Coming of Age Rituals – Time for Change

I was recently involved in a Facebook discussion about menstruation, rights of passage, the giveaway ritual etc. While reading through the comments, sharing some of the insights with my daughter (who began her transition to womanhood last year) and looking at the videos, and then the next day mulling it over some more, it became SO apparent to me the distinctly different way our western culture views menstruation compared with the ancient cultures, and also how we view this girl’s ‘right of passage’ so differently from a boy’s.

Readers will recall I blogged about the giveaway ritual a number of years ago. It’s here for those who missed it. Perhaps if you have a quick read of it now it might put the rest of this post into some perspective. Six months after I began the giveaway ritual, the plant receiving the blessing returned the favour to me. (see pic to right)

As interest in ancestors and more earth-honouring belief systems has increased, we are seeing the emergence of more authors, bloggers and practitioners advocating for a return to honouring ‘woman’. This is great, but with popular culture, I fear it will be a long and slow process. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be trying!

When discussing things with my daughter, it became apparent that even though she has been raised in a pagan household that honours the old ways, she still has a ‘shame’ around her period, an embarrassment almost (even though she was desperate for them to begin!), and will often say “Oh I wish I didn’t have them”. This is from a girl who was always taught to believe in the power of menstruation and its importance! Who grew up in a household where her primary female role model (me) did engage in the giveaway ritual and used cloth pads (but who also suffered every month with chronic adenomyosis and endometriosis). (As an aside: It may also speak volumes that the spell checker on my computer offers me ‘adenoids’ and ‘endomorphisms’ for those last two words – even the machines that influence our lives every day don’t recognise two major dis-eases of the female reproductive system!)

So how did it happen? Did I go wrong somewhere? How did I fail her?

But then it dawned on me – Did I fail her? Or was it just beyond my control to prevent the hammering she’s received from popular culture? Her view is coming from outside our realm. Via media, friends, popular culture. Unless I turn off all access to the outside world, she will be exposed to those ideas about what it is to be ‘woman’.

And so my epiphany.

Consider this for a moment: We place more importance on a boy’s first shave than we do on a girl’s first period.  Surely the transition to womanhood which signals the ability to bring LIFE is more important or significant than the CHOICE to remove facial hair? And consider the ancient cultures, whose boys’ rights of passage involve tests of courage, strength, bravery, resilience, the ability to be quiet, reflective, become one with their environment. Ours involve which razor to choose and what skin products might be best!

Back to the girls and the way their most important transition is depicted in the media. They are still taught to hide it (“invisible” pads), to be ashamed or embarassed by it (teacher to student: “If you need to duck off to the toilet just come over and quietly let me know”). We don’t involve our men in the process – unless it is to make the whole thing a joke. Consider these two commercials:

Now, just by way of comparison, have a look at how the Apache treat a girl’s right of passage. Of particular note, how the men are involved in the process.

Can we have it more wrong?

Things are changing but it is taking some time to make the shift and undo centuries of suppression – compounded by popular media. Wouldn’t it be nice if all our girls could experience this type of message instead of what they see now?


And yet, I suspect many of you who watch the above will ‘accept’ the Apache ritual, and label the western ritual as “what a bunch of hippies”. Wouldn’t it be nice though if THIS was shown in schools as part of HRE?

Think about that – and what sort of change we might see in the world!


Further Resources:


Shonagh Home Ix Chel Wisdom: Sacred Bleeding

Womb Shaman – Part 1

Womb Shaman – Part 2

Womb Shaman – Part 3

The Waratah Project



Becoming Peers – Love this book! Highly recommended!

The Red Tent

Menarche – A Journey into Womanhood




© Earth Goddess Wisdom –

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