“Now is the time to be open and bold, to create waves of change through the way we honour who we are, by taking responsibility through connecting meaningfully to the world around us”-Angie
If you have experienced a birth or death in any capacity you have come immediately to something so immense that it can have a profound effect on your relationship with life. These experiences show us deeper truths about how we see life and our place in it. We come into contact with profound mysteries that beckon us to question existence, or deny it.
If we choose to acknowledge a deepening relationship to cycles, we embrace our living experience in quite a different way. Every breath we have is a huge miracle, every opening of a leaf an expression of joy, every sunrise an incredible event.
Listening to our bodies
Some stages of life can bring us together as groups or communities including our birth, adolescence, marriage, pregnancy and birth, separation or divorce, womb healing, becoming an elder, bereavement and death.
Such stages were, and continue to be, celebrated in many ancient cultures. Also, whenever a major event changes us – whether beautiful or traumatic or something in between – it is potentially a time when we are ready to transform and to grow and begin to live in an evolving expression of our uniqueness. These transitions deserve acknowledgment because they are important to us and affect us profoundly.
A rite of passage is the expression of change and transformation at a significant time in life, in honour of the immense power that such a change can bring and give to us. It is the call to harvest the soul seeds from within, and distribute and sow them into our new life to carry us forward.
For women, there has never been a better time to embrace our own rites of passage and create a greater bond with the life and death of our bodies. Through the different stages of womanhood, there are definite times when there is no mistaking change. That change, transformation and transition is so powerful, eventful and at times completely consuming, that by its nature it makes us stop to acknowledge it. Under the right conditions, this is potentially a time of total personal power, acknowledging the warrior and the creator in us all.
The years of menstruation have defined stages, and each stage is worthy of its own rite of passage. At the age of the first bleed, a positive experience, surrounded by supportive women and men, enables young women to begin to embrace puberty and sit within the eye of the storm establishing an inner knowing and trust in self. Developing intuition and powers of discernment, and gaining confidence, helps to shape and support us into having a strong voice and clear sense of identity. It can mean the difference between a sense of loss and fear and one of empowerment and self-growth.
The time of transition during a birth is another occasion when women also either face sensations so strong in the body that these translate as pain and loss of control, or otherwise can discover a wild and beautiful dance of contractions and communication with a baby. A shout from the birthing mother is a song of welcome to the baby and the community, and the heady spaces in the still moments are conducive to embracing ourselves as creator. When women are supported with ritual and ceremony through this unforgettably intense experience, they become one with the pulse of the universe, invincible in their power of transformation, and they can embrace the beauty of giving birth.
Blood and womb
The womb also holds a strong reason for ceremony when we have loss, including women with no baby, or a miscarriage, stillbirth or hysterectomy. These are all such different ways in which womb loss manifests, but the acknowledgement of grief or pain in each is essential to open the way ahead for letting go – even if this needs to come later. The common theme in all of these stages of a woman’s life is that they are somehow taboo in modern society, so that if we don’t make a statement the significance given to them becomes diminished.
Menopause, for me as a medicine-woman and celebrant, is the definitive call to action. I am in awe of menopause, from the women I have helped with natural medicines to other elders around me. Something so incredible happens at this time. Instead of seeing it as the loss as we are so often be led to believe, it is a total gain: a quantum leap into shedding a layer of identity that in all comparison was a dress-rehearsal for this warrior-goddess, before she revealed herself in her immense awe inspiring totality.
A rite of passage of the elder is the claiming of her role as wisdom keeper, the one who knows from life experience and the relationship to her own body, a mirror of cycles of death, life and rebirth seen everywhere in nature. It is a glorious opportunity to step into the world on our own terms – the ultimate statement of becoming. Be it at the beginning of the journey of menopause or as an elder years later, it is never too late to acknowledge this important time in our lives.
As I walk, as I walk
The universe is walking with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
Beauty is on every side
As I walk, I walk with Beauty.
– Traditional Navajo Prayer
It is these conscious, transformative and positive rites of passage that I focus on in my own life and work, gaining inspiration from many places and cultures to create new ceremonies embracing the ancient roots of our ancestors in a contemporary way.
I am part of an earth-based movement that is seeing an exciting resurgence of ceremony to merge us with the universe that is as relevant today as it was at the dawn of time. This movement doesn’t have one single specific name. You will see it all around you in the form of stirrings and re-awakenings which include sacred activists, feminists, doulas, women’s circles, permaculture practitioners, medicine-men, medicine-women, artists, seed harvesters, and so many more. It is a relationship between the individual and the wider world, and essentially focuses on how we see this relationship between ourselves and life around us.
We only need to reach out and begin to see this in an active way through physical movement, natural medicine, food growing, music, environmentalism, community and ceremony. The circle of life becomes a dance. Our allies everywhere in the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms constantly shout about this, through their very existence. The cycles of life death and rebirth are evident pretty much everywhere if you choose to look.
Crafting a ceremony
I see rites of passage ceremonies as making up for lost time. So many opportunities to honour aspects of our lives go by without acknowledgment; it’s a huge chance to embrace what matters to us.
Using your own language, experiences, influences, skills and life history, we create a unique weaving of threads, the sensitive, poignant essential parts of you. It goes so far and so deep. To begin with, we are invoking the wisdom, presence and protection of the ancestors; your ancestors. In you is a link to a physical family lineage, but also consider your soul family, soul tribe and invoking the wisdom of all that has guided you to this point. We also acknowledge that inner child who wants something which craves nurturing, and turn that energy to merge with the ultimate mother, mother earth.
The ceremony is crafted with what is most important to for you to honour at this given moment. I often include singing, drumming, rituals, meditation and merging with the elements, and allow time of transition and change during the day. You are never the same again – in a good way!
I offer rites of passage from birth to death, giving you a chance to transcend and let go of being stuck, and to change your mind-set and enrich your relationship to your life. This is a process that truly honours you, taking a quantum leap into being who you really are, in all your glory and powerful uniqueness.
Born of water
– Lindie Lila
So after such a step, how does life work? In essence we take responsibility to see things differently and in a wider and more expansive way, and we claim our place in the universe so that we don’t miss out on beauty and happiness. The result means less focus on quick gratification and more on what gives and celebrates meaning for us on a deep and lasting personal level.
Angie Litvinoff is a celebrant, medicine-woman, and facilitates rites of passage for women. She works in Hertfordshire and beyond.
To get in touch and learn more about working with her work see her rites of passage pages on