel Lad" must perform three super-feats in order to become a Legionnaire. He defeats a star-eating eldritch abomination among others things, but the Legion's leader is still not satisfied.
    • Supergirl's Three Super Girl-Friends: Supergirl must show off her powers in order to join the Legion, so she finds the King Arthur's Sword, Achilles' helmet, and King Richard the Lionheart's shield. Previously she had attempted to join the Legion by tunnelling through the entire planet, but a random piece of Red Kryptonite ruined her test by aging her into adulthood (the Legion only accepted teenagers back then).
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Holliday Girls initiates go through a Haunted House and must prove their loyalty to the group by spending a day on campus dressed as babies.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Zootopia, a young Nick Wilde attends his first meeting of the Junior Ranger Scouts and is asked if he is "ready for initiation?" The lights go out and after Nick recites the Junior Ranger Scout oath, the event takes a dark turn when his trustworthiness is challenged because he's a fox. The other scouts knock him to ground and muzzle him causing Nick to flee from the building barely holding back tears.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Animal House, the Omega initiation ritual consists of being spanked with a paddle.
    "Thank you, sir! May I have another?"
  • Forest Warrior: The pleasant and jolly version. Logan is formally inducted into his older brother's group of tree fort-using friends when the others disappear right before reaching the fort, leaving him to wander down the rest of the trail to the fort, at which point his friends leap out to surprise him. They also spin him around several times on the tire swing as another initiation step.

  • Subverted in Anne of the Island when Gilbert is invited to join a fraternity. For his hazing he was told to spend a day walking around the business district in an apron and sunbonnet. However, this backfires as he takes it in good grace and humor instead of fear and embarrassment.
  • The Discworld novel Going Postal:
    • Moist von Lipwig has to undergo "The Postman's Walk" before the other postmen will accept him as the new Postmaster. Also overlaps a little with Horrific, as it involves navigating hazards like carelessly-laid gardening tools and a razor-sharp mail slot with a hood over his head, followed by the postman's natural enemy: Angry Guard Dogs.
    • He also remembers joining a group in out in the cabbage farms called the Men of the Furrow, where the initiation involved being blindfolded, told to shake hands with "the Old Master", and handed a goat's hoof. If you didn't need to change your underwear, you'd won.
  • "A Look at Organized Crime" by Woody Allen describes initiation into The Mafia:
    A proposed member is blindfolded and led into a dark room. Pieces of Cranshaw melon are placed in his pockets, and he is required to hop around on one foot and cry out, "Toodles! Toodles!" Next, his lower lip is pulled out and snapped back by all the members of the board, or commissione; some may even wish to do it twice. Following this, some oats are put on his head. If he complains, he is disqualified. If, however, he says "Good, I like oats on my head," he is welcomed into the brotherhood. This is done by kissing him on the cheek and shaking his hand.
  • A crewmember in one of the Honor Harrington books muses on the fact that crossing the Hyper wall for the first time tends to bring about the same kind of ceremonies as crossing the international date line on old earth. Since she is from another star system and has thus already done this, she gets to be on the bridge rather than with her friends being shoved into a zero-g module blindfolded and in their skivvies and told to complete various disgusting but ultimately harmless tasks.
  • In the twelveth Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note novel The Valentine Knows, the test for entering Phantom X's "elite team" includes asking the person in question to perform embarrassing acts to prove their loyalty. This mainly involves running around the train station naked. In Sunahara's case, this involves asking him to post Aya's Valentine note to him in the train station by his own hand.note 

