A rite of passage ceremony or ritual can be as involved as our other rites of marriage, naming, or funerals or it can be as delightfully simple. I treasure the ordinary, the every day, and the reassurance that familiarity brings. Something everyday, done consciously, can be every bit as sacred as an out-of-the-ordinary ritual – and it might appeal to your teenager more. A ritual does not have to be out in the woods, with candles and chanting, and what many a teenager would deem to be ‘weirdness’!
A meaningful ritual could be:
- a special meal with a pause for a few well chosen words
- a mother and daughter trip to some long-dreamed of destination
- a visit to an old childhood haunt, to remember, and talk of hopes for the future
- a visit to grandma finishing with the gift of her mother’s engagement ring
A ritual can be normal and special at the same time. It can be meaningful without having to include things that would make your daughter cringe. Teenagers are notoriously easy to embarrass and sensitivity to this is essential in allowing her to be fully present at her own event. Equally, magic happens – in the right setting, people will suddenly feel moved to say or do things that they would never normally feel comfortable with. Trust that if you keep it simple and sincere, that it will be powerful and meaningful. Whether you design something for her yourself, or you and your daughter create something together, it is important to tailor her rite of passage to suit her. You are looking for a balance between something that feels comfortable to her, but also has that element of challenge too.
As we live in a culture that does not have any clearly defined ways of marking and celebrating the transition from girl to woman we have the challenge and luxury of creating our own. If the territory feels too unknown, then you may choose to team up with other mothers and their daughters and all make the journey of preparation and ritual celebration together.
Included on this website is research on other cultures’ rituals, a list of what have been deemed to be the key elements of ritual, and examples of what others have done, but the place to start is with you.
Allow your intuition to guide you towards what would be right for your daughter.
You may wish to mull it over with elder women in your family, other female relatives, close women friends, other young women that you know; but start with you first. Trust that your knowledge of your daughter will help suggest to you what might serve her best as a way of honouring her emerging womanhood.
- Begin by thinking about what gives her pleasure – go to her comfort zone first
- What is important to her – what would give this meaning?
- Then consider what might take her to an edge – just out of her comfort zone.
- Think about who could be supportive to her in this.
- Who are the important females in her life – who else could be involved or invited?
- Who will lead the ritual – you, a friend, a family member, a celebrant?
- What could you do that would make her feel special?
- Would some element of surprise serve to heighten the experience – an unexpected guest, an extra challenge, some words from a grandmother, something hand-made for her…
- What is the most suitable venue – comfortable, private, special?
- A word about taking photographs: although it can be lovely to have a visual record of the event, the taking of photographs can dominate. Recording the event can interfere with the experience of being present at the event. So decide beforehand what you want and communicate this clearly to everyone present. You could designate one person to discretely snap away (with copies made available to others afterwards perhaps).
All rituals need a beginning, a happening, and an end, followed by feasting. This can be as simple as lighting a candle, speaking, blowing the candle out, and sharing a hot chocolate. It can also involve a lot more.
Key elements of a ceremony or ritual
The Welcome – put folks at their ease by welcoming them, perhaps remembering those who cannot be there, saying what you are gathered for (to mark your daughter’s stepping away from childhood and towards adulthood) and explaining what is going to happen.
You may want to say more about what you and your daughter have done to get to this point.
People will appreciate being told what is going to be expected of them.
Physical contact can help to bring intimacy to the gathering. Although often spontaneous, it can also set the tone, as long as it feels comfortable: holding hands, washing your daughter’s feet or hands, massaging feet or hands, a hug, kiss, placing hands on her head.
The Happening – this is where you do something that gives meaning and purpose to the event. The possibilities for what you do are infinite.
Your daughter may have prepared something for this part of the ceremony. She may have an intention or vow for herself that she would like to speak aloud.
You may have given her a challenge to perform. You may have asked others close to your daughter to participate in some way.
Blessings and offerings – words spoken in a ritual setting carry great weight. This can be a good time to offer words of support, words of acknowledgement of a girl’s skills and strengths, words of warning, and words of wisdom.
The symbolic gift – Give your daughter a gift to symbolise and acknowledge her achievement – to serve as a talisman and to remind her of the power of what she has undergone. The time and thought that you give to the choice of gift is more powerful than its cost.
Gifts ideas: A hand-made purse filled with treasures, a piece of family jewellery, a heart-shaped stone, a letter written from the heart, some significant trinket from your past, a poem, a tree planted somewhere special, strands of her hair woven into a plaited thread, a family heirloom, something home-made, a box…
Closing – it is important to let people know when the ceremony is ended. Thank them for being there. Blow out a candle, blow your daughter a kiss, clap, hug, sing her name, shout three cheers, whatever seems right.
Merry-making – Finish with a celebration – feasting on favourite foods, special people, music, merry-making. Dancing, some would say there must be dancing! Or music at least, or singing.
If you would like support or further guidance in creating a rite of passage with your daughter I offer private telephone coaching sessions. For information email me at email@example.com