Menarche and The Red Thread……

‘When the red rose bloom in her belly, the doorway between her eyes shall open.’ -Ancient Celtic saying

Artwork: Shiloh Sophia McCloud, visionary artist, http://www.shilohsophiastudios.com

Ritual calls in, awakens and connects us to ancient wisdom available to us all when we stop and humbly listen. I see transitional rituals as essential and foundational for contemporary women to return to the sacred, reverent, receptive and earthy connection to our bodies, our spirits, our unique wisdom, and our capacity to dream our healthy futures into existence.

Working with mothers and daughters over nearly two decades I continue to loudly encourage women to create ritual and ceremony for young girls ushering them into menarche. It doesn’t have to be on the first day or month she bleeds. It doesn’t have to look like something specific. But it’s symbolism and spirit will subtly and profoundly bring a message to girls: this is your woman-body, your body is a powerful force, a dear friend, a temple for your spirit. Walk in pride and beauty, respect and responsibility, wonder and strength, knowing you are connected to all women everywhere through the sacred red thread of blood, regardless of whether you ever have children or not, and even beyond menopause.

Menarche Rituals have played a vital role in Indigenous cultures as symbolic enactments of, and reverent gestures to, the holy power of Fertility. Ritual honouring of young women in adolescence pays homage to the spiritual and visionary dimension of her role as ‘creatress’, illuminating the sacredness of the female body, it’s mysterious and miraculous womb connected to lunar cycles, and the privilege and responsibility to bear children, bringing spirit into form. Women’s bodies symbolise the Great Mother Earth herself, containing the life, birth, death cycles all within her.

Artwork: Shamana Seery

It makes sense. If a young woman learns to honour her body as sacred, to self-care and self-respect, then she will make healthy choices for her body, her sexuality, her birthing and her children. She will stay connected to her body’s wisdom and learn from it’s changes, and her healthy entry into menstruation will support her through her menopause. She will be empowered and strengthened by knowing she carries (and is carried by) something of value, deeply connected to the cycles of the universe, something of mystery itself, the red thread connecting women throughout time, and all humans…..as every human has been birthed through a woman’s body. She will recognise her menstrual cycle as a resource, a friend, a wise mentor, a sanctuary.

If on the other hand she is told silently and overtly through cultural messages that menstruation is dirty, unclean, a hassle, or just a basic mechanical function that can be controlled with the right medication, she will learn that her body and the natural cycles of Earth and life are the enemy ……to be tamed, feared, and controlled.

Within a contemporary Western context of individualism and sanitised menstrual-phobic culture it can seem pretty weird to a young girl to be celebrated at menarche. Just ask her. Most girls will run. Some might say, ‘No thanks, mum, I prefer to be private.’ But I ask women, mothers, ‘How can an adolescent girl understand, and have a context for, the importance and lifelong impact of how her early menstrual years will shape her views of herself as woman, affect her energy levels, her relationship to her sexuality, her birthing, and her menopause?’ ‘Do you think she is prepared now to make her own decisions about her future?’

Artwork: Leora Sibony

When I educate women about the impact of women’s cycles of menstruation over a lifetime women often cry quietly, ‘If only I would have known as a young woman, if only my mother or aunties or grandmothers would have held me, oh my life’s choices would have been very different.’

A word of caution: If we overlay a shallow, plastic, contemporary version of a ritual celebration on menarche it could become like a birthday party with red balloons. Menarche rituals and ceremonies carry powerful symbolism. Have clear intention. Dig deep inside. Go gently. Get support from others who have held these ceremonies before. Be sure it’s not only about her as a person, it’s bigger than that. Remember, it’s not what we say that will imprint our girls most, it’s how we live, moon by moon, breath by breath.

Yes, we want to celebrate our young women entering womanhood, yes we want to honour life and fecundity, but are we living in a way that is congruent with what we may espouse in these rituals? If not, what mixed messages are our girls getting? Where are the challenges that traditionally came with entering womanhood rituals? Where are the elders to hold space, pass on the wisdom over time, consistently, not only for the party times, …….for the troubled times, reaching out to nieces daughters granddaughters everywhere? Are you willing and ready to be a future elder?

