Native American Rites of Passage Honoring Womanhood

Holy Hormones Honey!  Why don’t we celebrate a young girl’s first menstruation as a rite of passage? Our Native American sisters honored this passage into womanhood for many moons.  Menstruation ensured that women were of value to the community.  Perhaps the answer to my question and the author’s below lies therein.  In our cluture women are not valued. My guess is that most mothers in this culture feel sad and scared when their daughters start menstruation – tied to negative connotations, and also puts women at a higher risk of being violated vs. being honored.

Rites of Passage Into Womanhood in Native American Cultures

Cycle Harmony
By Nicole G.
July 2012

In today’s American culture, the onset of menstruation in young women has lost most of the luster it once carried. Many young women still think of their first menstruation as a rite of passage into womanhood, but it’s not considered an experience to be celebrated, or to broadcast – just the opposite, in fact.

Why don’t we celebrate this miraculous entrance into womanhood? Would a real celebration of this important threshold change how we view and experience our menstruation later in life? Before you attempt to answer that, here’s a brief lesson on how and why some Native American cultures consider menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation) to be an experience that is to be honored, treasured and celebrated.

The Navajo tribes celebrate a girl’s first menstrual period with an elaborate four-day celebration called the “Kinaalda.” Symbolic dances, cleansing rituals, physical activities such as racing, and a special cake called “alkaan” are among some of the blessed rituals experienced during a girl’s Kinaalda celebration. The festivities are supposed to symbolize a physical and spiritual closeness to Mother Nature, and a young girl’s transformation into the very image of Mother Nature. What a fabulous way to think of a young woman’s first period. A woman is, after all, is created to be bountiful and fertile just like the Mother Earth. So the symbolism of Kinaalda is very fitting indeed.

The Apache tribes have a similar celebration called the “Sunrise Ceremony” that consists of many similar activities and rituals that signify a young girl entering into womanhood. The young girls are showered with attention while other members of the tribe sing, pray and dance almost non-stop during the four-day celebration. Afterwards, the young women are not only given a renewed confidence and heightened sense of self, but also the significant recognition that they have just passed into a new role in their lives – that of wives and mothers to be.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.