Rites of Passage, Cycles and Ourselves
The Importance of Cycle Awareness and Rites of Passage in Our Modern Lives
What is a Cycle?
Every natural being has a cycle, or a life, a death, and a new life arising from death. This has been called the "Life Death Life Cycle" by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her classic book Women Who Run with The Wolves. Cycles show up in every aspect of our lives: from work, to relationships, to our physical bodies passage through time. As we become aware of key transitions from one cycle phase to the next, we may understand how the imprint of our past cycles affect every life stage to come. Increasing cycle awareness therefore makes sense of how we do everything we do. As we orient ourselves to what stage we are currently in, we can uphold strategies to move through life in an empowered way.
Patriarchal constructs of time are linear. There is a clear past, present and future with no interweaving of those phases. As we understand time in a feminine way, using the circle as our shape of orientation, we realize that we experience tiny deaths all the time, which always brings forth a resurgence of life. We can create a constant relationship with our inner child, our ancestors, and the version of ourselves we are becoming, all interacting and communicating in our one body from moment to moment.
Rites of Passage
Rites of Passage are ceremonies which consciously acknowledging key life transitions. Rites of Passage have been almost completely eliminated from societal awareness, with traumatic moments are taking their place. For most Westerners, key life transitions are silenced, shameful times, positive role models absent from our midst. Now we have a beautiful opportunity to reclaim life transitions in an empowered way. How, do you ask? The first step is bringing awareness to cycles in general.
The Triple Goddess Archetype
You might have heard of Maiden, Mother and Crone: representations in matriarchal cultures from Pre-hyrstory (think Ancient Grecian Goddesses Persephone, Demeter and Hecate). Maiden represents new beginnings, Mother: midlife, and Crone: endings. Now that we live longer than our ancestors, we can expand the above triad into four phases, because most of us are not mothers by age 15, grandmothers by 30, nor ancestors by 45 as the norm used to be.
Each phase contains a storehouse of information. Availability of this information is based on cultural values. No wonder mynopause is often referred to vaguely as "the change". There is virtually no hyrstory celebrating this crucial time in modernity. We may now include the mynopausal time, embodied by the Maga Archetype (feminine of Magician) as a key Rite of Passage, lifting that key life stage out of hiding and onto the mount as a powerfully beheld time. Magahood offers us the opportunity to harvest what we have learned as Mother, and prepare for our entryway into the ancestral realm. This key elemental phase is when we become wisdom holders... when we concretize all we have learned and plant seeds of awareness for future generations.
The four phase archetypal framework is called the "Four Phase Feminine Way" based in the teachings of Cedar Barstow of Colorado and Janine Hardwicke Collings of Australia.
The Four Phase Feminine Way: Maiden, mother, Maga and crone
This Four Phase Feminine Way, as I first heard it described within a Moon Circle I attended led by Talulah Gough at Spirit Weavers Gathering 2017, explains four life transition archetypes of Maiden, Mother, Maga and Crone.
This Rite of Passage represents new beginnings. There is so much innocence, so much potentiality. This also means that impressions are strong, as there is little known about the day yet. It is a time for increased learning. We can think of Spring as the time of the Maiden in both the Triple Goddess Archetype and the Four Phase Feminine Way. Within Spring we cultivate strength and tone, we build mineral content in preparation of the active phase of Motherhood to come. We clear the ground for Spring garden growth. The coldness of winter becomes a gentle coolness... we get a fresh new breeze for what's to come. Eating activating and detoxifying foods such as bitter, wild greens is key during Spring. These foods help to clear Winter lethargy and brighten our bodies for what's to come.
Rite of Passage: Mynarche
Mynstrual Phase: Follicular (Post Bleed, Pre- Ovulation)
Celebration: Spring Equinox / Ostara
Time of Day: Sunrise
growth phase: sprout
Moon Phase: First Quarter
colors: Orange and Yellow
Organs of Attribute: Liver / Gallbladder
Animal Medicine: Cardinal / Spring Birds
Movement Pattern: Heart opening / Backbends
Foods Of Attribute: bitter greens
The Mother is the time of Summer, it is high noon. This is the most active time of the cycle. Summer represents full bloom. There is so much fertility… so much creative force. This also means that there is a celebratory, expansive quality to life. Within Summer we can dive into the portals we have found in life. We can think of this time as the time of The Mother in both the Triple Goddess Archetype and the Four Phase Feminine Way. We use all the energy we have, when we have it. Think of a flowers well known propensity to open in the day and close at night. All the clearing you did in your Spring season supports how well you mother whatever your creative project is... whether it be a baby, a career, or anything else you might be caregiving. Coolness turns into heat... we use moist warmth to nourish our bodies. Eating energizing, fresh foods is key during Summer keeps the body light, mobile and well for what we're up to. Look to pastured foods such as raw, grass-fed butter and farm fresh eggs to maintain optimal energy levels.
