New book delves into the power of ceremony


In the age of COVID-19, people the world over have missed out on celebrating the momentous moments that mark the turning points in their lives.

If you are just thinking birthdays, weddings and wakes as the only rituals then prepare to be surprised.

Wangi Wangi-based author Joan McCarthy has penned a new book on the importance and power of ceremony (often called the rites of passage), offering readers a glimpse into how ceremonies can bring clarity and transformation. 

Ms McCarthy describes herself as having a “portfolio career”, working in a cornucopia of different fields, from aged care to modelling. 

“I spent 20 years in Newcastle as a health educator, but I’ve done many other things besides that,” she said. 

“I’ve done quite a few different things, before I resigned from paid work a couple of years ago.”

An already-established writer, Ms McCarthy has previously penned five books.

The Practical Book Of Ceremonies for the Southern Hemisphere is the sixth book that I’ve produced,” she added. 

“There’s been three on older women; one on sexuality; and another called Behind the Label, which is about clothes, and how they affect us, and how they affect the environment.”

She said in the time of a pandemic, ceremony was one way to reconnect. 

“[The book is] very timely, because in this time of COVID-19, around the world, people are experiencing a lot of fear,” she told the Newcastle Weekly

“Ceremony is a wonderful and joyful way to transition through life’s turning points.

“People ask why the Southern Hemisphere, well, if we’re doing ceremonies around the environment, say the equinox or the solstices, then it’s important to recognise that we’re in the southern hemisphere, and that they occur at different times of the year, than they do in the Northern Hemisphere.

“This book offers us a glimpse into that world. And, how ceremony brings about joy and transformation.

“One of the most transforming ceremonies I ever did was for a woman who had lost her baby, a stillbirth.

“She was very depressed and had become quite withdrawn.

“But, the ceremony [we held for her] was totally transforming and she went on to have a wonderful family.”

Ms McCarthy said her interest in ceremony began out of a desire to honour the earth. 

“I came to recognise that there are turning points in life that are reflected in the environment – that’s the solstices and the equinox,” she explained. 

“The cycles of the moon, especially for women, are really important.

“ [I] then discovered that these were just fabulous occasions.

“I started running ceremonies around the winter solstice up at Wangat lodge, in the conference centre up there.

“One woman was pregnant and about to give birth, and she says, ‘I’m really scared, do something’.

“So, we did a little ceremony, and she went on to push out a big boy at home, and the next day, she was down the street shopping.” 

The Practical Book Of Ceremonies for the Southern Hemisphere is out now, available to buy on Major Books’ website.