At her first bleeding a woman meets her power. During her bleeding years she practices it. At menopause she becomes it.Traditional Native American Saying
A huge, huge part of being a person with a womb is the menstrual cycle. It gives us a time of fertility each month; the ability to create life, or gives us a monthly confirmation that we are/are not pregnant. It holds so much power, so why do we not learn about it more? I have spoken on my blog and YouTube channel about coming off the contraceptive pill – I never got on with it and eventually decided I felt really uneasy about swallowing a pill of hormones every day without any real knowledge of how that was affecting me. Since about 2016 I have used the fertility tracking method which, if you do it properly, allows you to feel much more in tune with your body and the power it brings. I believe that if everybody who menstruates was taught more about the intricate workings of our fertility from a young age, we would be happier as a result. Of course, I understand that some people enjoy taking the pill and it works for them – these are just my personal feelings.
Bleeding, for me, is a sacred part of the month. I always respect it and weirdly enjoy it as I interpret it as a gift that I am fertile and alive, and that my body is healthy and working as it should. When you take the pill, you don’t have periods – it shocks me how many people still don’t know this. The ‘pill period’ is not a period at all. It tricks your body into thinking you are pregnant, thickening cervical fluid making the vagina inhospitable for sperm, and preventing you from ovulating. For a lot of my time on the pill, I never knew this. And I never felt quite right. I felt so out of harmony with my body, my skin was awful which may seem arbitrary but it’s our body’s biggest organ so it makes sense that swallowing a dose of hormones daily would affect it in some way. I was depressed; I was suppressing my natural rhythms. There is so much this time teaches us – it allows us to look inside ourselves and gain wisdom. As Lucy H. Pearce, the author of Moon Time puts it, being on the pill is like “floating below the surface of life”. And this is not a new concept; in the initial trials for the contraceptive pill back in the 1950s, nearly 50% of participants quit due to abdominal pain and/or nausea. In the second trial, the lead of the study chose to ignore serious side effects, which he deemed “psychosomatic”.
When our emotional arteries are blocked, when our heart is jammed up, our whole life lacks vitality.Gabrielle Roth
Reading Moon Time: Harness the Ever-Changing Energy of Your Menstrual Cycle has been a real eye-opener for me. As a kid, we always had a lunar calendar pinned to the kitchen door. I always looked forward to the full moon and felt so much excitement when I’d turn off the lights at bedtime and be able to see the moon through my window – especially if it was full. We readily accept and know from scientific discoveries that moon cycles affect the tides, so why is the belief that they could affect the menstrual cycle so chided?
During menstruation, we are generally more internally focused and energy levels are subdued. For me, bleeding usually happens around the new moon and ovulation around the full moon. This is the most common cycle and is called the White Moon Cycle. Strangely, I used to be firmly on the Red Moon Cycle but this year, during a time of stress, it did a complete 180 – and I’d like to think that is because my body needed it to. The Red Moon Cycle is associated with ‘healers, wisdom holders, and magic makers’. They ovulate while the majority of people with menstrual cycles are bleeding on the White Moon Cycle, and so while everyone else is hurting, they are full of energy and so are able to help. But I am often guilty of being too hard on myself and focusing all of my energy on others, so while me being on the Red Moon Cycle wasn’t necessarily surprising, it probably wasn’t doing me a lot of good. Now that I generally ovulate with the full moon and bleed with the new moon (literally to the day at the moment!) I am given time to look inward with the darkness of the new moon and to feel energised with the brightness of the full moon.
During menstruation, every ounce of our body and soul calls for rest, while our culture calls us to keep going. Modern day life is built around a 5-day working week with 2 days of rest in between, but that is completely out of whack with the menstrual cycle. The female body and reproductive system encourage us to employ our optimal energy levels for around 3 weeks (depending on whether your cycle is regular or not), and have a rest period of 1 week in between. When I read this, it made so much sense and it had never even occurred to me. We truly live in a man’s world! During my last ‘moon time’ I was going at 1000mph and trying to do everything, and I completely burnt out. I failed to create a space for rest, and that made me physically and mentally exhausted. For millennia, farmers have known about the importance of allowing fields to lie fallow to rebalance their nutrients and growing potential. It is exactly the same for people who menstruate – we must prioritise rest and ‘fallow time’.
