It is always an interesting ritual; one that each of us has to go through, one that can’t be avoided, and yet the emotions that go with it are mixed. Sometimes the individual is happy, sometimes sad. Sometimes it is a mixture of both, the realization that this portion of their life is complete and it is time to move forward. What is the ritual? It is the cutting of the cords.

Last night as the snow fell around us, we gathered as a group to cut the cords of the one Senior that is graduating at mid-year. It was a beautiful setting, powder like snow all around us, the chill of the air, the smell of sage and a gathering of friends in the night. I enjoyed letting this one go, this particular friend. It isn’t that I want to see her go, but she has to. There are times when we all have to move forward to discover who we really are.

Last year I had a group of students ask if they could observe the ritual. They didn’t really understand what the significance was, but they were interested in watching a “pagan ritual.” As they arrived we talked and I explained what would be happening – they still didn’t understand. I invited them to participate in the ritual if they chose; if not I asked that they show respect by observing silently during the rite. I was a little surprised and pleased when about half of them decided to join in.

They followed the queues that the pagan students gave, asking questions about what to do when they couldn’t figure it out. The callings occurred and they became part of what we were doing. Then it occurred, the students to be let go came to the center, and like last night, each had their cords cut. There were tears at that ritual, there were none last night – difference between individuals and their readiness to face the next stage. After the ritual was done, the guests had questions about what they had just experienced. The question that I remember the most came from one very emotional young man. He told me that he didn’t expect what happened, that he felt the ripping and tearing of the cords as each person had theirs cut. As he was relating his own experience he said he felt the pain of the cut that it seemed brutal and uncaring and did it have to happen. Why do we have to cut cords?

It’s a question that I get asked often, especially from those that are the reason we are having the ritual. It is simple; it has to be done in order for individuals to grow and for the group to remain thriving. As I explained to the young man, cutting of the cords isn’t a “gentle act” to wish someone well. It can be a violent act since what we are doing it cutting the ethereal ties the individual has to the group. I explained that for the growth and survival of each, the cutting must take place. I went on to describe it in the only terms that I could: this is the cutting of their spiritual umbilical cord. When a child is born into the world their physical umbilical cord connecting them to their mother is severed. If it isn’t both the child and the mother die. The cutting is bloody, messy, tough to do, violent, and yet absolutely necessary. The student group at the University in many cases is the spiritual womb for these students where they begin to learn who they are spiritually and what path they need to walk.

Once the cutting is done they are not left alone to face the world on their own. I always ask members of the larger community to be there. It may be only one or two, but they are there. The student stands alone for a moment. Some travel through it easily, others say it is a time when they feel absolutely isolated. But I don’t leave them there that would be irresponsible. They are reconnected to community, loved ones, beings outside the smaller University group, and given the knowledge that are part of the greater pagan world now where connections will be made when necessary. The ritual is complete.

Last night was an easy traverse of the void between womb and world. She was ready to separate awhile ago and she did so with joy. In fact, for me it was a joyous ritual, one where silliness and fun needed to be present. She will move forward, on her way home in less than a week she will find her community. That is my next obligation to her: a connection that I promised near her hometown.

So as you travel through life take a moment to think about your own cords. Have you cut the ones that need to be? If you haven’t, are they harmful to your growth? If so, what are you going to do about it? And yes, that moment of absolute alone after the cutting can be terrifying, but the discovery that it leads to can be amazing.