Blessing Way Ceremonies
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A Celebration

We live in a culture so fast paced that we forget to take the time to honour and celebrate the transitions of life. When we take time to give thanks and honour ourselves, we can begin to make changes that will positively affect our sense of self, our family and ultimately the community we live in. When we begin to recognize transitions if life with rituals that enhance and enrich our lives by acknowledging the changes and growth that we, and those close to us experience, we learn to listen to ourselves. Blessing Ways and all ceremonies mark turning points, growth and change. When we acknowledge the importance of these changes, we deepen our sense of self and discover a new understanding of what makes life meaningful.

A Blessing Way is one of the traditional healing ceremonies of the Navajo. It is an important part of the spiritual practices for those in the traditional 'religion' or worldview. A Blessing Way is one of the most sacred ceremonies associated with pregnancy. Traditionally a Blessing Way is a women only ceremony, however many women choose to include men. A Blessing Way is performed late in the pregnancy and is to give the mother to be strength for the deeply spiritual rite of passage she is about to encounter during her birth.

A Blessing Way, much to the chagrin of the Navajo, has recently become associated with pagan rituals, yet a Blessing Way can be adapted to any religion or none at all, it's the celebration of the woman about to give birth that is of importance.

Although society seems to have trivialized birth so that baby showers are often commercially bent without much reference to the sacredness of the birth experience, we can choose to gather with women to honour the work of the mother and recognize birth as the transforming experience it is. The intention is always to create an atmosphere of reverence and love. We gather to create a space that is sacred but not serious. And since Blessing Ways are part of the creative process which is birth - anything can happen, Blessing Ways are joyful celebrations!

Christian Blessing Way

Wonderful suggestions from many Christian mothers, midwives, doulas and educators.

Scottish Blessing Way

A unique and traditional Blessing Way!

Other Blessing Way Ideas

Many other suggestions, to use with the above or separately to celebrate this special Rite of Passage. 

Christian Blessing Way

Christian Navajo have kept the reverence for God's creation and the desire for harmony that are part of their culture, but do not usually participate in ceremonies from the old times.

There is a human need for ritual and ceremonial. A Christian example that crosses all denominational lines is the Eucharist (Greek for thanksgiving) a.k.a. the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion. Problems creep in when the form becomes more important than the content and higher meaning of the ritual. And this also can cross all denominational lines!

Suggestions

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Warn each participant ahead of time that no horror stories are to be allowed that would upset the new mom or make her fearful. Or better yet, ask each person what she loved most about each of her births.

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Invited the mother's priest or pastor, so he/she could bless the people present, the house/room to birth in, the mother and baby.

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Start with introductions and have each participant tell what their relationship with the mom is. This may turn into a wonderful time of reminiscing and everyone could share a story about how they first met the mom or how she has touched that person in some way.

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Spent a few minutes telling about what the bible says about childbirth and the curse and then on what Isaiah teaches about blessings. Most of the women will probably believe that God had cursed the woman to have pain and suffering during birth.

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Have devotionals on God's gracious provision for women during pregnancy, labour and birth. Each person could read encouraging Scripture verses written in calligraphy each has brought for the mother.

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Have a prayer circle for pregnant women in which each mother present speaks a blessing on the woman and baby and a blessing for the birth. Have each one write the blessing down so that it could be a keepsake for the mom and baby. This could also be a time when each woman could tell what she loved most or learned most from her birth, ensuring no horror stories are shared. The event might even be healing for women who have wounds from their own births. It would be a true Blessing Way, God's way.

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A basket decorated and filled with pretty notepapers, each of which had a character trait or other "hope" listed it on it. Each woman at the Blessing Way picks a notepaper, and that was *her* thing to pray about. We went around the circle that day and each prayed for the thing written on her notepaper. Take the notepaper home and put it where it is easily seen and pray for that child to grow in that area.

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Write a song that can be sung to the tune of a common nursery song. Keep the paper on which the words were written for the baby book.

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Gather around the new mother to lay hands on her, proclaim blessings over her, pray for her, and lift her up to the Lord.

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Pass around a pretty journal in which we were all instructed to write a prayer of blessing and/or advice to the new parents. Or give pretty notepapers on which to write a prayer and then they were given to the mom for the baby book.

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You could the do a foot washing/massage/polish the toes pampering for the mother. What a wonderful way for each person to show respect for the mother, a powerful symbol of God's love, and of her importance as a new mother. Alternatively, offers of service to the mom like a massage, a facial or housekeeping after the baby's birth.

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Make a Belly Mask with her closest friend helping her. A wonderful keepsake to capture your pregnant body's dimensions, it is also an incredibly wonderful art form and an awesome reminder of God's powerful gift of pregnancy. Directions on how to make a Belly Mask.

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Another suggestion is to have her open her gifts, something to pamper the mother rather than gifts for the baby. Suggestions could include candles, flaxseed sox, lotions, mug with biscotti and teas to gift certificates for Victoria Secrets and a pedicure.

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Have the mom list 25 traits that she hoped this baby would have and put each trait onto really pretty cards. Pass around the cards and have the ladies pick one to pray for. Then go around and pray for her labor and birth and for the traits. This can be so powerful because often the ladies picked the traits that were meaningful to them and they prayed so specifically. Have them all agree to take the card home and place it in a place so they'll remember to continue praying for this baby.

