Honoring the Beauty of Becoming
Women’s Rites and Rituals of Passage
By Kiva Rose
From under the rich sun-heated soil a seed breaks open, her first sprouting leaves push insistently to the surface seeking life-giving light. She stretches her leaves and stem, growing up and out, pulling with every cell, every bit of energy in her being. Buds begin to form, first barely noticeable then swelling to fat round bodies almost bursting in the summer heat. She flowers, brilliant with color; bees and other insects crowding into her center, all attracted by her rich scent and beautiful hue. She fades, her scent becoming the bittersweet scent of new decay. She pushes another huge spurt of energy into the birth of her fruit. The fruit is born plump with her life juices. The fruit grows dry, splits open and gives her seeds to the autumn winds. The plant fades and withers, her dry body trembling in the breeze. She is taken by the first hard frost. Dry and brown, she gives herself back to the breast of her Mother the Earth.
We are each that seed. We are each born, pushing forward into light and life. Our bodies growing — stretching skin and self with each new phase of life. For every life event there are certain things that mark the passage of time. We are born, we grow hair and teeth, we learn to laugh, we take our first steps into the wide world.
Later, we bleed at our first moon time, that beautiful beginning of our uniquely-female cycles. We conceive, give birth to our own children, we age as our children grow and find their own lives and ways of being. Our bleeding ceases, we pass into the crone time, the time of the wise woman tending herself and her fire. In these miraculous and constant ways we change, both inside and out.
As women we are natural empaths and intuitive thinkers. We are daughters of the Goddess, our bodies the perfect expression and extension of the natural world. It is exactly this inherent connection and embodiment of supposedly chaotic nature that has often frightened men into the need to control and tame women. Our rhythms and tides are eternally connected to the shift and flow of the Earth. We are able to intimately feel the world around us, both the beauty and the tragedy.
This special gift of feeling gives us access to enormous amounts of both joy and pain. We are often taught to keep a tight leash on our emotions, to control ourselves and indeed to diffuse an emotional situation whenever possible. Yet it is well known that emotional repression causes eventual imbalance and eventually a cut-off from the female creative and inner life. Through the creation of ritual and celebration of womanhood we learn to be more accepting of our own emotional processes, recognizing them for the powerful forces they are, creating a refuge for release and understanding of what actions must result from these feelings.
During times of transition our emotions will be even more sensitive and opened up than usual. We must take care that we do not allow our capability for incredible sensitivity to lead to emotional imbalance. It is for just this reason that many traditional rites of passage begin with a time of isolation.
This descent into the self is a necessary period of rapid growth. Being alone during this sensitive and turbulent time will allow us to truly be with our emotions, to experience the shifting current of our emotional moods without feeling like we need to tone them down or tune them out for the comfort of others.
This is the time to rethink who we are and who we want to become. A time of coming to know ourselves more intimately than ever before. This is also the perfect time to correct imbalances in our lives, or to add new responsibilities and challenges.
In indigenous societies, this is a natural and expected step for many rites of passage. Many Native girls enter into isolation for a period of time at the beginning of puberty. This rigorous cleansing is a preparation for the vision quests they will undertake later in adolescence.
Fasting and isolation should be done for at least some period of time, even if it is only for a day or half of a day. Whatever focused time, no matter how small, can be given to this time of intense insight, will be of great benefit. We should try to make a majority of this time occur outdoors in order to connect with the Earth and to better take in her support, guidance and love.
Sometime toward the end of the isolation period we should envision how our lives would ideally appear. Imagine all the ways in which we can grow closer to that ideal. First, we think about what changes we want to manifest in ourselves and our life.
What aspects of our lives are no longer benefiting us or that we have grown beyond. This may mean leaving a relationship that is no longer nurturing our needs, quitting a job that is not meaningful to us, or it may mean ceasing small but negative habits such as routinely indulging in guilt or victimhood.
Next, we imagine what qualities, habits or activities we wish to manifest in ourselves and our lives. These could be dreams of going to herb school, starting a business, beginning a community garden or buying land in the country. Whatever the dreams and visions, now is the time to follow them, even if we can only begin the preliminary planning stages.
On separate pieces of paper we write down what we want to remove from our lives, and what we want to add to our lives. These are commitments to ourselves; they are gifts and promises that will enhance our inner lives, help us to better follow our dreams and to remove obstacles from our paths.
The making of commitments should provide us with a sense of direction, and will serve as guideposts for our immediate future. Now we are ready to ascend, to resurface into our lives and families. This is the moment of rebirth — we have been in the womb recreating life and self — now we ascend into a celebration of the beauty of change and the beauty of ourselves.
If we have been fasting, we will prepare ourselves some simple and nourishing food (soup, fresh fruit, raw vegetables and herbal tea are all good foods when returning to eating after fasting for any period of time) to provide energy for the coming celebration and commun-ity recognition of the reborn self.
It is very important to feel beautiful and special during this celebration. Try wearing clothes bought or made specifically for this occasion that somehow accentuate the new period of life being entered (for example, a girl entering womanhood might wear a flowing red dress to celebrate her blood).
If appropriate, we will have our sister, mother or closest female friend paint our body, hands or face with henna or a similar natural body paint in a way that accentuates our beauty and provides symbolism of our passage. Spirals are a pan-cultural symbol that intimates the endlessness of our cycles and lives. Flowers and leaves show our connection to the Earth and the beauty of life. Hearts show the immensity of our love for ourselves, each other and the divine essence of life.
This is a time to spend with our families, closest friends and spiritual partners. Quiet celebration is in order, a time to celebrate the furtherance of ourselves and time to share our dreams and visions, as well as some or all of the commitment made to self and Spirit during the isolation.
Depending on the particular life passage, different forms of celebration and recognition will be appropriate. For a girl entering her first moon, time could be blessed by her female elders and a time of woman’s storytelling could follow. A woman who has just conceived might have other mothers paint her belly with symbols of fertility and life before a time of dancing and feasting to celebrate the new life waiting to emerge.
Whatever the event, the particulars should be decided by intuition and indications of the natural world. Whenever possible, celebrate outside and eat wild foods to provide a tangible connection to our Mother the Earth.
Every flower births, blossoms, fruits and fades. Every life is insistent and willful in its longing for passion and meaning. We become our most beautiful and powerful selves through the cycles of our body and our innate connection to the Earth we were born from and will one day return to.
Let us always remember to celebrate and make sacred every moment of our beautiful lives. Let us give ourselves and our daughters the great gift of the knowledge that they are sacred, that every step along their life paths is sacred and blessed. Let us honor the beauty we are becoming in every way.
Kiva Rose is a young Medicine Woman, herbalist and poet, tending an enchanted riverside sanctuary and ancient place of power in the wildlands of the mountain Southwest. She and her partners teach the Animá tradition of interconnectedness and personal awakeness/wholeness/power, offering inspiring correspondence courses, wilderness retreats, vision quests, apprenticeships and group events: www.animacenter.org Please write to: P.O. Box 688,.
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