Planning a Blessingway By Su Foster It is a good idea if a close friend of the birthing woman can organise the ceremony on her behalf. Try to keep the invitation list to a reasonable number or the intimacy of the ceremony may be compromised. Think carefully about the space and prepare it well. An outdoor ceremony on the earth by the light of a fire is great. If this is not possible an equally appealing space can be created indoors. Use candles and music to enhance the space if you desire. Incense or a smudge stick of sage or lavender can be burnt to clear any negative energy from the space beforehand or as part of the opening ritual. If you wish, include symbols of the elements in your ceremony eg. a candle for fire, a crystal for earth, a feather for air and a bowl with floating flowers for water. Feasting is a very important part of the celebration. Ask everyone to bring a plate of food to share. This eases the catering burden and usually results in a fantastic spread. Don’t allow the mother to do any of the food preparation, washing up or other duties! This is her time to relax and allow others to serve her. Open the ceremony in your preferred way – perhaps a welcoming, a thanksgiving, a casting of the circle, an acknowledgment, or a chant. Sit it a circle on the ground, as is the basic configuration in most traditional ceremonial practices. Make sure the pregnant mother is comfortable, proving her with cushions or whatever she needs. There are many ways to celebrate and nurture the new mother at her blessingway. You may wish to incorporate some of these ideas or invent your own. • Take it in turns around the circle to say a blessing for the birthing woman. • Make a garland for her hair. • Read poetry or share stories. • Give her small gifts. • Paint her with henna or ochre. • Play music or sing songs. • Make a plaster belly cast. • Paint a picture together. • Stitch a quilt together each woman bringing a piece of fabric to contribute – a birthing blanket or a baby rug. • Belly dance! This form of dance was originally developed by women to show labouring women how to move the baby out. • Give her a massage, a foot bath, a facial, reiki or other pampering / healing treatments. • Make a blessing bracelet- each woman bringing a meaningful bead to add. • Connect all women together in a circle by wrapping red cord around each woman’s wrist – a symbol of unity and strength. At the end, you can cut the bonds, but leave the wristbands on until the child has been born. Each time the women see the band on their wrist they will be reminded of the birthing mother. • Each woman can take a candle home from the ceremony and light it when she hears that labour has started. The mother’s awareness of the lit candles will give her strength. • Make a wishing cord – pass a cord / rope / scarf around the circle. Each woman makes a wish for the mother as she ties a knot in the cord – she is weaving her intention into the cord. The cord is passed back to the mother to keep. • Ask everyone to bring items to make a birthing totem or walking stick. Choose a nice piece of wood and everyone can add their feathers, crystals, paint, charms etc. • Post birth support – at the blessingway ceremony make a support roster including all the women present, to bring meals to the new family following the birth. Each woman brings one meal and helps out in any way she can when she drops it off. This could include washing dishes, doing some laundry or cleaning. This is invaluable support for the new mother. As we continue to celebrate and nurture our birthing mothers with the blessingway ceremony, it is my hope it will become more common practice in our society. Maybe the blessingway will help women to reclaim birth as a rite of passage into the next stage of our lives – an event to be revered and cherished. When we honour our birthing mothers, they realise the sacredness of their journey and are empowered to undertake that journey with strength – inspired and supported by the love of their dearest friends.