Rite of Passage: mothering / birth
Mynstrual Phase: ovulation
Celebration: Summer solstice / beltane
Time of Day: high noon
growth phase: flower
Moon Phase: Full moon
Organs of Attribute: heart / lungs
Animal Medicine: honey bee / butterfly
Movement Pattern: inversions
foods of attribute: Fresh salads / pastured foods
The Maga is Autumn, it is sunset. This is the grounding stage of our life cycle. Autumn is a time of reflection. There is so much to harvest from the growing season, so much to reflect on. There is a huge opportunity for gratitude and community gathering. This is a time for processing how your life has gone thusfar as you wind down towards the stillness of winter. Think of a leaf falling, how beautiful that transition is from its active green phase (Mother) to the stage of compost (Crone). All the garden growth you invested in offers the abundance for harvest. If you spent your Summer stressed and scarce, you will have less abundance during your magahood. This is why mynopause can be such an uncomfortable time for womyn, because all the accumulated tension of their mothering stage is what's left to process during magahood. The heat of the Summer turns into the coolness of Autumn. Use the moist coolness to gather what you will need to sit with in the cold wintertime. Eat heirloom varieties of seasonal crops with rich, deep venous colors- think blue hubbard squash, purple sweet potatoes, black oxford apples, blue jade dwarf sweet corn... these are the chakra colors that are in line with Autumn. Deep blues and purples ground the body toward its resting stage of winter.
Rite of Passage: mynopause
Mynstrual Phase: luteal (post-ovulation / pre mynstruation)
Celebration: autumnal equinox / mabon
Time of Day: sunset
growth phase: harvest
Moon Phase: last quarter
colors: indigo blue / royal purple
dosha: pitta / vata
Animal Medicine: turkey / deer
Organ of Attribute: kidney / bladder
movement patterns: Core strengthening
foods of attribute: root vegetables
The Crone time is Winter. It is midnight. This is the still point of our cycle, it is the stage of the ancestors. No longer is exertion needed. We harness and contain our wisdom, we share from a place of deep grounding and truth. There is a huge opportunity for connection to intuition and deep self clarity. There is acceptance of what life has been. We can connect to the ancestral realm and prepare for our death. Think of leaves fallen to the ground, how only from their compost can a beautiful, rich soil generate for the growth of new plants to come. All the gardening and harvesting you did throughout the year will determine how season goes for you. If you didn't cultivate inner resources, your Cronehood will be one of fragility and scarcity. This is why death can be such a stressful time. It can feel painful and scary if the body and mind hasn't been nourished throughout the whole of life. Coolness turns into cold... use the cold, dry weather to practice durability, resiliency and a turning inward. Eat dark soups and stews containing mineral rich foods, such as black beans, seaweeds, dark leafy greens and red meats. These foods are all the chakra colors that are in line with Winter: deep burgundy and black. Allow the body to be still and rest. Stay strong in the center of what has been cultivated, for things that are strong will endure.
RITE OF PASSAGE: death
MYNSTRUAL PHASE: mynstruation
CELEBRATION: winter solstice / yule
TIME OF DAY: midnight
GROWTH PHASE: compost
MOON PHASE: dark moon
CHAKRAS: 7 / 1
COLOR: White / Black / Burgandy
dosha: vata / kapha
ANIMAL MEDICINE: bear / wolf
ORGAN OF ATTRIBUTE: stomach / spleen
Movement Patterns: FOrward folds
Foods of Attribute: warm stews / mineral rich seaweeds / red meat / cooked leafy greens
The Importance of Cycle Awareness and Rites of Passage
Cycle awareness supports positive body image + Healthy Body Function
Rights of Passage influence how we relate to our bodies and each other. When womyn know what life stage they are in, they no longer need to compare themselves based on the past or the future. Therefore, celebrating cycles supports body and mind positivity.
Culturally speaking, the Maiden is the only validated time of life. Think of the Maga, yearning to be the Maiden once more. Once you behold the power of the Maga, you need not envy the Maiden- for your embodied wisdom is what you are invested in becoming. Reframing Mynopause is crucial for the emotional/physical health and societal balance of our lives. Rather than seeing the Maga (feminine version of Magus meaning the wise man/magician, term coined by Sylvia Keepers) as something we want to avoid (aging, ugliness, shame), we uplift the her as a wisdom holder.
Cycle awareness is also a powerful way to imprint conscious elder-hood into our society, so that aging is marked as a process of wisdom holding. As teachers are necessary to learn Rites of Passage from, cycle awareness establishes community. As we share our stories, a conscious community is tangibly formed. This is key.
Physical symptoms of cycle disconnection
Illness, hormonal imbalance, physical degradation (ex osteoporosis, diabetes), emotional imbalance (depression), and isolation (lacking community support for life changes) are all physical symptoms of cycle disconnection.
With cycle disconnection, ineffective modern methods for self care become prevalent. One sided learning (doctor and patient paradigm) and chronic pharmaceutical and processed food intake contain endocrine (hormone) disruptors interfere with our innate body mechanisms for self regulation and healing.
