About five years ago, I started to feel uncomfortable with the I.U.D. that had funnily enough, given me no trouble for over 5 years. But something inside my womb was saying, “No, I’m missing something, it doesn’t feel natural and I want it out”.
At first, I wasn’t quiet sure what I was missing, but gradually, with a lot of inner searching and outer researching, I realized that I was missing a natural cycle. So, armed with a thirst for knowledge and a wish to integrate my health and menstrual life with my emotional and spiritual life, I came up with the idea to create a calendar where I could record my period, my moods, health, dreams, events, sexuality and fertility. I wanted to correlate this with the Moon and find my natural cycle. I wanted to learn about women’s spirituality and how it was different from men’s, for I had growing suspicion that it was so. I realized that there is a whole other way of doing things, one that women have been doing quietly for millennium.
I have always been entranced by the Moonlight on the water, the ebb and flow of nature, the beauty of the seasons and their universal rhythms. Somehow I knew that I have a place in that rhythm and that I and so many others were sadly out of touch with their cycles and the cycles of life. I felt a need in me to find my place in the bigger picture and to honour the blood that flowed from me so regularly and mysteriously. This blood and this cycle I soon discovered, was at the core of that wellbeing that myself and many other women were searching for.
Until the time of electricity, peoples lives were guided by the alternating rhythms of the Sun and Moon. The Sun rises every day the same, never failing to warm and shower it’s lifegiving light upon the Earth. The Moon distributes this light during the hours of dew and moisture, providing a fertile matrix from which life can germinate and grow. Yet unlike the Sun, the Moon waxed and waned. Often seen as a feminine being, the Moon grows full like a pregnant woman, then sheds her light until she vanishes completely from the heavens for three days. Her apparent death is not permanent however, for the Moon always resurrects herself and her cyclic nature became a key in ancient peoples understanding of life and death, transformation and regeneration. Her dark time was a period of rest and or death, preparing the ground for the germination of the seeds of the new. Aboriginals in Northern Australia say that the nautilus shells cast up on the beaches are the skeletons of dead Moons.
The Sun gives life and the Moon regulates it. The Moon’s cycle has a rhythm that governs and establishes the rhythms of all of lifes cycles; the rain, the tides, plant growth, human and animal fertility. The first calendars 33,000 years ago were 13 scratches in red ochre on deer bones, marking the lunar year, the time from conception till birth and woman’s bleeding times. Women usually bled together on the dark Moon and they used this time to attend to their own needs, to reflect upon their life, to rest, release and honour the gift of creation through ritual and meditation.
Women are cyclic creatures, waxing and waning to the tune of the Moon and the flow of the waters. Through the blood cycle, women have direct experience of the rhythm of nature and her seasonal cyclic dance. Ovulation and Menstruation create a monthly flow of changing experience and energies, similar to the moon in its journey from new to full then back to dark again. By measuring time with our natural body clock, we deepen our experience of the mysteries of life and death. The Moon with her constantly changing ways teaches us that life is always changing, growing, blossoming, transforming, dying and being reborn.
In this day and age we are constantly being encouraged to feel like we shouldn’t be any different when we are bleeding, we can wear tight white jeans and go horseback riding and pretend nothing has changed. Most modern contraceptives actually destroy or artificially install a woman’s cycle. We can feel “cursed” when our bleeding interrupts our busy schedule or embarrassed when a spot of red shows even when no-one but ourselves see it. Its no wonder there are so many “symptoms” and sickness surrounding our womanly, reproductive life these days. By not listening to our bodies and validating our experience through the cycle, we are depriving ourselves of natures inbuilt way of health, balance, creativity and woman centered power. Menstrual blood is the most powerful thing there is and it’s the only thing they won’t show on television.
Ovulation and Menstruation could also be called Generation and Regeneration. One marks the potential of creating people, the other of creating yourself. This powerful alternation of energies is at the core of women’s spirituality. By taking note of and recording your different feelings, events, dreams and fertility, you can become aware of the cycles of our moods, health and sexuality over the month and then over the bigger cycle of the year. You may realize, ‘Oh yeah, I’m usually really energetic or irritable before my period,’ or ‘I’m depressed after ovulation’ (common in women who would like to conceive) or ‘I’m sexual when I’m bleeding’, or ‘I dream a lot when I’m pre-menstrual’, or ‘I’m fertile on the full Moon’ (for I was born on a full Moon). By noticing what is happening to you and when it happens, you ignite an awareness of your own individual patterns. By noticing your unique patterns and textures, you gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your body, your cycles, how, when and why they change. This is the basis for a stable and healthy personality which in turn forms the foundation for developing a spiritual connection to your enlightened nature. By working with this alternation and flow of energies, we follow natures path to the secret garden of the soul.
