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Women’s Spirituality and Rites of Passage

 

Women’s Spirituality recognizes women’s mysteries, ancient and modern, a reverence for the earth and all living things, and the way women have engaged with the world for millennia.  It is a way of life that is a part of nature instead of an outside or “superior” force trying to control it.  Cyclical rather than linear, we honor birth, death, and regeneration, respecting what we know in our bodies.  Women’s Spirituality recognizes, honors, and celebrates the Divine Feminine, but not at the expense of men.  I propose that Women’s Spirituality—through pre-history, women’s mysteries, myths and stories, rituals and rites of passage—can effectively circumvent the trauma of growing up female.

 

Rites of passage, integral to Women's Spirituality and indiginous cultures for millennia, are significant transitions in life from which there is no going back.  In many cases, the individual will never be the same.  Some examples include birth, menarche/adolescence, sexuality, graduation, marriage, becoming an elder, death, and spiritual initiations.  It is even my experience that grappling with a serious illness can also be a rite of passage, akin to a “shamanic healing crisis.”  There are several components, or stages, that make up each rite, taking the individual from one form, or way of being in the world, into another.  In this culture, for the most part, we fail to recognize or acknowledge the importance of these initiations. 

 

All beings crave ritual. We engage in ritual, unconsciously, more often than not, on a daily basis.  I have found that helping people to choose ritual in a conscious, informed way, can be grounding, create meaning, cultivating connection with spirit, the earth, and each other.  Especially with adolescents, if there is not a clear path of initiation, then they attempt to create it for themselves (often in unhealthy ways).  As elders who have traversed these passages, we have a responsibility to our young people to escort them through their transitions.

 

In the words of Eric Neumann:

“in modern man (where) collective rites no longer exist, and the problems relating to these transitions devolve upon the individual, his responsibility and understanding are so overburdened that psychic disorders are frequent.  This is the case not only in childhood but also in puberty, in marriage and mid-life, at the climacteric, and in the hour of death.  All these stages in life were formerly numinous points at which the collectivity intervened with its rites; today they are points of psychic illness and anxiety for the individual, whose awareness does not suffice to enable him to live his life.”