This weekend I was honored to Priestess a young man’s transition from childhood into adolescence. M. turned 13 in late July, and we’ve known we were going to do a ritual to mark the transition for several years now. (I priestessed his two brothers’ “Baby Blessings” and M. had asked for a ritual just for him. We talked about it and decided that since he was already 10, we’d wait until adolescence. He liked the idea a lot.) M. is a very bright, well-spoken young man who feels like an old soul. His parents are non-religious, but the family has a variety of ritual practices that integrate a nature-based spirituality. They bring me in for the ‘big stuff'<g>.
M’s core desires were to recognize a group of people as mentors — M. defined this as people who he felt he could call on for guidance through his adolescence — in some fashion, mark the transition itself, and be provided with a formal introduction to ‘something larger’ than himself (the Deity). Previous to his articulating this, I’d reached out to the Pagan community for advice and ideas, and I was given a lot of them. Core to most was the idea that M needed to spend time by himself, many spoke of the Native American traditions of three days in the wilderness, fasting and vision quests. Another core theme was the idea of sacrifice — giving up something precious that represents Ms childhood, or doing a giveaway of his childhood possessions.
(As a side note, there was a pretty vocal group of people who were adamantly opposed to a woman participating in the ceremony at all. I respect their opinion, but fundamentally disagree. I can see that there are some rituals that are men only (or women only) but this ritual was not supposed to be like that. Besides, I was asked to priestess and they have no male to perform that function for them. Telling me I can’t do if because of my gender is pretty self-defeating, and rings of fundamentalism.)
With one thing and another, we agreed that the structure of the ritual was going to be pretty informal. I, of course, hate this but took a deep breath and asked only that M and I be given time to talk it through after i arrive. Oh, did I mention that this took place in Sacramento and I live in Seattle?
Only the time for a talk didn’t manifest. (Hail Mercury!) We spent a lot of time together, as a family. And I found it impossible to bring up matters of the occult with a 3 and 5 year old competing for adult attention. So as people began to arrive on Saturday afternoon, I was flummoxed. I didn’t even have a chance to pull M’s dad (B) aside to tell him it just wasn’t going to happen. I sort of just gave it up to the Universe and waited to see what would come about.
Around 4pm Bill saw me slipping out for a walk (I’m an introvert, and 19 people ranging from late 70s to 2 yrs old, most of whom I do not know was draining all of my energy away). B saw me and joined me.
B: So, what are we going to do?
Me: (pause) Um. I don’t see how we can do anything. I really needed the time to talk with you and M and that just hasn’t happened. No blame here! No guilt! I promise. But it just doesn’t feel like this is going to come together.
B: Oh. (pause) Well, we’ve got a bit of a problem. You see, I told everyone when I invited them that we were going to do something and that they were asked especially because they are M’s mentors and we want to honor that.
M: Oh dear. You managed to give too much information and not enough all at the same time. (laughs.)
* * * we think for awhile. (remember it’s 95 degrees and we’re just strolling around the block.) * * *
M: How about this? (plan proposed)
B: That’s great! See, I knew you could come up with something.
Meanwhile I’m thinking “Great. None of the usual ‘tools’ — no creating sacred space, no script, just a vague outline . . . with a group that’s 90+% non pagan. Lord and Lady? I need a hand here.”
So we gathered in the living room and B. welcomed them and mentioned that we were not going to do anything formal, partly because of the 3 and 5 yr olds (just then the 5 yr old had a meltdown because he wasn’t the center of attention) “and you can see the wisdom of that decision.” (laughter). Then I took over.
“Some of you were here for the baby blessings. You remember that I asked you to give them a wish for something — laughter, creativity, intelligence — and we’ve already seen the flowering of those gifts.” (Smiles all around.) “Today we are here for M. who stands on the threshold of a time of great transition. I want us all to think back to when we were teenagers. Remember the joys, the fun. Remember with troubles, the hardships.” (pause. watch the faces change.) “Now, think of what it is you wish someone had told you back then. What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you — even if you would’ve blown it off at the time. I want you to give that advice to M. now.”
It was amazing. (Magick always is, but in such unexpected ways.) Without prompting from me, the men went first, starting with his father (“Don’t be afraid to take action.”) except for grandpa. Then M’s friends — Bt (who is just about 14) got a good laugh with his “Well, from my 10 and a half months experience . . .” (his advice, however, was wise well beyond his years). And his other friend Mt spoke up and said “I’m only 11, I got nothing.” (I told him to take notes.) Then the women went (“It’s OK to be yourself” “Look for an adult you trust to talk to that isn’t your parents.”). Then grandpa spoke (“You are unique, your task is to develop that uniqueness and figure out how to do your best in the world.”) Then the oldest woman (“Enjoy yourself. High school is a lot of fun.”) And then I offered my advice (“No matter how bad it seems, it isn’t. It may feel like the end of the world, but — I promise you — it isn’t.”)
All throughout, M. turned to face each speaker. He listened respectfully, not even joking with his friend. The order of mentors was entirely natural — no prompting from me at all. The energy was there, despite the lack of ‘tools’ it was there because it was the time, and the place, and the people were right, and we got lucky. Yes, lucky. Energy doesn’t usually come when you don’t invite it, and we started cold. Luck. (Thank you Lord and Lady!!!!)
When I was finished I asked M if he had anything to say to us. He thought for a moment then said “Thank you.” and that was it. <g>. I looked around the circle and added my own thanks to everyone for their wisdom, and then opened my hands up as if releasing a balloon and dissipated the energy that had built up. (Sort of ‘popped’ the balloon.)
Later that evening, I gave M. a copy of Christopher Penczak’s “Sons of the Goddess” which technocowboy had gotten autographed (Thank you Christopher!!!!) I told him “this is not necessarily the be-all end-all for you, but its a start. Read it. Do the exercises. Use it as the starting point for your dialog with your parents.” I also gave him a hand-carved Zuni fetish of a mountain lion for his totem. M. was really touched by the gifts.
I’m looking forward to answering Ms questions over the coming years.
EDIT: I wrote the ‘perfect’ ritual — that is, the one that in a perfect fantasy we would have done. You are welcome to take a look at: http://cybercoven.org/writings/priestessing/marking the transition