Rites of Passage ceremonies
It is said that before entering the sea, a river trembles with fear. She looks back at the path she has travelled, from the peaks of the mountains, the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her, she sees an ocean so vast, that to enter there seems nothing more than to disappear forever. But there is no other way.
The river cannot go back. Nobody can go back. To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk of entering the ocean because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.
A Rite of Passage is a major transitional event in someone's life for which ceremonies are often held. Traditionally, they were births - where we held Baptism or Christening ceremonies, Weddings, and Death. In some cultures, the traditional Coming of Age at 21 was also celebrated, when recipients would be given the metaphorical (or literal) key to the door.
Different religions and cultures have different customs and we're all probably aware of Bar Mitzvah in the Jewish tradition for boys when they become 13; perhaps less aware of Bat Mitzvah for girls, usually when they reach 12.
As society changes, however, there are more and more transitional points in our lives than there have ever been before. Rites of passage are about crossing bridges to something new in our lives, but they can also be about crossing that bridge to leave something behind, and, as the photos demonstrate, some bridges are probably a lot more challenging than others. In these times when we're increasingly aware of the importance of mental health, perhaps we need to be kinder to ourselves and acknowledge the major changes in our lives.
It's much more common nowadays to have blended families, but, without a doubt, becoming a step-parent to your partner's children doesn't always mean an easy road ahead. When two families literally come together in the one household, trials and tribulations are probably more the norm than peace and harmony, despite our best endeavours. Having a ceremony that acknowledges how special you are to each other, as well as recognising each others' differences, can at least begin to pave the way to a smooth start. Often, just as in wedding ceremonies, vows and promises can be made to each other in a meaningful context with a symbolic hand-fastening ceremony which binds together the whole new family.
This is one of the most major changes in anyone's life and so often, a marriage comes to a final conclusion with nothing more than a piece of paper dropping through the letterbox, taking no account of whether that marriage lasted 3 months or 30 years.
For some couples, the opportunity to part ways on good terms can be done through ceremony, and is also a loving and kind way to reassure children from the marriage that, despite their parents leaving each other, they're not walking away from their children.
Not every marriage parts amicably, of course, so for some people a divorce will be a real reason for celebration and the prospect of a new, single life again.
NAMING YOUR SEXUALITY
Despite so much openness in society generally, it's still one of the most difficult things for people to come out and declare their sexual preferences. Although for some, they're open and completely at ease with who they are, for others it can be a traumatic and extremely difficult thing to finally say the words, I'm gay / lesbian / homesexual / bisexual, or in whichever way you wish to define your preferences.
'Coming out' paves the way for how someone may see their future, and does exactly the same for their families, so to have a ceremony to mark this important declaration can be extremely empowering.
It's a time for you to say, above all else,
This is Me - This is who I am!
PUBERTY AND TEENAGE YEARS
Have you ever thought about what you'd say to your teenage self? Words of wisdom about coping with schoolwork, or clasmates, or of the expectation of a first romance?
There's an old saying that we don't know what we don't know, and perhaps a ritual or ceremony for your about-to-be teenage son or daughter might cast some light on the reality that their parents were also once teenagers.
Cultures much more ancient than our own have recognised and celebrated these special times in young lives with a variety of (often quite strange) rituals and that transition from being a child into the beginning of adulthood.
Holding a ceremony at this important time allows you to acknowledge your developing child and empowers them to take stock of their hopes and dreams for their future.
Just as we openly celebrate the birth of a child, shouldn't we celebrate the re-birth of that child if they make a gender transition?
Gender transition not only involves the physical changes in someone's body but poses issues of identity as someone who has carried a male name all their lives suddenly needs to consider a female name for themselves (or vice-versa). It's not just about Joe becoming Josephine, or Paula becoming Paul. Our names are one of the most important things we have and are given to us, so in redefining themselves in a different gender, there is also the tricky little situation of working our way into 'becoming' our new name, and all that our new gender entails.
What better way to recognise this important moment in life than to do so through a ceremony with loved ones.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.