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Ashes to Ashes (2008), Alex is initiated into CID by having her rear stamped with their official stamp. This is Truth in Television for that period, by the way.
  • In Das Boot, the captain of U-949 decides to do a Crossing the Line Ceremony as ostensibly the sub has crossed the Equator, with himself in drag as Lady Neptune. It involves the initiates (including himself) stripping naked and being rubbed over with wet brooms, as well as a version of three-card-monte involving schnapps, an unspecified "elixir" and urine.
    • The "ostensibly" is that they haven't actually crossed the Equator. The Chief Engineer (who is basically running the boat) points this out, but lets the event continue with a warning to his boss that he'd better be done soon as they're due to meet up with a Japanese sub.
  • On A Different World there were two different episodes about the main characters rushing fraternities/sororities. The first one featured Dwayne and Ron trying to rush Kappa Lambda Nu and in the process testing their friendship. Dwayne ends up quitting although Ron sticks with it. A few seasons later, Ron is the pledge master and enjoys messing with the pledges. Meanwhile, Whitley gets criticized for being too hard on her pledges.
  • Euphoria: "The Next Episode" has McKay at the receiving end of a hazing ritual that has frat members hold him face-down to the floor and call him "McGay" several times, just as he is about to have sex with Cassie. It falls into the "humiliating" aspect of the trope.
  • Family Matters: In the Season 6 episode "Beta Chi Guy," Eddie is invited to join a prestigious fraternity ... but must humiliate Urkel by breaking off the friendship forever as a condition of joining. Eddie — seeing two hot, HOT, SMOKIN' WHITE NOVA HOT girls in the room when told the terms of acceptance — agrees!!! Laura finds out, is pissed and tells Eddie that his friendship with Urkel is more important than some stupid fraternity with a bunch of jerks. Eddie wises up and in the end quits the fraternity.
  • Family Ties: In the Season 5 episode "My Brother's Keeper," Alex gets his awkward friend, Skippy, an interview with his fraternity, one of the most prestigious. It looks like Skippy is sure to be accepted and finally have the friends he long looked for, but then Alex learns that Skippy is going to be subjected to a humiliating joke and hasn't got a prayer of being actually initiated ... they just want a Butt-Monkey to subject to progressively more humiliating (and possibly illegal) jokes, thinking Skippy is too stupid to realize these guys aren't his friends. Alex is so disgusted that he quits the fraternity and tells the guys to take a hike. (And yes, as the fraternity president found out, Skippy was much smarter than they realized, as he tells them he sees them for who they are.)
  • Kind of something similar happened in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where Will and Carlton are trying to join an all-black fraternity and were made to perform a number of pledges... only Carlton was never even going to be a pledge, despite being given the worst hazing, because he was considered not black enough. Will, who got in, angrily quits and Carlton gives the pledge master a massive "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how the pledge master is a Boomerang Bigot who assumes Carlton got it easy for being rich and calling him out on tripping Carlton up at any opportunity. It's so effective that the pledge master was kicked from the fraternity!
  • An episode of JAG, titled "Crossing the Line", centered around a female aviator filing sexual harassment charges after going through a "Line-Crossing ceremony" (see Real Life below). For contrast, another female aviator going through the same thing at the same time thought it was all great fun.
  • In a Saturday Night Live sketch, Mary Katherine Gallagher is told that to join a gang of bad girls at her school, she has to drink water from the girls' room toilet. It was no big deal, she'd done it before.

    Video Games 
  • Most of the story in Spellcasting 201 is trying to get through pledge week with the Hu Delta Phart fraternity. In addition to the daily flogging of the pledges with a rubber chicken, each pledge has to do a task every day to prove their worthiness. The tasks given to most of the pledges are fairly simple (and amusing to watch), but the ones assigned to the player get increasingly dangerous as the week goes on (Mainly because the Pledgemaster doesn't like you).

    Web Comics 
  • The way to become a member of a hobgoblin tribe in The Order of the Stick involves dancing, uncomfortable piercings, beatings, and doing the same things over again but slower, while singing. Or, you can kill their leader.
  • The Omega fraternity in Talesof Gnosis College has one that features both nudity and humiliation. And that's before things spin out of control.

    Western Animation 
  • Done in Jimmy Neutron where the title character was attending college and tried getting into a secret club. He was disappointed at first when the initiation ceremony turned out to be just swearing allegiance. Until the president of said club explained that he would then have to streak through the science lab, which he does. It was actually a ploy for the principal to see Jimmy and get him expelled.
  • The show Phantom Investigators had an episode with an abandoned fraternity, where the two remaining members did all sorts of humiliating things in order to be accepted, such as drinking tea brewed with their own sweat socks... yuck.
  • These were parodied in The Simpsons during the initiation for the Stonecutters. First, there was "Crossing the Desert" (where a blindfolded Homer was struck repeatedly on the behind with wooden paddles) and then, "The Unblinking Eye"...
    Homer: Hey, did you ever notice that "Crossing the Desert" is a lot like "The Unblinking Eye"? And it's exactly like "The Wreck of the Hesperus".
    • And then the final trial: "The Paddling of the Swollen Ass... with Paddles"!
    • There was also a five-story plunge, which was really only supposed to be a laugh when the new initiate fell about two feet, but Homer of course went through five stories, breaking through the floor each time.
    Homer: I think I have to do it again... my blindfold came off.
  • Parodied in Undergrads, where there is no hazing ritual and wanted Rocko to contribute something of value to Alpha Alpha. Rocko refuses to believe and so hazes himself. He nearly fails to become if it wasnt for the fact Gimpy sent his friends to investigate fraternities and helps make Alpha Alpha's party a success and gets Rocko into the frat.

    Real Life 
  • Line-crossing ceremonies are conducted in a fair number of navies when one crosses the Equator, Arctic Circle, International Date Line, or whatever for the first time. Historically a bit brutal, but they've been reined in recently after several reports of things going, to use the naval term, overboard.
    • A tamer version is done on cruise ships.
    • A fictional one is depicted in the Larry Bond novel Dangerous Ground.
    • Happens in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles where it's still going even in the distant future in human controlled submarines.
      • Russian submariners have one when you first must drink a whole emergency lantern of seawater (that's about a liter BTW), and then kiss a sledgehammer suspended from the ceiling. It's usually calm under the surface... theoretically. So broken teeth and torn lips aren't really uncommon.
    • The Royal Navy version involves batter, a tank of water and a mixture involving chilli sauce. In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip watched one of these. Her Majesty did not take part. Prince Philip, though, having been a sailor in the Second World War, did. There's one shown on the second series of the documentary series Warship that demonstrates that not even a task force commodore is exempt from the hijinks.
    • A big part of the Line Crossing ceremony is that the sailors who have crossed the Equator initiate the sailors who have not. So what do you do when you are in a brand new navy and nobody has done it yet? In the case of the first US Navy Line Crossing, the crew of a Royal Navy warship that just so happened to be in the same part of the ocean turned up to help.
  • Check out the gimmicks from this 1930 "Fraternal Supply Catalog."