Breaking this internalised menstrual taboo calls all of us as women to reclaim the power of womanhood. Not power as in ‘power over’, but power as a natural, intuitive, subtle, receptive, earth-rooted depth sustaining and nourishing us to walk shamelessly and steadfastly, to stand strong, allowing the cycles of blood and ovulation, moon and darkness, life and death to keep us balanced, renewed and unwavering in our commitments to the Feminine qualities of nurture, fierceness, protection, vulnerability, endurance, visionary, healer.

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Sisterhood

Maori Dance_ Women_0

“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke . . . She will need her sisterhood.”
― Gloria Steinem

If the purpose of my writing was to provide some sort of solace to other women by activating a re-membering of something we have collectively forgotten, then I guess that something would be Sisterhood.

What does ‘Sisterhood’ mean? What does it taste like, feel like, smell like? How will I recognise Sisterhood when she is standing in front of me? Or is she purely ideological? Is Sisterhood something elusive and historical (her-storical!) gleaned from feminist authors’ twist on ancient matriarchal cultures where women bled together, held eachother and eachothers’ children, protected eachother, worked and danced and laughed and pleasured together? And if this variety of Sisterhood is so fictional, why is it that hundreds of women I have worked with still long for and grieve the memory? Can Sisterhood exist in a patriarchal world where competition means survival?

Artwork: Quietude- Shirley Mc Daniel

Artwork: Quietude- Shirley Mc Daniel

To that long list of questions I will add one more, perhaps at the root of our discomfort with the Sisterhood word: Why is it that so many women still don’t trust the Feminine? That question seems to be an oxymoron, proof of patriarchy’s powerful success.  As women we have obediently and often unknowingly internalised the Patriarchal voice. We have swallowed the belief that the Feminine can not be trusted. Left to her own devices She is wild, unpredictable, cyclical, vast, delicate, ferocious, and shamelessly untameable…. the Great Mystery Herself, innately alive in all women, but too often asleep, abandoned or silenced. Many women fear the word ‘Sisterhood’ or avoid it altogether. Herein lies a painful legacy, centuries and generations old, that appears in the ‘soul loss’ symptoms of women today.

The Feminine has many faces. She can be bitchy and cold; she can be cutting and icy; she can be ruthless, but hey, even the weather is like that sometimes. Perhaps it hurts when it comes from women because I have heavily invested in the belief that as a woman it is my birthright to share some predestined comradeship that is as essential to my wholeness and yours as it is to humanity’s. Women are the harmony bringers, the gatherers, the hearth burners, nourishers, life givers and gate keepers to the other realms, creating the circle and the centre. If the women are healthy, the future will be healthy.

What do women fear about other women? Betrayal. In an effort to protect Her, the unspoken code of silencing the Feminine has been quietly passed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, in a ghost-like whisper.

Artwork: Mother and Daughter- Leora Sibony

Artwork: Mother and Daughter- Leora Sibony

‘Every woman’s mother is essentially her first sister, her first connection to the Feminine. As the young woman moves towards adulthood she will blossom within the embrace and freedom afforded her by the sense of belonging within the greater circle of women, a deep comfort in her own skin.’ Dr. Christiane Northrup 

 

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Here’s my definition of Sisterhood:

A recognition of the relationship between all women, and all our mothers, and the rich tapestry of female expressions across the globe; that we all carry the same depth of knowing, power to nurture, create, restore, heal and destroy, an intimate and primal connection to universal laws of nature’s cycles of  life, birth and death. (I trust that our Feminine instincts are alive and well beneath our  intricately designed personas keeping us afloat in a patriarchal world.)

Sisterhood recognises that harming other women is an act of self-harm.

Sisterhood includes accountability, solidarity, respect women for their choices, never hurting other women or girls to get what I want, speaking up on behalf of those without voices.

To see other women as allies, not competition for affection or social attention.

Sisterhood is a state of mind and heart, it is active faith; it is a verb, not a noun.

And Sisterhood listens and walks with respect for the Great Mother Earth.

Explore your beliefs about women, yourself included. Find what is ‘good’ about being a woman, create your own definitions, not cultural definitions. See other women with eyes on her attributes, and tell her. The power of women’s hopes and dreams and visions can be actualised when we believe in ourselves. Warts and all. Reach out to a sister.Unmasking the fallacy of disempowerment and divisiveness we will begin to trust in women, our Mother Earth, and our own mothers, who did the best they could in a system of oppression, even though sometimes it was not good at all. Probably they were never truly mothered either.

