Meaningful Rituals: Blessing Way

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be publishing several posts on meaningful rituals. Please read the initial post on rituals before reading the specific ideas for ways to incorporate a ritual into your ceremony. Although these are written for women getting married, they can be adapted or modified for men and for other transitions, like becoming a parent. And I’d love to hear about rituals that you included in your ceremonies.

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Blessing Way is an ancient Native American (Navajo) ritual that honors a woman’s transition into motherhood. Because of the emotional parallels, in recent years the ritual has been adopted by brides to honor the wedding passage. As with all transitions, the woman needs to feel the support and guidance of her community as she crosses over into the unknown.

The ceremony is simple and beautiful and combines both the cleansing element of mikvah and the speaking element of council. The women gather together in a circle. One woman is chosen as leader, and she begins by explaining the significance of this rite of passage. As she speaks about the phases of transition—the letting go of the old to make room for the new—she is creating the context and space inside which the ceremony occurs. She explicitly states that the focus of this celebration is to honor how the bride will be transformed by this marriage.

While the leader speaks, one woman weaves flowers into the bride’s hair or places a wreath onto her head. This a symbol of her maidenhood (singlehood) and honors her as the crowned one. The wreath may be tied with white ribbons that carry a written blessing from each woman in the room. When this is complete, another woman gently washes and massages the bride’s feet in a warm bath of lavender water and rose petals. As with mikvah, this symbolizes the cleansing of the old identity. These rituals may be accompanied by the universal activities of song and chant.

The ceremony then moves into a council where the women share their stories about the joys and challenges of marriage. As each women lights a tea candle placed in front of her, she can offer blessings and words of encouragement or read the blessing that she had written on the wreath. The ceremony ends with a poetry reading and passing a sweet cake or bread to incorporate the activities and close the circle.