    Anime & Manga 
  • The ritual to join the evil cult dedicated to Slan in the Conviction Arc in Berserk involves having sex with various members of the cult, kissing a snake that is supposed to be the penis of the Great Goat Head, and eating of a brew that turns out to contain the remains of human sacrifices.
  • The Rite of the Covenant in Last Exile is mentioned without detail throughout the series, until it shown happening to Dio, who, though a bit creepy at first, has become quite endeared to the audience by this point. The rite is essentially Mind Rape.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Air Up There, the Winabi initiation has two parts. The first is a dangerous, grueling mountain climb. The second is a proper ceremony where a scar is cut into the person's lower stomach with a knife. Jimmy has to go through the initiation in order to join the Winabi basketball team, to his dismay.
  • In Call Me Bwana, Matt's initiation into the Ekele has two parts. First, he has to hold very still while tribesmen throw spears that are supposed to miss him by a few inches. There are skeletons left over from initiates who were killed by a bad throw. The second part requires him to swallow fire, causing smoke to come out of his shoes.
  • Peter is forced to commit Human Sacrifice at the end of the bizarre initiation ceremony that opens Curse of the Crimson Altar.
  • In Flash Gordon (1980) the Treemen of Arboria are initiated by placing a hand in a tree stump. Within the stump lives a beast whose sting brings madness and lingering death.
    Princess Aura: "Mmm, I just love initiations."
  • The Anne Hathaway movie Havoc involves two wealthy Los Angeles teenagers who get involved with a drug gang and undergo a "sex-in" initiation ritual that ends horrifically for the main character's friend.
  • In A Man Called Horse, John is initiated into a tribe of Sioux Indians by standing still for an entire day, then being dangled from the ceiling by hooks dug into his chest.
  • Once Were Warriors has a young Maori gangster getting his ass kicked in the worst way possible. Afterwards? "Congratulations man, you're now one of us!". In criminal gangs, this is known as being "beat in" or "jumped in", and it is not uncommon for prospective initiates to die after such beatings.

