Read this book if: you want to explore alternative ways to prepare you for motherhood (other than a baby shower). Instead of baby gifts, friends will gather to prepare you mentally. If you like the summary, you can support the author by purchasing a copy here.
“When blessingway rituals become a Western tradition, birth outcomes will change” – Pam England, Author of Birthing from Within
“How we welcome our children into the world reflects our highest hopes and dreams for them”
– Carroll Dunham, Mamatoto: A Celebration of Birth
Ritual Outline Examples at www.blessignwaybook.com
Chapter 1 – Creating New Traditions
The circle is an ancient and universal symbol of community, unity, and feminine power.
A blessingway is a special ceremony designed to acknowledge, honor and celebrate a woman’s journey into motherhood. Different from a baby shower, a blessingway’s main goal is to provide a loving place where an expectant mother can explore the challenges and joys that lie before her as she approaches childbirth and motherhood. Surrounded by the most important women in her life, she will gain a sense of power, confidence, and support that will help her before, during, and after the birth of her child.
The idea is to tap into the vibrant energy of the collective feminine spirit to deepen friendships, build communities, feed spirits and revitalize our culture. Adoption, foster parenting and marriage/union with someone with a child are all pathways to motherhood that can be celebrated with a Blessingway.
Birth is a key life passage for women, but modern culture has lost touch with birth’s profound impact on the expectant mother. A blessingway helps a woman to prepare mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for the work of birthing, and it opens her to her instinctive abilities. The rituals presented below draw upon rich traditions of many cultures, including the earth-based ways of the Native American culture; some may seem associated with witches or witchcraft, but scholars have learned that many wise women, midwives and healers were labeled ‘witches’ in the past as a tactic to undermine their authority. Keep an open mind as you explore ideas presented in this book, recognizing the value and knowledge of our ancestors is central to our coming into our own full power as women.
There is great power in sitting in a circle. When we sit facing each other, we open ourselves up and work together instead of alone. At the center of the circle is the Source, however we define it: Spirit, God, Goddess, love, Mother Nature.
No right or wrong way to create a Blessingway. Can be held for any woman, regardless of religion or spiritual path.
Chapter 2 – Planning a Blessing way
The Maori Koru symbolizes new beginnings, life, growth, and harmony.
It is a universal principle that when we give, we also receive and the value of what we stand to receive by coming together and creating this sacred event is beyond measure. When we choose to invest our time in this way, we are choosing to invest in ourselves.
Chapter 3 – Designing Your Ritual
Sesaa Woruban is a West African Adinkra symbol that means “I transform my life”
Create a Theme: Ex. Bonding w baby, developing successful nursing relationship;
Example of ritual outline: Welcome/Introductions > Casting Circle: Clarity Prayer > Stating Purpose > Meditation “Waves: A Birth Visualization” by Carl Jones > Summoning the Four Directions > Introducing Goddesses > Summoning Demeter > Sharing Altar Items > Releasing Fears > Break > Honoring and Pampering Mama (hair brushing, herbal footbath, shoulder massage) > Gifts > Candle Blessing > Weaving a Web > Releasing the Four Directions and the Goddess Demeter > Closing: An African Prayer > Opening the Circle > Feast (More Ritual Outline Examples at www.blessignwaybook.com)
Chapter 4 – Ritual Stage 1: Beginning
The Native American Medicine Wheel, or Wheel of Life, symbolizes all creation.
She will need to birth her child. Spirit of the East, we thank you for your presence. You are free to leave our circle. Please remain with (name) so the burdens of mothering will become light as a feather.”
Chapter 5 – Ritual Stage 2: Shifting
The Celtic Spiral of Life symbolizes the oneness found in our connection with earth, with self and with the Divine.
By this point in the ritual, we will have created a sacred space, cleared away our cares and formed our safe container. All energies we wish to have present have been summoned and the women are ready to go. So now is time to shift into realm of circle consciousness. Being by becoming quiet and centered in ourselves. We become present to our purpose by stating our intentions. After coming into full awareness, we make a shift, tapping first into our collective feminine spirit and then into the mother-to-be’s needs.
Chapter 6 – Ritual Stage 3: Focusing
Hecate’s Wheel is an ancient Greek symbol that represents the three phases of the moon (waxing, waning, full) and of womankind (maiden, mother, crone).
