Barbara Biziou, the author of “The Joy of Everyday Rituals” and “The Joy of Family Rituals” created the following rituals especially for MotherU. Rituals can transform us. They’re particularly great for marking milestones, getting through difficult transitions, and healing. Each of Barbara’s ritual is written like a recipe in a cookbook. Gather the ingredients you’ll need and set aside a time and space when and where you won’t be disturbed. You might be surprised at the results. Also, check out Barbara’s video about the history of Mother’s Day, in which she also describes a great way to celebrate the day.
Initiation Ritual: Mother Welcoming Daughter
Intention: To acknowledge a daughter’s passage into motherhood.
Timing: Whenever after the birth of the daughter’s first child–ideally, during the postpartum period (the first forty days).
Ingredients: A candle with two wicks; photos of mother, daughter, and grandmother at different stages of their lives and, if possible, photos of the great-grandmother as well; a symbolic gift from mother to daughter to welcome her into motherhood.
The Recipe: Begin the ritual with the mother lighting one of the wicks. As she does, she says her name and the lineage of her feminine ancestors: “I am Barbara, daughter of Diana, granddaughter of Rachael and great granddaughter of Basha.” Then the daughter lights the second wick, saying her name and lineage: “I am Jessica, daughter of Barbara, granddaughter of Diana, great granddaughter of Rachael.” This symbolically acknowledges that both women are separate but equal parts of the same source.
The mother shares what it was like for her when the daughter was born. By the mother talking about how motherhood changed her, her daughter can better understand her mother’s journey from daughter to mother. She begins to see her as a woman, not just her mother. The mother also shares what qualities she took from her mother and what she added that was uniquely her own. She then tells her daughter what she hopes to pass down to her. It is important to talk about the values that she grew up with so the daughter can better connect to the generational heritage she is passing on, part of which she will want to keep; other parts she will want to let go of.
The daughter then shares what is was like for her when her child was born. She talks about her experience at being both a daughter and a new mother. She talks about what she would like to take from her mother and grandmother and what she wants to add to make her mothering unique. She also shares her values and what she learned from her mother. She may also want to express any fears she has about being a good mother.
The mother now offers her daughter a symbolic gift to welcome her into the Motherhood Union. It may be a special bracelet inscribed with the names of her mother, grandmother, and women ancestors or a locket with pictures of mother and daughter. Or, she may want to pass on something she received from her mother. She also makes a commitment to treat her daughter differently now. She acknowledges her daughter’s new status in the family lineage and offers to share her wisdom but, at the same time, also empowers her daughter to take on this new role, standing on her own two feet.
The ritual ends with the mother offering a blessing to her daughter–something simple along the lines of: “I wish you all the love, patience, strengh and wisdom you will need to be a mother. Amen”
Follow Up: This ritual can be done again, after subsequent children are born. Instead of thinking of it as an initiation into motherhood, mother and daughter can use it as a way of reviewing their respective roles.
Intention: To heal hurts from the past and strengthen the mother-daughter bond in the present and future.
Timing: Any time there is tension in the mother/daughter relationship.
Ingredients: A white candle, two roses in a vase of water, and a “talking stick” – a piece of wood, a magic wand, or any symbolic object you choose to use. Whoever is holding the talking stick has permission to speak uninterrupted until she passes it on to the next woman.
The Recipe: Begin by lighting a white candle to bring in the spiritual resources needed to complete this healing. Both mother and daughter must make a vow to keep their hearts open and to allow the other to share without interruption. Each of you should say out loud, “I now deem this to be sacred space. I promise to listen from my heart and to be open to healing”
The mother picks up the talking stick and starts by sharing what she and her own mother disagreed about and what she disliked about her mother’s behavior. This brings a more human aspect to the ritual and allows the daughter to see her mother in a new light.. She also expresses her hurt but it’s important for her to avoid saying what the daughter “did” to her. Instead, she should keep the conversation focused on how she is feeling (“I feel like I don’t matter to you when you hang up so abruptly”). Finally, she shares with her daughter the fears and hopes that she had for her as a child and asks her forgiveness if she has harmed her in any way consciously or unconsciously. She then passes the talking stick to her daughter.
The daughter now has her chance to share honestly with her mother about their past. Without blaming, she tells her mother how she has been wounded and why she felt the need to wound her mother in return. It is important for her not to blame her mother or make blanket statements (“you always…”). She, too, should stay focused on her feelings and be specific (“Mom, it hurt me when you didn’t acknowledge how hard I worked to get good grades in school. I really needed to hear you tell me I was pretty and smart”). The daughter finishes by asking her mother to forgive her for anything she has done consciously or unconsciously that caused her pain. She puts down the talking stick when she is finished.
Each woman then takes a rose out of the vase. Together they throw the water away (into a sink or toilet if the ritual takes place inside, back to the earth if outside). This symbolic act acknowledges that the water has absorbed all the pain from the past.and the grief they each feel. Each woman gives the other a rose. This represents the love that is between them and honors the mother’s and daughters challenging job of mothering.
Really listening to each other can work magic but new behaviors are required as well. At the end of this ritual each woman must share one specific action she will take in the future to ensure that this new relationship will be built on trust and compassion. For example, the daughter might say, “Mom, I promise to call you once a week and have a quality conversation.” The mother might say, “Susan, I promise not to make critical comments about your decision to breast-feed for a year.”
Follow-Up: Consciously taking the time to listen to one another can bring incredible healing and transformation to a relationship. However, if the wounds are very deep, this ritual may be only a small first step in the healing process. Mother and daughter must allow time for feelings to surface and old hurts to be felt and released. This can be a painstaking and timely process. You can repeat this ritual, but depending on the nature of your disputes, you might also need the support of a good family therapist or a counselor who specializes in mother/daughter dynamics.