Who is my sister? She gives me lots of scope, yet she is there in a time of need. She tells me the truth, even when I don’t like it. She upholds my dignity, she doesn’t try to categorize me, she lets me change and grow over time, she shares her clothes and jewlery and recipes and chocolate. She walks in silence with me on the beach, she gives me encouragement, she asks for what she needs, she sings her own songs. We are always equals. She has no time for jealousy. She shares her wisdom, she waits for me when I am late, she doesn’t have to thank me when I look after her children, she lights candles when I’m dark, her house is always welcoming and we wash the dishes together while we talk politics and laugh till we cry. Even when there’s pain, unspeakable hurt, there’s always room. She let’s me speak till I’m finished, disagreements don’t threaten sisterhood.  The focus on growth and connection, inclusion, learning, forgiveness, love and community go beyond differences in opinion. Our relationship is a dance in motion, it is never finished. And although it may be punctuated with pauses, there are no doubts if it will continue, because we value Sisterhood. We choose to persist over time and sickness and crying children and messy divorces and scratchy rashes and stormy voyages.sisterhood

I believe sisterhood can cure whatever ails us as women. Get out of your kitchen or your office or off your exercise bike or out from behind your children and reach out to your sisters near and far. See them for who they are, raise them up and we all rise up. I have faith in you, sister, faith in your capacity to feel, in your gentle heart, in your brazen strength, in your crazy ideas, in your invisible dreams, in your life. In your soul and in your womanspirit.

“Once upon a time there were two sisters. One of them was really, really strong, and one of them wasn’t.’ You looked at me. ‘Your turn.’

I rolled my eyes. ‘The strong sister went outside into the rain and realized the reason she was strong was because she was made out of iron, but it was raining and she rusted. The end.’

No, because the sister who wasn’t strong went outside into the rain when it was raining, and hugged her really tight until the sun came out again.”
― Jodi PicoultHandle With Care

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‘Mahmi’ seeks a patron and a home

This is ‘Mahmi’ (Bundjalung for ‘Mother’).

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An organic sculpture made by Australian eco-feminist artist Moana Pearl.

Materials: natural fibers, banana, vines, palms, ochres and re-cycled fabrics

155 x 125 x 52 cm

Originally in the ‘Essence of Woman’ exhibit  in early 2014 in Byron Bay, ‘Mahmi’ now seeks a patron so she can be appreciated by many at a women’s studies university, a maternity ward, or an urban women’s centre.

If you  know of any patrons of the arts who would may be able to assist ‘Mahmi’ to find her home please leave a comment.

Below is a snippet from abc Northern Rivers review of the exhibit. For the entire article go to: http://www.abc.net.au/local/reviews/2014/03/11/3960719.htm?&section=news

‘The exhibition’s centrepiece is Moana Pearl’s impressive sculpture Mahmi, which is a full-breasted female figure, intricately woven from banana, flowers, local vines, palms and recycled fabrics and stands over 1.5 metres high. The artist describes her work as eco-feminist, aiming to remind us that everything on earth is inter-connected, and she certainly soars above us in the gallery.’DSC00169
The way a culture treats it’s women directly correlates to the way a
culture treats the Earth. My artwork is the voice of eco-feminism: exposing the obvious,
essential, but often inconvenient reality of humanity’s connection to
all living things. Using organic materials, my work is a
prayer to spark awe, humility and passion for the stewardship of our
wild nature.DSC00175

DSC00214 DSC00170 DSC00171 Cave WomanDSC00166

 

 

Born in Australia, you may have noticed that ‘Mahmi’ has a marsupial style pouch. She is a representation of woman abundance, our inherent connection to nature and planetary cycles, and the power of the life giving mystery in our wombs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She currently sits on a 80 cm high white plinth but can be removed easily for transport. She is a labor of love, with the handiwork and prayers of over two dozen women and a few young girls woven into her.

 

Within every woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women. But she is an endangered species.-  Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women who Run with Wolves

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Mothers, daughters and a basket of sisterhood


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images-272

 

 

 

Community, respect, connection, ceremony, sisterhood, gratitude, transformation, fun, authenticity……

These are the words women and young women used to describe their experiences of Pathways Into Womanhood, a    5-day Rites of Passage camp held last week in Northern NSW.  As a facilitator and basket weaver it is an honour and privilege to bear witness to the natural and powerful transformation of girls into young women through a conscious Rite of Passage. I have returned home with a tender heart, a quiet reverence and the inspiring fragrance of promise.

