For many years I have been interested in the connection between women’s menstrual cycles and the phases of the Moon.
Being a Priestess of the Goddess I have found myself working with both - and exploring the mysteries and magic of this time in a woman’s yearly cycle. I have researched ideas and activities and looked at the attitude towards menstruation generally.
Our society tends to prefer that discussions about this kind of subject are kept out of ‘polite conversation’ and I can remember as a child being told it was not a subject to discuss in mixed company! Supplies for coping with periods were kept hidden away and quietly discussed. In fact I remember my own first experience of bleeding occurred after I had been exploring my own body at about 10 years old. The next day I had my first period and was absolutely terrified I had caused myself to bleed with my clumsy childish fumbling. No one had ever talked to me with regard to learning about my own body or masturbation. When I went to talk to my mother about what was happening to me she showed me some awful elastic belts and large sanitary towels to fasten to them. Between the legs of a little girl it felt alien and uncomfortable. I was told ‘not to mention it to my brothers, and keep my supplies hidden away’. My feelings of being ‘unclean’ had begun.
My own feelings of uneasiness and discomfort had to be kept to myself and there was little support from anyone else. On TV – adverts showed young girls cartwheeling on a beach or riding horses wearing white trousers as some discarnate voice coyly assured me that ‘that time of the month shouldn’t stop me from leading a normal life’! Or they demonstrated how well the product worked by pouring blue coloured water on the pads!! No wonder I was confused and mentally rejected this awful experience.
In fact I remember before I started my periods, one of my school mates who was first to begin her cycle having notes to excuse her from our weekly swimming lesson. She was so proud of the fact she was menstruating and I couldn’t understand what she was so proud of. I’m ashamed to say I even looked down on her! Now I realise she must have had a really great family that supported her and taught her how wonderful and magical it really is.
I believe the negativity with my own first menstrual experiences caused me to mentally and physically reject this normal and natural part of a woman’s life. I had several years of pain and awful cramps with each period. I actually felt I was disgusting and it was a dirty experience for several years. It was as my spirituality developed its pagan direction that I began to look at my body and femininity from a different perspective. I had had pagan beliefs and spiritual experiences from childhood, but being brought up by a Christian mother it wasn’t until I had had my first child that I got actively involved with the pagan community.
In the early 1990s, I was reading Sister Moon Lodge by author Kisma Stephanich; about the power and magical connections of my Moon Time. She suggested we collect our blood using reusable pads and soaking them. It was an act of self empowerment to take that beautiful scarlet water each month and pour it onto Mother Earth. I also benefited from fantastic tomatoes and green beans when I used it to fertilise my garden!! Another wonderful book – Red Moon by Miranda Gray helped me look further into my own connection with the Goddess through my menstrual cycle.
Organisations such as the Women’s Menstrual Health Foundation in the US run by Tamara Slayton (sadly deceased) were encouraging women to learn about themselves through the power of our menstrual cycles. WEN – the Women’s Environmental Network in the UK was also encouraging the use of reusable pads, made with soft cotton flannel, in pretty designs. Nowadays we also have other things available – sea sponges to use like internal tampons, and of course the Moon cup. There weren’t a lot of companies selling reusable pads this at the time, and so I bought some pretty flannelette and made my own.
As a Witch I encourage my students and circle members to make many of their ritual tools and spell ingredients themselves, and I found it even more empowering to take charge of honouring my body and dealing with my monthly moon cycle by making my own supplies. I take the time to give myself a gift of what I need at this time, listening to my body and intuition. Sometimes I need solitude so may not answer the phone or go out for the first day or two.
If you read some of the many books that have emerged over the last few years on the ritual and magical work done at this time, they show evidence of women in tribal or ancient village society being able to leave normal work, childcare and dealing with the village food to enter the moonlodge or ‘red tent’ as some describe it.
Some people have suggested the reason was that it was believed to be taboo and unclean. Whereas others think it was because it was seen as a magical event; a woman bleeding but not dying - this was powerful magic that should be kept away from the normal tribal daily events. I prefer to think of it as the later explanation but there isn’t a definite answer that’s provable. And of course those of you with several women in your household; daughters, sisters or housemates will find that over the months, your menstrual cycle will change until you are all bleeding at roughly same time of the month and your cycles regulate to each other.
I know for some women that taking time out is an impossibility and so I suggest you are kind to yourselves during your cycle. When you get in from work or put the children to bed, light a candle, draw a warm bath and just allow yourself the luxury of soaking. Use some bath oil or delicious smelling Body Lotion to treat your senses. Or have an early night with a hot water bottle if you need to. Massage your tummy lightly with an aromatherapy base oil such as almond oil in gently clockwise circular strokes. Treat yourself to delicious foods and dress in comfortable clothing. Light a candle in the morning before you have to rush to the office or do the school run, and have 5 minutes of honouring your cycle and the Goddess in your life.
It’s a most magical time and I cannot think of anything more intimately connected with the Goddess than appreciating the cycle I have been blessed with that so links me with the Moon and our Mother Earth.
©Blood Mother - Rachel Mayatt