… and i yearn for yarn to follow the braid

searching the truth of the cloth i just made

where wild meets wise in my animal eyes

bounding threads into clothes, so unseen they bind 

Innocent girl, virgin, maiden, mother, crone, lover, priestess, enchantress, seductress, warrior, healer, mystic, storyteller, queen, wild woman. All of these we carry within us, sometimes simultaneously; and yet life carries us, time comes, and we change naturally like the cycles of the land; we enter into a different phase of our life, one, that should be supported, appreciated, honoured and celebrated.

A couple of years ago I was listening to a talk by consciousness teacher and author Oona Fergusson, in which she talked about ancient rituals of womanhood and the importance of remembering where we come from and who we are. We’ve forgotten so much, and we’ve lost connection to these ancient practices which actually held within them deep wisdom. We don’t have to do great ceremonies to celebrate ourselves and one another, but we can still find ways to adjust and re-integrate the lost parts of us.

Our modern culture talks a lot of women empowerment but I feel it is usually misunderstood or misinterpreted. We need women to celebrate one another, support one another, and we need men to also provide that understanding and space for us. This begins with knowing ourselves and remembering the essence of who we are, and where we come from; we need to remember and re-awaken all the ancient wisdom that we hold within our bodies, all the whispering of truth of our hearts, and all the threads that weave and merge and connect our souls, so that we unveil all the beauty beyond the veils and within ourselves.

In her talk Oona shared stories of tribes from around the world and what feminine energy was about, in its true essence: it is about receptivity and often times, quietness, both of which hold great transmutation power. In many Indigenous tribes, women would gather each day in their tents, where they’ll pray or just sit in stillness. While this may have seem like they are doing “nothing”, it actually takes a lot of work, for the wise people throughout history always knew, true power is in the ability and allowance to do nothing. The energy vessel that women generate, especially the more in tune and aligned to their energy they are, is not just for us, it is for other people too. The men in the tribes, and all the shamans, knew that by this almost meditative practice, in which women intentionally concentrated their energy and thoughts on the wellbeing of the tribe, actually transmutes the energy and raises its vibration. Through a woman’s energy field, people around her feel more healed – just by her mere presence, she has the potential to absorb and transmute the energy of the surrounding. This is because feminine energy is receptive and so-called negative – taking into herself everything else around her. This is also why she needs some time by herself, so that she can then cleanse the energy and re-balance, available again to be there for others.

In our world however many people still don’t understand how energy truly works and they even deny the soul body, which is also why traditional medicine no longer fully works. There is also an over-emphasis on the go-getter and doing energy, which is actually a perversion of the purity of feminine energy and causes further imbalance. We are often forced to live against our true essence and true nature, and this is what causes so much disconnection and imbalance. As women we usually also have a hard time setting boundaries, saying “no”, and attracting towards ourselves what we truly desire, because we are out of balance with our spirit, and have a hard time allowing it into our field. There is also so much shame and guilt for those women who are home-makers, even though if we actually calculate how much a stay-at-home mom should be paid for all the things she actually does during the day, it’d be a six-figure salary: cooking, shopping, cleaning, budgeting, taking care of the emotional needs of everyone in the house, being supportive to her husband, she is a business woman, a housekeeper, a wise woman, a medicine woman, a wife, lover, mother, and a therapist. Where is the appreciation for her?

We’ve forgotten.

I believe remembering the rites of passage, their essence and the history they hold, is important and meaningful for our world today. Somewhere along the way we perhaps lost parts of ourselves. The shared wisdoms and celebrations and belonging are no longer as available for us, and many women feel separated and disconnected from themselves, and others. Many women carry shame, guilt, and pain from not being accepted as their true selves, and from not being appreciate for their purposeful roles in our world. Living in a highly material and linear society, we are often not pretty enough, not accomplished enough, not successful enough, not smart enough, not ambitious enough, not logical enough, and not strong enough.

Our sensitivity, stillness, receptivity, storytelling, intuition, healing and nurturing abilities are not treasured as they should be; because once upon a time, and in some cultures today still, these are the foundations of a community. Motherhood is often times even seen as a limitation to career advancement leading to financial loss or constraints. Pregnancy nowadays is causing so much stress to women, and more than ever before in humanity, women are facing fertility problems, which is a direct reflection of how unhealthy our world has become, and how disconnected from ourselves we are.