Although the idea of adolescent Rites of Passage may seem foreign to many, or even something out of history books, to watch the emergence of these teen girls into their young womanhood always reminds me that the ancient memory is not lost, but rather alive and waiting to be re-awakened inside each of us. For thousands of years traditional cultures recognised the significant developmental changes of puberty as the crucial time to offer the tools and wisdom needed for the healthy journey into adulthood. Long before neuro-science and medicine could explain the behavioural changes during adolescence, indigenous cultures recognised the need to nurture the spirits and hearts, to hold, guide and encourage youth through this time of transition, questioning and new identity. In the absence of  ritualised, public and conscious Rites of Passage to welcome and acknowledge our youth, they are left to self-initiate. Self harming, binge drinking, risk taking behaviours, loss of virginity, suicide attempts, and eating disorders have all been elevated to a Rite of Passage status, giving the young person the sense of having crossed the line into adulthood. But without the guidance of elders these passages fall short of offering the belonging and insight so essential in life transition, often resulting in emergencies rather than emergence.??????????

Once upon a time, and just last week, through their own authentic stories, a circle of women would weave a basket of knowledge to ensure each young woman’s emergence would be grounded in the ancient wisdom of grandmothers. The girls heard the stories of mothers and grandmothers who have walked before them and were given the freedom, patience and safety to find their own unique voice emerging. The messages are clear: You are not alone, you are a part of a circle of sisterhood, your blood flows with the power and wisdom of your ancestral lines (known or unknown) going back throughout time, the Great Mother Earth is always beneath your feet, the Great Father Sky a vast and everchanging blanket to accompany you.

What I witnessed this past week on the Pathways Into Womanhood camp was an incredible thirst and readiness in today’s emerging young women. Even stronger than their age appropriate resistance was a powerful undercurrent of yearning  for connection. In a world of thousands of Facebook friends and the facade of a constant net of connection, these young women truly embraced the opportunity to dive deep into real life connections with women, peers, nature, and themselves.

Over the five days, in a stunning valley away from the distractions of every day life, women and girls wove a metaphorical basket of protection, community and strength. A circle of women offers the much needed opportunity for each woman to re-member. Re-member, reflect and re-awaken the beauty, grace, depth of spirit, and wellspring of strength that lives inside her.

This is the essence of Rites of Passage. A reminder. A re-membering. Our young people need to be welcomed into community. Rites of Passage provides a grounding in a time of chaos and transition. When a young woman has been recognised by her peers and her elders, listened to and learned to listen to herself, she can begin to trust her wild instinctual nature, her intuition, her discernment, her boundaries, her body’s wisdom, and her passion. She will have the capacity to seek and create a life of friendships, support, belonging, safety, authenticity, and freedom. The basket has been woven.3ed51f2dec0252ec6e1d6299de007b1b

There is something magical about a Circle. Geometrically it encompasses more space than any other shape. Within it, one sets out on a journey and returns having never left her seat. Whenever we engage in an act of Ritual or Ceremony that has been shared throughout time, we are the beneficiary of all the Goodness that has come from it. The Circle, in and of itself, is imbued with lifetimes of profound Wisdom.– Amari Gold

 

 

 

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Kapululangu Women's Law and CultureWomen, please help me with this research project. NOT for the sake of academia. My hope is to acknowledge and celebrate the spirit of women and girls; to provide guidance and encouragement for women today and into the future. Any one who has ever sat in a circle to truly listen to the stories of another, knows the transformative power of authentic story.

Women and girls in our contemporary culture  are in trouble. We are plagued by low self worth, depression, media objectification, a competitive pressure to achieve according to male standards, and our increasing rates of breast and cervical cancer scream out like sirens arriving too late to the scene of the crime.

We have so much to learn from Indigenous people of this Earth. Aboriginal, African, South American Indian, North American Indian, Celtic, Asian, Middle Eastern, South Pacific Islanders, they all celebrated and acknowledged women’s unique and profound natural life changes. In turn they gained the wisdom of the elder women who provided guidance for the tribe in matters of ceremony, spirit, politics and justice.

Where are our Rites of Passage today?? It seems logical that many of our current dilemmas for women and men could be eased if we provided each gender with age appropriate Rites of Passage as guideposts to mark their transitions, especially our transition to adulthood.  This theory is supported by many well researched in the fields of Anthropology, Sociology, and Psychology. (references below)

My request is to hear your stories. Then gather your stories of women’s initiations; reverently and intelligently collate the wisdom, knowledge and information; and, along with my own decades of experience in working with women and girls in transitions, write an educational book  to offer educational tools, support and validation for girls and women to strengthen themselves as a global community. This is a safe and trustable place for women to speak.

