Dancing in the Shadows by Laura Bryannan

Chapter 21


Experiencing incest or sexual abuse as a child has many serious effects. One of the most profound of these is the tendency for the survivor to get emotionally locked into a certain age and never mature much beyond it. The age locked into place is usually determined by the age when the most severe trauma was experienced.

Another factor contributing to this phenomenon is that survivors had their childhoods ripped away from them. They never experienced the innocence and carefree existence of the average child. Thus, many survivors tend to remain eternal children well into adulthood. It's almost as if they are determined to create for themselves the childhood they were never allowed to have. In certain respects this is a good thing. However, when it interferes with the day-to-day functioning required in adult life (paying bills or rent, raising children responsibly, keeping a job, etc.) these people need to reexamine whether their choice to remain "children" is causing unnecessary worry and pain.

Certain attention should be spent, then, on helping survivors move past the places where they are emotionally stuck. There has been much talk recently about the lack of meaningful ritual in our society. In particular, the lack of ritual celebrating the onset of puberty is discussed as a serious problem. Some speculate that the lack of a clear ritual demarcation between childhood and adulthood is a factor in the increasing narcissism, inability to delay gratification and immaturity in many adults today.

This ritual was written to be a kind of coming of age ceremony. It is about the end of childhood and entering into womanhood. Depending on the size of your group, it could take anywhere from three to six hours to complete. The ritual requires someone willing to facilitate; however the facilitator can still participate (it also works best if the facilitator is the only one who knows the ritual beforehand). There are minor costs involved in acquiring the necessary supplies. Participants can pitch in, or costs can be borne by the facilitator. It requires a little bit of homework beforehand, which can be discussed the week before you anticipate doing it:

For Each Participant

For the Facilitator

Before the ceremony, the altar should be set up. Items brought as give-aways should be placed on the cloth or scarf either near the altar or at one end of the room.

Now let's get into the ceremony itself. Comments about each section are in italics. The actual text of the ritual is in regular print and is spoken, except when noted, by the facilitator.


The beginning of the ritual may change depending on the time of year you are holding it. I'm presenting three different versions of the invocation to give you an idea of what to say.

Consecrate Circle

Find out the astrological signs of the women participating. Have each sit at the direction represented by their sun sign. Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are earth/north; Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are water/west; Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are fire/south; Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are air/east. If you're missing an element, redistribute those willing to another direction.

Invoke Goddesses

Death of the Child

Perform this section for each participant, one at a time. Have woman lay with head pointing north; all other participants sit surrounding her.

Place dagger on woman's abdomen, hilt facing north. (The dagger represents discriminating wisdom--the ability to cut away what is no longer useful.) Have someone ready with paper and pen to note what is mentioned in response to questions below.

Now begin this entire section again with the next woman, continuing in this manner until all participants have had their turn, including the facilitator.

Breaking out of the Womb

Have everyone stand scattered throughout the room. Give each woman one roll of streamers. At your call, the streamers should be thrown over the heads of the group (holding on to one end). When a roll falls, it should be picked up and thrown again until it is completely played out. This will eventually envelop the group in a "cocoon" of crepe paper--lots of fun! When the group quiets, continue:

Take a few minutes to let everyone fully contemplate this. Then, a song should be sung. I like to sing "Never Never Land," from the musical Peter Pan, to my groups. You may have another meaningful song either to sing to the group or have the group sing together. After song is finished, continue:

Presenting the Woman Born

This section is done for each woman. Have woman sit in special chair while others sit on floor in front of her.

Naming Meditation

Presentation of New Name

This section should be done one at a time, with each woman sitting in the special chair. However, if time is running short (and it often is by this point) this section can be done as a group.

Closing Circle

It's now time for your feast, if you've planned one!

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Last Updated: 1 feb 99
Laura Bryannan