By Isabela Blanchet- Owner of Face to Grace.
North Americans in general don’t tend to mark or celebrate changes of life cycles, except maybe for births and weddings. Other events are highlighted by mundane parties. In other parts of the world, coming of age ceremonies are imbued by tradition, meaning and symbolism. They are created for girls and boys as stepping stones into womanhood and manhood. I have even heard of ceremonies for women at the other end of the spectrum, when their bleeding stops. This is called the ceremony for the crone, a woman of wisdom.
Certainly, these practices did not exist in my extended family nor for anyone else I knew. There was one exception. In grade 9, a school mate shared with me that her dad had given her a rose the first time she had “her period.” That seemed really nice but quite extraordinary. An invitation from a friend who recently emigrated from Poland brought a new perspective on that practice.
One day, Marysia invited me and a few other women to create a ceremony for her daughter who had just begun her first moon cycle. As if it were the most natural thing in the world, she asked if we could share our wisdom with her teenager to welcome her in our woman clan. Wisdom? Frankly, I didn’t know that I had any, especially on that subject. My own moon cycle had always been painful, accompanied by indigestion and harsh migraines. “Menstruation” needed to remain discrete, preferably invisible, especially around men, meaning my dad and brothers. Fortunately, at the time of the invitation, many years later, I had already met my spiritual teacher and started healing work around issues of femininity.
After debating what to give to our young friend, I decided to write a poem for her. Unexpectedly, the gift turned out to be as much for me as it was for her. Why? Because the poem brought out knowledge, feelings and wisdom I did not know I had. The words were meant to encourage her and support her on her new path as a woman. It did more. It brought me a new way of looking at my own moon cycle and valuing it rather than seeing it as something I wish did not exist.
On the afternoon of the ceremony, the young teen welcomed us, rather shy about the whole affair. Marysia, on the contrary was all smiles and motherly pride. She had given carte blanche to all the guests and she just took the role of discrete master of ceremony. The afternoon turned out to be joyful, thoughtful and meaningful. We shared experiences where similarities, differences and creativity turned out to be quite fun. We sang, danced, talked, gave presents and ate delicious traditional Polish sweets.
To my great surprise, some of the other women shared how appreciative they had always been of being a women, enjoying cramp-free menses and feeling part of the universal Mother. One even said that she had looked forward to having her period! All the stories were worth being told and heard, both by our young friend and the older women. It created a bond I will never forget.
So if you do have a daughter or a son coming of age, this type of ceremony is a great gift to offer, to receive and an even bigger opportunity to bond and strengthen the spirit of community. Dad will need to be in charge of the young man’s party. Daughters and sons will likely remember this as an uplifting an honouring life initiation that prepared them to step gracefully into the next phase.
Face to Grace