My dream is to hear your stories, stories of women elders from all nations, all tribes, all walks of life, of indigenous ones, of those who have lived close to the earth and know sacred women’s business as natural and vital to our healthy future as humans on earth………… I want to hear your sacred marking of women’s life transitions, particularly the ones related to menarche, birthing, menopause, and eldership. I want to know more than what took place, because so often this can be taken out of context and misinterpreted from another culture’s perspective. I want to gain insight into the cultural values and underpinnings that dictated the specific initiatic traditions, and more importantly, why, and how that affected the family and community as a whole.

I know I am treading into secret women’s business territory. So please forgive the possible transgression even in this humble request, but I do this for the sake of understanding. I am seeking to bridge the gap between where we are now as women (and as a peoples), so distant from our innate earth wisdom, and the Great Possibility: humanity learning to live in a more sane and wholesome way, integrated with and within Universal Laws of Nature.

And I want to hear your stories of un-intiation, of how each of us as women has walked blindly due to lack of initiation in our modern world.

So this may be a story of your sister, grandmother, great grandmothers sister, auntie, cousin, yourself, or your tribal heritage. But I want stories of this reality, not fantasy, true stories of real womens’ initiations, and the loss of initiations, and what these have meant, provided, seeded, taught, fostered, ……. whatever you can find out or remember.

 After many years of reading about indigenous cultures’ Rites of Passage for puberty girls, and more than a decade of supporting women and girls in transitional Rites to mark life’s profound changes, my bones know that I am still walking in the dark, feeling my way, like a kind of intuitive brail, reading energy, listening for ancestral whispers on the wind, asking the Great She for wisdom and direction, literally sliding my bare feet along the bare earth, catching wisps of confirmation out of the corner of my intuitive eye, singing to the grandmothers, mine and yours.  All because I don’t have centuries of  lineage teachings and traditions in the ways of women. What happened?? Que paso?

To me, Ritual and Rites of Initiation have the power to move mountains, to transcend boundaries of personality and time and re-mind us of our primordial connection to life, our original face. From there we can see wider, eagle vision, larger expanse of breath. As we begin to see ourselves and all beings within the vast web of life, our empathetic responses to the needs of our world and her creatures will awaken. Then the work of co-creation towards a sane and humane world can begin.

The questions below are simple guidelines. Please feel free to say what ever is important to you, whether or not I have addressed it in the questions. All comments on this site are mediated first by myself before they are public, so they do not need to be publicised on line, I am happy to keep stories confidential and names anonymous.

  • What practical and/or spiritual preparation, guidance or instruction were you given to enter into puberty, sex, womanhood, birthing, motherhood, loss, menopause, cronehood?
  • Who offered you guidance (directly or indirectly)? Did it help you?
  • Were there ceremonies or rituals, even family traditions that supported you to acknowledge and embrace transition, in yourself and others?
  • What did these ceremonies mean for you at the time, and retrospectively?
  • How do you think these rites of passage, or lack of rites of passage, have affected you and your family or community?
  • If you never received any formal initiations, what do you imagine may have been different in your relationship to yourself as a woman, and to your community of women and family, if you had?
  • And vice versa- if you have undergone formal initiations, what do you imagine may have been different if you hadn’t?

I await your responses with an open mind, an open heart and a vow to keep confidential names and places if you request.

Thank you, thank you , thank you, gracias, merci, grazie, obrigada, terima kasi, kapun ka, takk, danke, shokran, arigato, xie xie, efharisto, dêkuji, sukria, todah, kamsa hamnida, istutiy, spasibo, salamat po, Pilamaya ye,  Añay, Nais, Fa’afetai, Thank ye, Ke a leboga, Yala bak allah, Gunalchéesh, Malo, Azéharamo aypo-mia, Fakafetai, Enkosi, Oshe, Wiyarrparlunpaju-yungu, Yaqhanyelay, Tujechhe, Mauruuru roa, Jəpən,Tawdi, Nawari, Mehrbani, Ke a leboga, Angen, Hay sxw q’a, Pagui, Auw’e, Hambadiahana, Namasmasuk, Ka, Koutai, Chaltu may, Ka pai, Eso, Ashi, Webale, Moducué, Khawp jai, Gilakas’la, Murakoze, Ndondele, Chyeju gabba sai, Barkal, Köszi, Maake, Askwali, Vinaka, Imbuya mono, Ù rú èsé, Yakoke, Zikomo, Hahóo, Juspaxar, And to all those traditional languages where thank you is not in the vocabulary because giving is considered a natural exchange of life.

