Category Archives: blood

Herbs for Your Reproductive Tract

by Paula Youmell, RN

Herbs are amazing, healing tools because herbs are whole foods.  Whole foods nourish each and every cell in your body. 

Whole food eating means feeding our bodies the way nature intended.  This means eating foods in their natural state, as close to the perfectly “whole” state in which nature provides them.  This also means following the natural growing seasons and eating more foods that are locally grown and produced, in season. Whole food nutrition is eating in balance, which in turn keeps the body in balance.  Foods grown naturally develop with the right proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats intended for that particular food.  They contain balanced vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, and enzymes. This natural balance for each food ensures that the body can properly utilize the nutrients. 

The effects of moving away from our whole food diet and eating a refined, processed, and convenience food diet are very prevalent in our society.  (Ask me for my educational handout titled Whole Food Eating for an easy introduction to healing body cells with whole food nutrition, pyoumell@gmail.com)

One of the biggest tragedies of human civilization is the precedents of chemical therapy over nutrition.  It is substitution of artificial therapy over natural, of poison over food, in which we are feeding people poisons trying to correct the reactions of starvation.    Dr. Royal Lee

As a culture, we have created the same scenario with our healing medicines, including those for healing the female body.  We have moved away from whole, natural medicines to the processed, refined, factory made pharmaceuticals that upset balance in the human body.  Just as refined, factory made food products upset the body’s natural balance.

Herbs, whether ingested as a medicinal infusion, taken as a tincture or in any other form of herbal medicine, are whole foods.  The nutrients in the herbs: vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, and the nutrients yet to be discovered, are utilized by the body cells to cleanse, nourish, and heal each and every body cell.  Herbs specific for the female reproductive tract are nourishing to the reproductive organ’s cells.

So often we get the message from main stream media and medicine:  Do NOT use herbs as they are potentially dangerous.  This is as crazy as saying that eating beets, apples, or any other natural, whole food is potentially dangerous.

When we eat a beet, an apple, some broccoli, or any whole food, our body digests and absorbs the nutrients in the whole food to nourish our cellular health.  The same process of digestion and assimilation of nutrients happens with herbs.  Herbs are whole food; herbs are healing medicine.

Herbs are plants (leaf, root, stems, bark, berries, seeds), like a beet or an apple, that have nutritional and healing properties with affinities for certain tissues.

Stinging-Nettle-Image

Herbs for female health are many and each has its own healing purpose.  Used in combination, they create powerful healing energy in the female body.

Some excellent female healing herbs are:

  • Stinging nettles
  • Red raspberry leaf
  • Wild yam
  • Chaste tree berry
  • Motherwort
  • Red clover flower
  • False unicorn root
  • Passion flower
  • Don quai root
  • Wild carrot
  • Ginger
  • Blue and Black cohosh
  • Squaw vine
  • Black haw
  • Yarrow
  • Pennyroyal
  • Mugwort
  • Partridge vine

These herbs balance female hormones, tone and heal the female organs, and add nutrients to every cell in your body.

A simple healing tea I used to make for my roommate, many years ago before I had become a certified herbalist, to ease her menstrual cramps:  chamomile tea with 30 drops of black or blue cohosh tincture.  When she moved into her own apartment, just up the street, she would call me every month and ask me to bring her a jar of this cramp relief tea.

For specifics on which herbs to use for your personal needs, contact an herbalist in your area.  In the Potsdam, NY area?  Give me a shout.

Herbs for healing other organs: (Just to remind you how amazing herbs really are!)

  • Saw palmetto for the prostate
  • Hawthorne berry for the heart
  • Rhubarb root for the colon
  • Milk thistle for the liver
  • Nettle as a general nutritive herb (Yes, I truly love nettles!)
  • Dandelion and burdock root for liver cleansing and nourishment

The list of herbs and the cells / organs they nourish goes on and on.  These are just a very few example of herbs and the cells / organ they have affinities to nourish and promote healing. This healing action happens because the herb adds whole food nutrition to your body cells.  This is the same thing a beet does; feeds your body cells.

Stinging nettles are my favorite herb!  Nettles are a power house of nutrition and healing energy for the whole body.  I add nettles to every combination herbal formula I create. Use nettles in your female healing remedies!

