One thing I used to do a lot with women friends was devise ceremonies for particular occasions, focused on individuals, that seemed to call for a little extra spiritual oomph. I have recently resumed that practice, and yesterday was a beauty.
We Protestants tend to be ceremony-shy, limiting our rites and rituals to big occasions such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms. But over the years, I have helped design and execute, or been the recipient of, rite-of-passage ceremonies marking such things as the completion of a thesis, imminent motherhood, a job change involving a new set of skills, a divorce, or a girl’s entry into puberty. Because my practice of this began before Google was available to bring up information on how other people did such things, each time my friends and I pretty much invented everything, fitting the rite to the individual and the occasion.
Yesterday was another such occasion. What fun it was to create a rite-of-passage celebration in these grim times! We did a Mennonite version of what would be an initiation ceremony in some cultures, or a Bat Mitzvah. We celebrated a beautiful young girl on her way to womanhood.
Times being what they are, I hosted this celebration in my garden, and the design of the garden, which is built around paths, inspired the outline of the rite. Her mother and other friends and family filled in the details and brought the food, blessings, and gifts. We observed the rules of the day, with distancing and masks. It was pure invention, pure joy, pure beauty.
Here is what it looked like. Amara started along the path in front of the house, picking up a basket and gathering treasures from her childhood that had been placed along the path. She reached a threshold of streamers strung between two old elms. When she passed to the other side, her grandmother crowned her with flowers. Amara took her seat on a luxurious “throne” covered with an antique Japanese silk comforter. Each member of the circle of six women and her younger sister presented her with a blessing and token of the occasion. Others had mailed greetings and gifts. We had snacks.
We hung out for a good two hours because it was a perfect afternoon and we were in the shade. Rain bracketed the occasion in the morning and later in the evening but Spirit and the sun shone on our little celebration.
My favorite picture of the occasion is this one, taken by Amara’s younger sister, Addie. It captures the wonder, doesn’t it?