Maise's Rite of Competence, Townsend, Vermont
The morning was rainy, but as the guests began to arrive, the sun came out. Maise was very excited. She was donning a skirt she had made for the occasion, along with a crown her auntie had made. We had set up a fire circle with a threshold that led to the path to Maise’s sit spot. Outside of the circle was an altar, which held some of Maise’s artwork, books she has enjoyed, and a picture of her with our beloved dog Ira, who passed away several years ago.
When all of the guests arrived (there were about fifteen), we gathered around the fire. Our friend Zach, who would be facilitating the ceremony, suggested a game where everyone in the circle moved into birth order without speaking. Zach then started the ritual:
“Today we are here to honor the fact that Maise is growing up and we are here to celebrate the ways she is and will continue to help her friends, family and community.
Before we go further…we’ll take a moment to acknowledge the life all around us…pause……as well as the people who built this house and the people who have lived here in the past. And loved ones who cannot be here today.
As it was explained to Maise, this ceremony is like the hallway to the next room of her life. She is now ready for this new room. In this new room she will continue to grow in size and in her influence on those around her. She can go back and visit the old room, but she can’t stay there again.”
At this point, Maise was asked to look around the circle and notice where she fell. Her eyes trained the few little ones to one side, continuing all the way around the circle to the elders sitting in chairs. After some sing-along, blessings were given to Maise around the circle before she was escorted down the “hallway.” I was struck with how readily accepting she was. As I went back down out of the woods to the fire circle she said, “I love you Dad,” in a firm, reassuring way. Before I knew it, she was helping me through her ritual.
As we returned to the circle I told her she should walk around it several times so the people could appreciate the new Maise. She asked how many times, and I left that up to her. I will never forget the feeling of walking back to the circle with her. Even with all of the anticipation, she held great strength.
When we arrived at the circle, the group was singing:
It’s a bright moment
Maise is growing up
We’re all growing up
We concluded the ritual with hugs and went in to enjoy a potluck lunch, which included an apple crisp made exclusively by Maise.
What struck me the most about this ritual was how natural it seemed for Maise. While I had concerns and insecurities, it almost seemed like she was already familiar with the process. The next day Maise told me her dream from the previous night…. TBC!