There are so many toxins and altering substances changing our natural biological functions, such as in our food and beauty products. It is never the right time get married, to be a wife, a mother, and “is that all you’ll be, just a mother”? As if being a wife and mother aren’t an honour and life’s greatest devotion. And of course not all women want to be mothers and they shouldn’t have to be if they don’t want to – but I am certainly against those who shame other women for their choices in life, and I’ve heard some pretty horrific and mean statements said by women, who call themselves feminists. We have forgotten how to create and hold sacred space for other women and the power of sisterhood.

Many women are so disconnected from themselves that they don’t even realize it; they live in fear and shame and guilt without even knowing it. And we are forgetting who we are; we are forgetting our roots, our history, our grandmothers, our wisdom, our sensitivity, and we are forgetting to celebrate one another and every phase of our life.

It is time to remember ourselves. 

In the old days, rites of passages were performed to celebrate all the phases that both boys and girls go through into adulthood and beyond. And I truly believe that these hold importance, which at first might seem meaningless, it actually creates a deep psychological importance.

In some Indigenous tribes, when a girl first had her period, it was said that this is when she becomes a woman, and as such, her menstruation cycle beginning was honoured and celebrated. Girls need to feel that sense of acceptance into womanhood, and so a celebration was initiated. The older women would be there for her, taking into her hold, guiding her into her creative power of the feminine energy and nurturing her intuition; they wold guide her into trusting her own innate unique gifts, and the immense beauty of her power and responsibility. This is no small thing. As women, we often grow up feeling that these soft gifts are not enough. So what if we have natural healing ability, so what if we can nurture and support and love, so what if we can feel deeply and intuit the way forward, so what if we can sew and cook and tie together and weave back parts of others that are broken, lost or untied?

The boys also had their own rites of passage, in order for them to move into the role of the provider and supporter. In some arctic Indigenous tribes, once the father decided that the son was ready to step into his own power, and would be capable of providing and maturing into a man, he’d tell his wife “it’s time to let him go.” The father would then take the boy with a canoe to the wilderness; he would give him all that he’d need for the next few days, such as fishing gear, warm clothes and fire matches, and the boy would have a sort of adventure on his own. This gave the boy the courage, strength, trust, believe and confidence in himself that he can do it and others trust that he can do it. The mother would be really afraid of course, she’d often cry not wanting to let him go into the woods by himself – and this where her husband would hold her and say, “it’s okay.” He would comfort her, and she would settle into him safely, because she trusted his judgment and wisdom, because he had earned her trust throughout the years in the way that he handled life himself, and so she knew that he had also provided the boy, throughout the years, all that he’d need to trust and believe in his own skills, and move into the next phase of his manhood.

The beauty of these stories and rituals is in the mutual support between both the men and the women. And the beauty of celebrating the unique individualities of others since a young age, shows them trust, increases their confidence, and allows to grow into who they want to be; to develop into their beautiful selves discovering their talents and skills with self-believe, and becoming a vessel of their natural creative expression.

w o m a n ‘ s  r i t e s  o f  p a s s a g e

You’ve probably read the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Brothers Grimm. Well, this is actually a story of the rites of passage for a woman; each new door they stepped in, from outside the comfort of their bedroom, through the enchanted forest, into the underground king’s castle, and then back again, represent individual phases that a woman goes through in her individuality and maturity.

A rite of passage means, by definition, a ceremony or an event through which a person moves from one bodily state to another, from one soul state to another, and from one social state to another. As we discussed, at some point in the story of our world and of humanity, rites of passage were a part of life and they were held, celebrated and honoured. While we no longer celebrate them, they are still part of the natural cycle of our bodies and souls. When we are mindful of that, it gives us the opportunity to reflect and appreciate our current state of being, wherever we are in our own life path. How often do we allow ourselves to appreciate how far we’ve come? How often do we honour our own bodies, that despite change, have carried us through all tears, pains, and broken dreams? How often do we celebrate the true beauty of us, within and without? And how often do we have the support of others to appreciate, honour and acknowledge us, along the way?

Rites of passage offer us the chance to reflect on how far we’ve come, to let go and cleanse, to explore and re-explore ourselves, our soul, our body and our personal needs. Rites help us to build trust and more love in ourselves, to feel supported and appreciated, to identify what we want and desire, and what no longer serves us in our life because we’ve changed.    Our lives move in cycles, like the cycles of the land, and it feels really good when we are seen for who we truly are. 

Rites of Passage Stages.

