Community, respect, connection, ceremony, sisterhood, gratitude, transformation, fun, authenticity……
These are the words women and young women used to describe their experiences of Pathways Into Womanhood, a 5-day Rites of Passage camp held last week in Northern NSW. As a facilitator and basket weaver it is an honour and privilege to bear witness to the natural and powerful transformation of girls into young women through a conscious Rite of Passage. I have returned home with a tender heart, a quiet reverence and the inspiring fragrance of promise.
Although the idea of adolescent Rites of Passage may seem foreign to many, or even something out of history books, to watch the emergence of these teen girls into their young womanhood always reminds me that the ancient memory is not lost, but rather alive and waiting to be re-awakened inside each of us. For thousands of years traditional cultures recognised the significant developmental changes of puberty as the crucial time to offer the tools and wisdom needed for the healthy journey into adulthood. Long before neuro-science and medicine could explain the behavioural changes during adolescence, indigenous cultures recognised the need to nurture the spirits and hearts, to hold, guide and encourage youth through this time of transition, questioning and new identity. In the absence of ritualised, public and conscious Rites of Passage to welcome and acknowledge our youth, they are left to self-initiate. Self harming, binge drinking, risk taking behaviours, loss of virginity, suicide attempts, and eating disorders have all been elevated to a Rite of Passage status, giving the young person the sense of having crossed the line into adulthood. But without the guidance of elders these passages fall short of offering the belonging and insight so essential in life transition, often resulting in emergencies rather than emergence.
Once upon a time, and just last week, through their own authentic stories, a circle of women would weave a basket of knowledge to ensure each young woman’s emergence would be grounded in the ancient wisdom of grandmothers. The girls heard the stories of mothers and grandmothers who have walked before them and were given the freedom, patience and safety to find their own unique voice emerging. The messages are clear: You are not alone, you are a part of a circle of sisterhood, your blood flows with the power and wisdom of your ancestral lines (known or unknown) going back throughout time, the Great Mother Earth is always beneath your feet, the Great Father Sky a vast and everchanging blanket to accompany you.
What I witnessed this past week on the Pathways Into Womanhood camp was an incredible thirst and readiness in today’s emerging young women. Even stronger than their age appropriate resistance was a powerful undercurrent of yearning for connection. In a world of thousands of Facebook friends and the facade of a constant net of connection, these young women truly embraced the opportunity to dive deep into real life connections with women, peers, nature, and themselves.
Over the five days, in a stunning valley away from the distractions of every day life, women and girls wove a metaphorical basket of protection, community and strength. A circle of women offers the much needed opportunity for each woman to re-member. Re-member, reflect and re-awaken the beauty, grace, depth of spirit, and wellspring of strength that lives inside her.
This is the essence of Rites of Passage. A reminder. A re-membering. Our young people need to be welcomed into community. Rites of Passage provides a grounding in a time of chaos and transition. When a young woman has been recognised by her peers and her elders, listened to and learned to listen to herself, she can begin to trust her wild instinctual nature, her intuition, her discernment, her boundaries, her body’s wisdom, and her passion. She will have the capacity to seek and create a life of friendships, support, belonging, safety, authenticity, and freedom. The basket has been woven.
There is something magical about a Circle. Geometrically it encompasses more space than any other shape. Within it, one sets out on a journey and returns having never left her seat. Whenever we engage in an act of Ritual or Ceremony that has been shared throughout time, we are the beneficiary of all the Goodness that has come from it. The Circle, in and of itself, is imbued with lifetimes of profound Wisdom.– Amari Gold