Risk Factors for cultural cycle avoidance/disassociation:
Environmental – lack of connection with the Earth leads to abuse
Genetic and physiological- shame gets passed down to future generations
Physical- lack of awareness of our own role in maintaining physical health leads to chronic disease
cycle awareness creates social change
Let's face it... virtually no rites of passage exist in modern culture. Cycle awareness goes hand in hand with earth connection, community building and elder/youth relationship (education and positive role modeling) Consider the following:
Birth is often medicated and dissociative (think hospital beds and hospital gowns). Many hospital births are traumatic, with a sea of complications, and many stories are forgotten through the cloud of drug induced births. This trauma leaves subconscious impressions that go unrecognized in the child for his or hyr life to come.
Mynstruation is often facilitated through the use of disposable mynstrual products and birth control is often used to regulate and reduce mynses. Culturally shamed “P(re) M(ynstrual) S(yndrome)” time leads to resentment and fear of the bleeding time, as there is little education on how to use PMS as a way to create more self harmony and connection, as it has the opportunity to be.
Mynopause is a culturally de-sexualized time. Societal ageism creates fear of magahood, and long term physical avoidance leads to challenging mynopausal symptoms that make it known as "the curse". The absence of the mynopause cycle in the “triple archetype” pre-hystoric cultures contributes to its absence and avoidance in our modern society.
Death is perceived as a morbid event and is feared above all else for many people. There are many traumatic, dissociative, painful deaths we witness, mostly including hospitals and medications, that lead to a monopolized understanding of this time as painful and to be feared.
The above exemplifies the real cultural misconception that each cycle is a condition that needs to be treated with medical intervention. As we realize the misconceptions of how life stages should be, we gather in unity to reclaim traditional, empowered ways of taking care of ourselves and each other as part of a social movement based on radical self care, connection and love.
Lack of Role Models in dominant culture creates deep fear of aging, especially with the physical degeneration we see in so many elders. Reclaiming Rites of Passage means we have the opportunity to learn about the ways our ancestors, both alive and dead, have gathered and celebrated important times in life. Celebrations such as Birthing Way, Red Tent, Sweat Lodge and Fire Ceremony are examples of rituals we can presently do based in traditional rites of passage ceremony. We also cultivate Native, Indigenous awareness as we learn conscious and earth based celebrations, for Native people have been practicing Rites of Passage long before Europeans entered this land. Throughout the entirety of hyrstory, seasonal celebrations and cycle awareness were very real parts of life. In this way, we pay homage to our land and ancestors in real time.
Framing The Solution
Teachers and Community Importance
Cycle awareness goes hand in hand with earth connection, community building and elder/youth relationships. Teachers are positive role models and are our modern entryways into the tradition of elder learning. As we return to Rites of Passage, we uplift the role of Maga, Crone and Mother as teachers for the Maiden. When the Maiden becomes an active, engaged learner, she sees the wisdom that the Maga, Crone and Mother hold. Parents and loved ones play an important role in education. The community as a whole comes into support the younger generations.
Men play a very important role in cycle awareness and the cultural revolution surrounding cycles. There is also a perception that men do not have cycles. Well, indeed they do! They are just not as evident as womyns cycles, because we have blood to clearly denote where we are in any given phase. Men's cycles are more fine tuned. Male children need teachers and elders to support and guide them though understanding womyn's, as well as their own, natural cycles.
Social media impact
Through the impact of social media, there is a growing movement of witches spreading the word on natural healing, cycle awareness, information of gatherings/trainings on self care (Spirit Weavers Gathering, Wilderness Schools i.e. Wild Earth). The public is gaining awareness about the importance of Rites of Passage and cycle awareness now more than ever, as information is more readily available and out there.
Self Care Practices + Strategies for Increasing cycle awareness
- Nutrition for Hormonal Balance: Herbs and Foods to support our Sexual and Physical Body
- Ceremony: Red Tent, Birthing Way, Sweat Lodge, Fire Ceremony
- Charting your Cycle
- Tracking the Moon's Phases
- Guidance through Traditional Wisdom
- Yoni Steaming and Abhyanga: Self Care Physical Practices for Self Healing
- Community: Potlucks, Consciousness Raising Circles, Book Clubs
- Self Care Routines as a regular part of life
Yoga and Meditation for Intuitive Awareness Development (Listening and Responding)
Ways To Go Deeper
Consider the following:
- Do you know your birth story? If you don't, find out as much about it as you can. What does it tell you about the way you begin any experience?
- Think of the time you first bled (mynarche). How was it for you?
- If you have bore children (or a creative project), how was that experience for you as the child-bearer? What assumptions do you have about motherhood?
- What impressions do you have about mynopause? If you have been through it or are going through it, what is your experience?
- What elder influences did you have in your life? What have they taught you, if anything, about how to prepare for death?
- How are your present actions in or out of line with your intuition/inner resource cultivation? What support do you need to step into your intuitive knowing
Create Your Own Cycle Chart.
- Chart your life as you move from inner season to inner season. Shift your self care practices based on what your bodily needs are within those cycle times, and celebrate the increased awareness of your body in connection to the natural world!
Spend time contemplating and manifesting from the above action steps. See what comes up for you as you dive into into the depths of yourself.
Enjoy the journey!