Girls growing up in Western society are immersed in a culture that does not recognize the importance of the threshold at which a girl becomes a woman. This transition is given the sterile label of “puberty” and is often discussed briefly in middle school health classes by mentioning anatomical changes, how to insert a tampon, and the emotional changes triggered by that dreaded onslaught of hormones. A girl is expected to navigate this confusing and tumultuous time in her life perhaps with brief counsel and hurried answers from Mom or adult friends, perhaps by exchanging hushed giggles with other girls at school, or perhaps completely in her own psycho-emotional world. Girls at this (most commonly) pre-teen stage of life often struggle with embarrassment, shame, anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts or tendencies. This is due to the lack of true understanding, respect and honoring that our society gives a girl becoming a woman.
Many cultures throughout the world have honored and continue to honor girls stepping into womanhood with festivities, rituals, and ceremonies involving either just other women or the entire community including men, children and elders. Sometimes these ceremonies last many days, as in the Navajo or Diné ritual that lasts four days. The girl completes special initiations, food is prepared and shared, blessings and prayers are offered, and she is welcomed as an adult woman into her community.
From my conversations with many other Western women about their experiences receiving their menstruation, common themes emerged: Instead of pausing normal daily activities to celebrate the birth of a new woman, usually her family and community rushed onward, making her feel as if her changes were insignificant. Instead of communicating openly and asking her about the changes she was experiencing, her family and community had little to say, and often the subject was altogether taboo. Instead of honoring her changing body, her family and community saw her body as “in that awkward phase,” and she often developed deep-seated body image impressions that were difficult to heal.
It is time to bring back the wisdom, knowledge and healing power of age-old rite-of-passage ceremonies to modern society. How do we do this? First, for a moment let us step out of our Western cultural frame of reference centered around various aspects of Self—money, career development, reductionist science, and power—and step into another frame of reference centered around Relationship—how to relate with the earth, the cosmos, and each other in a good way. From this perspective, we see that we must pause to honor and celebrate a girl as she receives the gift and power to create new life in her womb. She is transitioning out of the innocence and playfulness of her girlhood into the greater responsibility, interconnectedness with her community, and fulfillment of the creative potential of her womanhood. Even if she does not physically give birth to a child, a woman will use the power of her womb for many creative purposes: healing, artistic expression, leadership, teaching, and nourishing and sustaining her community in many ways such as preparing food, building and maintaining her home, caring for other children in the community and so on. Of course, without this New Woman, there will be no new life brought into the world.
Give yourself time to pause and feel into the true meaning and significance of this sacred passage. What does it feel like to you? We can then ask ourselves how we can help bring change to our own communities. Is there a girl in your life who is making her transition to womanhood, or will be soon? How will you be with her during her special time and what can you do to honor her?
For some inspiration, here are 7 Simple Ways to Honor a Girl-Becoming-Woman:
1) Share with her what your experience was when you received your moon (if you are a woman, of course!), the challenges as well as the gifts! What do you wish you would have known at her age? Share with her this wisdom.
2) Ask her how she is navigating these changes and what support she needs (even if she says she is fine and does not need anything, it will likely feel supportive to her to be asked!)
3) Get together one or more of your adult women friends. Light a candle next to a bowl of water, sing her a song, and offer your prayers and blessings for her life.
4) Present her with a special gift representing this sacred passage, such as a red necklace, bracelet, hair ribbon, medicine pouch, or other wearable item.
5) Do a craft project together: Create fabric menstrual pads (there are simple patterns online).
6) Share with her one simple thing you do to honor your own moontime, such as: Taking a candle-lit bath, setting aside time to draw or paint, resting more, offering your blood to a tree or the earth, writing down dreams and visions, gathering with other women…?
7) Set aside an entire day or weekend to spend with her in celebration. Prepare her favorite food together, go on a hike together, honor her connection with nature, read stories about womanhood ceremonies from other cultures…Be creative and have fun!
For a more in-depth honoring of a Girl-Becoming-Woman, you can create a Womanhood Ceremony with guidance and inspiration from other cultures (contact me!).
In Gratitude for My Womanhood,