‘The Goddess Changes’
A woman’s womb is her sacred core. It is the centre from which she physically and metaphorically conceives, nurtures and births her creations. Menstruation is a crucial function of this space – a sacrosanct monthly activity which invites all women to reconnect with their divine selves, both as woman and goddess. This is a time when the inner and outer world is thinly veiled and to cross between is at its easiest.
There is much pleasure and empowerment to be found in celebrating the experience of bleeding each month. Menstruation is what makes us proud and strong, divine and sensual, connected and content women. Yet we are burdened by centuries of shame and embarrassment; pleasure and empowerment have been replaced with pain and disconnection. Estrangement from the natural rhythms and processes of menstruation has bought with it a myriad of menstrual disease. Women have lost their wisdom and their bond of the blood - and they are suffering.
The following is my own interpretation of an elemental experience of menstruation based on Alexandra Pope’s theory that process of menstruation is the most sensitive of our biological process to toxicity. She asserts that when we are exposed to any sort of toxicity or stressor in life, it is expressed as dysfunction in the way in which we bleed (which includes the days leading up to bleeding). My assertion is that shame and disconnection are very real toxins that are unsettling our elemental-balance, poisoning women physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. I believe this is a different paradigm in which to explore our notions and experience of menstrual disease.
FIRE – self will
Fire is the element of creativity, imagination, action and passion. It is our will, our drive and motivation. It’s also considered in the Three World elemental view to represent separateness, sacredness, the unknown and madness. Fire is the red of menstrual blood and also the colour of transformation.
Fire in the negative expression is found in the anger and uncontrollable rage often associated with PreMenstrual Tension (PMT). It is the burning desire to be left alone, when we most acutely feel the lack of boundaries in our lives. Fire is also the irritability that creeps under the skin like small insects and the dissatisfaction with everything, regardless of how perfect life may have seemed that morning. It is the distance that we place between ourselves and our most sacred of biological processes. Alternatively it can manifest as apathy and a lack of motivation (which is different from feeling tired or lethargic) – the ‘I can’t be bothered ….’ or ‘who cares’. It is the literal manifestation of the too much or too little fire in our blood.
Suggestions for reclaiming menstruation through the element of fire:
*Work ritually with anger/irritation/dissatisfaction/apathy. They are pointing you, like a compass, to whatever in your life is not working. Do you need to reset your boundaries? Do you need to find a job that allows you to express your creativity or imagination? Do you need to take a good look at relationships in your life that are not working for you? Write a list of things in your life that you are not happy with, and burn them ceremoniously. Then write a new list, of things that you wish to welcome into your life. Place these on your altar to remind you of the new energy and experiences that you are welcoming into your life.
*Gift yourself a creative project for your bleeding time – is there a creative pursuit that you really love but never have time to do it. You moon time is a perfect time to pamper yourself, your creativity and your imagination.
*Wear a piece of red clothing, a red necklace or burn a red candle
*Use you anger productively - write a letter of protest to your local member of Parliament about the environment, women’s rights or another social justice issue that you are passionate about .
*Work with Pele (awakenings) or Lillith (power)*
AIR – self belief
Air is the element of thought, knowledge and communication. It is the element of our intellect, our inspiration but also our detachment. Our wisdom is bound to the element of air.
Air represents the negative beliefs and thought patterns that we have about menstruation. It is the ideas we have inherited about being cursed, dirty and shameful; the buying into and perpetuation of the patriarchal myths about menstruation and women in general. Additionally it is the emphasis on silence or the sharing of only negative experiences of bleeding. It can manifest physically as a sense of detachment or dislocation with the world. Air is most commonly experienced as forgetfulness.
Suggestions for reclaiming menstruation through the element of air:
* Read books such as the The Wise Wound, Blood, bread & roses: how menstruation created the world, The Wild Genie, Women’s Wisdom Women’s Bodies and Moon Rites and get a different view on menstruation.
* Invite a few friends over for an informal ‘blood circle’ – share your experiences of menstruation, from menarche until now.
* Write down all your negative beliefs around menstruation and replace them with positive ones.
*Work with Maya (illusions) and Minerva (beliefs)
WATER – self love
Water is the element of emotions, feeling and intuition. It is our connection to the cyclic and lunar nature of life – the never ending circle of birth, death and rebirth. It is our menstrual blood. The element of water also embodies dimensions of honour and power in the Three World view. Water is our ability to literally ‘go with the flow.’ Dreams and the experience of the unconsciousness are also connected to the element of water.
