Talk to Humanist Celebrant Diane McLeish, and you’ll find there are some very human ways to have a naming or welcoming ceremony.
Say hello to Diane McLeish just once, and you’ll instantly sense a connecting, magical passion. She’s a lady who loves. Her home is in Blair Atholl, deep in the Cairngorms National Park. Good food. Scottish traditions. Mountains, tall trees, rivers and wild fresh air. But above all, people. Next to life itself, Diane’s daily bread is her fellow beings.
Small wonder then, since retiring from the NHS she’s become a registered celebrant with the Humanist Society Scotland, the national charity close to her heart campaigning for a fairer world. Every day, in all walks of life and across the country, its members work to build an ethical, rational, secular society for all. Compassion and fairness rule.
Diane explains that as long as there have been human beings, there have been people whose views of the world can be described as ‘Humanist’. Non-religious, informed by evidence, inspired by empathy, and infused with hope and wonder for the world around them. They also place human welfare and happiness at the centre of decision making.
At a Humanist Naming or Welcoming ceremony, the society’s philosophy comes alive for all to see. In an ever-more democratic world, it’s no surprise that they’re gaining popularity year on year. They’re a direct alternative to a traditional baptism: the marking of a rite of passage and new beginnings in a way that can be sensed, felt and seen.
This is where Diane comes into her natural element. To her, celebrating a new addition to the world, or just changing the name of someone who’s been there for a while, means creating a ceremony that touches everyone close to them. It's meaningful and memorable for everyone involved and is a beautiful and personal way of formally welcoming or celebrating new beginnings.
Ceremonies are for anyone. New babies, toddlers, adolescents and adults transitioning gender, or who just want to change their name, all need uniting with their families. They're for the blending of families, or formalising an adoption. Age, persuasion and reason don’t count. As Diane points out: “We have the freedom to change our names or how we identify ourselves at any stage of life, so why not celebrate these personal transitions too?”
Ceremonies are all about you and your family and are crafted to reflect what’s important to you. Diane starts by getting to know you and your family. She learns about your dreams, hopes and desires. Your fulfilment of an ambition. Anything that matters in a life.
Diane will guide, advise and give you ideas of all the possibilities available. Ceremonies are hand-crafted to people, not from a manual. In Diane’s words: “How we do it is down to you!”
So naturally, a Naming or Welcoming ceremony is as creative and imaginative as it is meaningful. In truth, everything’s possible, and she can make it happen. Music, colour, poetry, readings. Parent and guide parent promises or commitments. Symbolic gestures like sand ceremonies, hand and foot prints, family hand-fastings, memory boxes, planting trees, drinking from a quaich or lighting candles. Simple or intricate. Immense or intimate.
A ceremony, too, can involve siblings, extended family, friends, guide parents or mentors. Those who mean the most. They can read, sing, make promises, state their commitments. And it can happen where the mood takes you. From the house and back garden to a park, a beach and beyond. Anywhere that makes your celebration special to you.
Any celebration between human beings enriches humanity. Simple.The possibilities have no end. But there again, as Diane points out, neither do human personalities, needs and emotions. There’s a beautiful way to celebrate every one. It’s a question of finding it. In short, her ceremonies are as bespoke as people.
Diane’s formal, personally written part of the ceremony usually lasts about 20 or 30 minutes. And along with a keepsake copy of the script you will also be given your signed naming ceremony certificate.
“In essence,” Diane reiterates, “we’re creating a special day in a family’s social history. A ceremony we write and conceive together, true to everyone, to be read, remembered and treasured by sons, daughters, partners, friends for years to come. Even over generations.”
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, a ceremony also contributes to the Humanist Society Scotland charity. As Diane points out: “Any celebration between human beings enriches humanity. Simple.”
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