The women in my sweet little community celebrate new moms (and other life transitions) with a “Blessingway” ceremony honoring the woman, all women, and the timeless bonds that connect and support us all. Blessingways are the best. The events we hold are inspired by Navajo Blessingway traditions but have evolved into their own unique experiences that likely bare little resemblance to those original sacred ceremonies.
While each Blessingway I have attended or hosted is different, they share many of the same qualities. Since we do them most often to celebrate birth, we’ve joked to “first-timers” that it’s kind of like a hippie baby shower. We have good food, presents, and cake, but we skip the games in favor of lavishing a ridiculous amount of attention, well wishes, and pampering on the mama-to-be. Sounds awesome, right? It is.
So today, I’m sharing stories and pictures from Blessingways of yore to inspire more women to gather in celebration of a loved one, each other, and the path we’re all on. Hopefully this also helps to answer questions I’ve heard over the years from relatives, newbies, and even strangers who are invited to one of these super special events and have no idea what to expect. I once overheard and chatted with a couple of sweet grandmas in the Target baby aisle discussing a blessingway one was invited to and how she had no idea what it was. This is for all of us, in blessing of all of our ways.
Blessingways are meant to celebrate and connect through life transitions.
One of the most special Blessingways I’ve attended was for my Mom before she passed. I had been traveling back and forth to North Carolina to be with her as often as possible while she was sick. I wanted to do more for her while I was there than worry and track medication. I decided to host a Blessingway during my next visit and recruited her local friends to help me plan and pull it off. No one had ever heard of a Blessingway but they were all for it when I explained what I wanted to do.
When the big day finally came, an amazing group of women gathered to honor my Mom and fill her with love and strength for the road ahead. Her sisters flew in, old friends gathered round, her daughters were there. We thanked her for all the ways she blessed our lives, told funny stories, and made sure she knew how special and supported she was. We said all the things that could be said and we sat silently in prayer.
We were there to celebrate and fill her with life. Really, it was as much for our own healing and growth as it was for hers. All Blessingways work like that. It was a beautiful, sunny day filled with laughter, tears, and togetherness I will cherish forever. We gathered around her, washed her feet, sang songs, brushed her hair, and placed a crown of fresh flowers on her head. Each person brought a bead and a blessing to share and I later strung those beads into a necklace she kept to remember our love and that day.
I have the necklace now. Some days I wear it for fun, and as a reminder, and when I can use an extra dose of badassery.
So, now that you’re convinced Blessingways are great, you probably want to go to one. The great news is you don’t have to wait around for an invitation. You can host one for someone you love. Since we’ve most frequently held them to honor new moms and growing families, I’m going to share some examples and photographs that show what we’ve done over the years. Just remember you can adapt and change any of this to fit the individual and life situation you have in mind.
How to host a Blessingway for someone you love:
- Your first step is to talk to the person you want to honor to make sure they’re up for a celebration like this. Talk to them about what you want to do and make sure they are comfortable with your initial plan. For example, you might ask if they’d enjoy a foot bath and massage or would they rather not be touched by a room full of people. Any detail can change or be adjusted to ensure your guest of honor feels totally comfortable and at ease. Once you’re sure they’re up for it, you’ll want them to give you some possible dates and a list of people to invite.
- Next, you want to build a team. Invite at least one or two friends to co-host with you and divvy up responsibilities to other guests as well. For example, we often ask different people to bring massage oil, dried herbs, cornmeal scrub, or the flower crown. The more people are invited to contribute to the day in personal ways, the better.
- Create and send an invitation. I usually use a Facebook Event or Evite for ease of tracking and messaging guests, but email, paper, or any other way you prefer is fine. Let people know the location details and what to bring. We usually plan for a few hours in late morning or afternoon on a weekend. We always do a potluck of some sort with hosts bringing main course options and cake. We let guests know to bring a dish to share and usually some small item like a bead or a button to add to a blessingway keepsake. More on that later. Gifts aren’t a major focus; although, we usually bring gifts for the new baby and share suggestions if there are any known needs.
- We typically welcome mom and guests to bring nursing babies and any children who are old enough to participate; although it’s also okay to suggest an adults only event. My friend Jill recently shared this: “Our littles see, then they do. I love bringing little Aida to blessingways with me. She is learning to honor and cherish her body and those of the girls and women around her. She asks for blessingway songs at night now and I’m happy to oblige. Here she is playing henna with another youngster at the most recent blessingway.”
- As a host, I create a program that includes a tentative schedule for the day and lyrics for blessingway songs we sing while pampering the guest of honor. Here is a pdf of a program for a friend: Blessing Way for Courtney (pdf)
- Guests arrive, eat, and then gather around the guest of honor for the Blessingway ceremony. We create a “throne” where the guest of honor sits comfortably in the center of attention. The host welcomes everyone, shares the program and an overview of the ceremony.
- We always begin with introductions. One of our favorite introductions includes a remembrance of our woman power lineage. We each light a candle, introduce ourselves by name, and then as the granddaughter of ______ and ______, the daughter of _______, and mother of ________.
- We then place a basin filled with warm water and fresh herbs at our guest of honor’s feet and take turns washing and massaging her feet, legs, hands, arms, shoulders and head. We sing blessingway songs from the program, and from memory, and in rounds.
- As our songs wind down, we dry her feet, remove the bath and replace it with a tray of fresh corn meal and flowers. We then finish her feet with a grounding cornmeal scrub and we place a crown of fresh or dried flowers on her head.
- This is a good time for a quick break if needed.
- Next we pass a dish from person to person as we each contribute a bead, button, ribbon or other keepsake and a blessing. Blessings can be a wish, personal story, memory, poem, or even silence. We then pass a ball of yarn and scissors for each person to tie a bracelet that will connect us and help us hold our friend more closely in our thoughts until news of the new baby’s arrival. Here is a keepsake my friend Laura made from buttons we brought:
- If there are gifts, we open them last. It’s not unusual for us to run out of time and send mom home with gifts to open later. Some favorite group gifts include: sheep skin wool mats, baby carriers, and cloth diaper supplies. Most people welcome gently used hand-me-downs; although we always like to load new mamas up with fresh new things too.
So that’s all there is to it. And, really, you can change things up in any way that works for you and your guests. Once my friends had a Blessingway painting party for me after my son was born and we moved into a new house. We ate, painted walls, shared blessings, and left fingerprints in Leo’s baby book.
Seriously, I have the best friends. I am lucky. We all are. It is such a gift just to know these amazing people, and even more wonderful that we so openly express our love for each other, ourselves, and the bonds we share as women.