By Lynnea Urania Stuart
Rites of passage seem like a silly affair to many people. They certainly can be, unless they awaken to deeper, transcendental truths concerning one’s identity and existence. When it comes to welcoming new transpeople to the “tribe”, few have welcomed with any kind of rite. They can be as simple or as ornate as you wish.
Welcoming rites have been alleged to have taken place in New York City before Stonewall. There are many ways to conduct such rites and there’s no right or wrong to it so long as they don’t rely upon hazing or anything that would cause public humiliation. Instead, what matters is to provide what’s the most meaningful experience to the person you want to welcome to the “tribe”, something to which they can look upon later in life and smile.
Most of us didn’t have the benefit of such a welcoming rite. Not everyone would find such a rite useful. Those who may benefit from such a rite are those with convictions concerning trans identity but who still question what it all means. For such people, a rite of passage can fixate truths from which the neophyte transperson may draw for years to come.
Holly Boswell designed a beautiful welcoming rite in her work as an activist which remained on the Kindred Spirits website till her death earlier this year. Holly’s rite was based upon a Native American-Wiccan format with the quarters divided between male to female, female to male, intersex, and gender non-conforming. But her rite had a serious limitation. It required several people to make it happen. Holly had the Kindred Spirits staff. Most of us don’t have such a luxury.1
So here’s a sample rite of my own designed for one or more officiants which you can use in whole or in part as you deem appropriate or simply generate ideas for your own rite. Italicized portions pertain to what the Officiant speaks and the Candidate follows accordingly. It’s built upon the idea that transpeople are essentially a people of dreams and connects with early trans history.
I’ve long held to the belief that transpeople are essentially a people of dreams despite the fact that many transpeople have determined to shut them out, something which I believe is a serious mistake detracting from the cultivation of natural innocence. After all, dreams and dreaming have a purpose for health and individuation to which a person must awaken on a practical level to fully grasp. But like most rites, it should be approached as if the candidate being received enters an intense semilucid dream.
The paraphernalia associated with a rite can be as simple or as ornate as you wish. For most of us, simple is better. For those of us who may have spent years with one tradition or another, it’s desirable to set certain items aside as dedicated to that purpose. Doing so can add to the specialness and energy of a rite. But this isn’t absolutely necessary. Here’s a list of items applicable to this sample rite:
- A central table as a Telestrion that you can fit with candles for illumination.
- A small unlit torch wrapped in a transgender flag.
- A cup of water with a sprig of hyssop or some other means of sprinkling.
- Incense: sandalwood, frankincense, sage, or rose are all good.
- A plate of bread and salt like that used in the countries of the Russian Federation for welcoming.
- A cup of wine or grape juice.
- A lamp or thurible.
- A box with rose petals and cinnamon or cassia.
- Food and drink to use afterward.
If you have 4 smaller platforms (trays are adequate for this purpose), they can be set to each of the quarters: North, South, East, and West. The bread and salt would be placed at the North, the cup at the West, the lamp at the South, and the box at the East. If those platforms are unavailable, they can be placed at their corresponding positions at the Telestrion. The small torch wrapped in a transgender flag can occupy the center between them all.
If more than one person officiates in any capacity, they can contribute in the roles of the guardians of the dream gates at each of the 4 quarters and join in the celebration in the waters.
The Candidate changes into loose clothing he/she/eir doesn’t mind getting wet and takes a shawl for veiling. The face is covered for much of the rite because the Candidate is accounted as one yet to be born. Most of the Candidate’s preparation, however, is internal. A Lakota maxim states, “Silence is the mother of truth.” As the Officiant prepares space for the rite, the Candidate would do well to quiet the mind. Transcendental meditation is an excellent exercise for this, though one who cannot bring himself to do it can simply wait in the softness of lamplight with only his thoughts. But meditation is easy to do and the Officiant can lead the Candidate into a simple light meditative state if the Candidate wishes, even if such is unaccustomed to traditional postures of meditation:
Sit upright, spine erect, feet flat on the floor. Close the eyes and take two deep cleansing breaths. Then breathe in through the nose to the count of 4, hold to the count of 4, exhale through the mouth to the count of 4, hold to the count of 4. Repeat. Let the Candidate allow the count to fade into a general rhythm and let meditation take its natural course.
