… 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?
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 appreciated 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 can comfortably say that I’ve rarely been as shocked as I was when I heard women shame stay-at-home moms. We have to learn to be able to accept other people and their choices, because we all have our own unique paths, and we are all at different phases in our life. We have forgotten how to just 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, and even if at first it might all seem meaningless, it actually creates a deep psychological importance.
w o m e 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 is essentially a ceremony or an event through which a person moves from one phase into another – whether a bodily state, a consciousness/perception state, or a social state. Every rite of passage is an act of becoming, an act of reflecting and celebrating, an act of taking responsibility for the self we are choosing to step into and become.
A meaningful rite beautifully marries wisdom to action, intention to expression, doing to being. For women, a rite marries the drive of masculine energy to the heart of the feminine, and says, “I am here, I am fully present in my life.”
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.
A friend of mine recently shared how many years ago when she was dating her now-husband, she kept on being asked, “When are you getting married?” A while later, they got married, and the questions immediately became, over and over again, “When are you having children?” Years later, she became pregnant, and she wasn’t even five months pregnant yet, when she’d get bombarded constantly with, “When are you having your second child?” I mean … she hadn’t even given birth to the first yet.
As a society perhaps, we have become so used to, and/or pressured to, constant racing – racing as fast as we can scroll with our fingers on social media. We have to constantly birth ideas, babies, projects, businesses, events, vacations, and that’s hardly reasonable. Expansion needs creativity – and creativity needs freedom. Freedom from the shoulds and musts, and from conditioned beliefs and limited perceptions of our minds.
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?
We don’t have to recreate traditional ceremonies and rituals – all we have to do is apply the essences of it:
We have to allow ourselves to embrace and honour the cycles of the unique physical, emotional and spiritual wild land that we are.
Bodies change, perceptions change, and heart’s desires change. In each phase, having support matters, just as acknowledging that it is okay to change matters.
Change is hard, even if it is because of joyful occasion. For example, the time of transition during birth, going from maiden to mother, is a significant phase of change. there are sensations so strong in the body, and there is often fear, anxiety, doubts, uncertainties, feelings of pain and loss of control. And yet – we are also experiencing one of our greatest joys in life.
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.
c h a n g i n g w o m a n
We are like Changing Woman.
Changing Woman, or Asdzaa Nádleehé, is the most respected goddess of the Navajo people. She represents all changes of life as well as the seasons, and is both a benevolent and a nurturing figure.
According to legend, Changing Woman changes continuously but never dies. She grows into an old woman in winter, but by spring she becomes a young woman again. In this way, she represents the power of life, fertility, and changing seasons.Ceremonies dedicated to Changing Woman are performed to celebrate childbirth, coming-of-age for girls, weddings, and to bless a new home.
Changing Woman plays a major role in the Navajo Kinaaldá ceremony, which is a coming-of-age ceremony that marks a young girl’s transition into womanhood. Throughout the ceremony, the girl is supposed to take on the qualities of Changing Woman, including physical strength, nurturing, endurance, creativity, love and fruitfulness.
Navajo Coming-of-age Ceremony:
For the Navajo, after a girl has her first period, the women (and sometimes men) in her family and community surround her in support in a coming-of-age ceremony called Kinaaldá. This first coming-of-age is considered or believed to be holy, because it is the beginning of a woman and how she will most likely identify with herself long after. For four days they sing, pray and tell stories to help shape the young woman. The first day, the girl will bake a corn cake, called an alkaan, by burying it in an earthen pit and setting a fire on top of it. For the next days, each morning she will run for miles in all directions, learning perseverance. She will also offer her community the gifts of her baking, as she gives everyone from her cake – thereby, stepping into the energy of caring and support. And on the last day, she will be given massage and be nurtured by others fully, so that she can learn that self-nurturing, and receiving, are just as important as all else in life.
This ceremony is important because its essence is that a girl learns to be aware of her feminine power, how to be grateful and kind, accepting and loving, and how she should take care of her body. Older women guide her to connect to her intuition, and she is encouraged to accept and develop these unseen gifts and talents. They are there for her, taking into her hold, guiding her into the creative power of her feminine energy and nurture her intuition. They 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, and we are even burdened by shame and guilt regarding our sexuality and innate talents.
