Welcoming our Daughters to Womanhood
Honouring and Celebrating the Menarche
Our modern culture has forgotten to honour the Rites of Passage in a Woman’s life. In not doing this we miss the opportunity they provide of celebrating and welcoming the huge transformations that we go through at our menarche, childbirth and menopause.
Honouring rites of passage is an ancient tradition seen in all cultures across the planet. Our rites of passage happen whether we bring consciousness to them or not. And the experience we have at each of these times of transformation in our life is what teaches us about what our culture expects of us in our new role and how that role is valued, whether we realise it or not.
At her menarche, the experience a girl has, how she is treated, the messages she gets, both subliminal and specific, inform her of her culture’s value of woman and how she is expected to behave.
In many traditional cultures, the rites of passage around a woman’s fertility were enacted with the seriousness and reverence they deserve. The cultures that honoured the feminine rites of passage of the menarche, childbirth and menopause were those that honoured the feminine in all respects. They were more likely peaceful cultures where woman and men were equally valued, living their lives in harmony with the Earth and the cycles.
The Apache Native Americans held ceremonies for days, with the whole tribe present, to celebrate girls entering their Womanhood.
The Nootka tribe, had a party to honour a girl’s menarche, and then she was taken far out to sea and left to swim back to the land. (i)
Once she had done this she was recognised by her community as a woman, strong and brave and ready for the responsibilities of womanhood – marriage and rearing children.
In modern times, some families acknowledge the menarche with a gift for the young woman, a celebratory dinner, even a party.
Sometimes this happens within a circle of women who welcome the newly fertile woman, the initiate, to their sisterhood. They share stories of their own experiences of menstruation and make wishes and blessings for the new woman’s future life.
And for others the menarche is not acknowledged.
The way the menarche and menstruation, a physical expression of the feminine, are dealt with in our culture, our families and our communities, influences how a young woman understands what it “means” to be a Woman, a cyclical sexual fertile female human being. It also influences how our culture feels about and treats the Earth and her resources. Understanding and respecting a woman’s cyclical nature, starting with the Menarche of our daughters, has a healing effect on our Earth. In valuing our blood, our cyclical nature, feminine magic and teaching our daughters to do the same we participate in the healing our ravaged Earth needs.
Everything about a woman’s life is cyclical, there is a never ending spiral of growth and decay, building up and letting go, energy out and energy in. It happens every month with the menstrual cycle and every 29.5 days with the lunation cycle, every three months with a change of season and every 25 or so years of one’s life.
Same cycle, different speeds.
And if you’re lucky or more correctly in tune, then your monthly cycle and the moon’s, will be synchronised, just as nature intended.
Menstruation gives us our cycle, a monthly clock to live our life around, it gives us times of energy out and times of energy in, just like the moon waxes and wanes each month our energy, creativity and libido waxes and wanes, yet how many women live according to their cycle? Mostly we ignore, or at least try to ignore that we don’t feel able or up to the various tasks we set our selves when our energy is waning in the second half of our cycle. To say “I am premenstrual” is seen by many as some sort of lame excuse for inadequacy. Our culture is not geared around the natural waxing and waning of women. We could be lead to believe that we need to be like the women in the tampon ads, plug ourselves up, wear tight white clothes and carry on regardless of the fact that we are bleeding. We are encouraged to ignore the messages from our body, take pain killers and pretend its business as usual.
If you think this works, just ask the men folk around you.
Few of us were treated with celebration and honouring to welcome us to our next phase – Woman. So few of us know what to do with our daughters.
We need to welcome our daughters to womanhood and teach them that they are special and valued. We need to tell them it’s important that they honour their cycles – to ‘go with the flow’. However first we must do that ourselves, and heal from any wounds from our own menarche rite of passage. (ii)
In our community we welcome the girls to womanhood with a beautiful ceremony to honour them. We sit in a circle and the maiden sits in the centre.
We all wear red and she wears a circlet of flowers on her head.
Her Mother is there.
Each woman around the circle shares with the maiden “What I wish I had been told at the onset of my fertility cycle, or what I was told that really helped me.” “What I have learned through and from my cycles over the years.” And a special specific wish for the maiden from them. We give her gifts and have a tea party.
The girls feel like they have been initiated into a special club,
They have – Womanhood.
I love some of the young women’s comments after their Menarche ceremony:
Charissa: tears in her eyes – thank you
Chelsea: I didn’t want to do this you know, but it was cool, the best day of my life!
Katelyn: I feel special, like I’ve won something, you’re all being so nice to me!
And Tess and Millie, 10 and 9 year olds who where at the ceremony with their mothers, said they were going to watch the moon together, so their blood would come at the same time and they could have their ceremony together.
We have a circle once a month, with these girls and others who have started menstruating, who have also had menarche ceremonies.
It’s a beautiful thing, we each talk about where we are in our cycle and how we are experiencing it. We talk about the opportunities that our cycle gives each week, very like the seasons of the Earth.
They certainly feel a connection with each other and with the cycles of the Earth and moon. How will this effect them as women?
My guess would be that it will build on where they are at now, feeling aware, conscious and in tune with their cycles, comfortable talking about it all and understanding why the feel the way they do on certain days.
They say they feel very glad that we gather and do talk about this kind of stuff, they say most of the other girls at school don’t and to them that seems immature.
Why wouldn’t we do everything we can to help our girls as they embark on their journey into womanhood, we may even heal ourselves, the wounded feminine and the Earth in the process.