  • In Akata Witch, the ceremony for becoming a Leopard (a person with magical powers) is extremely painful. It also crosses over with the "Humiliating" category.
  • In the Belisarius Series, getting your first battle scar is an initiation rite for Axumite warriors.
  • In the novel Stinger, by Robert R. McCammon, a group of boys initiate the only girl into their circle by chewing tobacco and spitting it into a cup. She drinks it.
  • In Tamora Pierce's Tortall books, aspiring knights (usually teenagers) and kings have to spend a night in the Chamber of the Ordeal, which is a room inhabited by some kind of godlike spirit that gives you very realistic hallucinations of your worst fears. As one character describes it, it's "like a cutter of gemstones. It finds your flaws and hammers them." With people who aren't ready for hardcore introspection, it can permanently damage or kill them. In one special case, a guy who likes to beat and rape women is forced to feel the physical effects of every assault he ever committed. Our main characters see more typical things, like their loved ones being slaughtered because they're too incompetent to protect them. Oh, and they're also not allowed to scream or make any sound at all.
  • The Valley of Fear: Though McMurdo is already a member of the Freemen, the Scowrers have their own ritual for new members, which involves potential Eye Scream and climaxes with them being branded with the lodge symbol.
  • While the Clans of Warrior Cats simply test their apprentices' hunting skills, make them swear an oath and spend a night in silent vigil,note  their predecessors around the lake made their soon-to-be-adults go down into a cave system and find their way out. What's so horrific about that? "The tunnels" are a pitch-dark maze, prone to cave-ins, that flood every time it rains, which means some of them never made it out. And by never, we mean never.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Angel, when Angel joins the Circle of the Black Thorn, he has to leap through a flaming doorway (he's a vampire) and feed off of Drogyn, a friend of his. Afterwards, the members have a friendly cocktail party.
  • Bonanza: From the final season, "The Initiation" involves a non-horrifying initiation ritual — having a piece of ice touched to one's chest while blindfolded, but being told initially that it was a hot branding iron — that ends horrifyingly. A young boy, a friend of Jamie's and the son of one of the Cartwrights' friends, pledged to join the club (its president was played by Ron Howard) dies of a heart attack just as the ice is being touched to his skin, and the rest of the episode has the Cartwrights trying to stop a lynch mob from getting revenge on the club's president.
  • No matter what the intent is, if the pledgee ends up as the Body of the Week on a CSI episode, then things went horribly wrong.
  • In Doctor Who it is explained, after many decades apparently, that 8-year-olds on Gallifrey must go to look into the heart of the Singularity that gives their people their power. Some turn and run and keep running (like The Doctor) while others go mad (like The Master).
  • In House of Anubis Patricia's fake initiation ceremony for Nina included both having to steal from their house father, to sneaking into the forbidden (and rumored to be haunted) attic at midnight, with the goals of getting Nina scared, humiliated, and into trouble. In the end she even locked Nina up there.
    • Of course, Nina passed with flying colors (but was indeed terrified.)
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Chicago P.D. also occasionally have gangs where the initiation requirement is murder or rape. (Or both).
  • In Lost Girl every Fae must undergo a test which is a fight to the death against one or more opponents. If you live, you get to choose whether you get initiated into the Light Fae or Dark Fae factions.
    • When Kenzi infiltrates a sorority she comes to belief that the final initiation is going to be some sort of Human Sacrifice with her the likely victim. Turns out it's just a surprise party for the new members and the sorority is actually treats their pledges quite nicely.
  • Going insane is a fairly common side effect of the revelations given to a candidate in a Millennium (1996) Group initiation ceremony. Recurring character Laura Means completely loses her shit... and to Patti Smith, no less.
  • The Klingon in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "bachelor party" is a horrific introduction into marriage where the groom is accompanied by three groomsmen for four days of Macho Masochism. There is plenty of compensation though. On the wedding night the bride and groom get to gleefully beat each other to a pulp (after ritually fighting off the groomsmen, of course)! (Though it must be said that this is virtually indistinguishable from regular Klingon foreplay.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The initiation rite known as "The Blooding" for Clan MechWarriors in BattleTech involves a cadet in his/her BattleMechs dueling with live weapons, against active duty warriors, with their initial rank depending on how many (usually a maximum of three, if they fail to defeat even one they are demoted to a civilian caste) they defeat. These battles usually end with the Cadet's Mech disabled (achieving three kills is a rare occurrence and the Trial goes until the Cadet is unable to fight on) and in many cases the cadet and/or the opponent(s) dies, and no one cares.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade:
    • The Baali bloodline initiated its childer by draining them, then throwing them in a pit of human hearts. The dying human was expected to find the one heart with Vitae in it and drink it, completing the Embrace themselves.
    • The Via Hyron Baali would embrace their childer, not by the organ pit methodoloy of the "normal" Baali, but by force-feeding them blood-fed insects.
    • The Sabbat were notorious for knocking would-be childer out with a shovel, Embracing them, and burying them alive to dig their own way out; it could be even worse: occasionally they'll bury your dead relatives over you, forcing you to dig through their corpses. It's actually a subversion, that's not the initiation rite, it's just a quick way to break a subject's humanity. The actual initiation is much more solemn (and only given if the "shovelhead" survives whatever siege they needed Cannon Fodder for).
  • The various Vampire covenants in White Wolf's Vampire: The Requiem have initiation ceremonies that are both solemn and horrific. Since the ritual involves the applicant, well, dying and then feeding off of his first human, y'know...
  • Initiation into the Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000. Initiation into the more formal Chaos Legions and the Grey Knights goes beyond horrific.
    • Especially so in the former case because you've already been initiated as a Space Marine.