This stage is where we do the work specific to the gathering. Attention turns to honoring, pampering and preparing mother for journey into motherhood. To give birth, a woman must let go. For first time in life, will learn the lesson what it truly means to surrender to something greater than her. The birth process, like breathing, happens on its own. Mother must be willing to openly trust and surrender so the birth can unfold from deep within her. Women who are being pampered sometimes feel self conscious or tense, as many of use are not used to being the star of the show. Being honored, even doted on, by a room full of women can feel uncomfortable and awkward. However, such compassionate pampering as a gentle massage or the warm water of a footbath will help the mother to relax. As she surrenders to the circles loving hands, she’ll being to let go, entrusting herself to the women who envelop her and beyond, to the open arms of divine grace.
Chapter 7 – Ritual Stage 4: Completing
The Japanese heraldic emblem Seed of the Universe is a symbol of potential energy.
Need to raise energy to concentrate the work done in the circle so that it may be sent out to ether in full force. Affirm connection with mother-to-be as well as each other so connections go beyond blessingway. Thank any energies that participated.
Chapter 8 – Ritual Stage 5: Feasting
The mandala is a powerful symbol of the universe used by many cultures. Its name is comprised from the root word manda (essence) and the suffix la (container).
Important to include a feast; smoothes transition from sacred space back to social space of our daily lives and fills our body with any excess energy left over. The simplest foods – bread, cheese, fruit – often taste exquisite. Good time to give thanks not just to food and friendships– to the energy everyone put in organizing and participating. Can pass out phone tree, labor candles, string mom’s blessingway bracelet. Share favorite recipes. Mother’s Blessing Tea – red raspberry leaf, chamomile, rose petals, cinnamon stick etc
Chapter 9 – Leading a Blessingway
A sacred geometric symbol, the universal flower of Life shows the connectedness of all things and the oneness of life.
Chapter 10 – Afterthoughts
The Hope Tapu’at, or Mother and Child, symbolizes the path to emergence and spiritual rebirth.
The amazing energies at work during a blessingway ritual are both powerful and transformative. By the end of the ritual, the mother-to-be is in a state or readiness for birthing and mothering, which the blessingway circle’s initiatory nature has helped her attain.
Liminal Limbo– span of time from blessingway to birth and postpartum stage is a critical time where mother to be needs circle’s continued support. May feel she has stepped into liminal space – a place between two different ways of life: an old way of life that she released during her ritual and a new way of life that has not yet quite begun. You can create a blessingway alter and encourage her to visit daily to keep her strong. Remind her to remember blessingway while looking at yarn bracelet. Spend time with her meditatively. Set time with her to put together blessingway scrapbook, cast belly etc. Encourage her to try “nesting”. Make her a CD of blessingway music or meditations. Encourage her to self-indulge with massage, yoga, and baths. Suggest she wear her hair down or “unknotted” to facilitate child’s coming. Tell her to release her attachment to a due date (can be 2 weeks before or after date).
A Laying-On-Of-Hands Ritual – if mother past due date. Have blessingway members come over and all lay hands on belly. Select soothing, long-playing meditation music at a low level. Have mother in comfortable position on floor and support body with pillows. Invite women to share any impressions or messages the receive with the mother as they arise. Encourage mom to speak to anything that triggers a thought or emotion and offer her supportive language. Can be 20 min-1 hour. “Subconsciously, we may keep the baby inside, afraid of letting go because the minute we let go to allow a new life to enter the world, our new lives will begin too” Carroll Dunham, Mamatoto: A Celebration of Birth
Postpartum Support: Nurture her and her family, provide emotional support and encouragement, be a safe person with whom she can speak, support through hormonal ups and downs, help facilitate physical healing process, make and bring over healing ointments or teas (lavender moon’s postpartum healing compress), assist with breastfeeding, hold her baby so she can nap or shower, run errands, prepare meals, held out with household chores, provide care for her other children and pets, answer questions about basic infant care, offer parenting tips and provide resources, share personal experiences
Laying-on-of-Hands Meditations: Take one long, deep breath in. Hold that for a moment, then slowly blow it out. Now allow your breath to flow in and out at its own pace, naturally, gently and quietly. Become aware of your body. Notice any tight spots. Now imagine that you can send your breath to that spot, as if your in-breath could stretch and relax that area, and your out-breath could release any remaining tension and carry it away. Repeat this process on your own for the next few moments. Pause. Now take one more deep breath in to stretch and relax your body as a whole, then release that breath to let go of anything you don’t need.
