Permanent Publications, 2009

ISBN: 978-1856230490

Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk McCain
(review first published in Permaculture Magazine)


Our Western culture does have a few standard rituals for marking significant events in our lives but we all experience other events and other special moments and decisions for which no prescribed form of ritual exists. Yet we are often dimly aware of the impulse to mark these moments in some meaningful, symbolic way, particularly when they concern something as emotionally laden as procreation.

In this delicately and lovingly crafted book, Jackie Singer raises our awareness of the importance, the usefulness and the wonder of rituals for marking our special moments. Then she goes on to look at all types and sizes of ritual around childbirth, from those tiny, private ones that we use, sometimes spontaneously,  to honour our own special moments, to the large, public ceremonies like baby naming and funerals. (Yes, funerals. Not all pregnancies go to term. Not all babies survive birth.)

She describes the shape of a ritual—its beginning, middle and end—and looks at the aspects of time and place, rhythm and sacred space, words, music, objects altars … nothing is left out of this comprehensive guidebook. She reminds us that the planning of a ceremony is just as much a part of the whole as the performance of it, for the creation of a ceremony and the intention behind it, have their inner and outer components also.

‘Devising a ceremony,’ Jackie says, is ‘one part divine inspiration to five parts earthly practicality,’ and she provides a checklist of questions to help the planner focus.

As well as its usefulness to anyone interested in the power of ritual, what makes this book really special is its amazing and thoughtful inclusiveness. Jackie has devised rituals for everything to do with birth. Infertility, IVF treatment, adoption, termination planned or unplanned, even the conscious decision to remain childless, all these life events and situations find their rightful place here.

For any young parents or soon-to-be parents or hoping-to-be parents, this book would be a wonderful gift. It is also good reading for anyone interested in the form and nature of rituals, their importance to our lives and the important part they play in our emotional health, our personal growth and our spiritual life.