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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Celtic Rites of Passage for Children/Young Adults

I'm a big believer in the importance of rites of passage to help anchor us in our spirituality and our sense of self. It's a very tribal way to do things, I think, to commemorate life changes with ritual. I know not everyone agrees or sees the need but for those who do...
 I divided these up into girl and boy rituals, but there is flexibility in either to be reworked for the other gender,or for teens that identify with the other gender. I fully intend to use the first one, for girls, when my daughters are old enough - unless they'd rather go on a hunt ; )
      Morgan

          This first ritual is a rite of passage for a girl entering adulthood. Personally I would suggest doing it at the onset of menses, or roughly around 12 or 13. It is based on the Invocation of the Graces #3 from the Carmina Gadelica.  Before the ritual the girl should have to face a challenge; this may include solving a riddle, making something by hand that challenges her skill, or finding something hidden. The exact challenge should be tailored to the girl, and should be difficult but not impossible.
  Prepare the altar and ritual space as usual; place a bowl of sacred water on the altar. Process to the space and call on the ancestors, spirits of the land, and the gods to witness the ritual. The assembled people should form a rough circle around the altar, while the officiant and girl stand before the altar. The officiant should ask the girl her name, why she has come before the assembly, and if she is ready to assume her new role within the community. The girl should answer honestly and from her heart to all the questions, present proof that she has passed her challenge, and if she is ready to proceed, the officiant should pick up the bowl of water and lightly wash her hands while reciting:
 "I wash your palms
In showers of wine,
In the lustral fire,
In the three elements,
In the juice of the rasps,
In the milk of honey."
Then the officiant should drip the sacred water on the girl's head, one drop for each line of the following, as it is recited,
"I place the nine pure choice graces
In your fair fond face,
         The grace of form,
         The grace of voice,
         The grace of fortune,
         The grace of goodness,
         The grace of wisdom,
         The grace of generosity,
         The grace of choice honor,
         The grace of whole-souled loveliness,
         The grace of goodly speech."
At this point the officiant should put the bowl of water down and stand with their hands on the girl's shoulders while saying:
"Dark is yonder town,
Dark are those therein,
You are the young brown swan,
Going in among them.
Their hearts are under your control,
Their tongues are beneath your foot,
Nor will they ever utter a word
     To give offence to you.
You are shade in the heat,
You are shelter in the cold,
You are eyes to the blind,
You are a staff to the traveller,
You are an island at sea,
You are a fortress on land,
You are a well in the desert,
     You are health to the ailing.
Yours is the skill of the Fairy Woman,
Yours is the virtue of Brighid the calm,
Yours is the generosity of Danu, ever-flowing,
Yours is the bounty of Boann the fair,
Yours is the beauty of Emir the lovely,
 Yours is the tenderness of Airmed, the gentle,
Yours is the courage of Macha the strong,
   Yours is the charm of Fand of the wave.
You are the joy of all joyous things,
You are the light of the beam of the sun,
You are the door of the chief of hospitality,
You are the surpassing star of guidance,
You are the step of the deer of the hill,
You are the step of the steed of the plain,
You are the grace of the swan of swimming,
     You are the loveliness of all lovely desires.
The best hour of the day be yours,
The best day of the week be yours,
The best week of the year be yours,
The best year in the lifetimes of men be yours.
Dagda has come and Ogma has come,
Brighid has come and Aine has come,
Boann and Manannan Mac Lir have come,
Lugh the many skilled has come,
Angus mac Og the beauty of the young has come,
Morrighan of the augury has come,
Dian Cecht, gifted god of healing has come,
And Miach the skilled healer of the host has come,
     And Airmed the mild has come,
     And the Spirit of true guidance has come,
     And Danu, mother of the people of skill has come,
     To bestow on you their affection and their love,
          To bestow on you their affection and their love."
 Afterwards the girl should thank the gods, spirits, and ancestors and should make offerings to them. The ritual should be concluded in the normal manner and then the assembled people should celebrate with feasting and gift giving to the girl.


     This second ritual is a rite of passage for a boy entering adulthood. Personally I would suggest doing it  roughly around 12 or 13, but it is up to the parents to decide when the boyis ready. It is based on Blessing the Hunter #114 from the Carmina Gadelica.This prayer was said as a consecration over a hunter before he went out to hunt. A very specific ritual was followed were he was anointed with oil while standing with his feet apart, each foot on a patch of bare ground, then handed a bow (Carmichael, 1900).  Much like the blessing of a king or judge this blessing came with specific prohibitions that acted as geis for the hunter throughout his life, usually relating to what animals he could and could not hunt. Specifically nursing or brooding animals were prohibited, as were unweaned or unfledged ones, and resting animals (Carmichael, 1900).
  I would recommend that as part of the ritual, if possible, the boy actually participate in a hunt, either literally hunting and killing an animal or else a hunt that relies on skill, perhaps to retrieve a number of hidden items to prove himself. At the start of the ritual he may present the result of his hunt or the items that he found as proof of his success.
     Prepare the altar and ritual space as usual; place oil for anointing the boy and a weapon, either real and to be used in the actual hunt or symbolic, on the altar. Process to the space and call on the ancestors, spirits of the land, and the gods to witness the ritual. The assembled people should form a rough circle around the altar, while the officiant and boy stand before the altar. The officiant should ask the boy his name, why he has come before the assembly, and if he is ready to assume his new role within the community. The boy should answer honestly and from his heart to all the questions and present proof of his success at completing his hunt, and if he is ready to proceed, the officiant should pick up the oil and anoint the boy's head while reciting:
"You are the product of your ancestors,
May you be guided in the way that is right,
In the names of the Spirits of sea, earth and sky,
In name of the Gods of Life who bless you.
In the names of Ogma, and Nuada
Manannan of the wave, and Daghda the Good God,
Dian Cecht the healer, and Giobnui the smith
Macha the red, and Danu the mother of the aos sidhe.
In name of Lugh the many-skilled,
And Boann of the river,
Angus beloved, and sovereign Eriu,
Tailtiu calm, and Brighid of the milk and cattle.
In the name of Morrighan goddess of hosts,
In the name of Anu, giver of abundance,
In the name of Flidias of the woodland glens,
And Airmed of the healing herbs."
 The officiant should put down the oil and pick up the weapon, handing it to the boy with proper ceremony. When the boy takes it the officiant should continue, saying,
"Until the time you shall have closed your eyes,
You shall not bend your knee nor move,
You shall not wound the duck that is swimming,
Never shall you harry her or her young.
The white swan of the sweet gurgle,
The speckled dun of the brown tuft,
You shall not cut a feather from their backs,
Till the world ends, on the crest of the wave.
They must be on the wing
Before you place missile to your ear,
And the fair Danu will give you of her love,
And the lovely Brighid will give you of her blessing.
You shall not eat fallen fish nor fallen flesh,
Nor one bird that was not brought down by skill,
Be thankful for the one,
Though nine should be swimming.
The fairy swan of Brighid of flocks,
The fairy duck of Danu of the people of peace."
  Afterwards the boy should thank the gods, spirits, and ancestors and should make offerings to them. The ritual should be concluded in the normal manner and then the assembled people should celebrate with feasting and gift giving to the boy. If an actual hunt was held then at the feast the assembled people can eat what the boy caught.

 Reference:
Carmichael, A., (1900) Carmina Gadelica volume 1
 Daimler. M (2010) By Land, Sea, and Sky

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