Rites of passage always involves three stages, which are actually similar to the stages of Initiation:

1. Separation.

This is when we separate ourselves from an existing limited awareness, of all that is currently familiar and secure. This can be separation from childhood, or separation from a belief system, or a group dynamic. It is important to acknowledging the fear and resistance that comes with this stage, and also, the strength and courage that we possess because otherwise we would not have done it. At this stage, we begin our initiation towards our true selves, where we will discover who we are now, away from the group mentality – we go into the woods where we will sharpen our instincts. At this stage, it is also important to have support; and in the woman’s rite of passage examples above, it is the support of her community that acknowledges that the girl is ready to become an initiate, and guides her to develop her intuitive, creative and healing abilities.

2. Transition or Adventure.

During this stage, we are symbolically in the woods, in the unknown, it can be an adventure, but as any adventure, there are obstacles and perpetual question marks, as we explore the emotional wildlands and landscapes of ourselves, and the world beyond us. We will face doubts and fears, as the tight grip of the old consciousness begins to fade; in time, new insights will emerge and we’ll allow them to inform us, and times itself will merge with the new revelations. This is often a time when our faith will be tested; a time when the support of others will be needed for wisdom and clarity. In the above examples, this stage was fulfilled by the sharing of wisdom of the elder women. This stage is also what is known as the “Dark Night of the Soul” and it is when we learn surrender to God, the great power, spirit and his mystery.

3. The Returning. 

We return though we are changed. The girl is now a woman, a mother, or a wise woman; she has gone through one state of consciousness into another; perhaps, she is facing menopause and now all her blood is wise blood, stored within her, giving her deep wisdom and deep insight, marking her time as a guide to others, and an initiation into her new creative power. In fact, many women have their greatest creative abilities and potentials, and rise of sexual power, after menopause; they just need to tune into them and allow them to be expressed; they become great thinkers and have come into the core of who they are, and stand at the edge of a great new beginning. 

In the returning stage, the ceremony or ritual of intiation has penetrated the subconscious and integrated with the individual to bring forth a new state of being and awareness. The deed has been achieved and the initiate has accepted her gifts, which have brought her to self trust, self recognition and a deeper understanding of surrender and faith in herself. The celebration and support of those in her life enhance her experience to trust in the cycles of her life; and create a strong sense of belonging and acceptance to her.  

s a c r e d  t i m e

Dear woman, celebrate yourself. 

In traditional cultures menstruation or Moon time was considered a very sacred time for women. During this time of the month, the women would retreat to a lodge where they’d spend three days together, known as their sacred time, where they would laugh, reconnect, and share stories, and would also give gratitude, honour and celebrate whatever they were doing in their life, at that particular point in their life path. The rest of the tribe would take over their duties, tend to the children, to honour and the support the women’s sacred time away.

Art by Carolyn Hillyer, "Sister Moon"

The women would rejoice in their womanhood for they were aware of the mystery and magic of their sacred moon and sacred spirit and body; and with the wisdom of life that was accessible at this time of going within, they would support one another through both their joys and pains. They would honour their emotional sensitivity, bringing to their awareness emotions that needed to be felt, which they could not have shared the rest of the month. They understood that the pain sometimes felt deep within was proof that they were the vehicles of life in their readiness to bring forth a new manifestation and experience of life. This pain that was shared and understood amongst the women bonded them further as they were able to empathise with each other, and learn that we all go through our own emotions and experiences. Meanwhile, all the rest of the tribe were eagerly waiting to have their women return from the lodge, with their newly found wisdom and clarity, which would be for the benefit of the whole tribe. 

These ceremonies and rituals help us all feel better; to be better people, to be more connected, to feel more supported, to celebrate our unique selves, to pass wisdom to one another, to be more responsible, and to build trust and faith. Due to the symbolism of the ceremonies or rituals, they leave an everlasting imprint on the psyche and inspire a sense of awe for everyone else. We don’t have to do something extraordinary – but we can certainly do small things to celebrate one another, such as making a cake or buying flowers to mark a special occasion, and taking some sacred time each month to reconnect and support one another in our emotions and unique experiences on our life paths.    

p h a s e s  o f  w o m a n h o o d

There are usually three phases of a woman’s life that were traditionally celebrated with rites of passage: maiden, mother and crone. All of these phases also carry specific energies, and these energies can be embodied and experienced monthly throughout the woman’s cycle. For example, after the end of the menstruation, a woman can begin anew with the maiden phase, moving towards ovulation as the mother, and then entering a waning energy as the mystic or crone. A woman can also summon these energies during particular parts of her life, to support her. For example, she may want to start a new project, and so attuning herself to the energy of the maiden may be beneficial.