    Video Games 
  • The story of the original Ao Oni has Takuro and his Gang of Bullies forcing new students Hiroshi and Kazuya to visit the manor with them as part of a 'welcoming ceremony' to their new school. While they just intended to scare them, things start going wrong when they all find themselves locked inside...
  • Becoming a member of the Templar Order in Diablo III involves being chained to a wall and beaten and starved for three days, then whipped. The inquisitors who carry out this Cold-Blooded Torture tell the initiate that he is reliving his transgressions and everything that brought him tainted joy (since according to Kormac, your Templar follower, every Templar was once a convicted criminal) and that the whip removes the joy and his sin, leaving him "pure", then he is thoroughly indoctrinated into forgetting his former life so he can have a single-minded focus on his mission. The player characters all express disgust at the idea upon hearing the tale from Kormac, the Wizard in particular telling Kormac that the inquisitors treated him worse than an animal. As it turns out, the Templars don't really give a blessed damn about the guilt or innocence of an initiate, and will readily pile false sins upon an innocent if it means recruiting a good warrior into the Order, as happened to both Kormac and Jondar.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, becoming a Grey Warden involves drinking a mixture including the blood of darkspawn and of an Archdemon. Most people who do this do not survive. They're arguably the lucky ones, as the Taint kills all Wardens sooner or later.
    • Mages of the Circle of Magi must undergo the Harrowing in order to become a full Mage, which basically tests their ability to resist demonic possession by throwing them unprepared right into the Fade. If they fail and get possessed, they get killed by Templars. And if they don't want to go through the Harrowing, they get made Tranquil, which many mages consider a Fate Worse than Death.
    • And all Dalish Elves must be tattooed all over their faces to be considered adults. Screaming, crying, or otherwise expressing pain during the process is considered a sign that you're a wimp. To add insult to injury, it's revealed in Dragon Age: Inquisition that vallaslin is actually a Slave Brand that the nobles of the Elven empire used on their slaves, who were lower class Elves.
  • During an escort mission in Dying Light, it's revealed that Rais' men are forced to eat human eyes as part of their induction into the group.
  • In Mass Effect 2, it is established during Samara's recruitment mission that all Eclipse recruits must commit a murder to become a full Eclipse member. Later during that same mission, you can meet an Eclipse Mook who is all but begging for her life and insists that she hasn't hurt anyone. Players who had and remember that conversation will know that she has in fact killed at least one person, and you can find a recording where she gleefully recounts it.
  • The 3rd Street Saints gang from Saints Row has new recruits go through a "Canonization" ceremony, which is a variant of getting "jumped in" (see Real Life section) and involves several members jumping the newbie with Good Old Fisticuffs and usually beating them to a pulp, after which they are considered "canonized", i.e. a fully-fledged Saint. The Playa is canonized in the very first mission of the original Saints Row, which also doubles as a melee combat tutorial and which has two endings: a regular one where Playa is knocked out as intended and one where he holds off a dozen enemies on his own, earning the respect of the gang this waynote . In subsequent games, the importance of canonization drops off sharply, and it seems to be reserved exclusively for generic Red Shirts, as Johnny is seen canonizing some early in Saints Row 2, while in Saints Row: The Third, it is only mentioned briefly in random dialogue snippetsnote ; in fact, no named lieutenant is ever shown or mentioned getting canonized after Playa.
  • In the Sword of the Stars backstory, Liir who become Black Swimmers go through a twofold initiation of horrid. First, a funeral arranged by their friends and family, as becoming a Black Swimmer means abandoning whoever you were before. The actual initiation involves the recruit being held down and 'drowned' in liquid oxygen by their peers until they stop struggling and abandon all hope, which prepares them for an existence of being able to kill other beings — this being basically the worst sort of insanity to the pacifistic Liir, who nonetheless recognize that some of them must be able to kill for the species to survive.
  • Being recruited into The Scarlet Chorus in Tyranny is intentionally made as dehumanizing as possible to make sure those who come out on top are suitable material for the Chorus: First, you have to be captured by the Chorus (whether as a prisoner of war or as anyone taken during a Chorus slave raid). The Chorus strips you of your weapons, armour and everything you own, throw you in a ring together with whoever you got captured with (commonly your friends, family or your comrades-in-arms). Then, a selection of old weapons are thrown in the ring, and the rules are that you're not allowed out of the ring alive until you've killed someone else in there with you. Logically, only half of the recruits survive to graduate into Chorus members, and those who do killed someone they knew in order to survive.

    Web Original 
  • The Society of the Purple Rose, in the Arkn: Legacy setting, has a wide variety of initiation rituals, all horrifying in their own ways. At best, the initiate is blindfolded and taken through a ceremony that ends with them imprinting on the cult's siren-like "God-Emperor" like a baby duckling, and at worst, they're hunted for sport, The Most Dangerous Game style, and "miraculously" saved when they've lost all resistance. The one that is used for a particular initiate is based entirely on how willing, or unwilling, they are to submit.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, joining the Death-worshipping Totenkopfs is a horrific experience, not only because the initiate has been prepared for the joining beforehand by breaking their spirit utterly in the worst possible moment for the initiate until they're so hopeless and lost that joining the cult seems like the only option. The ritual involves sacrifices and blood oaths, and the initiate swears to carry out atrocities in order to let everyone and everything feel Death's embrace in the end. An even more horrific version comes when the Master of the Totenkopfs turns someone, often a prominent Totenkopf but sometimes an outsider whose dark aura shows promise, into his Blessed.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Joyride", a gang of Jokerz takes a new member to a mineshaft containing a skeleton dressed in the remains of a purple suit and boutonniere, implying that it is the corpse of the original Joker.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Season 5 premiere, there is a town of "Equal Ponies" who had their distinguishing marks and talents removed as a condition of joining the community. As demonstrated when this was forcibly done to the Mane Six, this is an excruciating process, and the resulting Creative Sterility is as horrific as it sounds.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Cephalopod Lodge", the titular lodge has a initiation ceremony where the new member has to face their "greatest fear": being stung by an electric eel. SpongeBob and Patrick decide to copy the initiation when making their own lodge, except the stinger is a jellyfish.
  • In Transformers: Animated, joining the Decepticons involves being branded (literally) with their sigil; it's apparently very painful.

