This Blood Is Sacred: Menstrual Ceremony Reflection
How might it have been different for you if, on your first menstrual day, your mother given you a bouquet of flowers and taken you to lunch, and then the two of you had gone to meet your father at the jeweler, where your ears were pierced, and your father bought you your first pair of earrings, and then you went with a few of your friends and your mother’s friends to get your first lip colouring; and then you went, for the very first time, to the Women’s Lodge, to learn the wisdom of the women? How might your life be different? – Judith Duerk, Circle of Stones
I went into my moon ceremony on the New Moon last weekend. I did a lot of reading and meditating on how I shaped my views on menstruation through the messages I received. I truly felt so excited to get it. I remember checking my jade egg and smelling it. And feeling and knowing the usual scent of my yoni, I could pick up the tinge of blood. I could see the slight reddish brown. I knew she had arrived, or at least her arrival was imminent. I felt myself get nervous when it wasn’t coming down and thought I was wrong. For most of my menstruating life, I have hope and waited for what many women look at with disdain and damn near hate. It has always been something that a part of me always celebrated and cherished as a mark of my womanhood.
I’ve had an irregular cycle since I got my period when I was 14 years old. It was an anxious ridden journey to that moment. I was a late bloomer and felt insecure about my body, seeing the girls around me start to develop. When I got my menstruation, I felt relieved, followed by feelings of fear when I didn’t get it every month. I always felt like God was punishing me for the day when I was 6 years old and was molested. I blamed myself for that up until only recently. I thought that the reason it took so long for me to get my period was because of this feeling of being pregnant. More of a heavy pregnant silence in my life about a trauma that constantly made me feel impure and like a bad little girl. My inner child was hurt. I had grown up in a strictly Catholic environment and felt repressed by the silence. The heavy silence of fearing God as this patriarchal figure that punishes and commends. I never got an explanation about sex. It was clear that it was not to be done until marriage.
Of course, with the inability to relate to my family because of my own trauma, being reserved and quiet, and generally…like I just felt I couldn’t speak up. There is so much I felt that I couldn’t put into words. It was all these feelings of sadness, loss, blame, shame, disgust with myself. It is incredibly piercing to the human soul to live with feeling dirty and impure for so much of your life, and have no idea how to say it to your parents and adults. Coupled with feelings of being untrustworthy, low self-esteem and an overwhelming anxiety about becoming a woman and feeling I had done something wrong to my body because it was taking so long, I just didn’t feel safe to tell anyone until a bus ride home in my senior year of high school.
I was sitting with a girl who lived close to my godmother’s house, which is where I was living at the time. My family had moved to Albany and I stayed with my godmother so I could graduate with my class. That decision was a double edge sword. I was grateful to graduate with my friends yet felt abandoned by my mother, especially because at the time she had just been diagnosed with being bi-polar and that took up a lot of my family’s attention. The abandonment I felt was more of an emotional one. I was feeling so insecure and depressed about my body at 17 years old. Sex was confusing to me. Womanhood perplexed me. I only spoke to my friends at school about what was happening in our lives concerning these subjects, so we also shared our fears and insecurities as we navigated these waters of adolescent life.
I was talking to her on the BX36 that afternoon. She was sharing how she felt about her budding sexuality (at the time I was still a virgin), and confessed having experienced molestation as well. I felt comforted in a way, to know that someone else not only had a similar experience but also struggled with it as a teenager after all those years. I confessed to her my own experience as well. I didn’t expect to, and afterwards began thinking about how I felt my irregular cycle was because of that trauma.
Since then, I have struggled with viewing my menstrual cycle as a positive experience; it was fraught with anxiety, fear, guilt and shame. I also internalized my mother’s and society’s feelings of disgust and disdain for the menstrual cycle. That it is gross and should be hidden and not spoken about. I have notice how my own beliefs have adopted these feelings and I feel the need to whisper and conceal my reproductive functions. That my underwear was gross. I developed a compulsion, afraid to leave my panties in the bathroom. I remember having my panties stuffed in my mouth; of making the women angry if they found them in the bathroom. The fear of being dirty or being yelled at. The crude way the body was treated and being chastised for not wanting to go along, being deemed too sensitive. I meticulously wrapped my soiled pads in toilet paper and made sure everything in the bathroom was clean.