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Finish up with desert and socializing.

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Have sign-up sheets for bringing meals after the baby and for a labor prayer chain too.

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Long after the baby clothes are outgrown and the swings and strollers are sold at a garage sale, the blessings and prayers will continue! God is so good!

Scottish Blessing Way

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Drink from a communal cup, which is a ceremonial Scottish rite.

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Make a circle around the mother, circles are a power shape, and twine each persons wrists with a thin piece of leather. Before cutting the leather and tying the smaller pieces to our wrists as a symbol of our support for her during her labor (we would only remove the leather once she had given birth) each person tells the mother something from the heart that had previously been written on paper. There were numerous cards, poems, and heartfelt sayings. Kleenex may be needed!

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After the circle we take the rose petals (brought previously) and roll them into beads. You cook the rose petals till they are mush and once they cool you can form them into beads.

Other Ideas

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Each woman that attends brings a bead, a seed, a flower, and a candle. They make a throne for the mother to be, and they ritually cleanse her feet massaging them with oil and soaking in herbal footbath. Meanwhile each attendant starts braiding the mother's hair and putting the flowers they brought into her hair or wreath. They tell her why they choose that flower. Next they give her the seed, which she puts into a pouch, and they tell her their wishes for growth of her family. Then each women puts the candle they brought on to an altar for the mother to light during labor for strength usually the altar is adorned with a cast of the momma's belly. Now the beads are strung on a necklace for momma to wear during labor. All of these rituals aid in creating a sacred space in our minds in which a new life form passes into this plane of existence. It gives the mother to be strength in knowing she is connected to all of these strong women who love her and believe in her.

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Ask everyone to bring a symbolic gift from nature. I received ivy, for strength and connection. Stones for different properties. Handmade beeswax candles, very beautiful. A lily, a feather, this list goes on. Sit in a circle and put a bowl in the middle and each one presented the gift while saying what it meant and put it in the bowl. During labor the bowl can be visible to remind the mother of all her support and "gifts."

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Light a candle that will later burn during the birth.

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Make a Belly Mask with her closest friend helping her. A wonderful keepsake to capture your pregnant body's dimensions, it is also an incredibly wonderful art form. Directions on how to make a Belly Mask.

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Hand out copies of the your birth plan. Sit in a circle and go around and personally invited each person to your birth in front of the others. Telling them why each has been picked for the very special job that they would do for you. Start with husband, then midwife, and doula, everyone, including my mother, mother-in-law, and each of your children... whomever you choose to include. "I asked if anyone had any questions, and of course my mother had to say, "Yes, why aren't you getting an epidural?" While I was slightly miffed it was nice to see my midwife talk to her and ease her fears, it made my mother feel more comfortable at the birth because of how she was treated there."

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Each person brings two beads, one for the baby and one for mom. A necklace is then made for the mother and a bracelet for the baby.

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Groom the woman of honor (which is pretty typical of most Blessing Ways). Comb her hair and give her a footbath with rose petal - lavender water, and massage her hands.

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Using a Henna Body Art Kit you can pamper the mother in a unique way. Using wonderful temporary tattoo art on her belly (and wherever she would like) to celebrate her pregnancy and growing tummy. For several mothers, this is a powerful visual aid during labour as she can focus on her own strength as she watches her tummy, as well as the wonderful bonds she has with those who celebrated her pregnancy with her.

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Uplifted her with good stories, encouragement, and praise, and give her gifts of love such as poems, handmade items and such.

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Massage and bathe mom's feet in corn meal and brush her hair while going around the circle telling her positive affirmations about her birth.

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Another suggestion is to cut up beet dyed eggs and as this is done each person says what trait she would like for that to represent for the mother, and then we fed each other the eggs, fed each other the positive traits.

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Four symbols that can be used are the flower for conception, a shell to represent the waters, a gourd to represent softening and opening and a wheat stalk for strength.

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Start a tradition! Decorate a beautiful basket and fill it with goodies for the new mom to pamper herself with after the babies were born. From then on, when each one has a baby in your family the invitations would include instructions to bring a special gift for mom to pamper herself after the baby was born. The same basket would be filled and presented to the new mom, who would take it home and keep it until the next Blessing Way. What a wonderful tradition to help us to focus on the joy of motherhood.

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Conclude by standing in a circle and connect each person with beautiful yarn. In turn tie a piece to each wrist and cut it from the circle. The women are to wear it until the baby is born. It is a beautiful reminder of the circle of love and support around the mother and baby.

References and Book Suggestions

References

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The Blessing Ways by Miriam Faith Heise 

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Blessing Ways by Evonne Smulders. Birth Issues magazine, ASAC. Spring 1996, page 26.

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Creating a Blessing Way Ceremony. The Doula magazine. Winter 1992, Issue 24.

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Blessing Way Video http://home.earthlink.net/~sagemtnfilms/

Books

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Blessing God's Way by Doran Richards and Susan Tederick (2005) www.blessingGodsway.com 

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Blessingways; A Guide to Mother-Centered Baby Showers by Shari Maser (2005) www.blessingway.net 

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Seasons of Change by Suzanne Arms

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Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz

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The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Jill Romm

Copyright Mother Care, 2005. Compiled and written by Connie Banack, GRPD.

Copyright 1997-2007 Mother Care. All photos Mother Care & Terri McKinney Photography. All rights reserved.