Bring all your attention gently toward baby. See or sense the baby, warm and secure in its womb home and extend a quiet greeting. Offer the baby words or encouragement, safety and peace. When you feel complete with that, gently ask the baby whether there are concerns or fears to be cleared out of the way in order to come out and meet us, and listen openheartedly with all your senses. Everyone receives information differently – some through words, others through pictures, sounds or physical sensations. Simply accept what comes, and when you feel read, share what you’ve ben given with the mother-to-be and the circle, allowing a meditative dialogue to follow. (Gather and share impressions for as long as necessary).
Mother to be, send your baby your love and affection. Tell your baby how much you look forward to being able to hold him or her in your arms and say “See you soon!” Now, let’s all bid the baby good-bye until next we meet, gently withdrawing our attention, leaving behind our love and caring like a warm and peaceful cradle. Turn your attention to your own body as you gently withdraw your hand from mother. Take a slow, deep breath in, then slowly breath out; become more fully aware of your body seated here. When you feel fully present to yourself, slowly open you eyes to let them gradually adjust to the light in the room.
Moms don’t often ask for help, so extend it. Ask how meals are going, what you can get from store, laundry, dishes, if they’ve had anything to eat lately, if they are drinking enough water etc. Be mindful and try not to add stress to her already complicated life. May need outside resources such as La Leche League, postpartum doula, midwife, counselor or physician.
Hiring Postpartum Doula: for any help with new baby
Lavender Moon’s Postpartum Healing Compress: heal and soothe a new mother’s perineum after birth or treat engorged breasts: 3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger root, 2 tbsp. dried comfrey root or leaf, 2 tbsp. dried plantain leaf, 2 tbsp. dried yarrow, 2 tbsp. dried St. John’s wort flowers, 8-12 cups water. Simmer fresh ginger root in water for ½ hour. Add herbs and steep on low 10 minutes. For perineum: Use small clean towel and continue for up to 20 min. Several times a day first week following birth. Can also be put in sitz bath or perineal rinse bottle when using bathroom. For engorged breasts, wrap around breast and under armpit.
La Leche League for breastfeeding help. Monthly meetings
Share this book! Every woman who does this important work contributes her discoveries to that very same pool, and in turn, that information is made available to women everywhere. Be heightening our awareness and creating conscious connections with one another, we will all gain the ability to tap into our collective feminine spirit and thereby gain access to all the knowledge and wisdom of women who have walked the path before us.
3 Months Before Baby’s Due Date: Review Ch. 2: Planning a Blessingway; form planning team, meet with mother to be, set blessingway date, create guest list, choose location, send out save the date cards or emails, assign roles and responsibilities. Review Ch. 3 and 4-8. Create ritual outline and supplies list
1 Month Before Blessingway: Meet with planning team to finalize event details. Create and send out invitations. Visit blessingway location to assess ritual space, amenities, parking etc.
1 Week Before Blessingway: Review Ch. 9 – Leading. Finalize outline and schedule rehearsal
1 Day Before: Get everything ready. Prepare ritual site (provide housecleaning if needed). Confirm event arrival time with organizers and leaders. Pack all supplies
Day of: 2-3 hours before guests arrive, set stage. Arrange furniture, create altars, set up ritual supplies, arrange flowers, get familiar with music system, mix henna, set up for feat, set out snacks and drinks. Review ritual outline and supplies list.
1 Hour Before: Clear atmosphere and reset energy (if desired at this time). Prepare yourself and other leaders. Check in with everyone, and then perform the centering ritual.
As guests arrive, welcome them. Start playing music that will set tone. Greet everyone and tell them what to do with their things. Confirm heating or refrigeration for feast dishes. Relax, breath and have a wonderful blessingway!
After Ritual, assign someone to finish making any gifts – don’t make mom wait to long. Verify everyone has received copy of phone tree, labor candles, anything else. Check in with mom about postpartum meal schedule or put out sign up sheet. Ask for volunteers to stay and help clean up.
