Ceremonies and Rites of Passage - Right Relation: Living in Sacred Balance

Kindling the Native Spirit: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life - Denise Linn 2015

Ceremonies and Rites of Passage
Right Relation: Living in Sacred Balance

Another way to be in right relation is to create ceremonies for your life. In native cultures, rituals and rites of passage have always been a part of life; they were a way of honoring the natural cycles of the planet, deepening the connection with the Creator, and creating stronger bonds within the community. They marked the important moments that punctuated the milestones of an individual’s passage through life, such as of birth, transitioning into adulthood, and marriage. There were also ceremonies for the change of the seasons, for healing, and for rituals to prepare warriors for battle and to welcome them home. These traditions emphasized the fact that an individual was not alone, but rather an integral part of a larger community that extended both backward and forward in time.

All of our native ancestors used ceremony in every aspect of their lives. There were purification ceremonies to be performed when taboos were broken. There were planting rituals, ceremonies to bring rain, thanksgiving rituals for the harvest, hunting rituals, and even eating rituals. Ceremonies were performed to celebrate personal events, such as recovery from a serious illness, moving into a new house, or completing a dangerous journey. Performing these rituals offered a way of showing honor and respect for the divine aspects that are present in ordinary life. They gave people a way of marking their triumphs as well as their defeats, and of filling life passages—both large and small—with their proper significance and greater meaning.

Ceremonies allow us to enter into the great mystery of the universe and the flow of the natural world, as well as help us step beyond the normal parameters of life. They can also help us mend many emotional wounds, ranging from the loss of a loved one to the wound of raw anger in response to grievance. Sometimes emotions can be too intense to be controlled through an act of will. Uncontrolled, they may escalate into aggressive behavior or violence (as did my mother’s anger regarding the way her people were treated). It may be that some of the discontent and disconnect in today’s world is the result of the absence of ceremony in our lives, as rituals can provide a safe means of releasing these intense emotions. Being an Earthkeeper means that you have an understanding of the power of ceremonies.


I’ve heard some say, “How can anyone who’s not a blood quantum or enrolled member of a tribe perform ceremonies?” This, to me, is a strange concept because ceremonies are about inviting the Creator into your midst, and the Creator is here for everyone, not just for someone who is of a certain bloodline. I love remembering what my revered teacher Nundjan Djiridjarkan said to me: “Being native isn’t what’s in your blood, it’s what’s in your soul.” A ceremony that’s done with a loving heart generates more kindness, support, and compassion in the world . . . and this is a good thing. It’s okay to create your own ceremony. Search your heart. Follow your inner lineage and the ceremony will emerge, bright, shining, and vibrant. A ceremony that’s done in a rote, mundane way serves no one. Some say, “If they’re not traditional ceremonies, then they’re not authentic.” Although many ceremonies of the past were officiated by a medicine man, medicine woman, shaman, or holy person, it’s not necessary to always use a mediator between the human and spirit realms. You have within you a place that’s holy and sacred, an inner sage, and you can access your inner wisdom and intuition when you create your own rituals.

Some valuable ceremonies to create for yourself or your family members are rite-of-passage ceremonies that mark the end of one phase of life and initiate us into who we’re becoming. It’s important to honor these events as a way of acknowledging our journey through life, as they pay homage to the cosmic relationship between human beings and the natural world. They also allow us to experience our connection to the rhythms of the universe.

Performing ceremonies in a circle is very powerful because it honors each individual in an equal way and brings people together. Here’s an example of how you can create your own ceremony using the symbolism of the medicine wheel:


To welcome a newborn into his or her extended family, create an indoor or outdoor medicine wheel. Invite friends and family. Smudge or use a feather to cleanse each person as they form a circle around the medicine wheel. Holding the newborn child, one or both parents enter from the east and step into the center of the circle. Face the baby to the east, the place of the rising sun and new beginnings. Call upon the Spirit of the East and ancestors, guides, and spirit guardians to fill the child’s life.

Continue around the circle calling the spirit of each of the directions and spirit helpers to come forward. Then hold the child low, level with your lower torso, and ask for the blessings of Grandmother Earth. Hold the baby at shoulder level and call up Grandfather Sky to give blessings. Then hold the child level with your heart and ask for blessings from the Creator. Step out of the center of the circle and walk the circle so that each person in attendance can offer blessings to the child. (One parent can carry the child and the other parent can carry a pot or basket for friends and family members to fill with words or objects that symbolize their blessings.)

A variation of this medicine-wheel ceremony can be created for birthdays, weddings, coming-of-age celebrations, graduations, going to or returning from war, moving, divorce, and death.