We are all just walking each other home. – Ram Dass
On Saturday, I was invited to a blessing way ceremony for Lisa Cauthers, one of our community members who lives in the Portland area. Lisa has written a blog post for us that I encourage you to read about what she wishes she knew before her first pregancy.
A modern blessing way ceremony is inspired by an old Navajo ceremony, which native Americans created to celebrate a woman’s rite of passage into motherhood. It is intended to help the woman prepare herself for the birth, emotionally, spiritually and mentally, and for the all important role of a new mother, whether for the first time or not. It is also known as a Mother Blessing and has been increasing in popularity as a non-denominational ritual. Blessing ways will vary, there is no set order or agenda per say beyond the intention to support the mother.
Lisa gathered a circle of women she feels connected to, and I felt honored to be included. I found the experience to be affirming, empowering and inspiring. I hadn’t intended to document the occasion so all I had is my iPhone, which served to capture a few moments I’ll share with you now. After we introduced ourselves, enjoyed some food and socialized, the ceremony began with each of us adding a bead to a string that Lisa can use as a necklace or bracelet.
The bead ceremony
We had been asked to bring a bead. While we added our beads, we shared our wishes for Lisa. Some of us expressed what was in our hearts in that moment, others came prepared with a quote, such as Cassie Meadows who read: “There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.” – Sheryl Feldman. I wished Lisa the confidence to know that she can do this, even though it may stretch her. What I like about a bead ceremony is that everyone can be involved, even if they don’t attend the blessing way event. Folks may send their blessings and have their bed added to the string at any time before the birth.
Flowers, Water and Candles
Cassie, our hostess, lead what followed: Lisa was crowned with a wreath of flowers, soaked her feet in a warm tub of epsom salts and lavender, and wrote down characteristics she hoped for her baby such as robustly healthy, cheerful, confident and full of love. She wrote these on small candles that we each took home to light once we are notified that she is in labor. We then all wrote a word or 2 of encouragement on a felt banner comprised of colorful triangular shapes for her to hang in the bedroom that she plans to give birth in. I wrote “I can.” We ended the ceremony with cake and gifts, mainly in the form of donations to a cloth diaper fund. Lisa plans to do elimination communication as she did with her first child but, will need some cloth diapers even so. I presented her with one of my favorite books: Super Nutrition for Babies.
- The cord ceremony – involves binding everyone’s wrists with a single cord of red wool or some other yarn. Everyone then keeps the string around their wrists until they hear that mother is giving birth. Then they all cut the cord as a symbol of unity. Plus the cord is a way to remind those who are wearing it to be thinking of the prospective mother.
- Hair brushing and/or braiding is considered a wonderful way to nurture and pamper the mother-to-be. And, if there is an heirloom brush, it can act as a way to connect the mother to her female ancestors. By adorning her hair with flowers you might help connect her to nature.
- A plaster belly cast may be a fun idea for a blessingway, as well as serving as cherished keepsake. A kit can be ordered to create ease! Here are some options: Proudbody Basic Pregnancy Belly Cast Kit, Proudbody Deluxe Pregnancy Belly Cast Kit and Pearhead Belly Casting Kit.
- Henna which can be described as body art, typically on the belly and/or hands is another popular blessing way ritual. There are a number of traditions associated with henna outlined in this book.
- Read more in these articles: What is a Blessingway? and Planning a Blessingway, as well as in this book Blessingways: A Guide to Mother-Centered Baby Showers–Celebrating Pregnancy, Birth, and Motherhood
Have you attended, hosted or been the focus of a blessing way ceremony? What was your experience?