With that said, I recommend you read up on the herb you want to ingest for its nourishing, medicinal abilities.  Learn about the herb and its healing affinities before you make the decision to take it.  Contact your local herbalist for help in choosing the right herb or blend of herbs to add to your whole food dietary plan to promote personal health and healing.

Words from a happy client that demonstrates my point about herbs and whole body healing; that body cells are nourished by ingesting herbs:

Thanks Paula! The herbs you recommended for my peri-menopausal symptoms have really helped! No more migraines, moodiness, or horrible night sweats. After years of challenging health symptoms, I am very happy to be healing with whole foods, including female healing herbs.  Sherry B.

Herbs are whole foods.  Use them wisely for healing your female energy and whole body healing.  Blessings of health, Paula

Red clover flower and Red raspberry leave, combined with my favorite herb: Stinging nettles, are the three herbs I recommend for a fertility infusion to drink daily.

Paula Youmell is an RN, author, holistic healer, and blogger who thrives in northern NY State, USA.  Learn more about her healing lifestyle at www.HandsOnHealthHH.com, http://www.wholefoodhealer.com, or http://www.wisewomenredtent.com

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Filed under and Hormone Cycle, blood, growing up, healing, Infertility, Menopause, menstruation, miscarriage, mooncycle, motherhood, PMS, Reproductive Health, sex

My First Blood Story

by Karen Tinner
I wish that I could say my first blood was an encouraging departure from how menstruation is treated in Western cultures, but sadly, it wasn’t. Rather, it embodied every negative association. I had just turned 11 years old less than a week before, and had never been informed about menstruation. Although I was well-read for an adolescent, I was not yet interested in anything to do with maturation, reproduction or sexuality and no one, either at home or in school, had shared any information with me. Further, although I knew of one or two girls who had “gotten their period,” they were 2-3 years older than me. When I started bleeding, I remember running to my mother and telling her that something was terribly wrong, that I was afraid I was dying. She simply scoffed at me, took me to the bathroom and showed me the sanitary napkins. Still shaken, I remember telling her that I was “too young to go through this,” that I “wasn’t ready,” and that I was “afraid.” All of this fell on deaf ears. There was only the inference that menstruation was a dirty, distasteful fact of a woman’s life, an inconvenient reality to be endured as tidily as possible. The home I grew up in consisted of my mother (born in 1946) and her parents, and as an isolated only child, there were no other women in whom I could confide my feelings. This theme of isolation would be carried over into all of my journey to adult womanhood. Matters of romantic love and sexuality were never addressed, and my isolation was greatly compounded due to my mother and grandmother’s activities in the pseudo-Christian cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My grandfather was an emotionally cool, somewhat dictatorial man who demanded respect but never communicated with me with any degree of warmth or positivity. My mother and grandmother lived up to his expectation that women be uncomplaining and subservient. And my father was absent, divorced from my mother due to alcoholism when I was two years of age. Needless to say, I grew up feeling as if being female was an unfortunate accident. In the years since, I have been caregiver to all of my family of origin, saying goodbye to all of them within a five year span (my mother succumbed to terminal cancer in 1997, my grandfather to terminal cancer in 1998 and my grandmother to autoimmune disease in 2002); was married; birthed a son and a daughter; was widowed; remarried; birthed a second daughter; and have returned to school to complete my undergraduate education, switching from English (and Philosophy and Women’s Studies) to Psychology with an eye to obtaining a Master’s in Counseling. All of these experiences have helped me to replace the ambivalence, misogyny and emotional vacancies of my upbringing with healthy, positive and empowered images and narratives. My awareness of and appreciation for the unique emotional, intellectual and physical capacities of women grows with each day, and I am happy to say that I have embraced my good fortune to have been born female! My older daughter has just turned 7 and my younger daughter is 2 1/2. Even before I conceived my older daughter, I resolved to ensure any daughter I might birth would have a very different experience in growing into her womanhood. Both my daughers will be well-prepared to celebrate their first blood. Even now, they are aware that being female is a gift. Further, my son, who is 9, is being raised to appreciate the contributions of women, not least of which is the fact that all man- (and woman-) kind comes into this world by way of a woman’s love and physiology. In part through my children — and also through the career I am preparing for — I hope to make a meaningful contribution in effecting positive change in the way women experience their rites of passage, view themselves and their life experiences, and in the way women and men value one another.

