The first thing that comes into my head when you say rites of passage to me is my menarche. Not heard of it? Ahem: the first occurrence of menstruation. Yeah a little embarrassing 😛
BUT I had a celebration of my menarche. I know this is weird. We used to be real hippies and went to a place called Sacred Arts Camp. And instead of periods being embarrassing, they were embraced. Every girl who had started since the last year got to have a menarche ceremony to welcome them to womanhood. We came in dressed in white, meek, innocent, mild, whilst all the adult woman (men weren’t involved) danced for us in bright colours, coming right to our faces, drums and singing and everything. We were then carried out of the tent, back to our own wigwam with our Moon Mothers (I know my Moon Mother well still, and she is very important to me) and we changed. Meanwhile the women in the tent kept stamping an dancing and singing to keep up the energy for us. And we returned, gloriously bedecked in red with as much jewellery and beautiful adornments we could borrow from other camp members. We were welcomed as women and danced together.
It’s weird now. I don’t get periods anymore, so has my menarche been undone? Am I back to being that child dressed in white? I don’t know. But it’s a wonderfully evocative memory.
Rites of passage… there are also so many of them we don’t remember. I wasn’t christened or baptised as a child, as my parents are atheists (as am I). Instead, I had a ‘naming day’ where my parents’ friends and small children (all similar ages to my brother and I) walked up D_____ Coombe and had a picnic on time. My real name means something to do with star, so the picnic was star themed – star cupcakes, star sandwiches, veg cut into stars, a big star cake… I’ve seen the photos and it looked lovely. I feel blessed they did it for me. When it got dark, they floated candles in leaf boats down the river, blessing me and giving me hope for my life to come.
It’s beautiful, but it hurts, because I know I am not leading the life that they would want.