Art by Carolyn Hillyer, "The Shaman Weaver: Wild Weaver of Meadows"

First Moon Passage: Maiden

This is also known as the innocent girl, new moon or waxing moon (pink moon), when the young woman moves from young maiden to young woman. It is a sacred passage that is full of beginnings, birth, growth, joy and hope, though it is often burdened by shame, blame and guilt if the maiden is not growing in a supportive environment, where she her intuitive abilities, creativity and emotions can be nurtured and developed.

This is a beautiful phase. We wear crowns of stars, our eyes sparkle of curiosity, and our hearts burn of joy and passion. The maiden blesses us with the powerful force of growth in all areas of our life. And when she smiles, all troubles melt, and everyone rejoices in dance with her. Whenever we look after something young or new, we are caring and embodying the maiden, whether she is in her form of a rose’s blossom, a baby, or a new creative idea. Her energy loves being nurtured and she insists on independence, even if she may not yet be fully ready for.

Through the purity and innocence of her heart, and her deep emotions, she moves forward curiosly and bravely with the directness of a child. She embraces the beginner’s mind with her curiosity and openness to life, love, passion, new things and new experiences. In every thing and every one, she somehow always discovers something new, which makes her almost a mystic of love and life itself, for she delves into everything with an open heart, allowing the entirety to grow within her. She explores and re-explores, no matter how long she’s known something or someone, and for her, life and love become an art, a painting, a never-ending open sea, where despite her sometimes changing moods and sensitivies, she always refreshens the waters, in, and of, love.

Full Womb Passage: Bright Mother

The second phase of a woman’s life is the mother phase, or the full moon phase, where in this sacred time she either becomes a mother to a child, or creates something of her own, like a creative project. This phase is a culmination of all that she’s been nurturing and growing within; it is sacred phase of fertility, inspired creativity, sensuality and abundance. This is also a time of gaining more wisdom, knowledge and fulfilling her potential. It is a celebration of her womanhood in its full bloom, of the beauty and power of the female body, all that it can carry and create. In this phase, the woman is fully expressed sexually and emotionally, in attunement to the fullness of the moon and its magic.

This phase of our life is full, complex, and incredibly expansive. It takes us deeper into the spiritual core of who we are, into our intuitive power, and towards a deeper soul connection within ourselves, and also, building sacred connection with another. These phases can be marked to celebrate the passage of marriage, childbirth, creative project, or a sensual awakening, as well as to honour the healing of a divorce, job ending, infertility, miscarriage, or abuse. Traditionally, ceremonies focused on the re-claiming of one’s power and sovereignty.

The bright mother phase is a phase of intimacy, sacred sexuality, fertility and birth, whether in the form of a project or a child, and ultimately becoming a vessel of inspired creativity, which would flow through us freely and unconditionally. The bright mother knows that life, and all of life, is a miracle. She is constantly amazed at the perfection of the imperfections and the simplicities that we often take for granted, or just don’t notice. She rejoices in all of the ebb and flow of feelings, and of life.

She creates the sacred space for us to be and thrive as our true selves. She loves us as we are, as we need to be. She wants us to be as we are, as we need to be. She wants every moment for us, every day for us, because our mere existence in her life are a miracle, as we are, as need to be. She is present in all of our deep and committed relationships, where she nurtures loving and giving, and she creates the stability we need in order to thrive fully and explore who we are, externally and within our own psyches. She reminds us that there are times when we must put others first and care for them; and yet she also teaches us that true love means to take care of and nurture our own needs and desires, and to know when it’s time to walk away from what no longer guides us towards more love.

Waning Moon Passage: The Mystic and The Crone; The She who Holds Wise Blood

Some tribes believed that a woman became very wise once she no longer shed the lunar wise blood but instead kept it inside of her. In other words, after menopause, the woman entered the so called crone phase, mystic phase, also known as red moon, and what some tribes called changing woman, who was known to be a deity of great wisdom and knowledge. When a woman leave the mothering phase and enters the crone/mystic/godmother consciousness, she takes on a new level of freedom, and in many ways, it is real freedom of the soul. After menopause, many women also experience great sexual energy, and can suddenly become very creative. All the creative energies that she previously spent on everyone else, are now freed up, coming to the surface and can be channeled in any way she wishes.

With so much experience and knowledge through her life, she knows who she is and is strong in the spiritual core of herself. She is an eagle, soaring high and venturing into new possibilities, relying on her own innate wisdom rather than depending on authority or even a husband.

