We’re sitting in the kitchen together at a country property near Melbourne in Australia, about to start my ‘Moonsong Workshop – Reclaiming Feminine Wisdom Through Reconnection With the Women’s Mysteries’. More women are arriving, we will start by smudging each other, ‘cleansing’ ourselves with the smoke of sage to remove any negative energy, and will then sit around the circle according to where we are in our cycle, aligning with the directions around the wheel making a mandala with ourselves that tells the story of the wisdom of the cycles.
I will begin our weekend of reconnection by reading to the circle of women the ‘Herstory’, which explains how we got to this situation of disconnection.
There is a groundswell, an energy moving across our planet, a wave of women everywhere feeling the stirrings of inner strength and inner power, awakening to the sacred feminine.
The sacred feminine is the experience of being woman that is whole, holy, revering the life force that moves through us, that is us…
unfortunately this is not so revered in the ‘mainstream’ of our current culture, not yet that is….
However, the Daughters of Gaia are waking up.
This surge of energy, being called the Fourth Wave of Feminism, is moving through our lives, bringing us closer together to honour and bring reverence to the very nature of woman. More of us are bringing consciousness to our birthing and now as the Red Tent Movement arises, we are reclaiming the sacred dimensions of womanhood held within the menstrual cycle and all of our rites of passage.
When we reclaim our sacred nature, firstly we must reconnect with our bodies, and then what is called of us, by our most deepest selves, on behalf of all women, is the inner work of healing, forgiving, reclaiming and remembering what it means, what is, to be and live as a conscious woman. Re-membering, that is – putting ourselves back together by reclaiming our inner wisdom, inner strength and inner power. The power, strength and wisdom of a woman has been negated by the dominant patriarchal paradigm and instead it teaches us shame about our bodies, suggesting our bodies don’t work properly if they’re not ‘on time’, favours science over spirituality, gives little credence to emotions and intuition, seeing instincts as animal and not fully accepted in the life of a modern woman.
One of the faces of the Fourth Wave of Feminism is the Red Tent Movement.
The Red Tent is part of the spiritual practice of menstruation and the living of the wisdom of the cycles. The Red Tent is part of the much needed honouring of the feminine that our culture requires. The Red Tent is a place, a space, that women retreat to when they are bleeding, menstruating, when they have their ‘moonflow’. The Red Tent or Moon Lodge or Blood Temple can be an actual space or a virtual space, or a state of mind, one way or another it needs to exist.
In the old times before electricity, and when we lived together as a community, the women all bled at the same time at the dark of the moon. They would retreat together to the Red Tent, and enjoy their bleeding time free of the chores and concerns of their lives. They usually spent 3 days away from their families, just with the other women. They would talk together, rest, dream, care for themselves and each other. It was a nurturing environment that they all loved and appreciated. Many of the women would have prophetic dreams during this time. The women would be blessed with a vision on their third day of bleeding and this would be shared with the whole community on their return. The community hugely valued and relied on these visions the women would return with and used them as instruction for direction and focus for the community.
In our modern western patriarchal culture the Red Tent has almost disappeared in terms of its social acceptability; however it remains in our hearts, wombs and souls as the place we retreat to during our bleeding time. The acceptance of this practice changed when the patriarchal culture, in which we live, took hold several thousand years ago and dishonoured the feminine, making all things associated with women and especially her fertility, her sexuality, her blood – taboo, dirty, evil, bad, shameful etc etc. The Red Tent was reinterpreted as a place to send women away to when they were bleeding because they were deemed dirty and needing to be separated from the rest of the people, especially their husbands and needed to be stopped from preparing food, lest they contaminate it. Now, in our modern culture menstruation is basically ignored, women are encouraged and maybe even forced to carry on regardless, ads for tampons show girls in white playing sport! And the correlation between the attitudes to the feminine of our culture and the way we treat the Earth are clear and obvious.
The Red Tent Movement is bringing the Red Tent back into our lives, back into our communities, as women reclaim the sacred dimensions of womanhood. Red Tents reclaim a sacred space in women’s lives that support us to nourish ourselves and take time out of our busy schedules during our bleeding time. It is well known that the practice of Red Tents is both a spiritual practice and a health and wellness practice.
Red Tents provide us with a quite space in which to focus our attention inward. An opportunity to reflect and let go of anything in our lives that no longer serves us or things we want to change. When a woman can decipher from what irritates her, the things about herself she needs to change, she can let these go with her blood and not take them into her next cycle.
Woman, the creatrix, is herself reborn each cycle. Reborn in an evolving state if she takes this innate opportunity to let go of that which no longer serves her, spiralling forward on her path of evolution. Or she is reborn back into the circle of the same issues and same energy if she does not. And the healing the Red Tent Movement is bringing to the feminine is also healing our Earth.
The students and graduates of the School of Shamanic Midwifery, a women’s mysteries school that I have founded in Australia, has begun an initiative of bringing Red Tents to festivals and gatherings, and being there in service as Priestesses, holding the space and offering support to the bleeding women. These have been well received, both as an educational opportunity and a welcome retreat space. We plan to continue providing this service as far and wide as we can.