The Officiant asks the Candidate in who’s name he/she/eir wishes to dedicate this rite. The Candidate may state any deity held sacred or simply declare “Truth”.
While the Candidate waits the Officiant prepares the circle. When ready, the Officiant comes to the Candidate and takes him by the hand, saying, “Arise, Child of Dreams.”
The Candidate is halted at the edge of the circle. “Unpurified and unconsecrated, you cannot enter this circle.”
The Officiant takes the cup of water and sprinkles the Candidate. “Child of Dreams, with water you are purified that your heart may be awakened against guile.”
The Officiant takes the incense and censes the Candidate. “Child of Dreams, with fire you are consecrated that your heart may burn with love of your people and of liberty.”
The Candidate is led to the central Telestrion. “Child of Dreams, you have been brought to the sacred center a symbol of the center of your psyche. From your center you awaken to the truth of your identity which as yet shall remain unnamed. But your journey will take you through many dark places with ordeals that will test you to the utmost for such has been the way of transpeople and others not conforming to gender. Do you wish to continue?
If the Candidate answers negatively, then the rite is ended and he is led out without prejudice. If he answers in the affirmative, continue.
“Then I ask that you make a solemn promise witnessed in this circle that your journey will be for the seeking of the highest good for yourself and to others. Will you do this?”
If the Candidate answers negatively, then the rite is ended and he is led out without prejudice. If he answers in the affirmative, continue. It is fitting that a decision to enter a transgender path should exhibit an early connection to the cultivation of moral agency.
“Repeat after me:
“In the name of (the chosen deity or “Truth”)
I declare before all that I seek the highest innocence
and to that end I affirm
with the clarity of my mind
and the integrity of my heart
that I shall seek the highest innocence for others.
I will not consent to debase my mind
for the nefarious purposes
of others who would seek to subvert it
that I and all in my charge
will remain free moral agents.
To this end I reject the unbalanced use
of drugs, alcohol, sex,
or any other device
of enslavement or exploitation.
I dedicate myself to the unfolding of truth
and the advancement of liberty,
knowledge, charity, and wisdom
and for others
to the best of my ability
and the pursuit of the highest
with the love to all sentient beings,
as many who are willing to accept it in good faith.”
“Arise, new friend, and enter the gates of dreaming. Remember your promise, for it will assist you in your passage.”
ENTERING THE DREAM GATES
The Candidate is led in a clockwise circle, then stops at the North.
“Child of Dreams, you cannot pass the gate of the North unprepared for I am the Guardian of the First Gate of Dreaming, of the gravity, solidity, the Crystallization of Ideas in the process of Creativity, and Empedocles’ element of Earth.2 I am Prithivi3 and the volcanism of Muladhara.4 I am the mythic Chavah of the Anima, 5 the Man of Physicality of the Animus,6 the Twin heroes,7 and the final Heh of the Tetragrammaton.8 I am the Assinnu, Kugarru, and Kuluu who remembered Assushunamir in the release of Inanna from the underworld,9 and the Enarees who thrived in the Northern Steppes.10 Have you declared yourself to be a Child of Liberty?”
The Candidate answers in the affirmative, though may need to be prompted to remember the promise made at the central Telestrion since the experience may seem too strange and overwhelming to connect. The Officiant takes the bread and salt and circles them around the head of the Candidate.
“Let repose be balanced with industry. Let attraction be balanced with charity. Watch for your hands in your dreams and use your gaze as a vehicle from dream to dream.11 Pass now through the gate awakened and continue to the Second Gate.”
The Candidate is led again in a clockwise circle, then stops at the East.
“Child of Dreams, you cannot pass the gate of the East unprepared for I am the Guardian of the Second Gate of Dreaming, of the force of winds, lightness of gases, the Articulation of Ideas in the process of Creativity and Empedocles’ element of Air. I am Vayu12 and the opening of Ajña.13 I am the mythic Helen of the Anima, the Man of Action of the Animus, the hero of the Red Horn cycle, and the Vav of the Tetragrammaton. I am the Hijra and Mukannuthun who, though untouchable, served in the highest estates of the East.14 Have you declared yourself to be a Child of Knowledge?”
The Candidate answers in the affirmative. The Officiant takes the box with rose petals and spices and circles them around the head of the candidate.