Each month women go through a cycle very similar to the Moons. We ‘die’ at menstruation; a part of us that hasn’t come to fruition or being conceived dies off and is released. This is often a time of emotional outbursts and physical depletion which you can use to clear away any unspoken and unexpressed feelings and to give your body that time out that it really deserves and needs. Use your pre-menstrual energy to clean the house and prepare food so you can take time out for yourself at this time. Have a day off; in China and Indonesia, every woman has the one or two days of her period off, for they have found she is more productive over the month if she does. Have a long hot bath with your favorite oils (Clary sage and rose are my favourite), meditate, dance, fantasize, have orgasms, massages, candles, flowers, let your tears flow, read, relax, belly dance, be creative, have a siesta, wear your favourite dress or piece of jewelry, do the garden, whatever turns you on.
The menstrual is also a time when the veil between the conscious and the unconscious thins. Its a time to look back over the month and reflect on what’s been happening for you on a deeper level, what your dreams have been telling you, what needs to be changed, modified, let go of or initiated. Its a time when meditation and contemplation can be quiet refreshing and surprisingly clear or for you it may be a time when your sexuality is passionate and fulfilling. Most of all, we each need to look at how our unique experience is at that time and to go with that energy.
In our Judeo Christian society, women have been given the underlying message that the ovulatory role of woman as mother (virgin at that), surrendering and unconditional is the most accepted and honoured way to be. The menstrual whore, witch, bitch and hag is a part of women that our society has found threatening and has therefore rejected, ostracized, burnt and regularly blamed for the problems of the world. This conflict of woman as mother, and woman as sexual/creative self, can cause much hidden distress when both are not acknowledged or allowed. Like the light and dark of the Moon, they can be seen as the two sides of the same coin.
The menstrual aspect of women is very powerful. She has a lot of energy to share and is intimately in touch with the rhythmic beat of the Earth, dancing the dance of unpredictability and spontaneity. Women’s sexuality, her power to heal and see beyond the veils of illusion, coupled with her amazing strength of endurance and creativity is something to celebrate and to cultivate. When the woman is happy, everyone is happy. Research has found that the whole family’s cycle will syncopate with a woman’s cycle. Interestingly, some feedback I have received indicates that some men can continue to follow their mothers cycle rather than their partners and that this can lead to the “tied to Mother” syndrome.
Men too have their own dark woman, that strange and terrible anima that appears in dreams and fantasies. These often rejected and hidden aspects of ourselves (the dark man for woman) is the very one that needs to be invited to the party, fed and nourished, asked what their needs are and acknowledged for their important role in our evolution and transformation. They have also found that in societies where men are involved in childbirth and menstrual issues there is far less violence and wars. By delving into the menstrual mysteries, we can recognize the whole and heal the separation of Madonna and Whore within us.
Dreams too mirror our changing experience through the menstrual cycles. It has been shown in studies that tense heterosexual dreams often come during the run up to ovulation, relaxed and contented dreams (eggs, water etc) during the event of ovulation, passive and receptive dreams associated with pregnancy (women will also often dream of their child before it is born), then confused and energetic dreaming coming up to menstruation climaxing in often terrifying or violent dreams (fire, red, blood etc) around menstruation. Dreams help us to discharge energy and teach us in the often confusing language of the soul, the workings of our unconscious. When shared with others and acknowledged for their messages, they can be the active ingredient in our menstrual alchemy. Nightmares are especially important for they force us to notice something that has been repressed. Our dreams too are rhythmical and mirror our deepest secrets. Menstrual distress seems to be at a minimum when dreaming and the sharing of dreams is at a maximum.
The wise woman way is one of nourishment, a cyclic honouring of woman’s journey to wisdom through the menstrual mysteries. At menarche you meet your wisdom, with bleeding you practise your wisdom and at menopause you become your wisdom. Rather than trying to purify, clean, punish, and fight the enemy that is disease and dysfunction; support, empower and recognize your myriad of sensations, feelings, thoughts and symptoms as your natural allies for transformation. We are all interconnected in the wonderful web of life and the power of the blood is the power of creation. Many rituals of blood letting, circumcision, sacrifice, and war are blood rites, imitating women’s natural ability to create life through their blood. So honour your unique body and cycle and delve into the mystery that is you.
By Felicity Oswell