Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Moon Blood: Part One - Honouring our bleeding

Like most women, I was hoodwinked from a very early age into believing that menstruation was something dirty and shameful, something secretive. Michelle Royce writes,

"For generations we have been taught by our society and our peers that the fact our bodies bleed each month, is nothing more than a primitive, unpleasant and inconvenient side effect of the way our species reproduces itself, which should not in anyway affect or interfere with out 'real' lives ..... We are encouraged to ignore, suppress and sanitise any emotions, discomfort or evidence of menstruation."
Moon Rites: A feminine path to power

I never knew, until recently, that it could be a beautiful, empowering and amazing monthly event. My re-education began slowly, through tidbits of wisdom and experiences shared as I sat with my birthing friends, breastfeeding our ever growing babies. It is my hope that over the course of the next year I can share my journey and the wisdom I have collected along the way. Our monthly moon flow is what makes us women ... it is our essence and to deny it, is to deny our true selves. I believe it is time the reclaimed what is rightfully ours.

In the following first installment I challenge the notion we all carry that a woman's monthly bleeding is something to hide and feel ashamed of, by suggesting ways in which women can honour this time.

Bleeding Beautifully

This is not an oxymoron - you can do this. Following are thirteen suggestions for honouring and nurturing this time in simple but beautiful ways.

1. Rename your period to something that is meaningful, empowering and true to the nature - 'moon time', 'bleeding time' - whatever works for you.

2. Chart your cycle so you know when you are expected to bleed and don't schedule high energy activities - such as big work projects, a mountain bike weekened away etc. This will allow you to plan for a downshift for a couple of days. If need be - colour those days red on your calendar or in your diary to remind yourself. A Moon Diary is the perfect way to record your cycles, energy ebbs and flows.

3. Rest - sleep in, sloth about, especially on days two or three - though as you get to know your cycle, and energy ebbs and flows you will know which day is most important for you to rest.

4. Nurture yourself - soak in a warm bath, drink herbal tea, slow down, eat warming and nourishing foods and put your needs first - especially if they come behind everyone else's for the rest of the month. The world will not stop turning ... and infact, resting and nurturing will recharge you for the coming month - you will see the difference and so will those around you who demand your time and energy.

5. Light a red candle each day of your bleeding time

6. Wear a special red necklack, bracelet or ring

7. Wear a special piece of red clothing - a top, a skirt, a scarf or a funky pair of red knickers and bra

8. Use cloth pads instead of tampons or disposable pads. See here and here. Use the blood to fertilise your garden, flower box or pots of herbs. This is what blood and bone fertiliser is trying to emullate but simply can't come close to.

9. Do a special mediatation such as Katherine Cunningham's Temple of the Blood Cd to assist in reclaiming the experience of ancient ritual around menstruation.

10. Read a book that celebrates menstruation and debunks the current attitudes surrounding menstraution such as The Red Tent, Womens Bodies Womens Wisdom and if you struggle with extreme pain around this time The Wild Genie. There is also a collection of empowering online articles published in Down to Birth. A list of other books will follow in subsequent postings.

11. Indulge your creativity - sew, bake, dance, drum, paint, collage, scrap book, bead a necklace - whatever gets your creative juices flowing. If you're an outdoor person, take time out in nature through a gentle bush walk or go to your favourite water hall or creek.

12. Write down and ceremonially burn anything that you want to let go of from the previous month - this is a powerful time to cleanse and renew. Doing this simple ritual will allow you to begin anew at the end of your bleeding. Remember to write down positive thoughts, actions or ideas to replace those that you have left go. Place these wishes in a safe place or plant them in a fertile part of the garden to "grow".

13. Create a small space in your home that honours menstruation as a central and important part of your life. This could be something as simple as gathering together photos of your mother, grandmother, great grandmother etc in one place. These women represent your motherline and collecting them in the one place honours this line to which you belong. Be creative and have fun in creating this space. You may like to burn your red candle among these photos or other symbolic objects or keep your wishes here.

Feeling confronted ...
I too was confronted as my previous beliefs around menstruation were challenged by the small bits of wisdom that I exposed to initially and then the large chunks of information and wisdom I came across in my Women's Rites of Passage course. How could I possibly wear a pad and not a tampon - urgh!? How could anyone celebrate something so shameful and dirty? Why would I want to talk to anyone about this? I'm adventurous by nature though, and very curious so I was willing to give all of this new hullaballoo a go and once I was on my new path there was definitely no getting off it.