After Blessingway Event: Review Ch. 10 Afterthoughts. Check in with mom, make sure she has support, received gift, meals being delivered
Blessingway Supplies Checklist
Casting or Decorating Belly:
Making a Wreath:
Purifying with Smudge (incense or dried herbs):
Purifying or Blessing with Water (Rose or Salt):
Releasing Fear (Indoor Smokeless Flame or Worry Jar):
Releasing Fear (Outdoor Fireproof Bowl or fire pit):
Weaving a Web:
Feminine Expressions of the Divine: see book or other resources for further explanations
Flower and Plant Symbolism: See book
Food Symbolism: See book; some below
Apple: health, vitality, earth magic, grounding knowledge
Banana: heroic energy, male sexuality
Basil: protection, love, wealth, healing relationship, courage, fertility, fidelity
Beans: divination, prosperity, decision making
Bread: earth, the body, unity of spirit, kinship, sustenance, life
Cake: sweetness in life, prosperity, celebration, joyous occasions
Cauliflower: lunar and water related magic
Cherry, love, female sexuality
Chives: protection, breaking bad habits
Corn: life of the land, cycles, eternity, sustenance
Fruit: abundance, rewards, reaping harvest
Fruit, round: fertility, nourishment
Garlic: protection, healing, courage
Milk: the Goddess, energy, maternal instinct, nurturing
Olive: peace, spiritual pursuits
Pea: the Goddess, magic, love
Pear: longevity, luck
Pepper, black: cleansing, purification, protection, banishing
Pepper, white: mystical transformation
Pineapple: healing, protection, prosperity
Pomegranate: fertility, the womb; the cycle of birthed earth and reincarnation
Popcorn: lifting burdens
Raspberry: vigor, stamina, love
Rice: fertility, abundant blessings
Salt: cleansing, purification, dispelling negativity, strength, stability
Tea: friendship, insight, relaxation
Wine: spirit, blood, transcendence
Gem, Stone and Shell Symbolism: See book
General Object Symbolism: See book
Herb Symbolism: See book
1: independence, birth; establishes a starting point
2: balance, partnership; establishes a connection between two points
3: sacred diversity (maiden, mother, crone; father, son, holy spirit; the three graces; and so on); establishes a pattern, first group of 3 in numerology
4: security, foundation, manifestation
5: freedom, change, the chaos of creativity
6: self-harmony, generosity, reliability, second group of 3 in numerology
7: inner wisdom, birth and rebirth, magic
8: infinity, energy, personal change, authority, organization
9: service to others, endings, completion, last group of 3 in numerology
10: inner voice of reason, transition, the unformed
11: intuition, clairvoyance, spiritual healing, mastery
12: fruitfulness, durability, one full year
13: devotion, patience, convictions
Tree Symbolism: see book
Animal Symbolism: Animal-Speak by Ted Andrews; Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power thorough the Ways of Animals by Jamie Sams and David Carson
Feminine Expressions of the Divine
Archangels and Ascended Masters: A Guide to Working and Healing with Divinites and Deites by Doreen Virtue
Celtic Myth and Magick: Harnessing the Power of the Gods and Goddesses by Edain McCoy
Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk, Diane Banker and Anne Hill
Goddesses: An Illustrated Journey into the Myths, Symbols and Rituals of the Goddess by Manuela Dunn Mascetti
The Grandmother of Time: A Women’s Book of Celebrations, Spells and Sacred Objects for Every Month of the Year by Zsusanna E. Budapest
Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess through Myth, Art and Tarot by Vicki Noble
The New Book of Goddess and Heroines by Patricia Monaghan
Food Symbolism and Recipes
Goddess in the Kitchen by Marjorie Lapanja
A Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook by Patricia Telesco
The Wicca Cookbook: Recipes, Ritual, Lore by Jamie Wood and Tara Seefeldt
Witch in the Kitchen: Magical Cooking for all Seasons by Cait Johnson
All books by Rosemary Gladstar
The Star Herbal by Robert Menzies
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed
Meditations and Visualization:
Birthing form Within by Pam England
Celebrating Motherhood by Andrea Alban Gosline
Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain
The Dance by Orian Mountain Dreamer
The Invitation by Orgian Mountain Dreamer
Mother Wit by Diane Mariechild
The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book by Jennifer Louden
The Woman’s Comfort Book y Jennifer Louden
The Reverend Bunny’s Secret Henna Diary
The Art of Mehndi by Sumita Batra
Medndi: The Art of Henna Body Painting by CArine Fabius
Traditional Medndi Designs: A Treasury of Henna Body Art by Dorine Van Den Beukel
