The healing and supportive ritual of the blessingway ceremony honours the pregnant woman and the upcoming birth of her child.
This ceremony is said to have originated with the Native American Navajo people, although many other cultures offer similar rituals for expectant mothers. In the western culture the blessingway is beginning to replace the more commercial ‘baby shower’. It was traditionally held with only women present although at the blessingway ceremonies I have conducted men have been in attendance, especially the father of the child. Pregnancy is an amazing time in a woman’s life – touched by wonder, fear, excitement, hesitation and of course, many changes at the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.
The blessingway ceremony is usually held in the latter stage of the pregnancy and is an opportunity to provide the expectant mother with support, resources and strength at this time of transition, opening the way for a healthy pregnancy, an empowering birth experience and a restful recovery. The ceremony is aimed at helping to reduce any anxiety or fear the expectant mother holds, and to inspire her sense of inner strength and courage to face the challenges involved with childbirth. It can also be time for a bit of fun and celebrate the sheer joy of being pregnant.
This sacred time also serves to pay respect to the miracle of birth and of life itself. Furthermore, it will strengthen the connection between invited guests creating a much needed community of support that will last after the child is born.
The ceremony can include guidance and support from other mothers who have experienced birth and parenting thereby honouring the wisdom within the community. The importance of passing skills and knowledge from one generation to another is a great gift and was often conducted while carrying out the daily chores – preparing food, weaving baskets and other tasks that brought women together – this aspect of the gathering cannot be underestimated.
When planning and creating a blessingway ceremony allow enough time for these riches to be explored and shared.
Having a celebrant conduct the blessingway ceremony allows the expectant mother to be the honoured guest and to soak up the gifts that the rituals bring without worrying about time or the outline to be followed. As the celebrant it is our role to keep the blessingway ceremony focused, flowing and yet with enough space to allow for spontaneity and natural wisdom to emerge. It is very different to conducting a structured wedding ceremony and requires a sensitivity to a more fluid approach.
As part of Jane’s Blessingway ceremony we passed a thick red thread around the circle of friends wrapping it around each one of our hands as we shared a blessing for Jane, her husband, Sam, and soon-to-be born baby. It was lots of fun and also very intimate creating a sense of closeness and connection. After everyone had spoken I cut the red thread, in between each person, so that everyone could take their piece home. I closed the ceremony by acknowledging our bond and the importance of our continual support to Jane and her family. I pinned that piece of red thread on the noticeboard in my kitchen and I would see it every day and think of Jane and her beautiful family. It was a powerful symbol of connection and supported my prayers to them on a daily basis.
I have always felt that the ceremony is more than just the moment on the big day. It is the planning, the meetings and the contributions of all those helping, involved and invited. There are many opportunities to be simply creative and often the outcome far exceeds expectations. People are innately artistic and creative, despite their pleas otherwise, and I am inspired by what arises when people are given the space …and no pressure to contribute.
At Sharon’s blessingway ceremony, her women friends were invited to paint a design on her beautiful pregnant belly. Sharon was seven and a half months pregnant and enjoyed the attention. We talked about what she would like for the design and then the eight of us took turns using a henna painting kit. It took just over an hour to complete… there was lots of laughter and quiet moments… and the baby seemed to love it as well. Sharon’s belly looked beautiful!
For a beautiful blessingway gift idea read my blog post here.
For more blessingway ideas visit the Birthhour site.