Water represents the mood swings and unpredictability that is the flip side of the anger and rage of PMT. It is the depression, the sorrow and tears that are shed. It is best symbolised by the use of tampons, which literally plug the flow of blood from the body, thwarting the flow of power within our body. It is the dishonouring of the most essential part of our womanhood, the hatred that we lavish ourselves through the hatred of our bleeding. The element of water can also manifest as dreams of blood. Water in its most negative manifestation is the manner in which divorce ourselves completely from the process of menstruation pharmacologically by continually taking the Pill, or consenting to injections and implants that stop the cyclic process all together.
Suggestions for reclaiming menstruation through the element of water:
* Use cloth pads and allow yourself to experience the flow of blood from your body. Allow yourself to feel honoured, powerful and loved.
* Consider natural and time honoured methods of contraception that do not interfere with your natural cycles.
* Chart your cycle using a moon diary.
* Consider working with a therapist, in the fields of kinesiology, acupuncture, homeopathy or naturopathy if you feel your extremes of emotions affect your ability to function.
* Relax in a warm scented bath
* Eat roasted sweet potato to help balance out mood swings.
* Mourn and let go of the disappointments of the preceding month. Use a similar ritual as the one detailed in the fire section.
* Keep a dream diary, and note common themes or messages in relation to their place in your cycle.
* Write a list of simple pleasures which you can treat yourself to every day, as a way of saying to yourself ‘I love you’ – but especially in the days before you bleed and while you are bleeding.
* Work with Morgan le Faye (rhythms) and Changing Woman (cycles)
Earth – self nourishment
Earth is the element of grounding, of the real and tangible. It is the element of physical experience – of pain and pleasure. Earth is the element of fertility, nurturing and nourishment. It is the element of sensuality.
Earth is experienced as a feeling of heaviness in the body, of low energy and tiredness. It manifests physically in bloating, breast tenderness, migraines, cramping, back ache and the debilitating pain of bleeding. This is the element also associated with sugar cravings. And it’s where we buy into consumerism and the ultimate dishonouring of our blood. We buy tampons and synthetic, artificially scented sanitary pads that poison our bodies, aggravating our wombs, causing pain and increased bleeding. And then we throw away our blood.
Suggestions for reclaiming menstruation through the element of earth:
* REST! (either before or during your bleeding) when your energy is at its lowest ebb. This is honestly the kindest thing you can do for yourself and your family. One day of nurturing will recharge you for another month and can work to avert the worst of the physical manifestations (such as migraines and debilitating pain – which force your body to stop!)
* Nourish your body with organic, well cooked food – especially lots of protein to counter sugar cravings.
* Make or buy cloth pads and use the soaking water to fertilise and nourish your
* Use natural forms of pain relief, such as hot packs and essential oils
* If you experience extreme pain during bleeding, considering doing a detox or work with castor oil packs to purge your system of toxins in between moon times (great information is contained in Alexandra Pope’s ‘Wild Genie’ for those who are debilitated by menstrual pain.)
ETHER – spiritual connection
The ether is also called the spirit. To me it is the connection that binds us all together – individually to the Great Creatrix and collectively to each other.
Due to the shrouds of shame and each woman’s ideas of being dirty and cursed by menstruation, the sacred experience of menstruation has been denigrated and disconnected from a spiritual source. It is said during menstruation that the veil that divides us from our inner self is at its thinnest and we can be at our most connected, and I see that this is the same with our connection with the Creatrix if we are willing to explore. Menstruation is an invitation and opportunity to walk and work with Her.
Women were never meant to bleed alone, in obscurity and derision. Any of you who have ever share housed with at least one other woman will know that cycles link up. To me this is a very clear sign post that menstruation is intended to be a social activity, to be done collectively as sacred and important. As a special significant social activity, it is imperative that young girls are initiated into power and pleasure of bleeding at menarche by other women. This is where the quiet revolution begins.
By embracing and exploring the negative expressions of our menstruation, I believe that we are able to move closer to sealing the breech between the light and the darkness. By using the characteristics unique to each of the five elements, I believe we can all find ways to re-channel pleasure and power back into our experiences of bleeding, and to assist in rescuing our most sacred aspect of womanhood. Women need to act now to spark a rebellion against shame and disconnection if they are to reclaim menstruation as precious, sacred and significant. And when they do, each women will again be valued, blessed and powerful.
Published in this month's GAIA newsletter