Claiming the crone energy is often a difficult task for most women because it requires us to acknowledge our power, strength, intuition, individuality and wisdom; and to claim our true freedom of mind, heart, body and soul. It means to speak our voice, even if we haven’t done that before; it means to find ourselves amidst all the others that we once took care of and identified with; it means to accept the power that we hold as women; and to guide the maidens and mothers who now look up to us and need our support.

The strength, vitality, aliveness and spirit of our soul don’t leave us once our blood leaves us; it is wise blood – it knows and is still within us. Our modern society doesn’t support post-menopausal women as much as needed, and the changing bodies aren’t celebrated, and there isn’t even much information on how we change with age. There is a deep internal beauty and wisdom as we age, and it is one to be honoured and celebrated.

Art by Carolyn Hillyer, "Northern Sisterhood of Drums, Moon in Water Udegan"

So who is changing woman?

She is you. She is me. She is all of us. She is the one who’s walked the twists and turns of life; she’s the one who remembers and awakens; she’s the one who deeply feels and hears the whisper of primordial wisdom at the edge of hearing; she’s the one who trusts in her deep knowing and intuition. She is the one who entered the gateway through the wise blood, and now stands between the worlds, unveiling the beauty beyond the veils and within ourselves. She’s the fairy godmother and will never leave us; she is the voice of intuition within us; she is the fire and the wisdom of our body; she will light our way through the dark woods with fireflies to guide us. She is the beginning of a woman in her truest essence and most beautiful self, standing strongly in the core of who she truly is.

The artwork is of the beautiful work of Carolyn Hillyer; paintings that span thirty years that have anchored her on her own journeys, and circles and gatherings that she created and shared with other women. She then created the Weavers’ Oracle which forms a wild alchemy of the images, words and mythical stories of the archetypal women mysteries, of all the untamed lands and hills where she grew and developed her work, of all the wisdom inherent in the women’s journeys as it crossed the intuitive landscapes and followed the sacred threads of the grandmothers, mothers and daughters that weave magic out of life. 

The first time I came across her work was when I saw the painting of the Shaman Weaver, The Runner, featured on the cover of my article and in full size, down below. It pulled me so deeply into itself that I just couldn’t shake it off; I felt mesmerized and couldn’t look away, and couldn’t forget it long after. Perhaps, I recognized myself at first, as I do look similar to her; and so I wanted to find out what her story was. I then saw her name Runner, Weaver of the Valleys. She runs over the wild lands, along the returning path, following her instinct, for her totem is wild cat or wolf. She keeps us moving forward, along the unwalked, unpaved, untamed, and unknown even though deep within these paths are known by our soul and heart. She runs wild, to start our story spinning, to unfold our destiny. She may look like the lone independent one, the jaguar, the wolf, the leopard, but her fire burns within her and will light her way. Considering my totem is the black panther, not only did the painting resonate with me but also the spirit message of this Shaman Weaver did; the secret threads that always pulled my heart across the wild lands, when I was somehow always searching, always watching, always listening for something but not quite knowing what, when I’d get hints of it throughout my life, of almosts but not yet, of almosts but not exactly, until the day the landscape before me will embody all that I’d ever looked for my entire life, and I’ll know: here, finally, is the thing I was made for.    

Carolyn’s beautiful paintings carry the spirit that remind me that a woman is a time traveller, a cycle of the land, a wooden jar of joys and tears we hold in our body, a moon which holds the waning within its waxing. It reminds me of the powerful sacred thread mother, daughter, granddaughter, and the maiden, mother, crone, hold together; of the importance of having support of other women in our life; of the importance to have compassion and forgiveness when we’ve felt unloved, unsupported and unappreciated by them, when the thread might have thinned, split or even torn off, and how we can still weave it again, and kiss it.   

My poems featured in this article are inspired by Carolyn’s beautiful artwork.   

Art by Carolyn Hillyer, "The Shaman Weaver: Runner Weaver of the Valleys" 

//

the woods are waiting for me tonight, dear stone fruit:

so i run fast over the wild land of returning paths
destiny chasing my heels, i enter
changing woman weaving house
where the otherworld is everywhere

weaving the integrity of emeralds, sacred lovers
tenderness in tents and the souls of the thousand white elks

and i weave, dear stone fruit:

to intuit fire i
am moon water i
am white shell
woman

weaving clouds into winds, tides for the fishermen
lyric of hearth and the seed of the eagleman
creating and spinning the threads on wheels
under the constant beat of the only sound

there is: love

//

… and the earth will always bear your feet
and this wind will always hold your dream
for you are the beloved of the hills and the animal speaks
of your kindness and love you are
moon water girl

: poetry excerpts from The God-like Things by Lubomira Kourteva

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