Naming ceremonies can celebrate the birth of a child, include their parents’ promises to them, and those of ‘godparents’ who may have another name, and any other spiritual, artistic and social elements the parents choose to include. The ceremony can be very simple or elaborate, held at any time after the birth. Parents may time it with the child’s first birthday. I co-design naming ceremonies with the parents, at a time and place that works for them. One naming ceremony was held in the still waters of a bay much loved by the family. The babe, a real water-baby was, in a sense baptised by dipping into the water between the parents first. They named him exultantly as he rose out of the water and then as he was passed from person to person, each singing out his name and welcome with their blessings, including all present in the small group of family and friends. They were not named as godparents. However, they were asked to take up the role of special, loving adults who promised to care for and help guide him with the parents, and especially at those times when they could not.
I co-design, create and conduct ceremonies that mark the rites of passage from birth to childhood, into the teenage years at puberty and from adolescence to adulthood. Once, very clear ceremonies marked the maturity of youth with the parents giving a coming-of-age party at twenty-one, when friends and relatives of all generations came to bring gifts and participate in the ritual launch of the young person into adulthood. The transition is more fluid and less clear now, since lowering the age of legal adulthood to eighteen and many other social and economic factors. Thoughtful consultation, preparation and execution of the ceremony is required.
Other ceremonies of transition may be for a renewal of marriage vows on a particular anniversary or phase of life, preparation for a life-threatening operation, an honouring of life when it is coming to an end, a commitment to a new relationship of some kind, or one coming to an end, or the end of a year of mourning, other travail or great accomplishment.
Ceremonies can be for individuals, families or whole communities for any occasion, when I get together with a group of people to ensure that we take everyone into consideration, and the whole situation. We discuss the purpose of the ceremony and who needs to be included, the people who will need to be heard, or to sing, or recite poetry or prayers, what difficulties may arise and how we may address them.
Sometimes there is great community loss: a disastrous fire, flood or earthquake, or an accident that affects a lot of people. A ceremony provides an opportunity for purposeful gathering, to tell the stories of heroism and disaster; bravery, good neighbourliness and companionship in loss. Stories of great difficulties overcome, and others that were simply too overwhelming. And to celebrate coming through. Everything can be included.
Sometimes a formal community celebration can mark the end of war and conflicts, or an important personal or community anniversary, or the completion of a complex project.
We make a special time, at a special place, with the people who matter, to mark the occasion clearly and roundly, to speak fully of the circumstances and nature of the time with artistry, expressed in stories, poems, songs and music and any other art forms.
We can experience our life transitions fully, celebrate success, mourn loss and shame, share the wisdom from our history and our present, and enrich ourselves through sharing ceremony, thereby building our culture and heritage back to our ancestors and forward to our descendants.