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Filed under blood, coming of age, growing up, menstruation

How to Celebrate Menstruation

How would our world be different if girls were raised to honor their menstrual time? How would our world be different if our girls had some form of celebration when they first began to menstruate. How would your life be different if you were celebrated? Join us in the virtual “Red Tent” for today’s episode of Red Tent TV. After you’ve watched the episode, I’d love to know… How have you celebrated menstruation?

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Filed under ageing, and Hormone Cycle, blood, coming of age, From the filmmaker, growing up, Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, menstruation, menstruation video, Mood, moon, Moon Lodge, mooncycle, parenting, PMS

The Xaghra Twins: Remembering the Neolithic Past

by Alexis Martin Faaberg, PhD student, CIIS

Introduction

            In my view, the Xaghra Twins figurine found on the Maltese island of Gozo epitomizes a belief system steeped in gender equality that fostered a harmony with nature to create a sustainable regenerative environment. The items left with the dead, including red ocher, some small stone objects, and figurines, as well as myths of corpulent women are some of the elements that scholars are using to interpret the past on Malta. The Xaghra Circle was in use between 4,100 and 2,800 BC and archaeologists estimate that it held over 800 burials.[1]

The Xaghra Twins

The Xaghra Twins

Careful study of the Xaghra Twins figurine, including its context, refutes the claims of some scholars who disregard the worship of the regenerative power of the female body as merely a depiction of a “fat lady.” These images provide a wealth of information Neolithic cultures are difficult to recreate due to the lack of written data; however, these sites often provide a wealth of artistic language that allows modern scholars to glimpse the past. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in academia to retrofit the symbols of the past to resemble our modern societies. Although the analysis of a single figurine may seem trivial, it is in fact crucial in terms of today’s concern over patriarchal attitudes towards women and the ecocide being waged against the very earth that sustains us. Ultimately, what is at stake within modern archeology is that if women, or their representations, are disregarded in our known history then modern women will be disregarded as well.

The archeologist Caroline Malone claims that very few of the figurines from Malta can be designated as female because “no systematic study has ever been undertaken where the material has been examined in detail” and has concluded that “the traditional ‘Fat Lady’ or goddess figurine, that is, the classic image of prehistoric Malta, is in fact no more female than it is male.”[2] There is a major problem with the current academic circles denying goddess images based on their own inward prejudices or lack of knowledge. Esteemed archeologist Marija Gimbutas has done extensive work on identifying the language of goddess figurines, which clearly identifies gender in prehistoric art.

Xaghra Twins figurine

Xaghra Twins figurine

Analysis of the Xaghra Twins Figurine

            The Xaghra Circle (sometimes referred to as the Broctorff Circle) is the most recently excavated site in Malta. Unfortunately, the site was poorly excavated and many archeologists have called into question the validity of the finds there due to their haphazard discovery.[3] Later more systematic digging resulted in much more informative data.[4] The most famous find is the Xaghra Twins statue, which depicts two skirted human figures. There is currently a debate about whether this image is male or female. The many fleshy female figurines found in Malta have led many to believe that the people worshiped a fertility goddess, which they connect to the culture’s lack of weapons for war. Some scholars have seized on the lack of a clear male deity to try to disregard theories of a Goddess cult on the islands by naming the faith of the prehistoric people as one of folly. In the article “The Death Cults of Prehistoric Malta” the authors suggest that the

worship of fertility may well have been a component of the prehistoric religion. But the recent findings argue that it would be a mistake to concentrate exclusively on any one facet or historical period: the prehistoric religion of Malta was not only an infatuation of fat females[5]

These authors overlook what I consider an important point about the Neolithic religion: that when viewed as a whole, the Xaghra Twins point to more than a gendered female deity, but also to entirely different concepts of gender equality and fertility which consequently led to a sustainable egalitarian society.

Caroline Malone, and others, disagree with “some archeologists [who] have hypothesized that Maltese society may have been a powerful matriarchy dominated by priestesses, female leaders and mother goddesses,” because they believe this is some sort of overzealous feminism.[6] The scholars who believe that many of the figurines from Malta are female also recognize many phallic images from the island as well. It is ironic that archeologists like Malone only question the validity of the female images, leading some to the conclusion that there is an unspoken gender bias within academia to only discover male artifacts. The artifacts, on the other hand, are unbiased. At Tarxien there is an abundance of female, phallus, plant, and animal imagery. Sharon Sultana, author of the Malta Insight Heritage Guides, states that some statues are considered to be “earth mothers” and acknowledges that there are male counterparts as well. She asserts, “There is the possibility that both sexes were venerated contemporarily.”[7] This gender variety indicates a holistic worldview where all people were represented.

