Woman Am I: A Blessingway Night

blessingway2

by Alisa

Woman am I
Spirit am I
I am the infinite within my soul
I have no beginning, and I have no end
All this I am

 
We sat in a circle and sang this song three times before focusing on our intentions and blowing out the candles. At that point, my Blessingway came to an end.
 
I had read about Blessingways, or Mother Blessings, on Feminist Mormon Housewives, and my doula told me her personal experiences with this women’s ceremony for new mothers based on Navajo traditions. When I heard of them, I realized that this is what I desired as I take my first step into motherhood. I have previously had a mixed relationship with religious or spiritual ritual, favoring the intimate nature of Priesthood blessings offered by my husband to the more public and time-specified rituals of baptism or endowment. I was ready to find out more about ritual and ceremony and what I could learn from these outward actions that represent internal transitions.
 
After reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd during my first trimester, I had been craving ceremony in communion with other women. While I don’t believe Kidd mentioned Blessingways, her book awakened me to the power of ceremony, which I define as any action we attach special meaning to. Because I had waited eight years of my marriage before taking this plunge into pregnancy, I felt that I wanted to enter motherhood with deliberate intentions of how this experience would lead to more self-knowledge and discovery of my divine nature, and how as a mother I would grow in taking care of the needs of another human being.

I also felt a longing to have a ceremony that would manifest the support I have from the women around me as I take on these new responsibilities, and I hoped that in the process all of the women attending my ceremony would feel some awakening of their divine nature as well. All in all, we were nine women, most (but not all) with an LDS background, and most participating in our first feminine ritual together that night.
 
The ceremony consisted of two halves, marked clearly by two quilts we laid on my living room floor. After a brief blessing by D’Arcy on my home, we sat entirely on the first quilt, which represented the past, and connected to our maternal ancestry by telling the names of our mothers and grandmothers. As we did so, we each wrapped a piece of yarn around our wrists, connecting ourselves to each other as well as to the women of our past. After each woman created an intention of love and support, we cut the yarn and tied a piece around our wrists to remind us of the connection to each other. After meditating on our intentions, each woman crossed over from the quilt representing the past to the one representing the future. I was the last one to cross over, and with that action I mentally crossed the boundary and symbolically declared my intentions for entering motherhood.

On the quilt representing the future, each woman presented a bead she had selected for a necklace that I’ll wear during labor and a blessing that she wanted me to have. My first friend presented me with three beads: one large turquoise bead with a balance of dark and light color, to remind me of the dark and light found in motherhood; the second bead was a small acorn charm to remind me of the little seed that is my growing baby; and the third bead was a bear, to give me the fierce strength I’ll need to draw on during labor. The next friend presented me with a blue and white bead resembling the ocean and sand, to remind me of Iemanja, the powerful goddess of the ocean.
 
One bead and blessing represented the simple gift of a child to his mother, and one was made of recycled glass by African women and paired with the poem “Pied Beauty” to remind me of the beauty of imperfections that I will discover in myself during motherhood. Another was a wooden bead, a toy used by the giver’s children. Other beads were given and shared in the context of the giver’s sacred experience with her Heavenly Mother and inviting me to reflect on my future as an imperfect mother while accepting my divine potential and nature to endure and to bless the life of my child in the way our Mother in Heaven would mother us.
 
What amazed me about each blessing was that it came from the unique gifts and insights of each woman present. There was no pressure or judgment on the beads or blessings offered, but each blessing stood out and represented the beauty of the giver and her connection to what is divine inside of her. In that safe space, I gained an enormous appreciation for the uniqueness of women, and the divinity of such individuality. 

Some of us who were there that night are single, some of us are married, some have children, and others do not. Each of us is at a different spot in our religious journey. But that night I felt we are all goddesses, drawing on the gifts and blessings that we each have been given and are willing to give. While I have so often experienced the pressure of women in religious settings to conform to each other, to compete with each other, or to desperately suppress their imperfections, on this evening stood my friends, each so different from the next, offering her gift and blessing without shame or apology while she represented the best she had. I wish that we as women could always be like that – our unashamed unique selves – when we come together spiritually.

Alisa

Alisa is a professional adult educator and corporate manager who enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

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23 Responses

  1. G says:

    alisa… this is so powerful for me, I am very much enthralled by the various ways women (and men)find to make valuable ritual in their lives. Thank you for sharing this example.

  2. Jessawhy says:

    This was a beautiful summary of the Blessingway.
    I really felt a Divine Feminine during that ritual.

    I like that you felt empowered to organize this for yourself, rather than a typical baby shower, where you wait for someone to offer to host it for you. That shows me the authority women have to make their own sacred experiences.

  3. D'Arcy says:

    This was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had as a woman. I loved every moment. I also feel honored that you asked me to bless your home. I was nervous as I don’t think many of us have really tapped into our own power to bless and heal. I’m working on it though and it’s amazing how it’s helped me in so many ways of my life.

    I love you Alisa!

  4. Stina says:

    This post was beautifully written and brought me back to that night. The communal feeling of the divine feminine was so present and I’m glad to have been able to participate.