“Let reason be balanced with innocence. Let analysis be balanced with compassion. And in your visions, let the images change and let yourself maintain mindfulness in your sleep. Pass now through the gate awakened and continue to the Third Gate.”
The Candidate is led again in a clockwise circle, then stops at the West.
“Child of Dreams, you cannot pass the gate of the West unprepared for I am the Guardian of the Third Gate of Dreaming, of the floods of desire, the flow of liquids, the Nurturing of Ideas in the process of Creativity, and Empedocles’ element of Water. I am Apas15 and the Hara of Svaddhisthana.16 I am the mythic Mary of the Anima, the Word-Giver of the Animus, the Hare cycle of the hero, and the Heh of the Tetragrammaton. I am the Qedeshtu and Gallae who served Aphrodite, and the Magna Mater on many waters of the West, and remembered the travail of Hermaphroditos at the spring of Bodrum and the temples of Paphos.17 Have you declared yourself to be a Child of Charity?”
The Candidate answers in the affirmative. The Offriciant takes the cup and circles it around the head of the Candidate.
“Let love be balanced with steadfastness. Let dreaming be balanced with detachment. And in the energy body look upon yourself and know, moving about with intent. Pass now through the gate awakened and continue to the Fourth Gate.”
The Candidate is led again in a clockwise circle, then stops at the West.
“Child of Dreams, you cannot pass the gate of the South unprepared for I am the Guardian of the Fourth Gate of Dreaming, of the flames of passion, the dance of plasma, the Flash of Ideas in the process of Creativity, and Empedocles’ element of Fire. I am Tejas18 and the fortitude of Manipura.19 I am the mythic Athena and Sapientia of the Anima, the Man of Spiritual Truth of the Animus, the Trickster of the hero cycle, and the Yudh of the Tetragrammaton. I am the Megabyzes who served Artemis in wisdom and beauty in the land of Philosophy’s birth and the Sekhetu-Cnaedi who danced for Aset in Egypt and other lands of Africa.20 Have you declared yourself to be a Child of Wisdom?”
The Candidate answers in the affirmative. The Officiant takes the lamp and circles it around the head of the Candidate.
“Let passion be balanced with responsibility. Let sexuality be balanced with virtue. And let your dreams be filled with intent, intending others in your travels. Pass now through the gate awakened and continue to the Telestrion at the sacred center.”
The Candidate is led again in a clockwise circle, ending at the central Telestrion, having completed the circle 7 times.
“Know, Child of Dreams, of Liberty, Knowledge, Charity, and Wisdom, the unfolding of dreams in the course of individuation happens in patterns of four, but gates remain beyond. To the 4 you have been awakened. But at the feet of virtue you will continue to learn and to gain cunning. Know, Child of Dreams, that the gates of dreaming are thresholds that advance the cultivation of innocence as you cultivate impeccability. Cherish them forever and you will continue to know their blessings and they will add to who you are as a transperson, a representative of a People of Dreams.”
The Officiant unwraps the small torch from the transgender flag and spreads the flag over the Candidate.
“The gates beyond the 4 demand sacrifice, and renewal in dying and rebirth, for the energy body overcomes the physical body. The Baptai knew this in Thrace, for all who approached likewise passed beneath the waters.21 In the waters are death and renewal as one becomes as it were a fetus in the womb.22 But in that renewal is the kindling of life as a flame in a passion of service to others and the highest aspirations of the heart.”
The Officiant takes the hand of the Candidate and together they kindle the flame of the torch. The Officiant leads the Candidate out of the circle, to a suitable place of immersion, both holding the torch. Preferably this is a natural body of water, but a pool or any vessel will serve the purpose. The flag is removed and kept dry.
ENTERING THE WATERS
The Officiant, holding the torch with the Candidate continues to lead into the water, then removes the torch from the hand of the Candidate. If others participate in the rite, they join hands in a circle around the Candidate with a second person holding the torch with the Officiant.
“That which takes place ritually are archetypes of internal truths that will continue to awaken in you in the future. Know that this is not an act any of us can do for you but we can support you in your endeavors any way we can.23 Enter beneath the waters like the fetus about to be reborn, and re-emerge as one to reveal your new name.”
