Ritualized habits are ongoing events that are a regular part of life. They are what gives our life rhythm and cadence. The difference between a ritual and a ritualized habit (such as washing your face before going to bed) is that a ritual is performed with intention, consciousness, and with an understanding of its sacredness. While rituals are commonly perceived of as religious in nature, rituals can be highly personal and created to help us recognize the sacredness of our lives. Rites of passages can be enhanced and supported by the design of appropriate rituals.
Rites of Passage
Rites of passages occur in every culture. While they are often maturational in that they mark one developmental stage from another, they can also mark significant life events and help us to transition. Another important element of most rites of passages is the presence and participation of family and community members to bear witness to the transition. Examples of common rites of passages in US American culture are graduations, baby showers and marriages. Some well-known rites of passages of other cultures are the Australian Aboriginal walkabout, the Mexican quinceañera, and the Jewish Bat/Bar Mitzvah.
Rituals and Rites of Passages can also be designed to personalize an already existing rite/ritual or can be individually created to mark something significant that the culture does not honor as significant. Rites of passages can mark external events, such as divorce/separation and first menarche (onset of menstrual cycle), or an internal shift within the person. Ritual and Rite design includes an initial individual session (sometimes more than one, depending on complexity), the rite itself, and a closing individual session. Rites of passages can be supplemented with therapeutic support (e.g. counseling, creative arts therapy, body-centered psychotherapy, and bodywork/energywork). Listed below you will find some of the most common themes that I work with in designing rituals and rites of passages.
Every one of us will experience grief and loss at some time in our lives. Unfortunately, we do not often have a way to honor and recognize the significance of loss in our lives. Losses occur in a variety of life domains such as physical injury/incapacity, relational loss such as divorce and death, death of a pet, financial loss, and loss of ideas of who we thought we were. Loss is often an element in Releasing Rites/Rituals.
There are often times when we find ourselves holding onto something that or someone who is no longer ours to hold. We can also hold onto emotional states which no longer serve us (e.g. resentment). Letting go, releasing, and forgiving are all necessary in order to allow us to reenter into our fullness as human beings. Releasing rituals and rites can be used for a variety of situations, but are most commonly used for interpersonal conflict. Releasing rituals are especially helpful with making divorce and separation a conscious and mindful process. It can involve just one person involved in the break, or all parties, including community/family members.
In letting go of that which no longer serves us, we must also reclaim parts of ourselves that we have denied. For example, In relationships we can lose our independence, confidence, sexuality, vulnerability, joy, etc. Reclaiming can be an important aspect of Loss and Releasing rituals and rites.
Because we live in such a relatively transient society (e.g. we do not often live in the home our grandparents grew up in), we do not often recognize the significance of changing homes and changing communities. Clearing the home from previous tenants’ energy and/or setting intentions for the new home and the life that will be created in that home, can be a wonderful celebration. Home Clearings can be extremely helpful when a couple has split and one person is remaining in the home that was once shared. These types of Home Cleansing rites and rituals typically include elements of Loss, Releasing and Reclaiming rites and rituals.
Relationships often go through significant transitions. While we commonly recognize marriages/partnerships, we don’t often have a way to consciously transition other intimate relationship transitions such as engagements, separation/divorce, anniversaries, and entrance into parenthood. Relationship Stage rites and rituals can also mark other significant shifts such as the transition of a child-parent relationship to an adult-adult relationship, a mentor to student relationship to a peer to peer relationship, or a friend relationship to a business partner relationship.
The most common Western Maturational rite/ritual that is celebrated is the birthday. While some cultures celebrate the beginning transition from child to adult (e.g. quinceañeras, Bat/Bar Mitzvah), US American culture typically does not. Nor are there rituals to recognize other meaningful Maturational transition points. Maturational rituals can mark physical changes (e.g., menarche, facial hair, etc.), behavioral changes (e.g., first sexual encounter, first job), and anything else that is particularly meaningful for the individual, family or community. For example, a family that values community service may want to create a rite of passage for a child beginning her/his first volunteer service.
While menarche (first menstrual period) is a maturational process, I believe that it bears it’s own notation as I passionately believe that this sacred point in a young girl’s life must be recognized and ritualized. In a patriarchal society that often diminishes and discounts the feminine, I believe we must take steps to help our young girls enter into womanhood with awe, respect, power and reverence for the body that now has develop the capacity to create life.
Some accomplishments, such as graduations, are recognized in Western culture; However, they are most often recognized via parties, rather than through the conscious recognition that the individual is transitioning from student to bread-winner and stepping more completely into adulthood. Accomplishment rites and rituals can be designed for first time events (e.g. first article published, first art piece sold) or any other accomplishment of significance.
All rites and rituals are individually designed. You may have elements from your culture or country of origin that you would like to incorporate, or values that are personally meaningful to you. Part of my job as Rite of Passage Designer is to ask you the right questions so that I can create a sacred event that will be meaningful for you and your family and community. Note that sacred does not mean somber – rites of passages can be very joyful events. The feel and emotional quality of the event is part of what I will create based upon our initial session(s).