Messages from the women have been:
“Thank you for providing this space, I feel held, honoured and healed.”
“Thank you, I am speechless and that is a good thing.”
The Red Tent Movement is about reclaiming our nature, our cyclical nature, our connection with the Earth, the reflection of Her seasons that we see in our body’s through our cycles and our rites of passage. Reclaiming these parts of our selves and our lives that have been lost in our modern cultures. Women everywhere across the planet are reconnecting with their nature, and so to Mother Nature, to the Earth, the cycles and their/our cycles. To remain disconnected from our cycles will be our demise. We can already see the effects. The menarche, the time of the first blood, is our rite of passage into womanhood. You may not remember yours, and that’s a clue, or you may remember what is by far the most common memory, that you were either told specifically or it was heavily implied, to carry on regardless, don’t let anyone know and, “Oh well, poor you, you’ve got 40 years of this.” Some of us were welcomed to womanhood and in my work I even see those who’s parents knew to celebrate the menarche, being undermined by the influence the culture has on their daughters. The culture is powerful and our rites of passage create culture, on the inside and the outside, and we need to co-create culture, to sustain us and hold us and that’s what the Red Tent Movement is about.
When we co-create this healed culture that supports the sacred feminine we heal the wounded feminine of the patriarchy. And when we heal the wounded feminine we heal the wounded masculine. The story of the wounded feminine is also the story of the wounded masculine. The Fourth Wave of Feminism is not just about women, its about all of us. Reclaiming the sacred dimensions of womanhood, is reclaiming the sacred dimensions of life. Reclaiming the sacred dimensions of womanhood – the spiritual practice of menstruation, conscious birthing, and honouring birth, the menarche, menopause and death is remembering the wisdom of the cycles and restoring the balance of masculine and feminine, within and without.
“My mother was a feminist, she taught me to see that the road to ruin is paved with patriarchy. So, let the way of women guide democracy, from plunder and pollution let mother earth be free. Feminism ain’t about women, no that’s not who it is for, it’s about raising consciousness that’ll bring and end to war….” ‘Who’s Side Are You On’ Ani DiFranco
So, the Red Tent or Moon Lodge or Blood Temple can be an actual space or a virtual space, one way or another it needs to exist. If it does not exist if a woman does not honour her need for retreat. then what happens are all the physical symptoms that need to, to have the woman retreat into her inner space, her inner Red Tent as it were, this includes all the friction, fights, arguments etc required in your close relationships so that those people will avoid you, keep out of your way! So, we create our much needed Red Tent, or much needed retreat space, unconsciously if we don’t do it consciously, so why not do it consciously and bust the myth that women are cranky when they are bleeding and in the week or so before. Do you really think you would be cranky, moody, upset, mad, angry, impatient etc etc if you knew when your blood came that you would be leaving your normal life situation and heading to your retreat space to let go of what no longer worked in your life, to learn what you can from your month just passed, to decide what you will take into the next cycle and what you will leave behind, to replenish, and renew yourself, and prepare yourself for the month ahead? I doubt you’d be feeling cranky, I bet you’d be feeling relieved, honoured and excited even!
Honouring your need for retreat time when you are bleeding is your responsibility, not any one else’s, and it is so for both yourself and everyone you live with and relate to. If you think your journey through your menstrual cycle and bleeding time doesn’t effect anyone else, just ask them! One way or another you must get the space you need at your bleeding time, this may end up being a long bath, an early night to bed, or your own private dreaming time.
Your experience of your menstrual cycle is a barometer of your life stresses.
It is a stress sensitive process and therefore is a ‘read out’ of what you need to be dealing with. It is also a pathway to self awareness on your soul’s journey to wholeness – Enlightenment through cycle awareness!
Many people have written about this, psychotherapists, doctors, midwives, anthropologists, it’s a well known path of personal and collective evolution. Its not your hormones rampaging, its you!
Our menstrual cycles call us into our bodies, if things are amiss, one way or another she will get your attention and you’ll have the opportunity to take responsibility for yourself, your life, what you eat, think, do, work, play etc.
Or you can play the victim and blame your hormones like they are some unwelcome guest who’s taken over. See literally what’s going on and think metaphorically, that might give you some clues. Look for the patterns that reoccur in your life and how your menstrual cycle reflects that.
We sat for three hours together in a circle in the Red Tent, ten girls, pre-menarche, 9-11 years old, seven mothers, and two grandmothers, exploring and sharing the wisdom and gifts of the menstrual cycle. Part of the process is a ‘brainstorm’, with the girls calling out all the things they’ve heard about the menstrual cycle – “growth, messy, empowering, yuk, learning, disgusting…” This time, unusually, there were more positive words than negative, refreshing. After I taught them the ‘wheel’, the wisdom of the cycles, I drummed for them and they did, women and girls, a shamanic drum journey into their wombs to meet their Inner Goddess. I suggested to the girls that they ask Her whatever they want to and perhaps what they need to know or do next. After the journey they drew pictures of their experience…the girl who called out most of the negative words in the brainstorming, brought her drawing to show me, it was a beautiful Goddess image that she saw with some words that were the question she asked and the answer she received. “Why do they say its yuk?” “Because they don’t’ know.” Said her Inner Goddess. In the closing circle one of the girls said “I feel like I’ve learned something really important that I didn’t know”. One of the mothers said” I have found a tribe for my daughter, I’m so glad she can have a different experience to me.”
