“I cant believe Im standing in my daughters kitchen preparing food for our celebration. This ceremony has healed all of us and brought us together again.” These words were spoken to me when I went to say goodbye to the grandmother of a toddler Id just named. Penny went on to say how she hadnt spoken to her eldest daughter for a few years. Her youngest daughter, the mother of the beautiful boy wed just celebrated, was a cancer survivor and a single mum after her partner found her illness too difficult to deal with. With increasing pressures in the family, most members had fought over various issues that arose and blame was duly handed out to everyone who spoke, as can happen when life gets overwhelming.
One little boy brought them all back together and we used the naming ceremony as the healing ointment to do so. We did not do any special healing rituals in the ceremony but we did acknowledge each and every person there as a valuable and much needed member of his family (immediate, extended and honorary). We did emphasise their role as his mentors and guides, each able to share their own special talents, their wisdom, the things in life that they love, with him. Grown men grew teary as I explained how important they were in the life of a little boy and also as he grows and becomes a teenager, a young man, and beyond.
Honouring people and sharing values
A naming ceremony can acknowledge that other people are important in the raising of a child, if we are fortunate to have friends and family in our lives. The world can be a complicated place, requiring a range of skills and knowledge to navigate, yet the very simple actions of friends and family are, above all, the things that help us through – a pat on the back, a hug when sad or when happy, a hand to get back up, a listening ear, kind words, actions that say, “I see you, I accept you, I am here”. Sometimes those actions may include the words, “I love you but I dont like what you are doing” and some guidance to nurture the wisdom and true self to grow. A naming ceremony acknowledges those essential values that sustain our lives – love in all its forms – of family and friends, of nature, of music, and in all the ways we do experience love – support, friendship, care, ethics, fairness, truth…
Honouring ancestors and angel babies
A naming ceremony can also acknowledge special people no longer here but whose influence and presence always lives within us. I have prepared naming ceremonies to acknowledge angel babies at the same time as the living child we are celebrating. Sadly, I have also named babies who are being farewelled. This creates a community of support around the parents at that time, a real persons name to use, to acknowledge and hold within their hearts while they support the parents and family in their grieving process. Naming ceremonies honour the gift of our children and our parenting experience in whatever form it takes. And, as a parent of both living and angel children, I can say that for me, they have all made me grow as a person, each of them a gift in my life, each of them changing and adding to my lifes path.
Bringing families together
Sometimes that life path may have included sorrow, anger and disruptions. Naming ceremonies may have a role in gently acknowledging those things and showing a way forward. Recently, I facilitated a ceremony where the aunty of a young girl was given special acknowledgement in her life. Karen was a step-sister and had been feeling a bit on the outer after the new grandchild arrived. We spoke about how important aunties are in the life of a girl. Aunties, removed from the immediate compulsions of parenthood to keep our children safe, protected and at home, can play an important role in their nieces lives as an extra source of love yet more detached from the dynamics of parenting, which may be especially important at those rites of passage for young women. Karen was thrilled to be included in the ceremony and looking forward to having that close connection with her niece as she grows.
Participation is key
When a ceremony is created to take into account the personal circumstances of the family it is for, then it can become more than mere words and more than traditional rituals, such as lighting a candle. On the subject of candles, if you are lucky enough to have a pond or bird bath, why not give each attendee a floating candle to light with their wishes for the child? And you can still have another candle to keep if you wish. My point is that when people participate rather than being merely spectators, it creates a strong bond with your child that words alone may not achieve. An invitation to bring a token or symbol for a treasure box, something that represents what they have found valuable in life, can create a link between them and your child that an expensive gift does not. One precious moment I recall in a naming ceremony is where the godfather of the baby brought along his childhood story book that he loved, to give to the baby, symbolising his intent to read to him, to share with him the things he loved as a child and most importantly, sharing his time.
Linking the past and present and renewing vows
Linking the past, present and future is a strong healing ritual for a family. For a couple who had experienced some troubled times before the birth of their much loved daughter, the naming ceremony included promises to their daughter that also were a refrain from their wedding vows. “Just as I promised to love you and care for you at our wedding five years ago, my love for you and my wish to care for you as the mother of our beautiful girl has become stronger and fuller. I am so proud of your care for our daughter. And now my promise extends to Jasmin. I will protect and defend our relationship and our family and also be gentle and kind with you always.” For this family, I asked the parents to step over a broom. The broom is symbolic of sweeping away all from the past that no longer serves you. It also symbolises joint responsibility for caring for the house – something that can be very important for new parents!
If holding your ceremony at home, you may like to clear the space beforehand or have your celebrant do this if they have those skills. In my role as a celebrant, I use Reiki beforehand for the area, as well as essences and crystals, if the family wish me to. On occasions, I have also carried out a house blessing to clear stagnant energy and welcome the baby home (if not born at home). This is usually a shorter process than a clearing house blessing, which can be done on a separate occasion. It is a way of affirming the parents intentions for their parenting and again, clearing a space where there may have been arguments or tensions. In this ritual, we may carry the child from room to room to set our intentions. In this room, the bedroom, we will sing to you, read to you, sleep with you give you our love. This will be a restful place. And we may touch a drop of chamomile oil to the doorframe. When entering the kitchen, we might say – in this room, we will prepare healthy food to nurture you and help you grow…
Parents are so important
There is no limit to the way naming ceremonies can contribute to the health of your family, your community and the planet. These ceremonies honour the gift of your children and also honour you in the important role you have in raising healthy, loving and balanced young people. They honour those around you, your place of residence, your ancestors and all who have come before you, and they may also honour nature and the life process which has led you to this time.
Im Marlee Bruinsma, a celebrant based in south east Queensland, and I specialise in conscious ceremonies to honour life. I have been facilitating ceremony for six years and have also studied the Goddess, Reiki, Astrology, Aromatherapy, House clearing and Crystal Light Balancing.