Finally, after years of hoping, dreaming and planning, an intrepid team of energy holders have successfully hosted a Coming of Age ceremony for kids at Dreamland. This event was mainly organized by Katrina Coravos, who is president and co-founder of Circle of Women International, a volunteer-driven non-profit organization, founded in 2013 in Vermont. Their mission is to bring women together to teach and share traditional ceremonies in celebration of our rich cultural diversity, and to strengthen and enrich communities through these teachings. To that end, they sponsor women wisdom keepers from different traditions to come together in sacred space.
In accordance with the intent of the Circle of Women International, Katrina invites a Mayan medicine woman called Nana Wilma to Vermont every year to share her wisdom, healing skills, and experience at sacred community building. Her particular love is for children, and creating a suitable environment for them to grow healthily into active members of their community. This was her/our first Coming of Age ceremony together in Vermont… and it was awesome!
There were ten kids present, three over 13 and the rest from the 9 to 13 years old range. The eldest were prepared to actually participate in the Rite of Passage, and the younger ones were present to get a introductory experience of the initiation. They will be eligible to participate once they have reached the guideline age of 13, or after their first menstruation. We were also aware that the initiation took place on a Monday; next year we will schedule it over a weekend so that it will be easier for more families to take part.
Nana Wilma spoke little English, so she was accompanied by an interpreter, who acted as a translator. She is Mayan, and is an influential spiritual leader in her own community in Guatemala. She wore her traditional costume, and was magnificent as she exercised her spiritual authority so far from her home. She is a humble yet powerful person, and exudes confidence and passion in her work. As she led the ceremony, it was obvious that she had accrued a lifetime of experience, and it was wonderful to witness such a special medicine woman in action. She has a great sense of humor, yet she also shed tears when talking about the importance of coming of age ceremonies, and the healthy, happy and sacred upbringing of children in community. She was delighted that we in Vermont were open to facilitating these Rites of Passage, and for being invited to lead them.
The organizers of the event gathered before the ceremony and made final plans, getting clear about what we were going to do, and in what order. We gathered in the stone circle, and welcomed the guests. We all – the facilitators, parents and kids – then introduced ourselves, and shared why we were present, and what we hoped to receive from the ceremony.
Once we explained the day’s activities, we started the ceremony. As host of the event, I was invited to Chief, a great honor. Once we had created sacred space together, Nana Wilma took over and lit the sacred fire with many prayers. It was very interesting to see how she built her fire, with many herbs, and with what seemed to be too few pieces of wood – and no kindling at all! It actually burned very well, apart from the capricious wind making it difficult to ignite the fire at first. Once the fire was dancing happily, she then increased the energy of the ceremony, in stages, by adding different layers and weavings of prayers. We were all given beeswax candles to add to the fire, along with our own prayers.
When Nana was ready, John and Julia led the kids on some trust exercises. They are two young medicine teachers, founders of Retribe, a community of people who want to live their lives in connection with each other and the earth. They are especially focused on rites of passage for children, and are very experienced at working with, playing with, and guiding kids in a wholesome and sacred manner. After leading the trust exercises, they led the kids away from the adults, like two youthful Pied Pipers, down to the brook where they guided the kids into an awareness of letting go of some of the aspects of childhood, and on what it means to prepare for adulthood. From time to time we heard screams and laughter coming from the valley below us.
While the kids were doing their thing, the adults came together and discussed how the parents of teens can facilitate the transition in their kids – and their own – lives. It takes two… or actually, the whole family, to tango!
The kids were welcomed back into their community by the adults, who chanted:
We behold you, beautiful ones,
We behold you, children of the Earth and Sun.
May our love wash over you,
May our love wash over you.
The kids then made offerings to the fire, then Nana Wilma initiated them in the Mayan way by getting two men and two women from the community to stand on opposite sides of the fire. The men then swung the girls over the flames, and the women swung the boys. Having been blessed by the spirit of fire, Nana then spoke with each child, offering them a bowl full of her sacred corn beverage, honoring them, and giving each one individual instructions for the future.
Finally, the ceremony came to an end and we chatted awhile before sharing a potluck dinner together on the deck overlooking the stone circle.
All agreed it was a great success, especially for our first attempt, and that the kids, some who became young adults in the eyes of the community, had been deeply moved. Next year we will probably arrange a similar event, lasting a full weekend. Over 48 hours, the kids will have the opportunity to demonstrate a deeper commitment to their transition, by undertaking a task like making a vigil in the forest for 24 hours, possibly after a Sweatlodge.
Next year we will restrict the Rite to those kids who are already mature enough and ready to undertake the Coming of Age ceremony. This means that they will be able to focus fully on their own transition, and their changing relationship with family and community. This will hopefully make the weekend more concentrated, and reduce distraction.
Nana Wilma is truly a force of Nature, and we hope she will be able to attend and deepen her relationship with our community over the years. Those who attended the Rite felt huge spiritual forces at work, and for a while Spirit visited us on the Vermont landscape and caused real change to happen. Thank you everyone who helped to make this happen.
May all the children be happy!