The symbolism imprinted on the Xaghra Twins figurine points to a society that was invested in the regenerative powers of the land and the female body. The figurine was found among the collective burial of the dead. The early Maltese were deliberate in their care of the deceased and appeared to show great reverence to death as a process. British archaeologist David H. Trump states, “early depositions were pushed back or ejected to make room for later [bodies]. This seems to indicate the widely-held view that personality remained with the bodies only so long as they were clothed in flesh.”[8] The bodies were kept in rounded tombs and were built near above ground temples. Once the flesh decayed from the body and all of its nutrients had seeped into the soil the body was believed to have given life back to the earth through decomposition. Interestingly, this structure is mirrored in the shape design of both the tombs and the temples, indicating that their purpose was related. Trump seems to follow this claim by highlighting the value of red ocher, which the Maltese would have had to import. He says, “Hinting at strong religious beliefs, the bones were freely sprinkled with red ochre. This was used almost world-wide symbolically for blood, and so life.”[9] The combination of the value placed on the decomposition as a way to nurture life and the use of red ocher to sprinkle new life onto the bodies of the dead points to a belief system focused on the preservation of the entire life cycle: birth, death and regeneration. The early Maltese seem to have believed that they could intensify the process through their death rituals and, thus, enhance the presence of life above ground.

Marija Gimbutas asserts the

Maltese temples were used for specific religious functions, particularly for rituals of death and regeneration. Maltese temples intriguingly occur in pairs […] representing death and regeneration, maturity and youth, or winter and spring.[10]

Gimbutas references many reasons for these beliefs, but the most striking is that the bodies were often buried in a fetal position, as if being put back into the womb of the earth to be reborn.[11] The Xaghra Twins may be reflecting the above ground temple structures and may possess similar religious significance. Ggantija, a large Neolithic Maltese temple, is situated near the Xaghra Circle where the twin figurine was found and has the same double goddess structure. Gimbutas explains the double goddess temple structure:

The alignment here is significant and we may suppose the larger temple to be the mother and the smaller the daughter of the divine family, or we may see them as a pair of sisters […] Still another possibility is that the representation is of two different aspects of the same Goddess, symbolizing youth and maturity, or death and regeneration[12]

Gimbutas asserts that these figurines are extremely complex and cannot be classified as merely fertility figures or Venuses. The egg-shaped apses of the temple resemble the egg-shaped rounded burial tombs below ground. The temples and burial tombs likely worked in conjunction to enact the regenerative properties of the Maltese religious system to promote regenerative life.

Gimbutas also comments on the Xaghra Twins directly, saying that it “quite likely symbolizes reemerging new life.”[13] Archaeology is evolving to incorporate the language of Neolithic art and understand the religion of the past without a modern overlay. In the introduction to her revolutionary work Language of the Goddess, Gimbutas asserts these ancient cultures “can best be understood on their own planes of reference, grouped according to their inner coherence.   They constitute a complex system in which every unit is interlocked with every other.”[14] The particular language of the Xaghra Twins, and the surrounding archeological finds, point to a belief system that is steeped in a co-creative process emphasizing regenerative life. The following paragraphs will illuminate the artistic language of the statue and its implications of the larger culture.

Xaghra Twins figurine

Xaghra Twins figurine

The Symbolism of the Xaghra Twin Figurine

In my view, the symbolic language of the Xaghra Twin figurine is an invocation for fertility and abundance. The most striking element of the statue is that there are two individuals, linked together by a pleated skirt. Gimbutas asserts that doubles equal intensification, which denotes potency or abundance.[15] The doubling of the figures indicates that the symbolism of the figurine must have been of great importance to the culture that created it.

The second most striking symbol is the steaopygia, which is a further intensification symbol, but of fertility. Thus, the imagery of the statue can be viewed as a physical prayer to bring forth fertility and abundance. However, some scholars have argued that the Malta figurines are not purely steatopygous because their fat is distributed throughout their bodies.[16] I concede that the larger statues are rounded throughout their bodies; however, the majority of the weight is situated around the buttocks and, therefore, should be acknowledged as having steaopygia.

