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Sacred Rituals for Birth: Blessingways

Parvati taught us, in that yurt in the Nevada desert, about the Blessingway ceremony, a ceremony that comes from the Navaho nation and is shared with all. She taught us songs, smudging with sage and sweet grass, prayers ground into cornmeal then massaged into a “soon-to-birth” woman’s feet, and she taught us that contractions were gifts, bringing our baby into our arms. She taught that by doing this ritual we clear our angst, fear, and past trauma and free our spirits to the process of birth. Birth, she said, is one of the soul-making events of our life – our own birth, giving birth, and death are the soul’s most profound journeys. The Blessingway is a way to ritualize the journey, bring our soul into our psyche, and open the door consciously at birth.

 

Kate had the first Blessingway I had ever attended, a week or two before giving birth to her son, Jacob. It was beautiful, yet the discomfort with ceremony was still there for me. I did not follow in Kate’s footsteps and have my own ceremony for my upcoming birth with Jessica. I just was not ready to be honored in that way. This feeling is one I have had to process many times since. (My sense is this is from a past life that I will write more about in my own memoir.) 

 

I finally came around to the idea of the Blessingway when I was to birth my third child, Danielle. My husband, Ronnie, expressed his extreme discomfort with having to do this ceremony. I found his words, “Why do I have to do this ceremony? Why are you so weird? None of my friends have had to do this.” reminiscent of how he felt with Jessica’s home birth – at the beginning of my labor with her he said, “Why do we have to have a home birth? Why do you have to be so different? Nobody else I know is doing this.”

 

One of the things Parvati said about the Blessingway was that it would unblock the fears. It was not for just my fears; it was for Ronnie’s fears as well. I would say the Blessingway for Danielle did unblock Ronnie’s fears. He was amazing at Danielle’s underwater, daddy-delivered, home birth. It was one of my best moments with this man, the father of my children. In my humor, I would also say it was his “crowning moment.”

 

Here is the Blessingway ritual as I was taught by Parvati and Kate…

 

We invite those with whom we can share our spiritual self. It may be only women friends, or it may be families with both genders invited.


We begin by smudging with sage or sweetgrass as each person enters the place where the Blessingway will be held. Each person is told to bring a gift. Not a gift that is typical of a baby shower but one that is for the spiritual journey for mother, baby, and family. Once all are inside and seated, a circle is created around them with cornmeal. It is now a sacred circle.


There is a birth altar present that is created by the mother and her family. It will have all that matters to her – photos, crystals, the birth beads, water in a basin or deep bowl, herbs, anything that she desires on her altar. Once we begin, songs are sung to break up each part of the ritual. 


 

Next, we pass around a bowl of cornmeal and grind prayers into the cornmeal for a safe passage, good health, lots of laughter, much love and joy, any prayer for this family that is about to change. When the prayers are complete, her partner, midwife, or dear friend will massage the prayer-filled cornmeal into the soles (souls) of her feet. She will carry these prayers within her as she births. 

 


Change is represented in this next part of the Blessingway…

 

There is a song we sing, repeating the lyrics, “she changes everything she touches and everything she touches she changes.”

 

To honor the transformation each mother experiences with each child she births, we transform her hair. If her hair is down, it is combed and put up to represent she is no longer a maiden, now she is a mother and must get to work. If she arrives at the Blessingway with her hair up, it is taken down and brushed, to symbolize she must let go and surrender to her birth and this child.  

 

Gifts are given, they represent contractions and how well she might receive them. The midwife in attendance of a Blessingway will be watching the flow of gifts and may see the timing of the labor in that flow. Parvati said the ritual will be a clearing of obstacles and a foretelling of the birth process. She said to have the Blessingway about 1-2 weeks before the due date, as this ritual opens the portal for the mother and baby. I have felt and yes, seen, the aura field expand around mothers as they near their due date and in early labor. I find myself wanting to be protective of soon-to-be mothers and keep negative words, thoughts, and pictures away from them. The Blessingway honors this expansive time.

 

Once the gifts are given, the songs have been sung, we open the circle and share food the mother has created for her community. In this, she honors her community and they will, in turn, honor her bringing a new member into the community by bringing her food in the postpartum period. Many today have meal trains for postpartum women, which is also a ritual.

 

My focus with the Blessingway I had with my daughter Danielle, about a week before her birth, was to allow the Goddess within me to emerge and receive. Learning to receive and not always give is a process I am still learning to embrace. And, ironically, Danielle also speaks of this lesson in her own life. 

 

Blessingways can be altered to suit the occasion and the person. I have had Blessingways when Danielle experienced her first menses, when a friend had passed, when menopause occurred, and when I remarried. There is a book, Blessingways by Shari Maser, that shares these rituals, you may find more information there. 

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