I want to share my first menstruation story with all of you because I think you may be able to relate. I grew up in the central mountains of Colorado, in the United States. In my opinion, I had a typical American upbringing. As a female I was surrounded by the taboo of the female bleeding time. It was hardly talked about, when it was it was always associated with negative connotation. My mother has extreme migraine headaches that were always associated with her menstrual cycle. She would lie in the dark for days in extreme pain. Aunts would say how they had cramps, headaches, bloating, etc… I never remember hearing one good thing about “getting your period”.
When my menstruation began I was frozen, mortified, I suffered in silence for days before I told anyone. I was at my Grandmother’s for a week stay on summer vacation. Once I told my mother, news spread like wildfire, everyone knew, but no one really talked about. My mother bought me a present to congratulate me, but honestly I didn’t feel special, I felt confused. Even though her intentions were good, she never talked to me about my cycle, what it was for, or how special and important this new chapter in my life was. I guess she figured the book on maturation she picked up at the library and made me read covered all that. Just because I knew how anatomically everything worked, it didn’t make up for my confusion. I felt something was missing….a longing to be able to share what I was going through, to feel more honored by women, to have all of my questions on feminine care products answered, and to share in my new milestone of growth into something that is very sacred….to be able to create life. I remember pondering with awe the fact that my body could actually bleed every month and then have another life live inside of it. Whoa, what an amazing gift!
I am sharing a bit of my first menstruation story because I want you all to think back to how your first bleeding time shaped how you think of your menstrual cycle today. How have those ideas or thoughts changed over time? Have they changed for the better? Or have your thoughts become resentful? Do you feel that the menstrual cycle is burdensome, inconvenient, messy, a sign of failure, and a time of pain? Perhaps through those negative ideas we can transform our thoughts to honor what our bodies do for us. For one, I think if women had a place to go that is safe, to share her thoughts, feelings and bleeding time, our negative ideas of our bleeding time may not weigh us down, make us feel worse; menstruation would be less stressful, maybe even less painful.
Honoring the Female Bleeding Time: The Red Tent
Throughout the ages women have bled each month as we do today. We are connected to our female ancestors through this sacred time. Without the bleeding time, there would be no humanity, no creation of the peoples of this world. This makes women special.
I think back to the pivotal time in my life that transformed the way I thought about my bleeding time. It was when I was in my late teens and I was old enough to be free to meet other adults that thought differently than my family. To hear the opinions of women, who in my mind speak the truth about the menstrual cycle. They were open, unafraid to talk about it, they used words that were positive, and stirred something inside of me that I had never really felt before. Words and phrases like honor, rite of passage, moon time, connection, sacred, power, life, cleansing and creation. I could feel a calling, an echo of something wise and ancient in these words and thoughts on the menstrual cycle.
Regardless of what we have been taught about our bleeding time, it is important, special and deserves deep respect. More and more women are coming to realize this, and in some circles it has become a movement to reclaim the honor of the moon time. Some women have begun to bring back the Red Tent.
The Red Tent has been traced back to biblical times and Christianity. Red is the color of blood and in many cultures red is a symbol of power, as well as honoring one’s self. Men, with their lack of understanding of the cycles of women, as well as superstition, or religious belief felt that women should go to a place away from them during their bleeding time and childbirth. Red tent’s were set up for this. Many cultures including Native Americans, Chinese and Africans had lodges or places set up specifically for a woman’s moon time. It is said that at one time in humanity’s history, all women within the community would bleed at the same time, often in time with the moon phases. Ovulation would be the full moon, and menstruation would be the new moon, the dark time. This is where ‘moon time’ comes from.
The Red Tent was a place where a woman could retreat and take time to let her body naturally cleanse. Other females would join her in their bleeding time as well. Other female friends and family would gather in the Red Tent to aid these women in whatever ways they may need; massaging, feeding, drinking, laughing, sharing conversation about life, creating sacred ceremony and honoring what was being experienced through this bleeding time. The Red Tent was a monthly ritual. Did you know that the root of the word ‘ritual’ comes from the Sanskrit word R’tu, which means menstrual?
In the Native American tradition women gathered at their bleeding times to pray, sing and vision. The tribe often used these visions to guide the tribe in whatever message these bleeding women had seen. This shows that this bleeding time was sacred for not just the women, but the entire community as a whole; a time that was considered powerful.
