Planting the bann, a rite of passage

Bann – from O.E.bannan “to summon, command, proclaim”

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Most of us are slipping — unremarked and unsung – through the phases of our lives.  And by and large, our children are learning to do the same.  Frankly, we all deserve better.   I’m not sure which Muse is in charge of inspiring the writing of pagan rites of passage, but to that Worthy Being, I herewith offer up my thanks and praise.

Here then is a simple yet meaningful rite of passage for a child entering adolescence.  It’s a bit different from other pagan rites of passage.  For starters, it’s entirely self-directed.  The parents make the ritual and the items needed available to their child.  It should be left completely up to the child when, or even if to work the rite.

If the youngsters are shy, they can do the rite and never tell a soul.  If they are social butterflies, they can pick their moment, so that everyone knows what they are about to do, and celebrate with their family afterwards.

But the thing dearest to my own heart is that this ritual isn’t molded and sanitized into political correctness.  It’s a Real Thing ™, and I believe our children deserve more that is real and meaningful in their lives.

Since I have a son, I’ve written this for him.  But truth is it will work equally well for a young woman, and I’ve included notes along the way for a daughter.  This rite may be done at any point after the youth becomes physically capable of procreation.

For the Parents:

When your son reaches the onset of puberty, present him with a small knife, and a charm which has been threaded to wear around his neck.   In addition to whatever other witchy goodness you work into the charm, the charm will act as a signal.  Your son will wear it to announce he’s off to work this rite, and that you shouldn’t talk to him, or otherwise interact with him while he’s wearing it — he’s invisible.

I gave my son a hare’s foot charm.   The hare is a potent symbol of fertility; something I’m both delighted and terrified to contemplate in connection with my son.  As well, there’s folklore about witches traveling to the sabbat in the form of hares, so that they wouldn’t be recognized and burned at the stake for their wicked ways.  Perhaps they were wearing amulets made from the hares, as a signal to those who were in the know that they were off to the sabbat.

Now, about the knife:  the blade must contain iron, so that it will change the flow of energy where it touches.  For this purpose, it will help attract the attention of the Ancestors.  Steel knives will fit the bill, as steel is an alloy of iron and (usually) carbon.   Be sure to check your local laws regarding carrying knives in public, so your child doesn’t risk getting in trouble during this rite.  For instance, around here it’s illegal to carry a knife with a blade of over 5-1/2 inches.   If you’re dead set against using a knife for magic, you could certainly use some other iron tool.  But then again, if you believe a knife too sinister a tool for magical work, you’ll probably stop reading just about the time this starts to get interesting.

When you give these gifts to your son, he’ll need to know what they’re for.  Discuss it face-to-face, or hang these gifts on his doorknob in the dead of night along with a print-out of the instructions.  It is (of course) all up to you.  Do be sure to discuss any safety issues you have beforehand.  For instance, if you don’t want him leaving the house at midnight to do this, then better say so!  Remember — once your son is wearing the charm, you can’t communicate with him.  He’s “invisible.”

If your son makes it known to you in some fashion that he’s off to perform this rite, be prepared to welcome him home.  Once he’s returned and removed the charm, rise to meet him, offering him the first sip from a cup of wine, beer or other drink with spirit in it.   This can also be juice to which you’ve added a bit of activated yeast – a pinch of dried yeast, which has been added to a spoonful of slightly-hotter-than-body-temperature water along with a pinch of sugar, and left for a few minutes until it foams up.  A drink with “life” in it is especially appropriate for toasting you son’s change of status.

After he has taken the first sip, share the cup around in toast of his stepping over the threshold from childhood to adolescence.

For the Youth:

Take up your knife or other iron implement, as well as some of your own semen on a small piece of fabric or tissue.  From here on out we’ll call it your Seed, because that’s exactly what it is.  Tuck both Seed and knife somewhere handy, but out of sight — either a pocket or a small sack would be good – as you’ll need to take both of them with you for your rite.

Daughters, you’ll pack up your knife or iron implement, along with some of your menstrual blood on a small piece of fabric or tissue.  We’ll refer to this as your Tide, because your period follows a lunar cycle rather than a calendar month.  Blood is mostly made up of salt water, and your Tides, like the tides of the ocean, come in and out in response to the pull of the Moon.

Once you are wearing the charm, don’t speak, except to say the words of the rite itself.

After you’re out of your house, stop and take a moment to relax and gather yourself up – three deep breaths should do the trick.  This will help you to switch gears from your regular mindset into one better suited for ritual.

Walk to a tree that you like the looks of, and that doesn’t have any people near it.  Don’t spend a lot of time looking for the perfect tree.  What you want is to find a nice tree, perform a simple rite, and get home again, without speaking to anyone.   If you need to nod or smile in order to acknowledge someone who’s speaking to you, that’s fine.  Just do so and keep moving.  If you do have to speak, go home and try again another time.  If you’re interrupted during the actual rite, put things back the way you found them and find another tree.

Once you’ve found your tree, drop to your knees facing the tree, put your palms flat on the ground, and touch your forehead to the ground.  This is you greeting the tree, which is only polite, since it’s going to help with your rite.  Take your knife in your right hand (yes, even if you’re left-handed), and dig a small hole near the base of the tree.  The hole should be big enough to set the fabric holding your Seed (or Tide) into and deep enough that you can bring the soil back over it later so that your offering won’t be disturbed.

Plant your Seed or Tide in the hole.  Then, bend down so that your mouth is close to the hole, take a deep breath and, speaking softly but surely, say these words into the hole:

 “I am a now man”

Or, for you ladies:

“I am now a woman”

Cover the hole over with soil.  Place your palms on the ground and touch your forehead to the ground again, in leave-taking of the tree.  Walk away from the tree without looking back, return home without speaking to anyone, and don’t speak about the rite itself for at least one lunar month.

By announcing into the hole that you are a man or a woman, you are speaking to the Beloved Dead.  The Spirits Under the Mound.  Your Ancestors — those to whom you are related by blood, and those who inspire you.  Your announcement will travel to them through the roots of the tree.  They will hear you and recognize you by your offering who you are.  You are telling them that you are entering a new phase of your life, and they will stand ready to help you out.

In fact, that’s the origin of “knocking on wood” — folks rapping their knuckles on wood furniture or woodwork.  The wood was once a tree with roots that reached into the Underworld, and knocking upon it catches the attention of the Ancestors, so they hear you and help.   Going forward, if you need help or inspiration, don’t forget that not only do you have family and friends willing to help, you can ask your ancestors for help by knocking on wood.

Once you’ve crossed the threshold of your house and taken off your charm, you’re no longer “invisible” and free to speak and be spoken to.

May your Ancestors heap blessings upon your journey!

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©Trothwy 2011

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Filed under Crooks and Straights, The Pagan Child

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