Sweat Your Prayers: Movement as Spiritual Practice by Gabrielle Roth
Books and Songbooks
Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk
The Heart of the Circle: A Guide to Drumming by Holly Blue Hawkins
Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook edited by Peter Blood
Songs for Earthlings: A Green Spirituality Songbook by Julie Forest Middleton
Recorded Music (samples on amazon):
Adiemus – female vocals, upbeat, tribal
Bones or Trance by Gabrielle Roth and the Mirrors – meditative to trance
Canyon Trilogy by R. Carlos Nakai – Native American flute
The Celtic Cradle by Jill rogoff
A Circle is Cast by Libana
Circle of Women by Alice Di Micele
Circle Round and Sing by Anne Hill
Embrace of the Essence by Deva Premal
Exotica – World Music Divas
From the Goddess/O Great Spirit by Robert Gass
In Search of Angeles
In the Arms of the Wild
Ladyslipper Music by Women
The Mask and the Mirror by Loreena McKennitt
Music to be Born By by Michkey Hart
Offerings or Sunyatat by Vas
Pacific Moon I, II, III
Quiet Mind by Nawang Khechog
Returning or Praises for the World by Jennifer Berezen
Silent Joy by Anugama
Siren Song by Connemara
Voices on the Eastern Wing or the Vine or Nectar by Kitka
Watermark or Shepher Moons by Enya
Weaving My Ancestors Voices by Sheila Chanra
Yoga Trance Dance by Shiva Rea
Books: The Baby Book by Dr. Sears; Chinaberry; Everyday Blessings by Myla; Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry; Raising Your Spiritual Child by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka; The Seven Spiritual Laws of Parenting by Deepak Chopra; Spiritual Parenting by Gayle and Hugh Prather
Poems, Prayers and Readings:
Celebrating Motherhood by Andrea Alban Gosline (originally published as Mother’s Nature)
Circle of Stones: Woman’s Journey to Herself
Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions
I Hear Your Name: Poems that nature and empower
Illuminiata by Marinennes Williamson
I Sit Listening to the Wine: Woman’s Encounter within herself by Judith duerk
Seven times the sun by shea darian
La Leche League
National Association of Postpartum Care Services
Books: After The Baby’s Birth…A Woman’s Way to Wellness by Robin Lim and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by LLL
Pregnancy and Childbirth:
Orgs: Birthing the Future, Birth Works, DONA International, Global Maternal/Child Health Association and Waterbirth International, Midwives Alliance of North America
Books: Birthing form Within; The Birth Partner, Celebrating Motherhood, Conscious Conception or Hygeia or Prenatal Yoga by Jeannine Parvati Baker; Gentle Birth Choices, Immaculate Deception II; The Natural Pregnancy Book; The Pregnancy Book; The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book; Spiritual Midwifery
The 13 Original Clan Mothers; Blessingways; Casting the Circle; Celtic Myth and Magick; The Circle is Sacred: A Medicine Book for Women; Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions; Creating Circles of Power and Magic; Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit; The Grandmother of Time: A Women’s Book of Celebrations, Sacred Objects for Every Month; Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms; The Joy of Ritual: Spiritual Recipes to Celebrate Milestones; Practicing the Presence of the Goddess; To Ride a Silver Broomstick; A Woman’s Book of Rituals and Celebrations; The Woman’s Comfort Book; The Woman’s Retreat Book; Women’s Rituals: A Sourcebook by Barbara Walter
Belly Casting – www.proudbody.com
Smudge Sticks – eyeoftheday.com; www.matoska.com
Sacred Space – Alters Made Easy by Peg Streep; Home Sanctuary: Practical Ways…by Nicole Marcelis; Sacred Space by Desnise Linn; Space Clearing by Denise Linn
Symbolism – The Secret Language of Signs by Denise Linn; The Urban Pagan by Patricia Telesco; The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Symbols by Barbara G. Walker
Women’s Spirituality – Orgs: www.womanwithin.org
Books – Aphrodite’s Daughters; Casting the Circle by Diane Stein; The Circle Is Sacred by Scout Cloud Lee; The Circle of Life by Elizabeth Davis; Circle of Stones by Judith Duerk; Creating Circles of Power by Caitlin Libera; Everyday Grace by Marianne Williamson; The Grandmother of Time by Zsuzsanna E. Budapest; I Sit Listening to the Wind by Judith Duerk; The Millionth Circle by Jean Shinoda Bolen; The Rings of Empowerment by Carolyn Anderson; Sacred Circles by Robin Deen Carnes; Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach; Succulent Wild Woman by Sark; The Woman’s Comfort Book by Jennifer Louden; The Woman’s Retreat Book by Jennifer Louden; A Woman’s Worth by Marianne Williamson