Danna D. Schmidt
Master Life-Cycle Celebrant®
Ordained Wedding Officiant
Master Life-Cycle Celebrant®
Ordained Wedding Officiant
It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”
Each traveler has his or her own betwixt and between journey from birth to earth. Our journeys are akin to life books, each containing a distinct set of pages imprinted with defining longings, triumphs, and ordeals as individual as the one and many.
Ceremony allows us to momentarily halt the hands of time and bear witness to these remarkable milestones along our path. It enlivens and transfigures us ~ from the ordinary moments in our lives to the extraordinary realm where time stops momentarily. It helps us to see that all life, as Hallmark would assert, is a special occasion worthy of celebration and commemoration. Through story, song, personal touches, and formalized ritual, we share moments of significance and we shape meaning.
I have had the opportunity to engage in lifespan mapping at various times over the years. Each time I do this work of looking back reflectively through the past decades and tracking definitive turning points and milestones, I cannot help but marvel at how many of those memories linger because they were major life moments, rites of passage and/or times of great joy or loss that I marked ceremoniously. Cesare Pavese famously said, “we do not remember days, we remember moments.”
Every positive change–every jump to a higher level of energy and awareness–involves a rite of passage.
Each time to ascend to a higher rung on the ladder of personal evolution, we must go through a period of discomfort,
of initiation. I have never found an exception.”
Rites of passage signify a transition from one life stage or status to another, and are defined in ceremonious terms relative to how we mark and honor these passages. Across life’s spectrum, our major rites include birth, adolescence, adulthood, midlife, elderhood, and death.
Cross-cultural examples of these various religious, marital, academic, and vocational rites include:
Having constructed meaningful transition rites at all ages and stages of life for family, friends and clients, I continue to be transfixed by all thresholds, every ordeal, and each new epoch of the human condition.
I invite you to consider the degree to which these major threshold moments have been marked in your own life. Just as it’s never too late for a do-over, it’s never too early to begin pre-planning your own significant rites and those of your loved ones.
Writer Gunilla Norris claims that it is on the threshold that our entire past and endless future will rush to meet one another.
The home is the center and circumference, the start and the finish, of most of our lives.”
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
If we could all craft magical rituals like Dorothy that entail clicking our heels and poof!, we’re suddenly home, how lovely that would be. Teleporting through time and space is not (as yet), within my repertoire and bag of ceremonial tricks, but I can (and do!) come close with custom blessings, rituals, and ceremonies for hearth, home, and sustenance that look and feel downright magical.
Our homes keep safe the most amazing stories. “Each room,” as Robert Sardello notes, “contains a mythic universe.” I delight in working with you to unearth these tales of yours, to pay homage to your place of shelter, and to help you to see your own mythic canopy with new eyes. We will tend to each nook, corner and cranny, as I consult with you to determine how you might invite more altared moments in your home and with your family. These moments are possible through the infusion of daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual rituals.
Some examples of ceremonies for the Hearth and Home are:
Often, the desired result for clients seeking to bless their home space is about a feeling of contentment and harmony. If another name for ‘home’ is ‘peace’, according to author Kathleen Norris, then it behooves us to do the necessary peacekeeping and space sweeping, in order to ask our hearth and home if the synonym now suits and to ask of it….
When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things.
Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die,
or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”
Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Milestones are often the easiest of celebrations and gatherings for us to conceive of, but by no means do these need to conform to ‘Cookie Cutterville’ standards. The commonalities throughout all the anniversary, birthday, career tributes, graduation, new citizenship, and ribbon-cutting ceremonies I have crafted over the years have been about designing rituals, incorporating games, and paying tribute in ways that feel authentic, lighthearted, and meaningful for the honoree.
And because these milestones often feel no less pivotal on the rites of passage spectrum, I work with you to ensure that we:
Milestones ceremonies include but are not limited to:
We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings
of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down.
We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual
you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising,
fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Ceremonies for grief, loss and healing are powerful, restorative, and are invariably some of the truest of ceremonies I construct. Sadly, however, they rank among the fewest of my ceremonies. Perhaps this is because we, as humans, tend to shy away from the difficult work of acknowledging and confronting our sorrows and stopping places.
Rather than lean out and away during these times of numbness and pain, ceremony encourage us to lean in lightly, tread softly, honor the emotions as they arise, and place those griefs and grievances down at the altar called ceremony which beckons them.
From an early age, we learn quickly that part of our sojourn upon this planet must somehow be about accumulating and carrying great bundles of complex feelings, regrets, losses, and worries. We tend to stuff these invisible knapsacks full, burden them upon our backs like so many bags of honor, and then load-bear these bundles behind us, in part, so that we might feel the weight but not see it. Not surprisingly, it begins to feel unbearable and surreal.
They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.”
Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
Rituals help us transfigure these terrible surrealities and usher us across our more tender thresholds with greater ease, awe, and gratitude. It’s difficult to imagine that we might come to feel grateful for times of great pain and sorrow. And yet, through ceremony, this is possible and more to the point, encouraged.
In the ritual healing model that eco-theologian Joanna Macy enacts with communities, she begins with gratitude, shifts next to honoring our pain for self and the world, transitions to seeing with new eyes, and finally, ends by going forth renewed and transfigured. With this four-fold model, we can better embody these words by Mary Oliver, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
Like most of my fellow travelers, I have been privy to great losses and wounds in my lifetime. Through these experiences, I have come to embrace my tendencies as a wounded healer and to see my own boxes of darkness in new and revelatory light, for my traumas have indeed been the source of some of my greatest bequeathments. Healing work, as I’ve experienced it, takes its own time and demands a special tenderness and companioning. I am far from alone in this wound-tending work. As a matter of self-preservation, we humans tend to go insular at such times and, in the words of poet David Whyte, “act the drama as if we were alone; as if life were a progressive and cunning crime with no witness to the tiny hidden transgressions.”
Ceremony proffers this witnessing crucible and safe space holder to do our transitioning work and in doing so, both enables and ennobles one to “put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation” once again. I don’t promise you it will be easy, but I do know that the great secret to facing these life moments courageously is in recognizing that joys and sorrows are two-sides to the same coin. Our tears make room for more laughter and lightness of being.
As your Celebrant, I will work privately, compassionately and with the highest discretion and care to help you navigate across, through and beyond whatever life moments hold you back in some way. Together, we will craft heartfelt rituals of release and renewal such that you can finally lay your burdens down by the riverside and ultimately, come away feeling a sense of lightness and restoration.
Some examples of ceremonies for healings and transitions include:
Story is a yearning meeting an obstacle.”
Robert Olen Butler