Xaghra Twins figurine

Xaghra Twins figurine

Trump has stated that red ocher is a symbol for blood and life. The calves, feet and top front of the bed or couch that the twins are sitting upon is coated in red ocher.[17] Caroline Malone noted, “feet may have represented the means for the spirit to be transported to the next life.”[18] There has been some dispute over whether the Xaghra Twins are male or female.   Because Trump, and other scholars, do not account for this ocher to have meaning attached to the physical bodies of the statue; they have not been able to state conclusively that these statues are female. The figures do not have prominent breasts to identify them as female, but the red ocher, as a symbol of blood and life, does identify the sex. Based on the location of the red ocher it is obvious that it is representative of menstrual blood. The pleated skirt is slightly shorter on the front side of the figurines, exposing the red below. This intentional exposure is likely to emphasize not only painted red feet, but to make this area of the figurine the focal point. As women biologically menstruate once a month in the body’s effort to create life it is likely that the early Maltese recognized this ability and were showcasing the life-giving powers of menstrual blood through the ocher. A similar skirted figurine was discovered at Tarxien which had a number of small human represented placed below the skirt above the feet.[19] Such symbolic language makes it unnecessary for the genitalia of a figurine to be exposed for the gender to be apparent. As men do not experience this biological change it is unlikely that the artist would have created them to be so, especially when phallic images are present within the culture. Scholars who take a reductionist viewpoint to their studies are unable to see the language of such artwork in totality as Gimbutas and others have done.

The vine-like spirals that swirl beneath the Xaghra Twins goes further to accentuate that the ocher represents life, but in this case plant life. The spiral design is often described as volutes; however, their design is much more wild and natural. Gimbutas describes the spiral as “The energy inherent in the continually moving forms [that] awakens dormant life power and moves it forward.”[20] In essence, the spiral functions in the same way as the ocher. Both imbue the object with life. Archeologist Anthony Pace analyzes the spiral patterns in the Hypogeum.[21] He describes these spirals as a departure from the highly structured development of the temples and states that they are “organic” in design.[22] This root-like spiral design is also present above ground at Tarxien. David H. Trump appears to disagree with Pace. He says, “It is possible, though unlikely in view of its probable derivation from the volutes decorating local pottery that vegetative symbolism was intended for these spirals, and they could be simply abstract motifs.”[23] My own view is that what Trump insists is an abstract motif is in fact filled with natural symbolism of life’s cycles. This is based on artistic representations at Tarxien and the other temple sites, which are filled with spiral, animal, and human designs. While, the above-ground temple spirals are very structured, the tomb spirals of the hypogeum and the Xaghra Twins do not follow a linear path. Though viewers can only speculate on the meaning of these spirals it is plausible that they might indicate root patterns. This would be consistent with their presence below ground and by the presence of ocher to bring them to life. In the Hypogeum this root system could represent a pathway for the dead to be reborn to the living; whereas, the spiral root design beneath the feet of the Xaghra Twins could be the pathways of lifeblood flowing down from the figures to nurture the dead. These images together showcase the death and regenerative cycle that may have been part of the tomb worship of Neolithic Malta.

Xaghra Twins figurine

Xaghra Twins figurine

The largest section of the figurine is the egg-shaped buttocks beneath the pleated skirt.[24] Though none of the current articles address the pleat design, the evaluation of the skirt is vital to understand the overall meaning of the figurine. There are several deliberate detail changes, which appear to be unique to this particular statue. From the front side the pleats look identical; however, the back shows that the figure on the right, holding the cup, has a separate design.[25] The front and back of the left figure have oblong pleats with two long centerlines. Gimbutas asserts that the bi-line is likely another symbol for intensification.[26] The backside pleats on the right figure has four oblong one-ended pleats, but with a singular dividing line reaching from the center of the inner pleat to the floor. According to Gimbutas this image represents the vulva.[27] The vulva, according to Gimbutas, represents “the birth-giving aspect of the Goddess in the sense of her protecting, promoting, and aiding in the act of birth.”[28] The context of the figurine is important to our understanding of the significance of the overall statue. With the addition of this symbol we now have seen that the figurine includes symbols of the entire life cycle—birth, death, and regeneration. It is likely that these symbols of birth and intensification are tied to the re-birth of life given the context of the site. Unfortunately, it is not clear if the number four, the number of pleats, is significant, but it is possible that this represents that seasons. The two large side pleats are unique in that they contain four lines within one larger oblong one-ended pleat. I have speculated that the number four might be interpreted as a sign of the seasons and as such may indicate a belief that the year-long life cycles of seasons are intertwined with the rebirth of the human deceased. Regardless of any of these speculations it is clear that the artist deliberately made these selections and therefore it is worth our effort to try and decipher their meaning.