    Real Life 
  • Some high school and college hazings have a nasty habit of turning into sexual assault, such as this Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada) high school football incident.
  • If this Rolling Stone story on Dartmouth hazing is to be believed, it's less sexual assault and more Nausea Fuel. (One word: vomlet.)
  • Criminal gang initiations usually involve the prospective member having to fight or endure a vicious beating by other members of the gang ("beat in" or "jumped in"), being required to have sex with multiple members of the gang ("sex in"), or committing some form of violent crime for the gang, up to and including raping or murdering an innocent victim. Prison gangs in particular have a "blood in, blood out" system — in order to join, one has to kill someone, and the only way to leave is in a bodybag.
  • In order to become a made man in the American Mafia, the inductee has to be a male of full Italian descent (though this restriction has been loosened over time, some Mafia families are more restrictive of whom they want to bring in than others). An associate of a crime family who was in the police force or attended a police academy cannot become a made member of the Mafia. Before being inducted, a potential made man is required to carry out a contract killing. Traditionally, this was done in order to prove loyalty to the Mafia, but in modern times this also serves to show that one is not an undercover cop; any murder committed for personal reasons "do not count". Committing one's first contract killing is referred to as "making your bones", and a potential inductee who does it earns his "button" in the Mafia - meaning that he is on track to becoming an official member. However, earning one's "button" did not always involve killing; good "earners," or experienced associates who have not necessarily murdered for the Mafia but are good in earning money, have in the past earned their "button" due to their other valuable contributions beyond contract killing. Until the 1980s, one only had to be involved in a murder (such as driving the getaway car) or be a major earner for the family in order to fulfill the requirements. It was not until the Donnie Brasco fiasco, which revealed that undercover FBI agent Joe Pistone was on the verge of being made into the Bonanno crime family, that a rule was made that potential inductees must actually perform a killing. Plus, doing a contract hit shows that the prospective member won't have any moral qualms killing someone when ordered to do so.
  • While it has never actually been conclusively proven whether or not a certain former British Prime Minister had to stick his manhood in the mouth of a dead pig before he was allowed to join the infamous Bullingdon Club, but by all accounts that's the sort of thing they would do. The story about having to light a £50 note on fire in front of a homeless person is fairly well confirmed, however.
  • Every couple of years, a story about a college fraternity (or occasionally even sorority) hazing causing severe injury or death comes up in the news. Usually it involves alcohol, such as the 2017 case of a pledge drunkenly falling down the stairs and left dying for 12 hours before the frat brothers called 911. Every once in a while, however, the pledge just gets plain beaten to death.
  • Many initiatory religions and occult groups involve a staged murder and rebirth of the initiate. Often, the initiate is even part of a mock burial. (Often, initiation ceremonies reenact the murder and resurrection of the mythical founder of the group, for example Hiram Abiff of Masonic legend.)
  • Spotted hyenas do this when a new male wants to join the clan. They viciously bite the new male until they are sure it is completely submissive and knows its place as the lowest member of the clan. If the new male fights back it will be killed. Hyenas born into the clan do not have to go through this because their position in the hierarchy is determined at birth.
  • Russian military conscripts, both in the Soviet era and in the Federation, often have to endure an informal tradition of military hazing known as Dedovshchina, meaning "Reign of the Grandfathers." Dedovshchina encompasses a variety of subordinating and humiliating activities undertaken by the junior ranks, from doing the chores of the senior ranks to violent and sometimes deadly physical and psychological abuse, not unlike an extremely vicious form of bullying or torture, up to and including sexual torture and outright rape. Some recruits have been seriously injured or even killed as a result of dedovschina, and many more have been left with trauma.


    Comic Books 
  • When Jay Garrick becomes an honorary Justice Society of America member and leaves full time participation, Johnny Thunder tries to get his Thunderbolt to make the others let him join. They're not happy, and decide to play a joke on him to teach him a lesson, sending him to capture "Killer McPanzee", a supposed dangerous criminal who is in reality nothing of the sort. Naturally Johnny gets mixed up with real crooks, and the whole team gets involved, eventually adding Johnny to the ranks due to his sheer determination and grit, even though he's a bit of a doofus.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Accepted brings a guy wearing a hot-dog costume shouting "Ask me about my wiener!"
  • The Delta Tau Chi initiation from Animal House plays at being formal—until everyone gets rip-roaring drunk, and the formal facade collapses under a drunken rendition of "Louie, Louie." This is in contrast to the more painful Omega ritual of being spanked with a paddle.
    "Thank you, sir! May I have another?"

