Rites of Passage are taken when someone feels they are ready to pass into a new phase in their life.

 They were, and still are today, important in the community. Our ancestors would have frequently held these celebrations to mark the transition form boyhood to manhood, girlhood to womanhood, when woman becomes crone, or a person achieved the status of elder. Handfastings and partings were marked by a rite, and naming and welcome ceremonies for babies were held. The last rite of the physical was the passage into the world of spirit. Ceremonies like these help in the transitional stages of life. They feed our spirits and bring a deeper understanding of the self. They help people understand where they are and enrich their life purpose. These rites are alive and thriving today, but not many know or understand their true, wonderful and meaningful value.

Many years ago, I was drawn to form a women’s Shamanic journeying group; a community of women that would come together, bond and support each other, and where in a safe and nurturing environment, we could help to heal ourselves and each other. It would be a place where we could sing, chant, laugh, cry and drum and celebrate being women, as well as being held in the loving arms of Mother Earth, our ancestors, and all the women from our bloodline and spiritual heritage.

rites of passage 1

So, once a month a group of women meet in Heron’s House, which has grown and flourished in to a loving and working community. The Heron who sits and watches all, who circles low and whose wings are wide and graceful as she soars into the sky, inspired the name. Her skull and feathers hang from the shield that together we crafted; her energy walks with us. The women of the house have been part of many wonderful rites. All participate in whatever rite we are performing. They are all held in reverence, with pure intent, and are always full of fun, happiness and laughter. We held a croning rite where some thirty women gathered- the energy was amazing. We have had baby welcoming and baby naming ceremonies, and last summer saw the most beautiful re-dedication of love, and more.

So many beautiful reasons we have in this journey we walk to celebrate turning points in our lives. I celebrated the birth of my first granddaughter with a croning ceremony. I embraced this new phase and it was with great celebration that I did so. When we look back at special times in our lives, it is so nice to remember them with joy. One of the most beautiful and, I believe, the most important celebration, is a girl’s first blood rite. I would like to share one with you.

One of our women, Lisa, a dedicated and active member of Heron’s House, approached me to tell me that her daughter Charlotte wanted to ask me something special. Charlotte then went on to ask if we would share her joy, as she had just started her first bleed. At the age of thirteen she has been to many of our gatherings, and I felt so honoured that she wanted to share this transition from one life stage to another with us.

Now we share it with you…

First Blood Rite
The day was dry and there was a chill in the air. The women of the House of Heron waited for the girl child and her mother to join them. They chanted, their voices rising in harmony. The energy began to weave the magic that was about to unfold. The crone waited by the doorway as the girl, dressed in white and with a garland of white flowers upon her head, approached on the arm of her mother. ‘What is your business here today?’ the crone asked. The mother replied “I have come here with my child to lead her with honour into the face of her womanhood.’ To the child the crone spoke, ‘Are you ready to embrace the beauty of your blood flow and the sacredness of your womb; to embrace the passing of your childhood into your maidenhood?’ The child replied that she was ready and with grace and ease, mother and child entered the House of Heron where the women of the clan waited.

Chanting, and with beautiful grace, the women sprinkled the girl with red and white petals as she was gently laid upon the white furs. The women gathered around and decorated her young body with art and spirals; patterns emerged as the voices sang out in joyous celebration.

The child was sat up and the crone spoke to her of the beauty of her sacredness, of her ability as a woman to bring forth life from within her womb if it was a part of her journey in this lifetime. Crone offered her a silver spoonful of honey and told the child of the sweetness of life, and what it can bring. Crone then gave her a slice of sour apple and spoke of the bitterness of life that she would taste.
The girl was then walked to the four quarters where she was questioned about her intentions; she was given a blessing as the spirits of Earth, Air, Fire and Water welcomed her. More chants were heard as the women sang their joy of the girl child who had become a woman.

Gifts were exchanged, and laughter and happiness filled the air. The mother had given her daughter a white necklace as a gift before the rite and now she stood before her daughter and took the white necklace away, replacing it with a tiny red stone, as a mark of recognition of her first blood flow. The women gathered around the girl to encase her once more within a womb. They chanted a birthing chant and with grace and ease the mother’s legs parted, and her child was born a woman.

The crone’s hands delivered her to her mother and her words were ‘Hold your woman daughter and embrace her as you did at her birth, as she was born to you from your sacred womb years ago’.
As the mother held her daughter, a red cord was placed around her waist. She was instructed to tie a knot in the cord each day until her next flow. Her white headdress was removed, and in it’s place a red garland was placed. The girl later made an offering of her white headdress to the Goddess who sits in the corner by the altar in the women’s house.
Great joy and stories were shared. Bread and mead were blessed and shared in celebration. Their rite of passage was made complete with the presence, love and blessings of the ancestral women of this land who walked here before us.

A truly beautiful day of great celebration. The girl child had walked into the arms of her womanhood, blessed by the spirits of her bloodline and spiritual heritage, blessed by her family and her community.

Charlottes Mother spoke these words: “How perfectly wonderful, just the thought of a rite purely to celebrate our daughter’s first blood. We felt that there could not be a better or more fitting way, for Charlotte to embrace such a fundamental change in her father’s mind, or mine, that she would be given an informed and educated choice to partake in such celebration. The day was a blessing for us all. As for Charlotte, she seemed to change from that day; she became more confident and self-assured with a sense of belonging that helped her step into her womanhood with ease. All young women should have the opportunity to experience a rite like this, which was so profound and enjoyable’.

Charlotte then commented: ‘Before my rite, I participated in the woman’s group and ceremonies when I could. Basically I was part of my mother’s group (or at least that’s how I saw it. Then, after my blood rite, when I attended I was there for me, and as me. I came because I wanted to, and felt that I belonged. The day was so special and I felt special. I was showered with beautiful gifts that I keep in my wooden chest; not just conventional ones, but ones that I would keep for life with a memory, and a sense of acceptance as me and who I had become. At first, I felt a little awkward celebrating something my school friends had told me was a burden, something horrible you have to deal with. But I will never forget that day, how special it was, and how life changing it was for me.”
Heron’s House, the heart of our centre, Caer Corhrain, stands in the magic of the marshlands in Kent, where now we have a men’s journeying group, the Men of Heron, run by Martyn Yates.
We feel the need for these rites to be more active in today’s society; they help with these stages in life that can frighten and bewilder us. They also give loved ones an opportunity to celebrate a part of ones journey. For me, I find it a great honour to facilitate a ceremony for someone and to be a part of a special transition in his or her life.

If this story has moved you and you feel drawn to perform your own rite for a small or a large group, or for your own daughter, then find the courage to do so and all will unfold with grace and ease. Trust your own intuition. You can go to books for ideas, although I prefer not to and I like to formulate my own. You too can do this for yourself. Books can give you a structure if you feel you need some help and somewhere to start.
I suggest you do as I do, and just let your heart be your guide. No two people are the same. The energy is never the same, so don’t be rigid in your approach to any rite or ceremony you wish to perform. Think about the person or persons you are performing the rite for, talk to them, and the ideas will start to fill you with excitement. This way, your rite will always be fresh and exciting, never boring.
Everything around us is changing. Today is different from yesterday, and tomorrow will be different from today. This moment has just passed, never to be repeated. So: be bold, be brave, and form and work your own rite or ceremony in your own way. Do what feels right in your heart. It’s fun, and it makes it even more special if it’s never been done that way before. Be always truthful, honest and have the right pure intent, and all will flow…with grace and ease.

Blessed Be
Written by Lynn Gosney – 07 01 2006 (copyright)