Mother Blessings, Cultural Appropriation And What To Do Instead
Way back in 2004 native feminists wrote to the editors of the Canadian Women’s Health Network requesting that the term 'Blessingway' no longer be used to describe non-Navajo prenatal ceremonies.
“They explained that the term 'Blessingway' refers to a sacred spiritual ceremony performed by the Navajo people to celebrate rites of passage that occur throughout the entire life cycle, and not only the passage into motherhood. They suggested the term 'Mother Blessing' was a more appropriate term for a ceremony that was influenced, and respectful, of this tradition, but not practiced in accordance with the Navajo faith and culture.”
But it seems to be taking a really, really long time to permeate our everyday language as doulas. I still hear a lot of birth and postpartum professionals using the term “blessingway” inappropriately so I thought it is worth bringing it up again here, in case you missed the memo too.
And whilst we are on the topic, it’s worth considering whether or not the content of your mother blessing is culturally appropriate too.
Cultural appropriation is complex and difficult to explain in one sentence, but I’ll try. Cultural appropriation is when we take something from another culture, usually without permission, acknowledgement or payment, especially when the person taking is in a higher position of power and privilege.
Does this mean you can’t have a Mother Blessing? Of course not!
I absolutely love the idea of celebrating the mother with rituals and rites of passage but please use the word Mother Blessing as it is much more appropriate.
It’s also is the perfect opportunity to engage in meaningful research and discussion on the topic of cultural appropriation. Be aware of the language you use and whom it belongs to and consider where certain rituals originate. Talk to the people whom they belong to, respect them and pay them if appropriate.
Best of all explore your own ancestry. Prior to the witch trials and industrialisation women’s wisdom thrived in many cultures around, including my own. I’ve spent time in the past few years learning about Welsh baby carriers, English postpartum food, and the Czech word for the postpartum rest period.
When you are connected with the wisdom of your own women ancestors you won’t need to take from others. Because it’s not feminism if you took it from other women.