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 weave back parts of others that are broken, lost or untied?
The boys had their own rites of passage too as they stepped into manhood. The beauty of all 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.
r i t e s o f p a s s a g e s t a g e s
Rites of passage usually involve three stages, which are actually similar to the stages of Initiation:
This is when the new thing begins – when the first spark is lit, whether physically, emotionally or mentally. It is when we separate ourselves from an existing state of being, or from a limited awareness, of all that is currently familiar, known or secure. This can be separation from childhood to enter adulthood, or separation from a belief system, or a group dynamic, or a state of maiden towards mother.
It is important to acknowledge the fear and resistance that come with this stage, and also, the strength and courage that we possess because otherwise we would not have entered or initiated it. At this stage, we begin our initiation, where we will discover who we are now, away from all previously known. 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 a woman, and guides her to develop her intuitive, creative and healing abilities.
2. Transition or Adventure.
During this stage, we are symbolically entering into the woods, into the unknown, so that we can sharpen our instincts. It can be seen as an adventure, but as any adventure, there are obstacles and perpetual question marks, as we explore the emotional wild lands 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 Navajo example, 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. In an example regarding pregnancy and birth, as exciting as it is to expect our child, there are of course fears that may accompany us because it is an incredibly big change, physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually.
3. The Returning.
We return, 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 initiation has fully entered and imprinted on the subconscious, and has integrated with the individual to bring forth a new state of being and awareness. The deed has been achieved, the seed is growing, 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 to create a strong sense of belonging and acceptance to her.
s a c r e d t i m e
First things first, 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"
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 were usually three main 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 herself and her new endeavours. 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"
This is also known as the innocent girl, new moon or waxing crescent 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 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 energy blesses us with the powerful force of growth in all areas of our life. 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 curiously and bravely with the directness of a child. She embraces the beginner’s mind with her curiosity and openness to life, love, passion, and desire for newness. In every thing and every one, she somehow always discovers something beautiful, which makes her almost a mystic of love and life itself; she delves into everything with an open heart, allowing the entirety to grow and expand 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 sensitivities, she always refreshes the waters, in, and of, love.
Full Moon, Full Womb Passage, or Bright Mother Phase
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, create and manifest. In this phase, the woman is fully expressed sexually and emotionally, and is attuned 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 a 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 is a miracle, as we are, as need to be. Her energy is present in all of our deep and committed relationships, where she nurtures the loving, the giving and the receiving. 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, Dark Moon, The Mystic and The Crone, or 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. When a woman leaves the mothering phase and enters the crone/mystic/godmother consciousness, she takes on a new level of freedom, and in many ways, it is the 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 might have spent on everyone else in her family or community, are now freed up, coming to the surface and can be channelled in any way she desires.
With so much experience and knowledge gained through her life, she knows who she is and stands 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 re-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. And of course, we embody this crone/mystic energy not only once in our life regarding age, but we can continuously flow in and out of it, monthly or after/during particular events of our life.
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 seasons and cycles that our bodies and life are. She is the cool winds and intuitive knowing in winter, and she is the young maiden in spring. She is the one who’s walked the twists and turns of life; she is life itself moving through our body. She’s the one who awakens us into the remembering. She’s the one who deeply feels and hears the whisper of primordial wisdom at the edge of our 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 energy of fairy godmother in the quiet corner of our psyche, and will never leave us. She is the voice of intuition within us, she is the fire and the wisdom of our body, she’s the one who lights our way through the dark woods with fireflies to guide us. She is, essentially, the cycle of womanhood, the one who guides us towards our truest essence and most beautiful self.
In beauty before me I walk
In beauty behind me I walk
In beauty below me I walk
In beauty above me I walk
In beauty all around me I walk
Walk beauty walk beauty walk love
~ Inspired by a Navajo prayer
The beautiful artwork is by Carolyn Hillyer. For a period spanning over thirty years, she created paintings across her own journeys, and inspired from the circles and gatherings that she made and shared with other women along the way. She then put them all together to create 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
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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