Rites of passage for local youth
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Adulthood can be tricky to master, but hearken back to the days when your body was changing just about every time you looked in the mirror, and it became clear you were no longer a kid.
If you’re like me, the transition from childhood into adolescence wasn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes—like when I showed up for the first day of sixth grade with discernible breasts I’d acquired over the summer, and more than a few of my classmates felt the need to draw attention to them—it was downright embarrassing.
Vanessa Osage, a trained doula, activist and sexuality educator who also studied environmental sociology at the University of Oregon, knows that the body-and-mind transformation for those entering puberty can be a difficult one. She gave it even deeper thought after giving birth to her daughter five years ago. Not long after, Rooted Emerging, a support system for girls approaching womanhood—which culminates with a rite of passage—was born.
Since 2008, Rooted Emerging has grown alongside the young women—and now, young men—who take part in the programs. The first training consisted of a group of ladies sitting on Osage’s living room floor as she read from a book and took discussion notes. This year, the training was an eight-hour day at the WSU Extension (one of Rooted Emerging’s partners) that concluded with a sharing with the six-member board.
Registration is just around the corner for both the Chrysalis Sisters (for young women 11-14) and Apollo’s Crossing (for young men 12-15), and Osage and her volunteer mentors and visiting teachers would love to see the programs fill up by the new year.
The groups meet every other Sunday from early January through May, with activities focused on trust building, adventure and storytelling.
“The goal is to encourage a path for self-discovery right when identity is about to take new form, in a larger sphere,” Osage says. “So we engage in play, outdoor adventure, self-expression and cultivating inner tools for navigating life’s challenges. We honor the body, since that is also changing, and support self-care and acceptance.
“Approaching culmination, we encourage a personal philosophy that is tied to the earth and other supporting structures that are always available,” she adds. “Then, we hold a blessing ceremony with parents and bring the kids out to a wilderness area in the South Fork Valley. There, we draw together all we have experienced and discussed and hold space for their ‘testing.’ We create secure, personal spaces for each child to sleep overnight without a tent. All of us mentors and teachers are present to guide and support them. The following day, we share stories and workshops. By evening, we honor each young person in turn onstage as they are witnessed by friends and family.”
Osage says this is the first year they’re offering the program for boys, and notes there’s an amazing group of male counselors, educators, performance artists and body workers ready to step in and help the kids make their own transitions.
When I pointed out that the new year seemed like a good place to start thinking about changes both big and small, Osage was quick to agree.
“There is something about the fresh start of the new year, where people get oriented to their deepest priorities and what matters most,” she says. “So, I do see those taking this step as acting from that place.”
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