The confrontation we feel and experience when we are exposed to wisdom on menstruating is like throwing open heavy curtains, in a dark room, on a bright day. Our first instinctive reaction is to shut our eyes, squint or to throw our hands up to shield our eyes from the lights blazing into the room - our first reaction is to protect the status quo. Over time our eyes begin to adjust to the new light until we can comfortably and easily see in the room again ... and it was if nothing had changed. We develop and become a part of a new status quo.

This is how adaptable our biology is and in this sense our biology requires our beliefs, thoughts and customs to be adaptable to be truly one with our biological processes. Remember that the manner in which we think and act towards menstruation is relatively new in the history of humankind - in the past it was revered, it was celebrated, it was social and it was special ... and it can be again. We deny ourselves when we ignore, supress and sanitise our menstruation.

Share this wisdom with your friends, daughters, sisters, mothers or work colleagues - just hit the email button at the bottom of this post.

How do you feel about sharing?
How do your friends/family/colleagues feel about this information?
Is the undercurrent of shame strong or weak?

If possible try and find a small group of women to make a monthly pact with to do something from this list next time your menstruate. If all else fails do it yourself and then share your experiences with others. When you acknowledge and name something, you make it real. When you treat something as special it becomes special ... and then wonderful manifestations really do happen. You deserve it!


Smiler said...

That's an excellent post Jodi. Interesting, because I read The Red Tent this years actually. My mother was quite the feminist when I was growing up, and very much about celebrating a woman's body in all it's glory. So when I got my first period (at 12 I think) she made it an occasion for a small celebration of my passing into womanhood and I will never forget - she gave me my own glass of Grand Marnier to mark the occasion. I've been an alcoholic ever since. Just kidding. :-)
Perhaps as a reaction to having been raised with this whole woman/goddess mentality, I reacted very strongly against it (don't we just always want to do the exact opposite of what our parents are teaching us, always?) and went down another path instead. One that wasn't quite as empowering, we'll say, and leave it at that. All your suggestions are wonderful. Some of them, I already do in my own way. The taking a rest part, I don't really have a choice anyway, because my period is so painful most of the time that it wasn't uncommon when I was working to have to take the 2nd day of my period as a sick day and remain in the prone position most of the time. It's not something I am ashamed of, but it is inconvenient and because it's usually very painful, it's not something that makes me want to celebrate my womanhood, which, in those times feels more like a curse. Funny about the wearing red in some way shape or form because I've often done that without thinking about it and then noticed the connection later in the day. Which somehow proves that it's a natural, instinctive thing to do. Wonderful post. I'm glad I could contribute in some small way. Did you you the Blogger way or did you venture into the Html way? Thank you for the email, I will of course save it and yes, it would be nice to write to each other on occasion.


Jodi Cleghorn said...

Smiler: I did it the html way - thank you so much for the code. It's my Virgo moon that wants to play in the details of things rather than take the easy route. I'm also born in the day time, in summer, in the year of the Ox - so I'm tripley curse, so to speak, with the need to do things that 'hard way'.

It's a very pertinent point that you make - that as teenagers we want to rebel against what our parents are trying to instill in us. I wonder if there is a way in which we can raise children so that deep need to rebel is not there?

I feel very envious that you had a Mum who made a big deal about this - I couldn't even tell my Mum and it was only after seeing the stain on the back of my skirt after three days of trying (rather poorly) to manage my new found status that she spirited me away and shoved a pad in my hand. Happy womanhood!

I'm working towards a project and hopefully a book next year that will outline all the places we miss our chances to celebrate rites of passage and how create new ones (that are often negative and over seen by people who are least qualified to be part of such momentous occassions) ... and how, as a consequence, we as a society we are doing wrong by our daughters and sons.

Check out the book The Wild Genie. Alexandra Pope suffered from terrible dysmenorrhea, to the point she was bedridden and on painkillers for almost the entirety of her moon time. It gives sensible and relatively easy to follow advice to dealing and lessening the pain surrounding your moon time.

She says that our menstruation is the most stress sensitive of our biological processes and painful periods are an early warning sign that something is stressing our biological systems. I have also noted that if I have had a particularly stressful month, for whatever reason, my moon flow tends to be heavier and I have discomfort that pulls me very much back into my body.

