Honouring our Life Journeys with Rites of Passage
Imagine if all the important events of our lives, and those of our loved ones, were honoured and celebrated together with a community. The richness of our human experience and our journeys through change would be witnessed, shared and supported to bring out the power of these transitions in healing ways.
The loss of rites of passage
In traditional societies, rites of passage include transitioning into adulthood, becoming an elder, making a partnership commitment, or honouring the life journey of someone who has died or is dying. In the Western world, many of our rites of passage have been lost over the centuries or replaced with generic, commercialised versions such as getting our driver’s license to signify new adulthood or the big white wedding to symbolise commitment in love. This can leave us with a lack of meaning, purpose and integration into the community around us.
Nowadays, rather than being celebrated as they once were, key life events such as a girl’s entry into womanhood with her first bleed are often simply ignored. The potentially positive impact of these events is lost and subverted into more destructive outlets. For example, teenage risk-taking behaviour takes the place of being actively welcomed and mentored into adulthood by elders.
The loss or drastic change of these rituals is due to factors like colonialism, industrialisation, cultural assimilation and modernisation. Traditional rites grew out of societies very different from our modern ones. Communities were stable and seasonal changes were woven into the very fabric of everyday life, with our survival directly linked to the earth’s wellbeing. People were much more strongly connected to their family members and community since living setups were ‘human scale’ and people stayed in one place for their whole lives. Increased geographical mobility and transience people mean that people have drifted from their roots and from an innate knowledge of our relationship to the land.
Professionalisation has turned duties which used to be lovingly performed in the home by family members or neighbours into tasks outsourced to specialists. “Caterers, funeral directors, and other entrepreneurs … sell rites of passage as commodities”, in the words of Pamela Nelson in this fascinating article on the return of rites of passage in America.
Both birth and death have been medicalised, with obstetricians and funeral directors taking over these intimate realms of life. Rites of passage have also declined with the rise of scientific rationalisation: the sacred has been driven out of our society’s awareness because of its association with religion.
Recently, however, there has been an exciting worldwide resurgence of the ancient rites of passages and celebrations of our natural life cycle, particularly those held in nature. This revival is answering our call for deeper meaning, acknowledgement of the personal and communal transitions we encounter in our lifetimes, and a reconnection to the land. The re-awakening of rites of passage is true medicine for the isolation, fragmentation and disconnection so endemic in our modern society.
Rites of passage allow us to bring in the Divine as well as to be witnessed by those who surround us as friends, family and community. By invoking blessings and showing gratitude for our lives, we consecrate the important events, passages and thresholds of our lives and reaffirm our place in the sacred, eternal cycle of life.
By taking part in an intentional rite of passage ceremony, whether you are the one being celebrated or a member of the witnessing community, you co-create a meaningful story that allows all those involved to move forward and to contribute purposefully in ways aligned with their values and the community’s, confident of their responsibilities. Rites of passage also connect the generations in ways that are often difficult to achieve in our modern society.
Rites of passages include:
✨ Handfastings, sacred unions and marriages ✨ Land blessings ✨ Baby blessings ✨ Coming of age or initiation rites for boys ✨ Births ✨ Naming of children ✨ Celebration of menarche (first menstruation) ✨ Crone or Wise Woman initiations ✨ Death rites ✨ Last rites ✨
Usually, these ceremonies are held by celebrants who are hired to perform the service. When we participate in these ceremonies in a community, however, we are following the ways of our ancestors, who experienced these events as part of the weave of daily life. At the Blue Lotus Sanctuary, the goddess community and eco-village we at the Temple are birthing into being, rites of passage will be embedded in the society in a natural way. Rather than having to remove yourself from your everyday life to undergo a rite of passage, with the challenge of integrating that back into a very different environment, you will be anchored in a community which honours the sanctity of life transitions with grace and flow.
All our priestesses learn blueprints for initiations that can be customised to fit the occasion and the needs of the participants, including once in a lifetime events. We conduct these as free rituals through the Temple because we believe that they are a normal part of life. Even in the early stages of our community building, we envision holding rites of passage as an integral aspect of day-to-day priestess duties.
In the context of communal living, we will prepare for the natural cycles of life together and hold space to honour them.
