With all of the changes occurring in my life, and the changes that a New Year promises, I wanted to do a special post on Blessingways.
For all intents and purposes, I am planning my own Blessingway for my family this weekend. It will honor us as a family unit, while also retaining the components of a Blessingway by encouraging peace, protection, and community through a few ceremonies I have chosen that are family-friendly for our needs.
As for Blessingway's for a woman transitioning into motherhood, there are wonderful books available outlining the ins and outs, including Mother Rising and Blessingways, but here is a short outline of the history, purpose, and how to do your own.
Origins and Purpose:
The Blessing Way is 1/2 of the ceremonial song of the Navajo people. The second 1/2 is the Enemy Way. The prayers and words of the Blessing Way center around healing, creation, harmony, and peace. The song cycles retell of the Navajo creation story.
A central part of the Blessingway is the Changing Woman.
The Navajo creation story says that, in the beginning of everything, First Man and First Woman emerged from the earth. First Man and First Woman 'planned the birth' of Changing Woman' and, one day, First Man found her as a baby on a nearby mountain.
The baby matured in four days and became Changing Woman. Changing Woman created the four original Navajo clans from her body and she embodies the seasons. Her sons rid the land of dangerous monsters and created peace for the people to inhabit these lands. The teachings of the Blessingway include history and major religious practices, such as girl's puberty rite and the consecration of a family's hogan. The Blessingway is a 2-day ceremony whose purpose is to obtain peace, harmony, protection, and to help teach new generations.
For an expectant Woman's Blessingway in modern society, a Blessingway is a mother- and baby-centered alternative to a baby shower. A Blessingway's purpose is to give her peace in a hectic and sometimes frightening time, help her see the support and encouragement of women around her, center her in harmony with her changing body and roles, offer her protection for the duration of her pregnancy, upcoming birth, and early motherhood, and provides and opportunity to teach her, through woman-to-woman wisdom, precious knowledge about this stage of her life.
Some components to consider while planning a Blessingway:
The number one thing to remember is that this is a celebration to honor, nurture, and uplift the woman entering motherhood, as well as welcoming a new life. As such, the space should be kept intimate, peaceful, gentle, and subtle.
Attendees should be kept small, between 5-15 guests. This should be a well-thought out list, with no invitations out of mere courtesy, but people who mean something to the honoree. These people should likewise be people who are supportive of the woman's philosophies on pregnancy, birth, and parenting. These can include mothers, sisters, close friends, best friends, midwives, doulas, and close female relatives.
The location should be a place that can feel homey or peaceful, whether it be a home or park. Likewise, the atmosphere should be peaceful; with candles, relaxing music, soft lighting, and a reminder to leave loud remarks, fearful or negative remarks and stories, as well as pagers and phones all at the door.
Food served at the Blessingway can be something that reminds a woman of her upbringing or heritage, or it can be food specific tonourishing the woman body, mind, and spirit.
And finally, ceremonies. Ceremonies are the Blessingway's version of a baby shower game. These ceremonies sole intent and purpose are to strengthen and uplift the mother-to-be. As there are a number to choose from, finding out what a mom's belief system will allow for, along with what her personal comfort level will allow for will help the coordinator to know what will provide the most nurturing experience for the woman.
- Birthing Beads - the coordinator can either collect beads that are meaningful and specific or she can request that each guest bring a special bead to string on a necklace or bracelet for the mother to wear until labor commences or through to the time that she has birthed. This ceremony can be coordinated by having all of the women sit in a circle and pass a length of cord around, hand to hand. At each turn, the guests add their bead or beads (can even suggest a bead for each birth a guest has had). When it reaches full circle to mom, she strings the final bead to represent her birth or child(ren) and then it is tied on mother. The birthing beads/jewelry symoblizes support and strength of the birthing women who surround, support, and strengthen her through shared experiences and history.
- Cord of Red - Similarly, the coordinator can continue the previous ceremony by preparing a ball of red string, hemp, or cord. With this cord, the coordinator goes from guest to guest, looping one wrist of each guest. When all are connected, the coordinator can talk of how your experiences support and uphold one another in a web of womanhood (Christian's can talk about the cord of three strands and even incorporate it). Explain how this unites all of you, along with all that have come before you. Then the coordinator cuts the cord, leaving enough length to tie the ends at each guests wrist into a bracelet. At this time, suggest to the women to continue to wear their simple length of cord as a reminder to pray for the birthing mother, and to continue to uphold her in strength and encouragement.
Henna - The mother's belly can be hennaed by a professional. This is a good ceremony to couple with W2WW (see next)
Woman to Woman Wisdom - bringing special stationary and envelopes, the coordinator can ask each guest to speak wisdom, a wish, a prayer, or advice unto the mother after taking time to write it on the paper and sealing it in the envelope.
- Candles/The Lighting - a great 'party favor' for the guests is candles. Guests are given candles with instructions to light the candle when they are notified that the woman-of-honor has started her birthing time and to leave it lit until the baby arrives. Likewise, mom can be given a larger pillar candle for the same reason.
Washing of the Feet - the woman-of-honor can recieve a foot washing and massage (be careful to avoid pregnancy 'hot-spots'). She can then keep any left over massage oils and soaks for later during her birthing time. This can be done by another woman of honor; either the mother of the mother-to-be, the midwife, or doula. This is another good ceremony to couple with W2WW.
- Belly Casting - a more modern advent, it is still memorable. This can be done ahead of time by a professional or a smaller, more intimate group and allowed to dry for a few days before the Blessingway. During the Blessingway, the belly cast can be pained and decorated by the guests.
- Quilting - Each guest can be given instructions to prepare a certain sized quilting square prior to the party which either embodies a character trait of mom, a blessing for baby and/or mom, or prayer or memory that would carry sentimental or personal value for mom. The quilt can then either be assembled at the Blessingway and presented to mom, before the Blessingway and presented to mom during the event, or after the Blessingway and presented to her after baby is born.
- Songs and Stories - If a close female has a singing voice, a song can be prepared ahead of time and sand to the mother. Likewise, a story or legend appropriate for the setting and circumstances can be recited.
- Nurture Basket - a Moses Basket or other basket can be set at the feet of the woman-of-honor. Then, in leiu of baby shower presents, the guests can bring items to place in the basket that will nurture and strengthen the woman-of-honor. These gifts can be massage oils, gift certificates for pedicures or massages, candles, photo albums or scrapbooks, or other meaningful gifts.
Now that you know what a Blessingway is and what it represents, perhaps some of you will have the desire to request one for your next (this) pregnancy, ask a mother-to-be if she would like to have one, or at least pique your interest into considering it further.
And that brings me to the last reason for this post. In honor of my families changes, the New Year's changes, and the life-changing journey that so many women will be embark upon in 2009, I would like to announce to you the Bellies and Babies Blessingway Giveaway!
Check in tomorrow for details...