Empowerment and Rites of Passage for Girls and Young Women

rites of passage

At Earth Path Education we offer Rites of Passage for all ages and stages of people. We believe that Rites of Passage do not happen in isolation but rather in mutual support. In other words, how does a girl become a woman without her elders? How does an elder step into the role of eldership if they do not help to initiate the youth? We are all connected and in need of one another. At every transition there is a necessary weaving across the life stages. We all hold gifts for one another, and at Earth Path Education we believe that a healthy community has all ages together. For too long we have been separated from one another: on the basis of age, of ability, of race, of economic status… and now it is time to find one another again and to help each other reconnect with our truth, and with this Earth Path we are on together. There can be so much pain in the lives of people who did not receive acknowledgment as they passed through the stages of life. People report feeling “stuck” and “unseen” when the magnitude of growth and change is ignored. Earth-based traditional cultures acknowledge and mark some or all of the major thresholds in life: from fetus to newborn to child to adolescent to adult to parent to grandparent to elder and finally to ancestor. There are deep and powerful reasons for these rites of passage, and that’s why we at Earth Path Education are passionate about holding and honoring Rites of Passage for girls as they transition into Womanhood. 

*Our rites of passage camp welcomes all young people who identify as female and want to cultivate their inner goddess, regardless of the body they were born into. We believe that neither gender nor biological sex is as binary as our society has been teaching, and we at Earth Path support the journey of each young person as a unique individual with gifts, wounds and passions. We actively support the young people in our programs in finding, speaking and living their own truth. Each time we use words like “girls” and “women,” we are also including male-bodied people who identify as female.

Our comprehensive Rites of Passage program begins with Nature Sisters (girls ages 8-10) which is an age-appropriate foundation for growing a girl’s connection with her intuition, her voice, her truth and her communication, with her peers and with the natural world.

We play and connect with new friends and Mother Earth through ancestral crafts like basketry, pottery, leather work, and fiber arts, as well as through Nature Awareness games. We practice listening to the plants’ wisdom directly, we learn to identify and use edible and medicinal plants, we forage and preserve wild foods around the seasons, and we make herbal medicine for ourselves and our families. We share our hearts through song, sharing circles (council) and simple earth-based rituals. We culminate our journey through the seasons with an overnight campout and celebration and a week long summer day camp. When a girl completes her Nature Sisters journey, she has strengthened her connection with a group of girls her age, with Sacred Mountain Sanctuary and with the Earth Path Education community of elders, parents, and mentors. And, she has deepened her connection with herself.

wilderness nature connection

And then she enters a new stage of growth in the Growing Goddess program, our Rites of Passage program for young women ages 11-14. This is a year-round program to witness, celebrate and support each girl as she crosses into her womanhood with the support of Earth-based rituals, elders, mentors, Council, Ancestral Crafts, Primitive Skills, and a group of young women also on the threshold. Each summer we have a 5-day Rites of Passage Ritual that is open to Young Women everywhere, including male-bodied youth who identify as female and want to cultivate their inner Goddess. Families travel from near and nationwide and even outside of the country to participate in this five-day ceremony full of beauty and growth.

We include a wilderness solo that invites the natural world to reflect these young women to themselves. We as a circle of sisters, friends, women, mentors, elders "catch" their stories, and reflect the gifts we see in them, back to them while holding them in the larger context of becoming a woman. We focus on self care and body wisdom, helping young women to navigate the physical changes of their bodies and minds. We explore the changes that have come or are to come of menstruation and a maturing body and hold these changes in a sacred and empowering way. We do this through developing self care practices, creating freely expressive spaces for ourselves, and connecting to our bodies and cycles through information, curiosity and wisdom inherent in our experience and that of our "spiritual aunties" the women and elders who have traveled this path before us and are now here to celebrate and witness the young women, the "women becoming" and to share wisdom. 

Throughout the Rites of Passage we practice ancestral skills. At Earth Path Education, Ancestral Skills are the things humans have been doing for a long time. Making fire with friction, hearing the plants teach their wisdom as food and medicine, making art from nature’s bounty, weaving baskets, carving wood, shaping pottery, stringing beads, working leather, and moving and being in nature in an aware, embodied and connective way. Each of these activities comes in the bundle of a larger teaching: if we are making fire, we are also exploring our passions, how we tend and feed our passions, how are passions “cook” a food that feeds our families, and communities. We look at how to respect our inner fire, to work with it, to be lit up and warmed without getting burned. We teach through story, through myth and through experience. 

We see that marking this passage is supported by a deep connection with nature, community and each young woman's truest self.

Rites of Passage

After a Young Woman's Rites of Passage, we are committed to integration. We offer council circles and skill shares on each new moon as a way to continue our connection and growth, to be woven in one another's intentions and to empower one another's dreams on a monthly basis. We also gather for four weekends, one each season, for Growing Goddess Campouts. These weekends are each based on a theme chosen by the young women, from Acro Yoga and Dance to Moccasin Making and Canoeing. We are always doing something deep, powerful and fun.

After a young woman has completed her 4-year Growing Goddess journey, she enters into a new phase of leadership in the Moon Mystics Program. This program is for Young Woman Leaders ages 15-18. The program itself is guided by the bliss and passions of the young women in the program. We as mentors, elders and guides ask the questions: what is your passion, what is your dream, how can this group most deeply and fully support you? And thus we dive into service to the community, earth skills, voice strengthening, world travel and much more. We also bring the young women into mentoring by showing them how to guide and support the girls in the Nature Sisters and Growing Goddess. With the support of their mentors and the Earth, they become both the mentors and the students, and we grow the cultural topsoil of our organization and our region with layered multi-age mentoring. It adds such richness to have the young women who have traveled with us through their girlhood and Rites of Passage join our organizational leadership team as mentors. We also have a commitment to cross cultural understanding and ecological leadership within our WNC community and across national borders. We travel to different sub cultures within our community supporting earth-based and social justice projects, and we travel the world to be in service and in ceremony, to grow and learn and to live into our purpose and visions.

rites of passage