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.


Gypsy Lov'n said...

I am truly inspired by you as a modern day lds woman! I stopped going to church years ago for resentment in the patriarchic way. Not saying I dont see a need for men and the role they play as father and husband but there was no balance. I started praying to both my heavenly mother and father before I was baptized at the traditional age of eight because it felt right. My family was comfortable with it but the members of my ward were not and that hardened me a bit, it was the beginning of the end for me...well not end, I still have a deep love and respect for the mormon faith. I actually found your blog descent into motherhood because I was looking for like minded women and I had started going to church again. However I recently couldn't bring myself to attend anymore which saddened me, I tried so hard to see the church through adult eyes and not the eyes of an angry child/teen. I get so wrapped up in the politics that I have a hard time hearing and feeling the gospel...I am still searching, pondering and praying. Just at home now. I want my daughters to be taught the values I was but with a broader spectrum of the truth. I commend you for staying true to a faith that is limited in so many ways, your testimony must be great! I envy your strength to walk against the current...I was recently told by a more liberal mormon friend that maybe it is my job to bring the divine feminine back to the church and to spread "my" truth amongst the lds faith, you are doing that and I thank and commend you! I have shared your blog with many lds women and it has opened up dialogue some positive some negative, many feel I am just trying to stir the pot. My bishop was somewhat supportive of me sharing my feelings and your blog in relief society but still did not want me opening prayer with heavenly mother and father, so I gave up...publicly anyway. If I ever build a testimony of the gospel in such a way that you have maybe I will be stronger and persevere. Again thank you for your inspiration, you are doing great things. many blessings to you sister...

Descent said...

Wow, I am overwhelmed by your response! Thank you for your praise and encouragement. I can't always go to church because the disappointment can get to be too much. My blog is how I cope. I can have a rich and fulfilling spiritual life outside the church that makes up for what is missing in the institution. I like the path I'm on and how it can be complementary to what exists. The woman's experience of the gospel is sorely lacking and has been since the early days of the church.

Regan Brianne Guerra said...

Actually, Descent, the women of the early church were very strong and spiritually active. So much so, that Brigham Young had to ask them to step down a little to let the Brothers do things as well. Unfortunately, I think our culture saw that as a reprimand to the strength of femininity. I think it was simply an issue of balance.
Just my own two cents. :)