  • When Mallory and Jessi join The Baby-Sitters Club, Kristy makes them swear on the club notebook with an oath that Dawn suspects she's made up on the spot. Mary Anne cries. Dawn and Claudia both think it's ridiculous, but that doesn't stop Dawn from wondering why she didn't get an initiation ceremony. (Answer: Kristy is massively jealous of her friendship with Mary Anne.)
  • Played for laughs in at least one of Keith Laumer's Retief short stories, "Ballots and Bandits". To join an alien organization Interstellar Diplomat Retief must perform various tasks that the aliens find almost impossible.
    • Hold his breath for very quick count of ten.
    • Smell various inoffensive odors.
      • "I believe what you have there is the authentic smell of sanctity."
      • His alien companion nearly gives in, but takes heart from Retief's example.
    • Jump over an obstacle less than a six inches tall for the final test.
      • After jumping he grandstands by turning and jumping it again, to a standing ovation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Legend of Dick and Dom: a fight with jam-soaked sticks while standing in a trough of custard; followed by a promise to kick yourself up the bum every day before breakfast; then a kiss on both cheeks from a guy who dribbles so much, a man with a sponge follows him around. Congratulations! You are initiated into the Loopy Tribe!
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: graduating village idiots receive a diploma, a handful of mud and a kick on the head.
  • In an episode of My Name Is Earl, Randy decides to pledge a college fraternity (even though he's not actually a student). Part of the initiation involves paddling a la Animal House, but Randy convinces the frat brothers to paddle each other instead of the new pledges. Hilarity Ensues.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Brothers Grunt, all initiates into the Brotherhood of the Grunt go through an initiation rite presided over by the Poobah. Initiates are anointed with the Salve of Roid to protect them from sins of the flesh, the Water of Brut to protect them from embarassing situations and social faux pas, and the Tablet of Retsin to keep their breath fresh. Finally, the Poobah rubs each initiate's head with a duck, and if the duck flies away, it signifies that the Chosen One has been found.
  • Family Guy: Apparently, if you want to become a Supreme Court Justice, you have to stick a cherry in between your buttcheeks, run through a set of cones, and drop the cherry in a beer.
    • Judge Souter even drinks the beer when he finishes the obstacle course!
  • At the end of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "One Bad Apple", the Cutie Mark Crusaders make amends with Apple Bloom's cousin Babs Seed, and even swear her in as a member of their club. The ceremony is fairly mundane, but it involves Scootaloo playing an overly-dramatic bongo solo and Sweetie Belle reciting a Long List of synonyms for "friend", most of which she mispronounces: "We, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, elect Babs Seed to join us as a sister, friend, confidant, ally, bosom buddy, gal pal, compadre, chum of chums, home girl, amiga..."
  • On the Ren & Stimpy show, you, the viewer, can gain the trust of the two by putting your hand on the TV screen and reciting the secret oath: "I do hereby promise only to watch the Ren and Stimpy show, to make underleg noises during the good scenes, and to wear unwashed Lederhosen every single day of the rest of my life!"
  • In Teen Titans, apparently the initiation for the H.I.V.E. academy is eating a unicycle and carrying a female student's books while wearing a pink tutu.

    Real Life 
  • In Finland, once a novice skydiver gets his licence, he or she is assumed to provide a case of beer at the club and make an impromptu speech. Suddenly without notice someone of the regulars will pour a bucket of icy water over his or her head, and member of an opposite sex will hug him/her. He or she is then welcomed into the community.
  • Newfoundlanders have the tradition of Screeching-In to make an outsider (referred to as a "come-from-away" or a "mainlander") an honorary Newfoundlander. As portrayed (albeit abridged for time) in Come From Away, it involves reciting words in Newfie slang (featuring phrases such as "Indeed I is, me ol' cock! And long may yer big jib draw!" and can go on for as long as the leader wants it to), knocking back a shot of Screech liquor (which is "basically bad Jamaican rum"), and kissing of a cod (freshness not guaranteed). Screeched-In people get an official certificate signed by the mayor and the initiator for their trouble.


    Anime & Manga 
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, the class president Takashi Yamazaki makes Syaoran do After-School Cleaning Duty.
  • Multiple types in K, which features a system of seven Super Empowering Kings and their clans of followers:
    • The Red Clan's initiation involves the Red King engulfing his hand in fire, and the prospective member shaking his hand. If you don't get burnt, you're in. No guarantees of safety, or survival, for that matter.
    • The Blue Clan's initiation takes the form of a Knighting, with the new member kneeling before the Blue King in front of all of the troops, swearing an oath, and having the King tap them on either shoulder with the sword that will be theirs as a "Guardian of Blue Justice". When the Blue King gives them the sword, they receive their Blue aura and powers with it.
    • The Green Clan is rather peculiar - one doesn't need to be a real Clansman to get their powers, they just need to download the Jungle game/social network app to their phones. By completing missions, they gain points and move up ranks, named after the letters of JUNGLE - E-rank, then L-rank, etc. to the highest, J-rank. Only J-rank members get to meet the King and become true Clansmen.
    • The Gold and Grey Clans are shown to be rather formal, but their initiations are not shown. The Silver and Colorless clans are small and rather informal (as much as Kuroh would rather have had a more formal way of dedicating himself to the Silver King).

    Comic Books 
  • Black Moon Chronicles: Wismerhill goes through two different and very elaborate ones, first when he becomes a high priest of the Black Moon by crawling through a cave system to undergo several trials, and second when he becomes the leader of the Lords of Negation, Haazheel Thorn's most elite soldiers. Both instances involve him dying and being resurrected as well.

    Fan Works 
  • To join BloodClan in Blood! Rusty AU, you must prove yourself by fighting another BloodClan cat.

  • The Black-White College in Desolate Era has an informal initiation ritual propagated by the disciples. When someone new joins the College, they are invited to the Dao Debate Palace for a friendly competition based upon their comprehension of the Daos and using the magical techniques they've mastered. However, the true goal is to thoroughly beat and publicly embarrass the new arrivals. The senior disciples say that the purpose is to temper the new disciples pride and show that that they are have entered a bigger world and are no longer the genius-of-geniuses that they were in their previous homes. Part of the real reason, however, is that the senior disciples were embarrassed in this way when they arrived, and now it's their turn to embarrass someone else.