References

Hannah Rachel Bell, Men’s Business, Women’s Business

Betwixt and Between

Virginia Beane-Rutter, Woman Changing Woman

David Maybury-Lewis, Millennia

Lara Owen,  Her Blood is Gold

Dr. Cloud Lee, The Circle is Sacred

Robert Lawlor, Voices of the First Day

 

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April 9, 2014 · 8:55 pm

‘Mahmi’ – A Woman’s Journey Home

This is a story of a woman, (many women perhaps) who finds herself at a crossroads in life after her womb no longer cycles.

‘Mahmi’ – A Woman’s Journey Home, by Moana Pearl

Once upon a time the wheel of life turned, as it does. Years of hectic school lunch mornings, bus chases, and lost socks were over. Time for Her.  Freedom.baby-toys-20110928-51

But Freedom arrived suspiciously resembling an echo of an empty room with a neatly drawn on smile. A solid Void,  impossible to step over it, or through it,; there was nothing she could DO. A heavy weight sat on her chest, was this the long awaited promise at the end of devoted decades of her career in mothering?  Where was the applause, the award, the flower lined pathway to the celebration dance?.

Freedom arrived with her consort, Fear, as she always did at times like these. Paralysing fear, steadily draining her confidence like a leaky sink plug. The forever generous, nourishing and colourful Mother that had entered her with the birth of her first child had quietly departed in the black suitcase of her youngest adult child when he left home. Gone. Mother’s job done.

A distant and hopelessly optimistic voice inside insisted a new birth was brewing now, but these days it felt as though the heat was turned up like a threatening volcano.

A pregnant Void? Ah yes, the transition phase of labour. The ‘This-Isn’t-What-I-Had-In-Mind-Where’s-The-Exit?’ phase. Nothing to do but surrender.1280px-Chaco_Canyon_Fajada_Butte_summer_stormclouds

So she left, empty, to seek open skies, to wander in the nothingness of dry and deserted places, to yell in canyons where no voice answered back. Not at a languid, life-cherishing pace, but a slow and desperate pace that called out to whichever Goddess might know how to navigate this unnameable landscape. This was an inward journey, every step spiralling in to the unknown.

75472_990x742-cb1389816666The sun scorched the land into a haze. This afternoon she would rest and put her feet up. Thick black thunder clouds rolled in from the west, tall and righteous. In the distance was a large rock formation, maybe an hour away, she would find shelter there. She walked on, natural, enduring. Clouds dipped lower, the storm tasted thick in the air. At first big plops of water fell like giant tears , quickly followed by lashings, sheets of water turning parched land instantly to mud.

Her wet clothes clung to her warm body as she ran the last few minutes to the rocky outcrop. Soaked, breathless, she crumpled down, relieved, exhausted. She sat motionless staring out at the loud grey drumming down, empty of thoughts, a silent witness like the rocks, sitting here for millennia.  There would be no more walking today, Rain held back the thought of time, though darkness came to herald night. When the quiet settled into her she turned to look for a place to lie down.

Without dry wood there would be no fire tonight.images-248

She took a candle out of her bag and lit it. At her age it took several minutes for her eyes to adjust to the shadowy cave behind her. One small flame made the cave’s light a stark contrast to the wet black night outside.

She stiffened- there in the flickering glow stood an enormous figure, a woman, but not quite, a woven woman spirit, something once from this earth now alive in invisible realms.Cave Woman

The wild and protective figure was woven of vines and plants and fabrics. Her pendulous breasts told of babies long grown and gone, her arms were made for embrace, full and round, and her head was open to the sky.

She was made from the elements, sun, earth, water, air, objects once alive now stationary and dry. Between her solid thighs her yoni was a seed pod, a vessel and transmitter, a bringer of the future and an ancient voice of the past. The Goddess figure was surrounded by altars of medicine dolls, baskets, feathers, rocks, and bones.