If you would like to have a rite of passage (or Life Cycle ceremony, as we also call them), you can book here to have one held by a Priestess of Isis, free of charge at a location of your choice.*
We are inviting people to get involved with Blue Lotus Sanctuary and help us to fund this vital project, where like-minded people can gather in community living to learn earth stewardship skills such as permaculture and immerse in deep wisdom teachings and practices. To find out more, please go here.
*food, accommodation and, where necessary, travel costs will need to be provided for the Priestess.
How to Set up a Sacred Space
Sacred space is a potent way to invite magic into our lives and to remind us of the depths hidden beneath the surface of everyday life. The gift of a sacred space is that you can set it up wherever you are. Even if you are not in your own home or at a regular spot, you can enter into this magical sphere to perform a purification chant or movement.
To create a powerful space for connection and transformation to enter, we need to carefully and lovingly craft both the inner and the outer elements: the physical and the emotional or mental.
Physical Sacred Space
By using items that have emotional value or esoteric meaning for us, we create a comforting or empowering atmosphere. Depending on the specific purpose of the space, you can use things like candles, crystals, carpets, blankets, pillows, and altar items. An altar configures your sacred objects in a way that bridges the inner and outer worlds.
- Honour the principle of the circle
The circle is a symbol of no ending and no corners, and so setting things up in a circular way reminds us of the qualities of eternal space. If you’re holding a group ritual, arranging the seating in a circle allows for a feeling of equality and encourages the energy to flow.
- Represent the 4 directions and the elements
This is a fundamental of magic practice in many traditions and simply involves placing an item – such as a candle or crystal – in each direction: North, East, South and West.
You can also honour the Earth Elements by marking each direction with an elemental object as follows:
- Feather for Air,
- Candles for Fire,
- Chalice or cup for Water,
- Stone, crystal or bark for Earth
Traditions differ on which element is present in which direction, so research which one is best for your purposes.
You can also choose one element that you feel is most ideal for your space.
At the Temple of Sacred Arts, we associate Deities with the Direction as follows:
- North: Isis/ Osiris
- East: Bast/ Ptha (or Sekhmet)
- South: Maat/Thoth
- West: Nephthys/Hathor
In this practice, we place items outside the circle on each direction to symbolise either or both of the deities. This is to honour them and to bring the values they specifically represent into the space.
The process of setting up physical sacred space doesn’t have to be complicated. Both simple and more detailed options hold equal power. Allow yourself to be guided by your own preferences and culture as you find your unique way of setting up the physical sacred space – this can be very empowering. For example, you might want to simply use pure rose quartz for your circle at home, but create a more elaborate set up when holding a circle for others.
- Include healthy food & drink
This is so that you can feel comfortable to stay in the circle for as long as you want. Avoid drugs or alcohol unless they form part of the act of ritual within the circle.
- Carefully manage transitions out of & into the space
If you need to leave the space for any reason, but still wish to go back, it’s better to keep interactions with others outside the space to the minimum.
Here is more inspiration on how to relate to your altar in ways that support your relationship with the mystical.
Mental/ Internal Sacred Space
Here, we are looking at ritual space holding rather than holding space to support someone with an emotional process, which is another art and practice.
The Mental or internal part of creating sacred space is about setting and holding the intention you want to imbue the space with. Perhaps your intention is relaxation or meditation. Or maybe you want to heal from a negative experience, send healing, love or prayer to others, or cleanse yourself or your home. Other times, you may be performing a ritual for others or a dance for the divine – a common practice here at the Temple. There is no wrong way of doing this as long as your intention is pure and honest.
Without an intention, however simple, this beautiful and vulnerable space can be hijacked by an outside force or by one’s own mind and ego-driven motives. In group rituals, we always have a space holder present purely to prevent this happening. This person will have the ability to clearly and openly hold a pure intention for the longest time.
Here are some things that can help with holding your intention:
- Chanting and meditation: this trains the spirit to silence the mind, which in turn will help you to hold the focus on your intention for longer.
- Connecting with nature herself by setting up outside is another effective way to support your intention setting and internal sacred space holding. The wisdom of trees and the healing flow of rivers can palpably remind us of the qualities we wish to call in and embody, even as they soothe our spirits and raise our vibration to a higher level.
The intention-holding part of the process demands a high level of self-control and discipline, which we help you to develop on our Priestess/Priest Apprenticeship Program. This course offers an innovative way of teaching that is also grounded in tradition and will empower, train and prepare you to embody your Priestess/Priest role. You can also start with the Novice Devotee program if you want to develop more experience before taking a Priestess path.