I got my period the very day we moved from our home in London to the South Coast. I was 13. Our new loo’s door had that old slippery paint that you could peel off in satisfying strips. As I sat there feeling proud of the stain in my knickers I tore off a cream strip on the back of the door that over many toilet trips would evolve into a child sized dinosaur shaped absence of paint. There was a bumper pack of industrial sized sanitary towels floating around, looking for its own spot in our new home, so I helped myself, a bubble in my lungs. It was happening to me! To me! We hadn’t unpacked all the pots and pans and plates so we went to the beach and had fish and chips from Harry Ramsdens. I can lucidly recall splashing the vinegar over my chips, a smile on my face about my secret, but I can’t remember telling my mum, or my Aunty, or my sister, who were there with me, or what it was like to tell them.
Recently at a gathering for another young women who had had her first bleed we shared our stories of beginning to menstruate. I couldn’t believe how many people’s first bleeding happened on significant day – a big move, first day of high school, a huge accident. It seemed startling to me – why don’t we know more about this?
And I guess it’s because we don’t talk about bleeding. We don’t share info about our cycles. We still live under the shame and female disempowerment that began in the dark ages.
There are a few things I want to write about, but actually sit on for AGES because I can’t bear how perfectly they fit into the “stereotypical hippy” model. This is one of those. But I have sucked it up and written it anyway because whilst on the surface this just might just seem like more hippy shizzle, this is actually something that is crucial for womanhood.
I truly believe that our menstrual cycles are a feminist issue. There is so much shame around our bleeding and such a humoungous lack of knowledge. There has been a systematic dismantling of women’s knowledge of their bodies for many centuries. We’ve progressed in so many areas in recent years but our bleeding has remained in a dark, dusty corner – talk of our moon cycles seems to evoke cries of “wiiiiiitch”…
I think we are all ready to move out of that oppressive stage.
I also want to acknowledge those women who don’t have wombs or who don’t bleed, who don’t experience a menstrual cycle. I want to be sensitive to you. And I want to honour the bodies that bleed. If you can be a part of this conversation, I welcome you totally. I don’t think it’s very easy, in fact, it’s tricky, it’s messy, we are (certainly I am) figuring much of this out through this exact kind of conversation.
Here are 7 ways to bleed well:
I have only just started charting (using Moon Dreams Diary which is kinda meant for younger women but I am finding awesome!) but am already able to associate things I feel with my menstrual cycle. For example, I am sure I get cramping when I ovulate. Much of the medical profession deny this is possible but I know soooooo many women now who experience this.
I can also pre-empt my rage days, try my hardest to get some time to de-rage/ give expression and validation to all the things I’m feeling. I am learning that these hormonal mood swings are not inherently bad, but that within them there is a power that is often dormant or even medicated. (My mood swings were “solved” by a decade on the pill – something I now wouldn’t recommend ever. See video below)
2- Meet your needs
The cool thing is, as you chart you will discover more about what you need. You will find that on days 15-17 (or whatever) you need to have a lot of reflecting time. You’ll know that a couple of days before you bleed you get an intense aching back that is only received with walking, so you mark out time for big walks. For people with really regular cycles, you’ll even be able to book family and friends in to help you out on days where you need time to vent alone. The more you understand your body you will be able to respond to it and make room for your needs.
3- Add ritual to your moon cycle
I’m trying to build more ritual into my cycle, this is about creating a new mindset around mensturation, to make room in our lives for it, to honour the role it plays.
In my early twenties (before I knew about any of this stuff) I used to buy myself cold red grape juice and go somewhere beautiful to drink it and celebrate my body. I used to have so much pain with bleeding that I felt I needed to remind myself why I bleed and to try and see the good in it. Whilst I didn’t have a complete picture back then, it makes me smile to know that on some level I understood that I needed to be kind to myself.
Something I try and do each time is saving my blood, I have a moon cup so it is really easy to do this, and making it into a nutritious tea for my flowers. I love the symbolism and this ritual, seeing your flowers bloom as a result of your menstruation, is such a beautiful one.
I also do specific moon cycle journal sessions – lighting a candle and answering different questions. When I’m ovulating, I feel excited and ambitious so I like to dream and plan. When I’m bleeding I like to turn inward and let stuff out that needs to make an appearance.