Now instinct, ancient memory and earthly wisdom stirred in her womb, a profound knowing,: she had come to pay homage, to be nourished, to seek that which is sacred and secret in Woman. This was an abandoned sacred women’s site, yet she never felt she was trespassing. She felt she was Home, connected to all the many women who had come and would come to this place. She lit the other candles on the altars.

Shadows faded and clarity sharpened her inner and outer vision. Fear waited at the cave’s entrance, wet and powerless, but hungry for the soul food of this place.images-245 Was this an illusion, a delusion, too many moons walking alone, or was she privy now to a vision of her own inner world, untamed and raw, intricate and prayerful, the place where all those seemingly empty moments at home had woven themselves into meaning, richness, and communion with the Earth?

There was no longer a need to understand, be understood, or make sense. Days passed. Awakened in a realm of knowing beyond words, she stayed for the healing. She dreamt in whispers. She left her hair as an offering.. When a rosy pink sunset revealed a new sliver of moon she knew the time had come. She kissed the Goddess goodbye, bowed her head to the Earth and walked out into the night. Stars hung like jewels from the sky.  Freedom was in her bones.stock-footage-white-crescent-moon-in-rosy-sunset-sky

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Once upon a women’s circle

The transporting story below is a memory from a woman of her childhood, printed with her permission. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, in a land far away, or maybe in the backyard, where women gathered every moon, where ceremony was the order of the day, where sacred was undefinable because it was woven into the fabric of ordinary life….IMG_0619
She knew it was important, the way the sun going down is important. An event that could look so menial and so grand at the same time.
Her little feet dug in the grass as she inhaled deeply the sweet smoke that smells like safety, just as Van Morrison sounds like home.  Eyes closed and breathing deeply she surrounded herself in the smoke, the wings of birds beat the air around her.images-228
 
This was no ordinary night, and instead of being relegated to bed or minded by some other person, she was here, where things were happening. She felt big and proud to be allowed to sit with the adults, with the women, to hear the stories. As the smoke cleared her mother handed her the smudge and she, innocently as only one so young can, with all the ancestry that sits strongly behind her (and none of the suspicion or shame that comes with knowing “your place” in this society) she picked up the wing and began her task.
 
Each woman would approach the small door to the tipi, and with her best outfit on (which ranged from silk saris from India to tie-dyed tights to something of her mothers that was way too big) she would welcome and smudge each woman before they passed through the threshold. This way she was an important part of the ritual and was greeted by each of the women with respect and acknowledgement for the role she played. Once the last woman was through the door she would find a place next to her mother, or auntie Inna or some other mama she decided to adopt for the night. Inside there were always flowers and lush cushions, candles that reflected the light of all who sat there. The elements were called and she would watch each time as her mother would grow into a magical medicine woman calling down and up the safety and the blessings of the earth and all that be.

Medicine_Woman_sm


After that, it all happened.
Laughing, crying, dirty jokes, singing, so much singing, dancing, screaming and of course STORIES. Some were real, others legends and myths, tales of triumph or disaster, lessons all.
They all listened, they all had a chance to speak, even her, young as she was.
 
It would get late, she would play with candle wax and make the most delicate little cups, much like thimbles by dipping her finger in the hot wax of the candles and then sticking it in her mouth only to repeat until she could pull it off without it breaking. What satisfaction! And the tapping sound it made on the wooden boards of the tipi floor, she liked that most of all and could be amused that way for hours. (Except that playing with wax wasn’t part of being a respectful in circle and if she wasn’t sitting next to her mother she would get some serious stares from across the circle that clearly would say “Stop with the wax. Now!”)
 
Sometimes she would fall asleep, comfortable, listening to the voices of the women in her life, sometimes in song. Often she’d have someone to play with her hair or who would rub her back as she drifted off on the cushions or sheepskins on the floor, surrounded by the crackle of the fire and the smell of smoke, incense and whatever exotic flower essence the person next to her was wearing.photo-17
 
She would wake in a tipi much darker and emptier and with only a few candles. Her mother would get her up, grumbling all the way and take her to bed in the little tipi next door where she slept.
She would go to sleep feeling warm, knowing she had been part of something special, out of the ordinary, sacred. She had been held in that space of women, that rich, colourful, safe place of the circle.
 
She misses the circle. She misses the people older and wiser who would share their knowledge, who would transmit it through their smiles or tears. She longs for the connection to mother earth. She listens. She practices. She longs. She is grateful.tipi women
Thank you, to my daughter, for your ancient depth of understanding of sisterhood.

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