An Unconventional Red Tent

By Jayleigh

On a warm weekend in July, a Red Tent was raised at the Culture Fest in Salem, MA. I attended for a few hours in support of my friend, Natalie Johnsen (featured in the Red Tent Movie), who played hostess for the Red Tent throughout the two days it was up.

Red Tent Temple, Salem, MA

Red Tent Temple, Salem, MA

The tent itself stood out from the others: red amidst the white. The entire inside seemed to glow red from the reflection of so many pieces of red fabric which had been draped over three of the tent’s sides. There were red-draped chairs, red-covered tables, red pillows and rolled-up blankets on the ground.

This Red Tent had multiple purposes. One was to provide for those who wished a space for respite, shade, and refreshment (ice cubes, iced tea, and cold gazpacho were available). Anyone could enter and sit for as long as he or she liked. Another purpose was to educate and increase visibility for the Red Tent. Men were welcome to come and learn. Another purpose was to create soulful space where lively conversation might happen.

I entered the Red Tent after it had already been up for several hours that Saturday. I sat, watched, and listened.

The space was witness to conversations ranging from intimate asking for support to a group discussion of hair and what the connection might be between cutting off one’s hair and releasing the hold of old memories. A few men stopped by. Women came and seemed delighted that such a space was there.

Red Tent Temple, Salem, MA

Red Tent Temple, Salem, MA

At one point I found myself writing in a book in which women at various times had recorded their lineage through the women in their family. I paged through and read names, read women’s writing about why they had come to the Red Tent. It was a profound thing to write my name, and then my mother’s, and then my grandmother’s, and then (after a long pause in which I struggled to remember it) my great-grandmother’s. No matter who these women were, no matter what they had or hadn’t done, their lives allowed mine to be. I wrote my own dedication: I knew in that moment that I had come to the Red Tent to affirm my life.

Eventually, that day, I left, appreciative of what had been. What a radical thing it is to simply offer space where one may be nourished without needing to be any particular way. Natalie, with her open eyes and open arms, held this space beautifully for all who came, whether they had ever heard of the Red Tent before or not. Although it was an unconventional Red Tent, it was the Red Tent at its best.


Filed under "things we don't talk about", memory, place, red tent, red tent experience, red tent temple, Red Tent Temple Movment, space, story

6 responses to “An Unconventional Red Tent

  1. For me this was an amazing expereince welcoming men women and children in so many different ways… Watching some men circle like stalking power, women shine and shy, some coming to support, some to explore and understand… It was an amazing expereince that I will cherrish always for it was unique in its conception and delivery… Thank you Natalie for again so much more than can be explained but is surly felt in the silence beltween heartbeats……..


  2. The Salem Cultural Fest was such a unique opportunity to “raise the flaps” of our Red Tent and I’m so appreciative of Natalie’s work in securing this festival as a another space for our Red Tent. Jayleigh, I’m so glad you found this an enriching experience!


  3. Lidia Tremblay

    Jayleigh – thank you so much for posting this! In September, I will be doing a workshop on the Red Tent during our Pagan Pride Day in the local park. I doubt very much that it will be for women only, so I am very appreciative to read that men were able to use this space too. Recently I had written a “Healing of the Womb” ceremony. I think I will use the meditation during my workshop as well. If there are any men present, I’m sure it will be an eye-opener for them.

    Again, thank you!


  4. Thank you so much for posting this! I think you captured the moment (and the movement) very well.

    It was certainly eye-opening to be in a place of introverted feminine power in the presence of not just my Red Tent Temple sisters, but out and among the men and children and dogs that wandered in out of the Tent out of curiousity or some longing for this kind of internal connection

    I felt blessed to be part of bringing the movement out into the world. I suddenly saw the global perspective in our local groups. Just for a day, we were a three-sided Tent, and the outside world got a chance for a moment to be invited in.


  5. Fantastic, this is beautiful


  6. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this! 🙂 Love and Light, Ellen


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