By Jayleigh Lewis
February 2014 was another light traveling month for Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About. She attended just two movie-related events, and only one screening. However, what was lacking in quantity was made up for in quality: included in the events’ heart and soul-warming moments was the “most inspirational experience” Isadora remembers having in her year and a half of touring the country with the film.
On February 8th, she returned to Escondido, California, where she had last been in mid-September 2013 shortly after the Goddess Spirit Rising Festival in Malibu. On her previous visit, too exhausted from travel and facilitation to set up the Red Tent, she had held a bare-bones film screening in the Goddess Studio, a sacred temple space on the home property of Amalya, who was one of the festival’s presenters and is also a writer, belly dancer, priestess, teacher, and ceremonialist. However, Amalya, inspired by the Red Tent at the festival, had invited Isadora to return later for a full Red Tent experience in the Goddess Studio. That return took place on February 8th.
This time, the full set of red fabrics came out for an all-day event which quickly became a moving and intimate experience. The four-hour-long Red Tent, attended by eight women and co-hosted by Amalya and Isadora, took place in three parts.
First, the women participated in a ten-minute sound meditation, created by a woman, Duffy, whom Isadora had met at a screening in January. The meditation guides listeners through an imaginative journey into what it might have been like to participate in an ancient moon lodge or menstrual hut. (Isadora plans to make this meditation widely available by selling CDs and offering it at all future Red Tents that she hosts.) As the women lay on the floor in a circle, heads touching, their bodies like sun rays radiating from the center, they realized that the red fabric panels hanging from the ceiling created a yoni shape that could only be seen when looking directly up at them. The power of perspective!
The next activity was a veil dancing ritual led by Amalya. Drawing on her years of experience with belly dance, she created a gentle ceremony that allowed each woman a chance to feel nurtured and honored. Two at a time, women lay on the floor with their heads touching and were covered with a thin white chiffon veil. Accompanied by a song called “Returning” (sung by artist Jennifer Berevan, a friend of Amalya’s), the other women danced around them with colored veils, holding the intention to bless the women in the center. Then, as a second song by the same artist played (“She Carries Me”), the colored veils were gradually layered on top of the women in the center, forming a cocoon. At just the right time, the veils came away, slowly and gently. Isadora described the experience as being like a birth consisting of nothing but healing energy. Women cried; it was obvious that this type of support reached them deeply. (Isadora now plans to offer this ritual at all future Red Tents that she hosts!)
Finally, there was a talking circle, where women shared their experiences with the veil ritual as well as a bit about what was going on in their lives. The Red Tent closed with singing led by Celia Jorgensen. She offered some well-known songs about the Goddess with lyrics changed to make them about the sacred character of menstruation:
Drop to drop,
again and again.
Life goes on;
beginning to end.
Goddess to goddess,
hand in hand.
Woman to woman,
Red river is flowing,
flowing and growing.
Red River is flowing back unto Thee.
Red River is flowing,
flowing and glowing.
Red River is flowing back unto Thee.
River Red River is flowing,
going and knowing.
Red river is flowing back unto Thee.
Goddess carry me.
A woman I will always be.
Goddess, carry me back unto Thee.
After this Red Tent, which with its tears, laughter, and “aha moments for all of us,” qualifies as Isadora’s “most inspirational” film touring experience so far, the day concluded with dinner in Amalya’s house and a movie screening. Nine more women showed up for the screening, including Roberta Cantow, a documentary filmmaker who created a three-part film about honoring menstruation, called Bloodtime Moontime Dreamtime: Women Bringing Forth Change. Roberta was one of Isadora’s inspirations and influences as she was creating the Red Tent movie. It was thus very meaningful to have her present for a screening—inspiration had clearly come full circle.
Isadora’s Chicago home was the site of the next Red Tent, on Sunday, February 23rd. Ever since she moved to the city in the summer of 2012, just before Things We Don’t Talk About was released, her community has supported her as she has traveled and worked on behalf of the film. Now it was time for those community members to experience a Red Tent for themselves. The event, which lasted seven hours, was an extravaganza of self-care, as women gathered, rested, ate chili, drank tea, polished their nails, and gave and received foot rubs. Two very young baby boys, neither older than eight months, were present with their mothers. Nurturing was in the air.
And, for Isadora, it was particularly special because her mother-in-law, a longtime supporter of the Red Tent movement and film, was there for her very first Red Tent experience. Nervousness quickly gave way to relaxation as she received a foot rub from her daughter-in-law; the two women bonded in a new way.
The day included a veil dancing ritual inspired by the one Isadora experienced in Escondido; like a seed on the wind, it is already traveling. This ritual and others like it, grown in the womb of the Red Tent, are falling like soft grace over women’s lives, welcomed by first one community, then another. May they facilitate the holy birthing of more and more women into their true selves.