If you can't find a copy - the are selling them off really cheap here ($2.00 the last time I saw them) - I'm happy to pick up a copy and post it to you.

I'd love to hear your Mum's thoughts on this! I hope she can stop by for a read.

TIV: the individual voice said...

Jodi: My first visit via Smiler. This is a really nice post. I am probably closer to the age of Smiler's mom, in my fifties, and also a longstanding feminist, though not of the goddess sort -- I've had quite enough of deities in my life, though it fascinates me -- but I do think of all menstrual blood as potential life and I actually miss it now in menopause. As if, in some way, I see women who still menstruate as more alive than me, because blood is life. There's all this blood and wine imagery in religions as well, associating blood with life, the spilling of wine (as in the Seder) with death.

Jodi Cleghorn said...

Hello TIV and thanks so much for dropping by. i've been meaning all week to drop by and read your stuff - especially now that you're collaborating with Square1. Can see lots of new potential coming together ready to blossom.

The Native American's believe that when girls experience menarche they are being initiated into their power, throughout the fertile years of menstruation women are practising their power and once menopause (or cronehood!) arrives they come into their power, so to speak, because they withhold the magic and power of their blood.

Rather than in our culture where post menopausal women are seen as useless, old, unproductive (via being no longer fertile) - cultures such as the Native American Indians revere and honour their crones. They are believed to be the holders of wisdom.

I wonder, like many others do, if we celebrated menopause and gave women such as yourself (and my Mum) the opportunity to travel through it, have a rite of passage if they would experience such terrible menopausal symptoms.

I wonder also that if the magic and power of menstruation is not 'practised' or 'honoured' if our bodies actually come back to bite us, punish us in menopause?

I get so passionately cross about all this stuff - because we collude into denying the true essence of womanhood - medicate menstruation, medicate birth and then medicate menopause.

I probably should get OFF my soap box now ... and dash quickly over to have a read at your place before I finish off my Portugese custard tarts.

Square1 said...

I already did some of these things instinctually. I.E. the hot baths, herbal tea, etc. it seems inevitably though something that requires a massive investment of energy happens around the end of the month, so where I would LOVE to rest, it generally tend to a be a luxury I don't get. Insha' Allah that will settle out though.

The rest doesn't really jive with my religious beliefs, but i appreciate you sharing. My mom was great because se would discuss things like periods and sex without shame with me. Given my background I imagine she felt I needed someone to deal with me on a realistic level when it came to the reproductive functions of our bodies, and I am so glad she was able to do it. I will also do the same with my girls. I want them to know they can come to me with questions and I'm not going to be embarassed by them, or at least that I won't act embarassed by them.

Part of the thing I found intriguing about Islam, is that it recognized 1400 years ago that the menstrual blood was necessary for nourishing a potential fetus, and that in no way is it shameful, but given the cleanliness that's stressed, a woman is relieved from her otherwise obligatory prayers. And what a relief it is!

baby~amore' said...

very interesting thoughts ...thought provoking.
I have never thought so deeply about it. I always felt shame when I was a teen and I never spoke about it with my friends.As an adult I suffered the indignity of infertility so I always felt emotional pain .That my body couldn't give me the child/children I longed for month after month.I endured the torment.I saw it as a waste and curse.It became a silent knife in my heart.
Then I had a surprise pregnancy ...after 12 yrs - I barely noticed that I had missed my period.I sort of knew but never gave it another thought...till I tested positive
My daughter was stillborn @ 6 months - I bled for 10 weeks.Then I had D & C.Then hardly bled at all for 12 months.It was if I had cried all the life blood out. I joined an internet forum and all we did was talk about our cycles.I cahnged my views but not so much in real life did I speak about my moon flow ever.
I did IVF and we got pregnant in Nov 2005 - hadn't had a moon flow(love this term) since -likely given I breastfeed my twins 17 months old round the clock still. I wonder *touch wood* when ?

isabella mori said...

beautiful! came here via the carnival of creativity.

i'm at the tail end of menopause so this is not part of my experience anymore. luckily, menstruation was never a "dirty" experience for me. being reminded every month that "i am woman" was good and deep and important.

thank you for helping women connect with their blood ...