Relationships, upbringing, the stress and pressure of living in a masculine, modern world—all these things regularly disconnect us from awareness of our authentic female nature.Miranda Gray
One way to honour this time is to create or attend a Red Tent or a Moon Lodge. Red Tents are generally communal gatherings of people with menstrual cycles, though you do not need to be bleeding to go to one. If your cycle is different from others’, if you are pregnant, do not have periods or a physical womb, a Red Tent is still open to you. They are a safe space for everyone who identifies as female. If you’re like me and you find it daunting to enter a space with lots of other people, especially while you are feeling more subdued, you might prefer a Moon Lodge. While a Red Tent is generally a space for women to share in the experience and exchange wisdom, a Moon Lodge is usually solitary. There are no rules – it can be whatever it needs to be to allow you to break free from responsibility for a short time and take care of yourself.
Red tents are a place where women are allowed to Be rather than continually Do.DeAnna L’am, Menstrual Educator
A red tent is part of the spiritual practice of menstruation and the living of the wisdom of the cycles.Jane Hardwicke Collings
There are so many other ways to connect more with your natural rhythms, here are some that are suggested in Moon Time:
- Watch the film ‘Things We Don’t Talk About: Healing Narratives from the Red Tent’
- Keep a ‘moon diary’ (chart your symptoms alongside the moon’s phases)
- Take note of your dreams! They are often trying to tell us something; I find that mine are much more vivid at certain parts of the cycle and I can always link them to aspects of my life
- Practice womb yoga
- Rosehip and hibiscus – a bright red tea to honour bleeding time (and it’s a good source of vitamin C!)
- Shatavari – a species of asparagus plant that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries – used to enhance libido, energise, lighten menstrual bleeding and support the female hormonal and reproductive system (it means ‘she who has a hundred husbands’ in Sanskrit)
- Evening Primrose for relieving PMS symptoms (taken 10 days before bleeding starts)
- Read Alchemy for Women: Personal Transformation Through Dreams by Penelope Shuttle
- Explore SoulCollage by Seena B. Frost
- Download a free copy of The Happy Womb’s Moon Time Chart
- Take part in a free (online) Womb Blessing Attunement with Miranda Gray
- Visit DeAnna L’Am’s website and take part in one of her online Red Tent gatherings, or explore her range of online courses
Celebrating ourselves, we learn to value each stage of our lives, we learn to celebrate and respect the cycles of nature that we are intimately connected to.Lucy H. Pearce
Whether or not you feel willing to adopt any of these beliefs or to delve into the more spiritual side of yourself, I personally believe that only good can come of us viewing ourselves as part of nature rather than separate from it. Learning to care for our bodies and to consciously operate in harmony with nature’s cycles is something that is completely our own decision – no one else is asking us to do that and no one can stop us from harnessing that power. It all starts with our own, wise bodies.
“When each woman honours her Self, more raw, creative energy is available to be used by the whole to effect changes in the way humankind reacts to life.”Jami Sams, The Thirteen Original Clan Mothers
I want to finish off this post and leave you with a passage I found incredibly empowering when reading Moon Time. Possibly the most well-known and focused on portion of the menstrual cycle is pre-menstrual stress or PMS. It has almost become a bit of a joke to poke fun at women when they’re coming up to their period because they might be more tense, stressed, and snappy than at other times of the cycle. In Moon Time, this is referred to as the Crazy Woman. We have become ashamed of this turbulence and try to suppress her, but why is the Crazy Woman such a significant part of our cycles if we are not supposed to listen to her and allow her time to release? It always makes me think of the poem Wolf and Woman by Nikita Gill (one of my favourite poets): “some days I am more wolf than woman, and I am still learning how to stop apologising for my wild”. There is no point in embracing our bleeding time while we are still attempting to silence this part of ourselves – we must listen to our body in its entirety…
“So next time your Crazy Woman comes to visit, don’t run and hide from her. Welcome her as an honoured guest. Copy down her words in your journal and heed them well. Stop what you are doing and drink tea with her. Dance to her wild tune, play your drums with her, and shake your rattles. Take her to bed and ravish her with sleep, let her guide you into other realms of your consciousness. Trust her rather than refuse her. Let her lead you by the hand and thank her for her presence. She is you— your shadow side with lessons to teach you about what you choose to hide away. She calls your deepest soul attention to that which you refuse to shine your light on.”