Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thoughts on Honoring Female Life Stages

(copied and pasted from a Sisters Speak question over at Exponent)

"Lately I have been pondering women’s life cycles and how each phase of a woman’s life can be related to ceremony and celebration. I’ve been exploring traditions from other cultures and religions and toying with the creation of some of my own. Since I have two small daughters (one just born earlier this week), I recognize the opportunity to honor their life stages as they grow up and to think of ways to honor the life stages that I will continue through. Brainstorming is always fun because the world is wide open. I had planned what I had hoped would be a beautiful mother’s blessing ceremony at the end of my pregnancy but my daughter surprised me by showing up two weeks before the party!

I had planned for one of my wise woman friends to lead a circle of women in a prayer circle where each person would have an opportunity to state their hopes/wishes/positive visualization/affirmation for a healthy birth and strong transition to motherhood. The party was going to get started with henna and I was going to have my belly painted with henna as well. Plans have changed but I am still planning on having the party, just with my daughter outside rather than in.

Instead of the blessing ceremony on my pregnancy, now the focus has shifted to a presentation of my daughter to her circle of wise women. My plan is to present her, introduce her through describing her ancestresses (complete with matriarchal lineage!) and then write down the blessings/wishes/hopes/dreams/wisdom that each person in the circle wishes to impart to her. Having this type of a ceremony helps me not resent the patriarchal presenation and blessing that she’ll experience with her name and a blessing ceremony done by my husband and his circle of men. I’m happy to have both done in this way and appreciate the balance it provides. I’m not feeling troubled about separate but equal because I recognize just how good it feels to be surrounded by women at various times.

That ceremony is what is in the works for now, but I’m looking forward to the time when I can honor the next life stages of my daughters. I’m thinking of doing a variation of the Child Woman Crone ceremony done by traditional Mexican cultures when my daughter is preparing for baptism. Maybe it could include presenting her to Mother in Heaven with encouragement to seek her as she covenants to seek Father through her baptism. Then there’s menarche, another opportunity to honor female life transitions. Next a coming of age as an older teenager, then something in prepartion for marriage. I’m looking forward to bringing back my ideas from the mother’s blessing I had planned for myself and coordinate that for my daughters and daughters in law. It seems so much better than the conventional baby shower.

For myself, I might just be able to have another mother’s blessing or two before I’m done bearing children and I will participate in the role of woman in my daughter’s Child Woman Crone ceremony. We’ll also be able to honor my mother in that as well."

The last couple of years have brought the development of a circle of women in my life who offer so many blessings to me. I feel connected to my gender in a way that I never felt growing up and there are times when I yearn for my wise women to offer their experience, guidance and support. My daughter's birth just recently was one example of a time where it felt so good to be surrounded by some of my wise women. My midwife and her two assistants (who also my colleagues) were present along with my mother. My husband was present and it just felt so good to chat and laugh between contractions and to hear their reassurance and be supported by them when it was needed. There have to be more opportunities to experience that connection and to have female spirituality existing in harmony with spirituality mediated by men. Maybe the day will come when church culture will not be primarily patriarchal, yet even then, there will be times when women surrounded by women will be what feels right.