    Inasmuch as this ceremony was for you and your new baby, know also that I think all of us as participants were touched and healed in our own way. I definitely got a lot out of it as a mother and feel blessed to have been able to join you in your journey towards becoming one.

  5. kmillecam says:

    Alisa, what a beautiful experience to share with us. I wish you well as you purposefully enter motherhood and continue to embrace your feminine self.

    This post in shining so brightly in my mind today. I have also been reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and have been stirred up to action in my own spiritual life. I feel more interconnected to you and my other sisters when I read things like your post here. Thank you so much.

  6. claire says:

    Alisa, wow. What an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing it here so we can all have a taste of it.

  7. Jana says:

    Alisa:
    Loved that night & the chance to be with you and the other women in such a soulful way. I also love the reminder I still have of that night (can you see it in this picture from just a few days ago? http://www.flickr.com/photos/pilgrimgirl/4088745194/in/set-72157602157093903/ ). It’s so cool that it goes everywhere with me. I’m hoping that when the threads finally dissolve & it falls off, I’m paddling on the ocean & the waves will carry it away. 🙂

  8. Racy says:

    I loved this, I often feel that what is missing in many YW programs is a real feeling of ritual and growth. I realize that there is new beginnings, but even when you look at the scouting program, there is so much more ritual and importance placed on growth and change. I love that there are women who want that same thing for themselves, and for their children.

  9. Alisa says:

    G, thanks for your comment. I’ve often thought about your feminine altar pics, and thought about making some space in my home to remind me of my divine nature and events like this.

    Jess, I completely feel empowered by the ability to make my own sacred experiences now. I’ve been thinking about how there are blessings in that we’re not necessarily commanded in everything, nor do we have to receive express permission/direction in everything. Women gathering together to strengthen each other can be so empowering, especially when it comes at the express desire of the women themselves.

  10. Alisa says:

    D’Arcy, I loved the blessing on my home, and for the welcoming space it will make for my little one. I’m glad you offered to share your gift!

    Stina, I’m so glad that you felt something enriching to you – as you know, I’m not always comfortable being 100% the center of attention, and so knowing that the other women present could take something meaningful away is really important to me.

  11. Alisa says:

    kmillecam, I would love to talk to you more about your experience reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I loved how the book described healing the feminine wound through community and ritual. I never expected ritual or ceremony to be so meaningful to me spiritually, as I’m usually a person who lives a lot in my head, but since reading her experiences, I’ve found that these experiences are very important for my spiritual journey.

    Claire, thanks for commenting!

  12. Alisa says:

    Jana, I love the idea of the ocean taking away the string we used as a reminder. I am so glad you were able to attend and be a part of the community that night. It makes me so happy to the string in your pics and remember that night!

    Racy, I thought a lot about the lack of ritual in my life in the Church as well. My husband and I are pack leaders for the Cub Scouts in our stake, and we’re often thinking of Arrow of Light ceremonies to make the boys feel special. We try to really make it a coming-of-age ceremony for them as a capstone to their Cubs experience.

    When I told some women about my blessingway ceremony, they seemed a little uncomfortable with it. I can understand, since it is something so many are unfamiliar with, but at the same time it makes me sad for the daughters who are not offered the same sense of uplifting ritual that Cub or Boy Scouts are offered many times over through Church-sponsored programs.

  13. CatherineWO says:

    What a beautiful experience you created for yourself and others. I am quite envious. It is interesting that in the early days of the Church, it was common for sisters to bless each other and their children. Women who were about to give birth were often washed, annointed and blessed by other women. My own great, great grandmother was set apart by Joseph Smith to be a midwife and a healer. How beautiful it is that you have found a way to bring ritual into your life and home.
    I too have read Sue Monk Kidd’s book, and there is something deep within me that yearns for ritual and symbols to outwardly express the Divine Feminine. Thank you for sharing this very personal experience with us. It encourages me to find ways for such expression in my own life.

  14. EmilyCC says:

    This is beautiful, Alisa! I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if the ward Relief Societies did something like this for new mothers.

  15. Kelly Ann says:

    Alisa, thank you for describing this experience. Congratulations again on your pregnancy. It is great that you are finding ritual that satisfies you. It makes me want the same. I love that this community fosters the ability to be our unashamed unique selves.

  16. Annie says:

    I loved reading this. I wanted a blessingway, but didn’t want to ask anyone to have on for me. I had a fine baby shower, but felt like I was missing a piece for me. I love reading that you organized your own, that makes me feel like I can do so next time (if there is a next time). I just feel it is so important to honor the strength and power of women, especially around the time of birth. It is such an important time to feel connected to the Mother power in each of us, and that connects us as women.

  17. Voni says:

    Dear Lisi – how rich and beautiful. Just what you hoped such an experience would be. Bless you (& Kevin too) as you pass through the portals of new life.

  18. Rachel says:

    The most beautiful post. Thank you, Alisa.

    It so perfectly conveys the power and the love.

    I especially appreciated reading a tiny bit about the different beads and blessings you received. Each one seemed right. The bear one reminded me of a close female friend telling me that she wanted always to be like a bear, with the instinct and ability to be fierce and tender, both.

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