Pressure to be well preserved
Whilst men are also subjected to this ageist projection, for women it’s more pronounced given the emphasis and value placed upon our looks. Fortunately, more women are ageing well, motivated by self care that supports their wellbeing from the inside out rather than worrying about vanity. Yet many still try to uphold the projected ideal of eternal youth and negate their inner needs by obsessing on appearance, an insecurity exploited by anti ageing ad campaigns.
Reclaim the joy of getting older
We can transform a negative attitude towards ageing into a positive one by focusing on what we’re gaining with age instead of lamenting what we’ve lost.
This shift creates empowerment rather than disempowerment. For example, marking our birthday each year by journaling what life lessons we’ve learned in the past 12 months and the character traits we’ve developed as a result and sharing our reflections with our closest friends.
While this may seem indulgent, if we don’t mark our milestones by acknowledging our inner growth and accomplishments, we erode our intrinsic sense of self worth. Lack of acknowledgment indicates our growth and accomplishments aren’t worth celebrating and if our milestones have no value, by extension our personal value is also diminished as we age.
This is why ancient cultures that marked cyclic growth revered their elders. From Neolithic matriarchal communities to indigenous cultures the world over, these cultures conducted rite of passage ceremonies for every life stage on the understanding that a well functioning community assists its members to develop and mature.
Contrast this with our modern society which leaves most of us to navigate our life transitions in relative isolation.
This lack of acknowledgement and support undermines our ability to accept and embrace change, so we resist growing older because we’re not shown how to embrace new phases and shifts in identity. Without relevant guidance and some kind of ritual act to anchor the crossing of a threshold, we lack understanding, self assurance and commitment to move forwards. This results in an immature collective consciousness that makes unsustainable choices.
Reclaiming our feminine rites of passage
Our social trends indicate women of all ages need more support during their life transitions. For example, after puberty the rates of eating disorders, self harm, binge drinking and mental health disorders escalate among young women. Many suffer postpartum depression after the birth of their first child. For women aged 15-44 in Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death*. After 45 that’s replaced by heart disease and cancer, as a growing number deal with divorce, the empty nest syndrome, death of loved ones, and menopause and fear of ageing.
This indicates a need for us to reclaim our original ‘human rites’ with mentoring and initiation ceremonies that midwife our life transitions.
These are known traditionally as ‘blood rites’ in the ancient feminine wisdom tradition, not due to blood sacrifices but because they mark the transitions initiated by our bodies - fertility, sexuality, pregnancy and menopause. Here’s an overview of these transitions and ways to mark them.
Girls would traditionally be welcomed to their womanhood when they start menstruating. This indicates their first loss of innocence and their fertile power to create. It is their birthright to receive guidance from older women to help them individuate gracefully from their mums and be empowered with understanding to honour their cyclic nature.
Rite of Passage Suggestions: More girls are being welcomed to attend Red Tent gatherings when they start cycling. Red Tents are women’s sharing circles held at new moon to support women through their darkest time each month. This can be a bit daunting for girls if everyone is much older so for my daughter I created a monthly circle for her friends and their mums to share what they’d learned each month using oracle cards as a springboard for reflection and sharing. Alternatively, offer an heirloom gift such as moonstone jewelry to aid intuition or share a pamper day and gift her a book of women’s wisdom.
Author’s Note: Many women who didn’t receive a menarche rite find it powerful to receive one retrospectively. This transforms self perception, promotes self care and reduces the chance of projecting unfulfilled fears and desires on their daughters.
Brides-to-be once received a ‘Death of the Maiden’ ceremony to assist them in relinquishing their independence. This helped them adapt to sharing their life. This threshold also included the ‘Henna Night’ from where we get our modern ‘Hen’s Night’, which provided instruction in sacred sexuality in the Red Tent.
Rite of Passage Suggestions: As an alternative to a pub crawl, consider having a Girl’s Night In, pampering the bride and adorning her feet with henna which signifies the power of life within us. When conducting these ceremonies I’d invite everyone to write down their best sexual tip. These were read out anonymously so everyone laughed and learned simultaneously! Prior to popping champagne, I recommend giving the bride an opportunity to release any fears about commitment by writing them down and burning them.
Often at each trimester mothers-to-be would receive pampering to soothe their nerves on the understanding the embryo feels everything she does. A ceremony was then performed in the seventh month of gestation, when the baby could hear the outside world to welcome them and impart wisdom to the mother-to-be.
Rite of Passage Suggestions: If gathering with women only it’s lovely to pamper the expectant mum and adorn her belly with henna while those who have crossed the threshold share their advice. If conducting a mixed ceremony to welcome the soul to both clans it’s great to share wisdom teachings to assist both new parents in their transition into parenthood. This is when family and friends are invited to pledge commitments of practical support.
Once called Moon-pause, this gate was once marked with a croning ceremony where a woman was welcomed to her elder status and honored for distilling and attaining her feminine power. This was indicated by her ‘crowning’ of luminous silver hairs of lunar wisdom. She was then supported to relinquish her duties as a nurturer so she could focus on her new role as wisdom keeper.
Rite of Passage Suggestions: Since this threshold asks us to honour the path we’ve walked by reflecting on what we’ve learned, I invite women crossing this gate to light a candle for each of their previous life stages and share the pearls of wisdom they’ve gained from each one. Their loved ones then acknowledge the blessings they’ve imparted and they’re thanked for their contribution in service to others.
It’s now time to reclaim these ancient feminine rites outlawed by patriarchal empires like Assyria and Rome that has impacted the identity and empowerment of subsequent generations of women. Their return will enable more women to embrace every stage of their feminine journey, transcend their fear of ageing and become role models who create a legacy of wisdom for future generations.
Tanishka is a best selling author whose latest book, Goddess Wisdom is published by Hay House. She will be conducting a Feminine Rites of Passage training April 25-29 in Byron Bay. For more details visit www.themoonwoman.com