Rituals are society’s way of teaching and maintaining the culture. To
restore the matrilineal lines of initiation (old women teaching young
women) rituals are essential. A menarche (first menstruation) ritual can
make this time easier and more meaningful for both the young women
beginning menstruation, and her mother. Such a ritual comforts the
young woman and lets her know that her feelings are natural and have
been shared by women throughout time. It focuses the attention of the
community on the young women’s needs at this time in her life. And it
instructs the young woman about what her family and society expect of
her now that she is entering womanhood.
When your daughter’s first menstruation arrives, congratulate her, love
her, and make sure you take care of her immediate physical and
emotional needs. Then call together your community of women to
participate in the ritual you have planned. Let other women support and
nurture you both at this time. Don’t worry if some of the women are
embarrassed by the idea of a moon-time ritual. Their feelings will be
healed as they join in the honoring of your daughter. And please don’t
put off your daughter’s ritual because she is shy and doesn’t want to tell
anyone “she has started.” This is her moment. I recommend helping her
to face it and feel good about it. Surround her with women she loves and
who love her. You may be surprised, especially if you have never
attended a menarche ritual, at the healing and joy that accompany such
At most menarche rituals, women only are present. The men of the
family, and the young girls who have not yet begun menstruation, are
invited to congratulate the new woman after the ritual, and give her gifts.
Begin your ritual by creating a sacred space in whatever way feels
comfortable to you and to your friends and family. Turn off all phones
(and cell phones) and put “Do Not Disturb” signs on the doors. Light
candles or incense, play soft music or drum softly, read poetry or sit in
An altar is a common way to create a sacred space. Altars help us
remember and focus on what is meaningful for us. The objects on the
altar are symbolic of the theme of the ritual. We may have symbols of the
Earth, pictures or statues of great or holy people or pictures of revered
family members. Flowers and other decorations are welcome. A flower
garland, to be worn later by the new woman, can be on the altar.
Another way to create a sacred space is to make a circle with a red rope.
Our community has a rope that has been dyed red, which is used at
many community rituals. You can also sprinkle herbs around the outside
of the circle.
As you enter the sacred space, purify your minds and hearts of daily
concerns. You can sprinkle everyone with water, or throw flower petals
over everyone, or smudge-whatever feels to you like dropping the
mundane. Smudging symbolizes cleaning off negative energy and
preparing for the sacred ritual. You can buy smudge sticks at most food
coops, natural food stores, or stores that sell herbs. Or pick some herbs
from your garden, wind cotton string around them to form a “stick” a few
inches long and one to three inches in diameter. Hang the herb stick in
a warm dry place for two to four weeks. At your ritual, light the stick, let it
burn for a few seconds and then extinquish it. It will continue to smoke.
You then “smudge” each other or yourself by letting the smoke drift
around the body.
The Woman’s Blessing: At your ritual, have ready a dish of clean sand or
corn meal. (I use a large clay flowerpot base and fill it with sand.) Ask
the new woman to step into the dish of sand or corn meal, leaving her
footprints. (Have a towel for her to wipe her feel afterwards.)
Each woman comes forward, lights a candle, and puts it into the
footprints in the sand or corn meal, which represent the new woman’s
journey on Mother Earth. Each woman then gives her woman’s
blessings, such as: “I am Marie, sister of Georgia Ann, daughter of Selia,
granddaughter of Mary Ann and Christina, mother of Christina and
Elizabeth, grandmother of Erika, Clara, and Savannah Rose. I ask all
the women of my line to bless, teach, and protect (Name of new woman)
on her journey through all the cycles of Grandmother Moon.
After each woman has made her blessings, the new woman lights a
candle and puts it into the same dish of sand. She gives her woman’s
introduction, and accepts the blessings of all the women. “I
am……,daughter of……., granddaughter of……. I accept your blessings,
and thank you all.
The new woman must be adorned in some way. I suggest decorating
her hands with henna. Henna is an herb that dyes the skin a red-orange
color that turns to brown the next day. Henna kits are available at natural
food stores or on the Internet. Flower crowns or garlands are also
beautiful. After the adornment, gifts may be given that have some
significance to her passage. Red jewelry is traditional. Red underpants
are useful! Each gift is given with some ritual words such as, “I am giving
you this book on the life of ………….because I have always found her life
to be an inspiration. I know you will find your own path in life and be an
equal inspiration to all of us.”
Songs may be sung, poems recited, stories told. Continue with some
symbolic ceremony of passage. Women have invented a variety of ways
to create a passage ritual for their daughters entering puberty. The
women may stand in two lines with arms raised, forming an archway.
The new woman stands at the entrance to the archway. She holds a few
toys representing her childhood. She has been asked to bring the toys
to the ritual to be given to the younger children of the community.
However, she is not asked to bring all her toys, or her favorite toys,
because aspects of the child remain within all of us and continue to be
treasured throughout our lives.
The young woman’s grandmother leads the passage ritual. If her
grandmother is not present, then a grandmother figure may be chosen
to represent her. The grandmother asks, “Who approaches this
passage?” The new woman gives her name. Grandmother continues, ”
(“New woman’s name,) it is time for you to leave behind your childhood
and become a member of the circle of women. When you are ready to
do so, leave your toys behind, and walk through the archway.” The new
woman puts down her toys and walks through the arch. As she comes to
the end of the archway, the women ring bells, throw flower petals, and
cheer. Everyone kisses and hugs the new woman.
Closing prayers and/or songs end the ritual.
After the ritual the men of the family and the girls who have not yet
begun menstruation are invited to congratulate the new woman and
present gifts. Everybody joins in food and friendship.