Your experience of menarche, your first blood, prepares you for your experience of menstruation which then effects how you give birth and then how you experience perimenopause. Its all connected. She who is initiated into the Temple of Womanhood at the Altar of Menarche, is the woman who shows up at the Birth Altar in the Birth Temple. So its no surprise that most women are drugged during childbirth to escape the pain, they learned how to do that well enough during their periods.
Young women are taught to not trust their bodies, if their periods are irregular or their flow is heavy or their pain is strong, they are prescribed the pill to bring them into order, so they can be predictable, controlled, on time, and not be inconvenienced by their bodies messages that happen to have them make life style and diet changes better for health. And then this all happens again at birth in so many ways with over 30% inductions because women don’t give birth on time, there’s no right time, just when the baby is ready, and there’s never been a baby that stayed inside forever you know!
And the rampant use of drugs during labour to numb women….Funny how we’re meant to say no to drugs except during menstruation and labour when they totally mess with our ability to listen to our bodies, to hear the inner wisdom
and without doubt influence the unborn ones detrimentally! Numbing herself in labour, a woman gives up the opportunity of experiencing and so realising that she has everything she needs inside her, that she and her baby ‘work’ together to birth and also she drugs her baby. Drugged babies, probably most of us, have a default of vague-ing out, especially when the going gets tough.
Medicating yourself with drugs during menstruation means you carry on regardless, just NOT what you’re meant to do, if you do, you miss the opportunity for letting go, for renewal and then you get on this treadmill, of the same ol’ same ol’. If you don’t let go of what shows up during your third week, masquerading as symptoms of PMS, then guess what grows bigger next cycle!
So, like every other cycle, if you try to control it, you miss its wisdom, its healing
and its growth and evolutionary opportunities, and, most often to your peril.
The Red Tent Movement is about honouring the menstrual cycle as the spiritual practice of menstruation, this means bringing consciousness to the process and what goes on all around it. Disposable sanitary products not only cost a lot of money over and over, and are made with chemicals and take 100’s of years to biodegrade, they also contribute to the huge use of pesticides in the cotton farming to create them and landfill, blocked drains and sea pollution. You can honour yourself, your cycle and the Earth by using reusable cloth pads or mooncups/keepers or sponges. You can make prayers with your blood, you can dedicate your eggs not just to babies, to world peace, to love….
What can you do?
*Find or create a women’s circle, meet regularly, creating community.
*Bring Red Tents to your community gatherings and festivals.
Contact The School of Shamanic Midwifery for a ‘How to create a Red Tent’
*Raise your children to be conscious of the menstrual cycle, don’t hide it from them.
*Honour your cycle, ‘retreat’ how ever you can given your life circumstances.
*Get to know yourself through understanding your cycle, chart your cycle, notice how differently you feel each day, see the waxing and waning of your energy, your libido, your creative urges, observe your moods how they change each day and week. Come to know yourself.
I have created a ‘how to chart your cycle handbook and journal’ called 13 Moons (that’s how many moon cycles there are in a year) and a ‘ready reckoner’ called the Spinning Wheels which tells you the energy of each day of the lunar cycle, your menstrual cycle and the influence of the earth season and your life season so you can, through understanding all these influences on you, understand why you feel the way you do on any particular day. And I have created a little book called “Becoming – a Woman, a guide for girls approaching menstruation” that is useful for ‘girls’ of every age! Within Becoming are suggestions for how to honour your cycle week by week.
These are for sale on my website:
So, chart your cycle, watch the moon, and practice the spiritual practice of menstruation, especially the Red Tent, you wont regret it, not only will this all help you enjoy and love your menstrual cycle, it will help prepare you for a conscious birth, and for a healing enlightening perimenopause and your life ahead as a wise woman who will teach these ways to the girls.
Once a month I meet with a group of maidens, ranging from 11-16. We sit in a circle and pass the talking bowl, and answer the questions – Where are you in your cycle today? How are you experiencing that? What would you like to share with the circle?
Imagine at this age practicing this inward reflection, hearing what your body is ‘telling’ you…..
Each of these girls have experienced a community ceremony, welcoming them to womanhood. Many have grown up being part of this community and long for their turn, long for their turn to be welcomed into what feels like a ‘special club’ – womanhood. Others are brought to the menarche ceremony because their mothers hear about it from friends and want this for their daughters rather than repeat the nothingness or the shame inducing experience they had.
The Red Tent Movement is recreating the culture we need to bloom as women and that we need to raise daughters and sons conscious of the ways of the sacred. This Fourth Wave of Feminism is a healing wave, a wave to surf with your sisters in community, a wave to wash yourself in to cleanse away shame, guilt and cultural pressures to be other than who you are, and a wave as a gesture with your hand to others that understand and support this consciousness raising, this healing of the feminine and the masculine, for all our relations.