“I want a place to celebrate but I also want a place to grieve,” the mom said. “I’m welcoming someone new into our family of 4 and I need some nourishment. Parenthood is hard.”
She went on to explain that she wanted a space where close friends could share stories of difficulties and also share stories that were funny. Her vision was to create this space through the lens of the Jewish mikveh – the ritual immersion that Jews use at many points over the course of life to mark transitions – and to surround each immersion with a chant, a prayer and an opportunity to share stories.
We talked about what she wanted to feel during the ritual and she said “Nourished. I want to feel supported and loved.”
From this starting place we created an exquisite ritual focused on storytelling and nourishment to take place on the shores of Lake Lanier.
All rituals begin with an opening that sets the tone and “closes” the circle in order to create a sacred space. We gathered on the shore on a temperamental day – the sun and rain were engaging in a cosmic dance and taking turns being the lead. We welcomed each other by naming our ancestors and honoring our descendents. Our ritual included the active presence of numerous children aged 3 months to 7 years old. We honored the elemental energy with a chant that centered us on the land and we gave gratitude to the people who had stewarded the land before we arrived – the Eastern band of the Cherokee and the Mikosukee nations.
Standing on the shore, we shared stories of the challenges of parenthood – juggling too much, not enough sleep, fear of screwing up, not liking your child and much more. We lifted our voices and poured out our sorrow through a chant. The parents immersed together with a blessing for release.
Round two invited funny stories – the ways that kids crack us up, lift our spirits and offer us the gift of unconditional love. Just as the parents entered the water for the second immersion, the thunder gods arrived and the group packed up and ran for safety. The parents and I stayed and we honored the unpredictable weather that mirrored the vagaries of parenthood as they immersed for the second time.
The third immersion was a private blessing for the parents and the new one on the way as the rain poured down. We stood in the water and sang as the skies roiled and the thunder rumbled.
We gathered for the final portion of the ritual wrapped in towels in the carport. Each friend spoke a blessing to the parents and handed them a piece of cloth to be woven into a wall hanging for the expanding family. In a non-rainy ritual, we would have woven this together but outdoor rituals demand flexibility!
We shared food, exchanged hugs and went our ways, knowing that we had gifted the family with love, nourishment, and support as they made ready to welcome their new little one.