The Candidate immerses. When the Candidate comes up again the Officiant takes the torch and circles the head of the Candidate before the Candidate takes hold of the torch. The Officiant lays hands upon the Candidate, offering blessing in the Officiant’s own words of welcome.
GATHERING, REVEAL, AND NAMING
The Officiant leads the Candidate to the a private chamber to prepare for the reveal and naming. The Officiant instructs the Candidate to dress as his, her, or eir true self and to knock 3 times on the door when ready. The Candidate retreats to a chamber alone or with an assistant, removes the veil and all wet items, dries, and dresses according to the identity to be revealed in the Naming. The bread and salt, box of spices, lamp, and cup are brought out from the circle if a dedicated place is different from the place of feasting, otherwise they remain.
When ready, the Candidate knocks. The Officiant leads the Candidate to the place of feasting. The Officiant announces upon re-entry, “I (We) stand for the one who walks anew among us.”
The Candidate emerges. The Officiant asks, “By what name shall we know you?”
The Candidate reveals his/her/eir name.
“I (We) welcome you, (use the name given). Let this name be known among us all as your true name.”
If others are present, the Officiant announces, “Let us all commune together in the feast of receiving (name of the Candidate) as our own. May the bonds of affection and unity demonstrated this day never dissolve.”
The rite is ended with feasting and embraces of acceptance. Any tokens of the event are presented at this time.
DESIGNING YOUR OWN RITE
Rites can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. They may follow this tradition or another. It really doesn’t matter. What counts are these principles:
- Overall quietness of the mind.
- A dreamlike experience.
- Connections of the rite with history of the demographic.
- Connections of the rite with strong archetypal ideas.
- Application of the rite to a new beginning.
- Connection of the rite with ethics.
- Revealing of the true self.
- Love and acceptance.
- Celebration and joy.
- Sharing of food and experience.
So if your sensitivities follow a more Abrahamic approach, by all means, write your rite of acceptance accordingly, but maintain these 9 principles as you do. You won’t go wrong. Your success should be measured in what happens with the person you receive after many trials, years from the present. The energy of a rite can empower and fixate those internal truths, not only for that person’s health, but as a springboard for greater levels of creativity.
Featured Image: Providing no toxic chemicals have been used, or other hazard precludes use, an artificial pond like this can do well for a rite like this. But most any body of water will work, whether natural or artificial. (Photo by the author)
- Kindred Spirits Website: http://www.trans-spirits.org/who_are_we.html.
- The Pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles was the first to advance the formal idea of the universe consisting of the elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. They still provide popular motifs for the 4 quarters. Empedocles’ idea was that Earth consisted of cold and dryness, Air of heat and moisture, Water of cold and moisture, and Fire heat and dryness. However, today’s understanding would apply these elements to the 4 states of matter: solid, gas, liquid, and plasma. DHWTY. “Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: Empedocles of Acragas – The Pre-Socratic Philosopher with a Sense of Style” Ancient Origins (October 28, 2018, accessed October 26, 2017) http://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/earth-air-fire-and-water-empedocles-acragas-pre-socratic-philosopher-sense-020596
- Prithivi is the Tattwa applicable to the element of Earth and its earliest source is Hindu. It’s represented as a yellow square and used in meditative trance.
- Muladhara is the Root Chakra located at the genital region. It’s associated with Earth, gravity, and volcanism.
- Pronounced cha-VAH, “ch pronounced as in the German “ich”. If the Hebrew is objected to, one may use the English equivalent, “Eve”. For information of the fourfold unfolding of the Anima, see Jung, C. G. “Man and His Symbols” (1964) Doubleday Anchor, NY ISBN: 0-385-05221-9, pp. 184, 185
- For information of the fourfold unfolding of the Animus, Ibid, p. 194
- For information of the fourfold unfolding of the Hero Cycle, Ibid, 110-113.
- The association of the letters of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) with the 4 elements is well established in multiple traditions.
