Monday, January 2, 2017

Panther Powers Part 4: The Rite of Ascension

[This is Part 4 of a multiple post series going over the details and intricacies of the multiple sources of superpowers in Wakanda and how they have changed over the years. 

In Part 4, we discuss what every perspective Black Panther must go through to get access the Black Panther powers: the Rite of Ascension.]

The first mention of any rituals or rites was in T'challa's second appearance in Fantastic 4 #53 in a one-off panel as T'challa spoke with The Thing.

Fantastic 4 #53
The first Rite of Ascension was put on panel in T'challa's first origin story in Avengers, vol 1 #87. When he finally returned to Wakanda after getting educated in the United States and Europe, the witch doctor N'baza put him through a variety of tasks to prove his worthiness. This included combat with six Wakandan warriors, a night of vigil in the temple of the Panther God, then traveling the Great Plateau to the HSH.

McGregor in his various stories made it so T'challa had to undergo a "mini" Rite of Ascension every time he needed the HSH. This task was simplified to "beat up some people." More interestingly, McGregor added in an actual religious ceremony to taking the HSH  instead of simply eating the HSH and moving on.

Jungle Action #8
Panthers Prey #2
Defeating six of Wakandan's greatest warriors was once again mentioned during Priest's run both in the Client arc and the Killmonger as Black Panther arc. The Kasper Cole arc added some more detail to T'challa's Ascension and journey to the HSH.

Priest #5
Priest #60
What is perhaps more interesting during Priest's run is the fact the king and the Tribal Council could modify the Rites as necessary. They are not static and stuck in stone. In Killmonger's case, it was more than six warriors as the Tribal Council decided that due to his enhancements, more was necessary to truly test him. T'challa also waved the Rites altogether and it was within his right as King.

Priest #24
Although Kasper Coles Rite of Ascension is likely not as accurate as a true Rite of Ascension, it still kept many of the same aspects of previous Rites as well as going into further detail into T'challa's Ascension. Kasper had to fight four Wakandan warriors (while being quizzed on Wakandan history), went on a journey of sorts (to replicate T'challa's six day journey for the HSH), and then Kasper had to fight the Chieftain which, as we said before, doesn't really fit with the rest of the mythology.

Priest #60

Priest #61
Kasper's Ascension once again shows just how malleable the process is by both the King and the Tribal Council.

Priest #60
Shuri's Rite of Ascension is the most recent in the comics, coming during the Deadliest of the Species arc when T'challa was almost dead. Surprisingly, it completely skipped the "defeat six Wakandan warriors" part that had been part of the mythos since, well, forever. It did have the meditation and mountain/plateau aspects along with some other more trivial tasks.

Deadliest of the Species #3

Putting it all together, the Rite of Ascension typically looks something like this:

1. Defeat Wakanda Warriors: This numbers seems to vary but six seems to be the most consistent.

2. Spiritual Task: This has varied from run-to-run but some sort of spiritual task takes place. That can be walking on coals, meditation, or dodging spears. This is sometimes combined with the last part of the Rites.

3. Journey to the Heart Shaped Herb: There is always a journey to the Great Plateau or mountain for the HSH. The spiritual task is sometimes combined with the journey, such as in T'challa Ascension when he was without food or water for six days until he found the HSH.

In Part 5, we start a three post series examining one of the most perplexing and iconic moment in Priest's Black Panther run... the Curious Case of Killmonger.

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