    Live-Action TV 
  • According to one of the Expanded Universe novels of Babylon 5, a medical school had a hazing practice where first year students were required to research a non-topic and write a paper on their results with the same level of rigor that one would expect from a research paper that one is trying to publish in a real medical journal. A group of students decided to research telepathy, actually found some telepaths, and from there ended up setting in motion the creation of PsiCorps.
  • In the Get Smart episode "The Mild Ones," Max joins the Purple Knights, a group of hippie bikers who speak Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. His initiation involves jousting with another member on motorcycles with mops for lances. Max wins and is knighted with a file in place of a sword.
  • Getting initiated into The Unit involves a Training "Accident" scenario. One case involved a Man on Fire.
  • Wiseguy. When Vinnie Terranova becomes a "made man" in The Mafia, the older Mafiosi insist that he undergo the correct ritual, only to get into an argument during the ceremony over what the correct ritual is. "I've done this a hundred times!" "Then you're done it wrong a hundred times!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, aspiring Ork "Tankbustas" tag along with a mob of more experienced rocketeers, waiting for their chance at glory. When one makes his first enemy armor kill, he's "tanked up" by the rest of the mob in a ceremony that involves devouring the destroyed vehicle's crew, washing down the meal with a steaming mug of engine oil. While the Orks' enemies consider such actions horrific, to the Orks it's all in good fun.

    Video Games 
  • One of the memories that Link can recover in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is of the ceremony in which Princess Zelda had officially sworn him in as her appointed knight, as the chosen wielder of the Master Sword. Only Link, Zelda and the four Champions were present for this, and the awkwardness of Zelda's resentment of Link's statusnote  was palpable in the air.

    Visual Novels 
  • Freshman Initiation in Magical Diary can be any or all of these. It mostly depends on what seniors you run into, and which one chooses you. It at least ends with a pleasant part, where all the Freshmen are taken to a picnic.

    Western Animation 
  • The Max and Dave Fleischer cartoon Bimbo's Initiation plays with several of these, ending happily with Bimbo dancing with a proto-Betty Boop.
    Wanna be a member? Wanna be a member?
  • According to The Ren & Stimpy Show, joining their fan club requires prospects to swear a solemn oath to, among other things, watch every single episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show, "make underleg noises at the good parts", and wear unwashed lederhosen every single day for the rest of one's life (the other details vary from episode to episode).
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "A Cabin in the Kelp", Pearl expects to go through the embarrassing kind, but the Gal Pals just give her a friendship necklace and state they never intended to do that.

    Real Life 
  • The initiation into the Israeli Paratroop Corps involves "ascending to Jerusalem"-that is doing a forced march up the Temple Mount to the spot where they receive their berets.
  • The Kirkkojärvi March of the Finnish Army Reserve Officers' Academy: an all-day platoon-wise forced march competition in the cross country, with various combat-related tasks, in full combat gear. The finish line is traditionally on top of a local skiing hill. The Kirkkojärvi March, Kirkkis colloquially, falls on both the "solemn and dignified" and "disturbingly horrifying" categories. The length of the march is usually 25 to 35 km, and it is run in close formation with full combat gear. Usually there are five combat-related action points along the route. The reserve officer cadets consider it as a honour to be able to participate and the sign of a true Finnish reserve officer; even if one participates in the course but does not complete it, he is looked up upon amongst his peers. As it is a competition, everyone will do their best. It is not uncommon that exhausted, dehydrated or heat-stricken cadets are taken to hospital after the march.
  • Basic training for any branch of the armed forces probably covers all four bases; a long period of extreme physical and mental exhaustion with occasional bouts of ritual humiliation by your instructors if you screw up, relieved by the odd moment of comedy as you and everyone else in the same predicament bands together to make the best of it, with a solemn and dignified ceremony at the end when you join your unit.
  • The US Army has two initiations similar to the Kirkkojärvi March above, the "prop blast" (for paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne) and the "spur ride" (for Cavalry soldiers). Both consist of grueling physical tasks, combat-related tasks, and answering questions about unit history in front of a board of senior officers (though the board can quickly devolve into humiliation of the participants). The prop blast ceremony was banned briefly in the late 1990s when it became apparent the ceremonies had crossed the line from hazing into outright abuse. It is, however, coming back quietly under heavy supervision in both the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne Divisions.
  • Joining the Order of the Arrow, a Boy Scouts subgroup, involves taking the Ordeal - a day spent performing manual labor with minimal food and not being allowed to speak unless the OA members in charge permit it. A feast takes place at the day's end.
  • In India, the uppanayannam, or threading ceremony, is held for boys in the uppermost Brahmin caste, when they begin their education. It is a formal ritual where the boy is taught his first ever mantra, has his head shaved and sash tied around his torso, pledges to live a life of poverty while a student note , leaves his parentsí house permanently and is consigned to be under the care and tutelage of a guru in his ashram.

Alternative Title(s): Wacky Hazing