By Claire Heenan Doula
Mothering the mother.
Nurturing and nurturer.
Holding the woman who holds all creation.
Closing the Bones Ceremony is a rite of passage, an honouring of transformation, a healing embrace of vulnerability and openness, and an expression of gratitude and recognition for the life giving force of the womb. Birthing a baby, no matter how they choose to be born, is a physical and energetic opening, a surrender to extreme change. I like to refer to the process of engaging in this ceremony as ‘floating’ in a Closing the Bones Ceremony. Why? It’s a perfect analogy for the flow of rocking, swaying and soothing weightlessness that is felt when having your bones closed.
I would like to pay respect to the culture from which this ceremony originates, and traditionally belongs to. Closing the Bones is an ancient and sacred ritual that originates from Mexican postpartum tradition. It is also commonplace elsewhere, particularly in South American countries.
Why is a rebozo different to a shawl?
This ritual uses traditional rebozo cloths to wrap the body. A rebozo is a long piece of woven cotton/woollen cloth that resembles a shawl or wide scarf. However, it is different in that it is specifically made for women by Mexican artisans who have generational and ancestral lineage behind their knowledge and skills in weaving. Ideally, practitioners of Closing the Bones may choose to use ethically purchased, fair trade rebozo cloths so as to supportively respect the original healers and their traditions. Still, many women who offer Closing the Bones are very well-intentioned and using their own shawls, which can still have the same wonderful effect.
The inspiration for offering this to all women
My own experience of this powerful ritual was what called me into this work. I remember experiencing such a real, palpable feeling of peace within me, and a deep sense of relief in accepting myself and who I am as a mother. I felt so comfortable with my vulnerability, and cried tears of release afterwards for finally embracing myself with love for my work in growing, birthing and caring for my baby.
Up until that point, I had felt like there was a big identity gap between my pregnant self and my mothering self. After crossing the transformational threshold of birthing my baby, it felt expected by society that life go on as normal, but just with ‘mum’ as part of my title. Closing the Bones bridged that gap for me, and allowed me the space to honour and appreciate all the hard work my body and mind had done.
What actually happens, and when?
Closing the Bones Ceremony is used to realign the body energetically, as well as to physically support the pelvis to realign following changes the pelvis and hips go through in pregnancy and birth. Traditionally it is facilitated multiple times during postpartum to assist with postnatal recovery. I suggest women repeat the ceremony as their baby reaches 9 months old, marking the beautiful milestone of ‘9 months in, 9 months out’. Having a Closing the Bones ceremony to honour the end of a woman’s breastfeeding journey is also a wonderful way to thank the body for all the nutritional and emotional nourishment provided.
I believe this ceremony can benefit all women, whether they are mothers of babies, businesses, fur babies, gardens or other! The ritual involves the use of rebozo to gently sway and rock the woman using the cloth positioned at her hips, followed by wrapping using a specific technique to allow her to be held tightly, but very comfortably. Just as a woman is rocking and wrapping her new baby lovingly to help them adjust to life beyond the womb, she requires that same mothering and ceremonious recognition of her adjustment to life with her baby. She is then slowly immersed in the comfort of rebozo wrapping at her feet, legs, hips, chest and head. Only the top of the head and eyes are covered, leaving room to breathe of course!
This provides women the sacred rite of passage that they often crave as they transcend into themselves as newborn Mums. Following the sacred stillness within the rebozo accompanied by sound, guided meditation and/or silence, the woman is very slowly unwrapped beginning from the head and eventually unravelling the rebozo at her feet. She is then given the time and space she needs to welcome any stories, emotions or sensations that have surfaced. As a practitioner I believe this can be a moment of important discovery, therefore I feel it is vital for my role at the end of the ceremony particularly to be a space holder and a calm presence, listening. Simply, listening. The power of being held, and heard, in loving emotional safety, is transformative.
Facilitators of this ritual will vary in their approach and in what they offer. The ceremony can include a postnatal bath, gentle womb and hip massage, a debrief at the beginning and end, rituals for letting go and more. As a facilitator of this ceremony, I tailor each ritual to the woman and her unique circumstances, needs and preferences. Being a musician, I love to include the option of sound as an anchor for grounding and as a powerful pathway to emotional discovery. Practitioners will differ in the setup also, some suggest one-on-one sessions, others recommend a women’s circle style of ceremony. I offer both, as I believe both styles of ceremony have benefits. Some women choose to have a women’s circle involving their tribe as part of their Closing the Bones ritual, followed by a one-on-one ceremony at a later date. The ceremony is always flexible and malleable to meet the needs of all women who feel called to it.
When I facilitate this, I like to include rituals that seem to speak to that individual woman. This might be one or a combination of these; warming postnatal tea, oracle card guidance, burning old beliefs, smudging with sage, breath-work, music meditation, a creative task or something else that a woman’s energy calls for.
Book me in please!
In Western culture, honouring our most soul-changing experiences as rites of passage is fairly uncommon. I believe there are incredible discoveries to be made when we have the opportunity to be immersed in reflecting on and embracing all the colours of our transitional experiences such as birth, motherhood, breastfeeding and menopause. Floating yourself in a Closing the Bones ceremony is a gateway to engaging your very real and accessible inner power.