… 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

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

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.

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:

1. Separation.

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.

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 – that we are never alone and all have shared struggles.

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. Such 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 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.

First Moon Passage, or Maiden Phase

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.

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.

… 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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Cover art by Paul Gauguin, 1892, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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