There’s lots of things you could do to add ritual to your cycle:
- Have an ovulation playlist and a bleeding playlist
- Have specific moon cycle sketching/ doodling/ painting sessions
- Have clothes that you wear that make you feel good or comfy according to your phase
- Have particular teas that you drink at different times
- Have walks or activities that you always do in your different phases
These rituals add comfort and place value on the different phases of our cycles.
4- Consider a moon circle
One year ago my friend and I invited some neighbours and some friends and even a couple of people we didn’t know well but wanted to know well, to form a moon circle.
This is the email I sent out to invite them, just to show how loose we were at the start, ha
“Just a quick one to see if you would be interested in coming along to a women’s moon circle we are hoping to start? The first one will decide what sort of thing it will be, but at this stage probably something along the lines of sharing our stories/joys/hurts around a campfire. Might you be interested?”
I was afraid of cultural appropriation until I realised that almost every culture in the land has a culture of women gathering like this deep in their history. If moon circles are going to draw activities or ritual from the wealth of indigenous culture we must acknowledge and honour those traditions in our circles.
Our circle happens every new moon, as that is when women whose bodies are moon-synced bleed, and over the year we have grown in our understanding of moon circles and have deepened our relationship with each other. We have mothers and women without children and older women and younger women. Hippies and non hippies! I now see this little sisterhood as being such an important thread to my life and wellbeing.
There’s a few things to note:
- The main role of our moon circle is to connect with each other and have a space to be honest with your feelings, to vent if necessary. We pass around a sharing stone and the person that is holding it shares what’s on their mind/ heart. Sometimes one thing good, one thing bad. Sometimes it is freestyle. It can be heavy/ light. But no one else responds with words. We just are present to what ever each other wants to share.
- The secondary role is to provide a chance to be deeply present and experience some form of transecendence. We are totally experimental. We have massaged each others hands. Meditated. Yoga’d. Danced. Sung. We hold a sound circle when we all make sounds, sometimes harmonious and other times not! I love the sound circle the most as it is a true lesson in just letting stuff out, not being fearful of how it sounds, making yourself quite vulnerable in front of others and simply trusting yourself.
- The space REALLY needs to be held. We often open with a silent walk to our forest circle to reflect on what we are feeling, holding in our bodies as we gather. We light candles and herbs to mark out this space as sacred. We remind people that the sharing circle is a place for people to share what they want to share and not for getting advice. We want people to feel safe and open. We ask people if they want to be involved in any other activities.
- We are always trying thing and open to new ideas that different people want to bring. I often feel full up with goodness after and feel like every woman could do with a sisterhood like this!
5- Create transitional rituals as you/ your friends move through different life cycles
One of the things we are planning on doing with our moon circle is honouring the different life stages of menstruation. We would like to spend some time on a ceremony for those entering menopause, or on retrospective menarche (when you first ever bleed) ceremony. I have been to a few of these gatherings – every one so different from each other. But it is a chance for the woman to mark the transition from one stage to another with her community. There might be candles lit. People might bring a poem. There might be singing or some rituals or art or something made together. There might be the ritualised walking from one area to another, the arrival at a new place, a new phase of life.
Whilst there are ancient precedents, rituals held by different cultures, I believe that marking these transitions has always been done and as a community of sisters you can create them. If you do have an incredible woman already doing this kind of thing, or a local hippy or doula or something, do ask for their support too!
6- Do a bit of menstrual activism.
It’s a thing! I first came across this four years ago when we stayed at an off grid community in the south of Spain (read all about that in the post, The Hippy That Laid a Golden Poo- you can see now how formative that whole experience was for our family’s life!!) People are out there trying to take the shame away from bleeding, trying to help people tap into their moon cycles, and, really importantly, getting sustainable forms of blood products (I really hate the term “feminine hygiene products!!!!”) to women who can’t afford it. Things like cloth pads and moon cups which last for a really really really long time.
A great example is the Ruby Cup – when you get yours someone who can’t afford one gets a freebie. But also, everytime you talk about menstruation, everytime you break some of those taboos, you are a part of this movement. Read up on some of the great work being done.
7- Read all the books!
If this has ticked your fancy there are a couple of books to get you started:
Her Blood is Gold: Awakening to the Wisdom of Menstruation
Moon Time: Harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle
(My affiliate links for Book Depository – why go Amazon when you can go with someone that pays the right taxes?!)
And here is my latest video – talking about the Pill, our bodies, moon cups and more!!!
Want to be a part of this taboo breaking conversation? When did you get your period? Do you do any of the above? Do you think you might try a new one? Would love top hear from you!