The Modern Red Tent
As I mentioned, there are women, today, honoring their bleeding time. While some may actually have a Red Tent to attend, more than likely it is a gathering of a small group of female friends, or simply a self-honoring time set aside each month. There are some huge Red Tent gatherings, as well as Red Tent workshops across the nation. I actually went to a music festival where there was an amazing, beautiful Red Tent set up. It was a quiet retreat and place to honor the divine of the female. More and more people are awakening to the importance of honoring the female cycle. It is as if the ancient practice is rising from a deep slumber.
Tools for Creating Your Own Red Tent
This could be something elaborate or simple, what you are desiring internally is up to you. Ask yourself what you need. Will honoring your bleeding time help your life, help your healing process and how you think of yourself and others? If you feel a sense of wonder, or a calling from deep within for something more from your life experience, this may be a great way to move forward to a greater sense of purpose. If you feel stuck in your fertility journey, a pang of resentment toward your body because you are not yet pregnant, or you have fertility healing that needs addressed; honoring your bleeding time can be an important step in the process.
Here are some ideas to help you create your own person Red Tent. If you are inviting other women to share in this process with you, it may not directly fall on each of your individual moon times, but the point is just to show up, be present in honoring the female bleeding time as a whole. Take what you have reflected on in the group setting for inspiration, healing and reflection during your actual bleeding time.
-Rich, soft red cloth, tapestries or scarves
-Tea (iron rich teas for bleeding time)
–Essential Oils for aromatherapy
-Massage oil blends for massage
-Songs, musical instruments or music
-Keep a journal to track your cycles
-Guided meditation CD, or written one you can read
-paints, colored pencils, art paper
-Delicious food and drink
-Prayer (inclusive of all beliefs)
-Learn about natural menstrual care products
If you are planning to honor your bleeding time alone here are some ideas:
-A hot bath with essential oils
-Put on your favorite songs and dance in your living room
-Tell your family you are checking out for a while, ask for help in household chores
-Order your favorite meal for take out
-Journal about what you are feeling, experiencing
-Take a long nap
-Move slowly, take care of your essential needs.
-Make yourself a big pot of iron rich nourishing herbal tea
-Create a ritual for yourself
-Create affirmations of love for your bleeding time and all that it does for you
-Visualize healing taking place in your reproductive organs
-Keep a journal to track your cycles
-Use natural menstrual care products
How Does Honoring the Menstrual Cycle Help Heal our Fertility?
For far too long we have been told that menstruation is dirty, inconvenient, a time where women are bi#*%y creatures that should be avoided. On the filp side, we as modernized societies are told through media we should hide it and get on with our day to day lives as if we are not experiencing anything. All of this denial has become ingrained in our beliefs of ourselves, a negative plague of sorts. Infertility rates in modernized countries is soaring at 10-12% of the population. That is 1 in every 6 couples. The rate shows no sign of slowing down; it is only increasing. I feel that denial and suppression of something so necessary and sacred to the survival of humanity should not be hidden, but celebrated! Now, that doesn’t mean you need to go around tooting your horn, yelling to the world that you are on your period, but take some time to honor that process within your body. So in our modernized societies where infertility is becoming a common occurrence, shouldn’t honoring the very cycle that is designed to create life be our first step in healing?
Our thoughts and beliefs shape our lives. If we think negatively of our bleeding time, or the menstrual cycle as a whole because we are struggling with fertility issues, are we healing those problems? I want you to heal your fertility challenges by including positive ideas about your menstrual cycle. When you honor your moon time, you honor your power. When your husband, children and friends see that you honor yourself, they will know that it is okay to honor themselves. They will learn to have more respect for you, if you have more respect for yourself. Every being on this planet deserves to know what it feels like to be honored and respected for the natural processes and challenges within their body. Think of how we can transform our fertility healing process by simply visiting the Red Tent in our own way each month. I would love to hear what you do each month to honor your bleeding time!
Natural Guide for Menstrual Health
The Museum of Menstruation & Women’s Health (some very interesting things there)
Tampons & Infertility – Are Your Feminine Care Products Affecting Your Fertility?
Do You Have Heavy Menstrual Bleeding? What You Can Do About It…
How To Get Your Period Back
Learn About Re-usable Natural Menstrual Care Products (video)
Herbal Ways to Reduce Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (video)
68 Random Facts About Menstruation (bizzare)
1. Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Christiane Northrup, M.D. Bantam Books, 2010