- The Assinnu, Kugaru and Kuluu are early Mesopotamian transgender priesthoods Asushunamir (Pleasant Looks or Good Looks) was created by Ea to rescue Inanna from Erishkigal and the Underworld. Launderville, Dale. Celibacy in the Ancient World: Its Ideal and Practice in Pre-Hellenistic Israel, Mesopotamia, and Greece.” (2010) Liturgical Press, ISBN: P. 337
- The Enarees were Scythian transpeople who were known to have developed treatments for feminization. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “The Enarees” Transpire (August 29, 2017, accessed October 26, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2017/08/29/the-enarees/
- For details on this version of the dream gates, see Castaneda, Carlos. “The Art of Dreaming” (1993) Harper Perennial, Publisher. ISBN: 0-06-017051-4 (cloth)
- Vayu is the Tattwa for Air and represented as a blue circular shape.
- The Ajna Chakra is located at the forehead, the “Third Eye” and has been associated with Air.
- Hijra consist of communities of various sex and gender variant people in India. Many of their existing estates were bestowed by the Moghul rulers they served, attaining high positions. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “The Subcopntinent’s Sacred Record of Transgenderism” Transpire (August 5, 2016, accessed October 27, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/08/05/the-subcontinents-sacred-record-of-transgenderism/ Mukannuthun have been transgender Arabs known at the time of Muhammad and still exist today. Some have served as chamberlains to regional rulers like Al Dalal served Sulayman Ibn Abd-Al Malik. Iqra Mehmood. “Mukhannathun – Unfolding the Concept of Transgenders in Islam” Parhlo (June 22, 2017, accessed October 25, 2017) https://www.parhlo.com/mukhannathun-unfolding-the-concept-of-transgender-women-in-islam/.
- Apas is the Tattwa for Water and is represented by a silver crescent.
- The Hara is located just below the navel and an important Tantric center, applied also in meditations associated with Bellydance. It’s the same as the Svaddhisthana Chakra, associated with Water.
- Qedeshtu are those transgender priests associated with Astarte at Apheca in what is now Lebanon. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “The Pillars of Gender” Transpire (July 29, 2016, accessed October 26, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/the-pillars-of-gender/. Astarte later became Aphrodite who, despite her Phoenician origins, is more closely associated with Paphos on the island of Cypress and the Greek island of Cythera. Images of Hermaphroditos (Hermaphroditus to the Romans) may be found at Paphos today, though the actual Spring of Hermaphroditos is believed to now be located below sea level at a military base near Bodrum, Turkey. The story of Hermaphroditos comes to us today through the Metamorphoses by the Roman poet, Ovid, whose exile very likely put him in contact with Enarees of Scythia. Gallae (the name preferred by them today) are transgender priestesses of Cybele [pronounced ku-BEY-ley]. Modern worshippers of Cybele have a website at www.gallae.com.
- Tejas is the Tattwa associated with Fire and represented with a red triangular shape.
- The Manipura Chakra is located at the Solar Plexus and is associated with Fire and internal fortitude.
- Megabyzes were the transgender priestesses of Artemis at Ephesus, known for their beauty and wisdom. Ephesus was the principle city of Ionia and near to Miletus where also we trace the roots of Philosophy. Lynnea Urania Stuart. “The Pillars of Gender” Transpire (July 29, 2016, accessed October 26, 2017) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/the-pillars-of-gender/. Sekhetu (Egyptian) and Cnaedi (Latin) were transgender servants of Aset (Egyptian), also known as Isis. Romans knew these people after Isis became the consort of Serapis in Rome. But Aset appears to derive from an earlier African deity. Hubbard, Thomas K. (ed.), “Homosexuality in Greece and Rome. A Sourcebook of Basic Documents.” (2003) Berkeley: University of California Press, Pp. xvii, 558; ills. 26. ISBN 0-520-23430-8.
- The Baptai were a cross dressing priesthood of Kotys in Thrace. They were so named because they also immersed candidates they received. Senelick, Laurence. “The changing Room” (2000) Paychology Press. ISBN: 9780415159869, 25
- The association of immersion with rebirth has been employed by many traditions besides Christianity including Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu traditions who use it regularly and not as a “once for all” experience commencing a Christian journey. The rite use here has no Christian connotation but takes a more generalized, classical approach.
- In most immersion rites of the world a person immerses himself. Only Christians require one “baptizing” another, emphasizing that a Christian cannot be a Christian on his own, but must receive conversion as a gift. The transgender path, however, isn’t like that. One must make the decision to live one’s truth as a transperson by himself/herself/eirself. Therefore, if a group participates, the others form a circle around the Candidate as a matter of support.