My relationship to my reproductive system and female body began to change in college. Using my poetry and my journaling, I explored ideas of empowered Black women that I learned in my Black Woman class, taught by Dr. Margaret Wade-Lewis (ibae). I began exploring how women of antiquity treated their bodies and menstruation. I learned that women used to be in tune with the moon and bleed in sync with the cycles. I researched natural ways to relieve my cramps. I went to a Red Tent workshop when I was in the senior year of my undergraduate career. Women were sitting in a circle telling the story of their menarche, their first periods. The facilitators talked about the toxins and dangers of tampons and pads, and then raffled off menstrual cups. They told us about sea sponges and cloth pads. I left that workshop with reading materials and a pad from a woman making them after the program.
I experimented first with the sea sponge. I discovered that this method was cost-effective and nudged me to pay attention to my body. The sponge would become saturated and I would leak if I wasn’t mindful. I learned how to feel the flow of my menstrual blood come down. I experienced my period in a new way; I was in direct contact with it when I would insert and remove the sponge to rinse and wring it out for reuse. I was fascinated by my body and began to do research on the reproductive system, as well as the roots of how the menstrual cycle became taboo. I was empowered by finding out how revered and respected women were when they were on their moon cycles.
Becoming involved in the birthing world as a doula made me shift my perspective on my cyclic nature as a woman. I saw my body as a blossoming organism, and internalized how every month there was a rise and fall of hormones and activities in my uterus. I appreciated that even though I have never given birth to a child, my body was birthing constantly with the wisdom of my menstrual cycle. That in many cultures, the menstrual cycle has been viewed as a sacred source of renewal and insight. I learned that PMS was the body’s way of communicating needs, such as a change in diet or addressing some repressed emotions.
I’ve learned in my travels that my menstruation was cyclic intuitive wisdom and emotional recycling and processing. I noticed that I would be buzzing with ideas and inspirations during the days before ovulation and during my ovulation, it would peak. Then I would become introspective and feel my energy wane, much like the moon, post ovulation/premenstrual. I tend to retreat and feel less inclined to read or write, or talk to anyone. It feels like a preparation to develop or give birth to something that comes from deep within ourselves. In recent years, I felt my menstruation as a release. As a build up of reflection and internal work. It feels like a cleansing, and in many ways, the emotions that come up when I am premenstrual give me a chance to clear them out of my system as the blood flows. I feel my intuition heightened and feel like I have more access to parts of my unconscious that my reproductive system’s wisdom and magic provides.
This past weekend, I celebrated my moon ceremony. I listened to my body’s desires to lay on the couch drinking chamomile tea. I followed my psyche’s beckoning and dumped the blood in my moon cup onto a white matboard. I swirled the blood around and felt it. Painted with it. Made spirals. Examined the clots. I felt hypnotized. My body would fill with electricity with the blood on my fingertips. The blood I didn’t paint with, I gave as an offering to the Earth and poured it into the grass. One of these episodes, I poured it on my own head and massaged it in as a conditioner. It left my hair feeling fortified. On my last days with her, I took an herbal bath and warmed my body up. The hot water on my lower back helped to release tension. I felt pampered. I felt wise. I left my moon lodge empowered. I felt myself release shame and detachment and embraced my menstrual blood. Everything I did I loved. I gave my reproductive system and body love. I winced slightly at the cramps, for they were intense enough to wake me up one time, and began to listen to the fact that I have neglected my diet for my optimal feminine health.
I look forward to this cycle that started at the New Moon. I will listen closely to my body and psyche for messages of its endless pouring wisdom. This blood is a fountain of knowledge within me, waiting for me to access it in my menstrual ceremonies.