Reflections on Pagan Ceremonial Rites of Passage

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if there were any pagan rites or ceremonies for naming godparents. She didn’t necessarily want to use the term “godparents”, though, since that is associated with Catholicism. I’ll admit that I had never encountered this particular dilemma. I was only familiar with wiccaning, which is a baby blessing, along with menarche rituals, croning ceremonies, handfastings, and funeral rites. After much Googling, I came across the term “guideparents”, which my friend really liked. I prefer it as well, since it reflects the role of carefully chosen adults to help guide the child through life.

I looked for a solid example of a pagan guideparents ceremony, but my search didn’t yield great results. Most of the tips and articles were directed toward lapsed Catholics who want to do something meaningful for their child without involving the church. I realized that we were going to have to write a spectacular guideparents ceremony ourselves, completely from scratch, which is what pagans often do anyway. We are the from scratch specialists. We don’t have centuries of liturgy behind us that explain how to honor life’s major transitions right down to the letter. I’m actually grateful that we don’t. This gives us maximum creativity and flexibility to design ceremonies that reflect who we really are and what we cherish.

We all need bridges that carry us from one phase of life to the next. A rite of passage serves as that bridge; without it, it’s hard to really feel and integrate the fact that a transition has even occurred. One of the advantages of being in a pagan community is having the support of others who will stand with us in circle, honoring the major changes that we all pass through.

Many of us grew up without any type of ceremony that honored the passage from childhood to adolescence and from adolescence to adulthood. We reach for those anchors, and finding none, we sometimes have to fill in the gaps with ceremonies many years after the fact—and that’s perfectly okay. I’ve known many women, self included, who celebrated menarche as adults, simply because nothing was done for us when we were girls. Some of us go on vision quests to find our purpose and direction in middle age, because we didn’t do anything like that after high school. We just headed off to college or started our jobs. No wonder life feels like one existential crisis after another for myself and so many other Gen-Xers.

Missing out on that feeling of rootedness and tribal connection in my younger years makes me even more thrilled to be part of a ceremony for two wonderful guideparents. I love all of the rites that we pagans create to mark the milestones of our lives. We have the opportunity to create touchstones for ourselves and for the coming generations as well. We can give them the bridges and the anchors that we lacked with hopes and blessings for a brighter, more conscientious world.

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