Rituals and Rites of Passage

Well, what an amazing and crazy week it’s been.  With the cyclone and floods in Queensland and people losing all their possessions it makes me realise that we worry far too much about the little things in life.  If we have a roof over our head and food on our table we are blessed.

My family, in fact, was very blessed this week. Our son got married on Saturday. It was such a gorgeous wedding. Just seeing his beautiful bride walking down the aisle towards my smiling boy brought me to tears.  We are so very happy for them both.

Rituals like weddings, funerals and christenings are an important part of any culture. The weekend before last I attended the HypnoBirthing Summit in  Queensland and one of the topics was Rites of Passage. The speaker talked about the history and meaning of rituals and rites of passage. She explored the great variety of rituals in different cultures and how rituals reflect our cultural values.

I was fascinated by her comments about our rituals around the transitions we make in life as women. The meaning we attach to these transitions will determine how we deal with them. Transitions for women, like the onset of puberty, giving birth and navigating menopause in our modern culture are not celebrated as rites of passage. They are more likely to be seen as inconvenient, uncomfortable or even traumatic events.

If rituals reflect our cultural values it seems that these transitions for women are simply not honoured or valued. Very few families have any kind of ritual to mark the transition of their children into adulthood. We give them the impression that their bodies are a nuisance and often defective. Instead of honouring these changes, we teach young women that if they have period pain, for example, it’s normal to take a pill and soldier on rather than to rest and nurture themselves.

The same applies to childbirth.  Rather than honouring this incredible psychological and emotional transformation of a woman into a mother, we focus on the physical aspects of childbirth. We talk about the pain and we have a cultural “ritual” of numbing the pain with drugs or intervening with medical procedures or surgery.  The result is that, rather than being supported, honoured and respected through this experience, 30% of women are traumatised by their birth.

We’ve forgotten about the sacredness of birth and how significant birth is in determining how a woman feels about being a mother.  When her birth is scheduled at a convenient time, induced or interfered with unnecessarily she will come out of the experience feeling disempowered and “not good enough.” We have a cultural belief that women’s bodies are defective and can’t give birth without intervention. Because of this our “rituals” around birth involve protecting women physically from the perceived dangers of a faulty body.

When we treat birth as a rite of passage and create rituals that support, nurture and comfort a birthing mother woman can have profoundly spiritual and transformative experiences which leave them feeling empowered and capable as mothers.

Many Eastern cultures have rituals or traditions of supporting a new mother for several weeks after giving birth.  She will be massaged and bathed, given the best food, excused from household duties and cared for with great respect.  I’m guessing these cultures have a far lower incidence of Post Natal Depression.

The other transition woman make of course is menopause. Unfortunately, rather than being seen as an important transition to becoming a wise elder, many women resist menopause and struggle with the uncomfortable symptoms of hot flushes, insomnia and irritability.  We are again culturally conditioned to medicate the symptoms away and soldier on when we really need to be honouring our bodies and minds with the best nutrition, massage, meditation, yoga, rest and exercise.

I must say, I breezed through menopause after initially having 20 hot flushes a day, one visit to a naturopath and some supplements to support my liver reduced that to one or two mild flushes a day within 3 days.

Of course, the lack of positive rituals doesn’t only apply to women. As boys transition to men, in many primitive cultures, they go through a period of initiation. The boys and men would be separated from the tribe for a period of time. This initiation into manhood might include rituals like circumcision, scarring, piercing or tattooing. These young men would be taken to the edge of their pain threshold and induced into a trancelike state.  They would be given secret spiritual knowledge while in trace and then accepted into the tribe as men.

Now I’m not necessarily advocating sending our teenage boys of into the wilderness to be initiated in this way but I do often wonder about how our lack of positive rituals around this time.  may be contributing to our boys seeking aspects of these rites of passage for themselves.  Is the current trend of piercings, tattoos and drug use their way of marking their rite of passage?  And would that be reduced if we had more positive sacred rituals to mark their transitions?

So if our culture doesn’t have the rituals that we need why not create your own?  I remember when our children turned thirteen Harry and took them to a classy restaurant for dinner.  And of course we had the 18th and 21st birthdays (which included quite a lot of alcohol) but I’m wondering now if we could have been more creative and honoured those transitions better.

At the risk of sounding sexist, I actually think that one of the best ways to celebrate puberty for boys is for Dads to take them bush. Leave the technology at home and spend time together in nature. Cook over an open fire, sleep rough and talk to each other.  Our men need to share their wisdom and bond with their sons. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And, by the way, if you would like support with life’s transitions call us on 03 9842 7033 for a free 60-minute assessment to explore how we can help.

Have a great week,

Warm Regards,
Alison Burton
Health and Happiness Guru
Simply Natural Therapies
41 Tunstall Square
East Doncaster
VIC 3109
03 9842 7033


Alison Burton is one of Melbourne’s leading Hypnotherapists and owner of Simply Natural Therapies. Alison is a sought after public speaker and has appeared on ABC National Radio, SBS Radio and is a regular guest on 3WBC Radio. She has also featured in The Age, Herald Sun, Insight Magazine and local news media. Alison has a keen interest in all aspects of natural health and wellbeing, energy medicine, human consciousness and bringing more common sense and kindness to the planet.
Alison’s interest in energy healing is often incorporated in her work through the use of Reiki, Kinergetics and acupressure techniques including Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
She has three adult children and 2 adorable grandchildren.
Alison lives Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs and runs a Natural Health Centre with 15 practitioners, an extensive range of classes including HypnoBirthing, and a retail shop.

Alison offers a FREE 60 minute Health and Wellbeing Consultation to clarify your needs and design a strategy to help you achieve your health and well-being goals

Receive these emails direct to your inbox: SUBSCRIBE HERE