Above the pleated skirt both of the figures hold an object. The left figure holds a small headless figurine slightly away from her body. The head was likely broken off at some point due to the vulnerability of the neck.   Malone describes this figure as a “tiny dressed person,” but does not compare it to the larger figurines.[29] While the pleated skirts of the Twins hug the contours of the body, the small figure’s diamond inscribed skirt flows outward in a full a-line pattern. Unfortunately, this pattern is not present elsewhere in early Maltese artwork nor is it common in Neolithic art. The hands of the small figure are clasped together. Given the context of regeneration throughout the overall statue it is likely that small figure represents a human rebirth, though likely symbolic. The small figure is being offered forward, leading to further speculation of the co-creative process. Without a stronger context for this design no successful guesswork can occur.

The right figure holds a cup or vessel in the right hand while the left hand is left loose near the belly area. The design and functional uses of the cup are essential for understanding the religious significance of the image. The design is a womb-shape and can be likened to a human female’s womb, which both fills with blood of life and empties. The round body of the cup can be viewed as a container for life and as a representation of fertility. While one hand grasps the cup the other hand is touching the womb of the figure with slightly splayed fingers. Since the red ocher exiting the bottom of the skirt has clearly defined these figures as female, it is possible that the hand is touching the empty or recently conceived womb-space. This assumption is based on the context of the female figurine. The breasts are flattened and there is not a protruding belly on either figure. Based on these details the hand likely represents the hope of new life.

While the loose ponytail hairstyle appears to offer little to understanding of the early Maltese it may allude to gender inclusivity so far unrealized by many scholars. Gimbutas contends that the Great Goddess of life, death, and regeneration is extremely complex and though she does not analyze the Xaghra Twins in as much detail as the work that she has done throughout the Aegean and Balkans it is clear from her expansive research that she believed that the symbolic language extended to the Maltese archipelago. According to Gimbutas, during the “sixth millennium the goddess becomes more vigorous and less obese with her shoulders, upper arms, and breasts accentuated” and while the heads of some goddess figures became “phallus-shaped suggesting their androgynous nature.”[30] It is my view that during this period the ancient peoples began to associate their female deity as containing the male aspect within her overall body. Malone, Trump and others seek to remove any identifying female aspect from figurines to make them male as if male gender were the default gender of the Neolithic peoples, as it seems to be in our modern societies. By looking at the Xaghra Twins from behind it is possible that the heads and long necks could be seen as phallic symbols and that the large bulging arms could represent the scrotum. Hamangian and Sesklo statues are described by Gimbutas as having male aspects though not to the detail that I am describing here. Both the Xaghra Twins and the Sesklo figurine were “long-haired.” The Hamangian sculptures are described as having “very strongly built bodies, muscular upper arms, huge abdomens and thighs, and folded arms.”[31] This analysis provides a view of images that have sexual properties of both genders, leading to the possibility that the figurines represent a being capable of containing all the necessary elements for fertility. However, the overall context of the Xaghra Twins is undoubtedly female.

The final section of the statue from Xaghra is the delicately inscribed base.   The couch or bed is very similar to the one on which the famous “Sleeping Lady” figurine reclines. A shorter and thicker base supports the lower wide base, which are marked by three small lines grouped together. This tri-line is, according to Gimbutas, associated with “beginning.”[32] She further states that the tri-line is often connected to the uterus and snake spirals.[33] Although there are no snakes present, both the organic spirals and the uteri of the Xaghra Twins are just above the couch. If the tri-line is a symbol for beginning then this figurine is likely the beginning or conception of new life given the context of the burial mound it was found in. The larger cultural implication of this assumption is that the early Maltese clearly had faith in their belief system to believe that life would return and that they encouraged this process through their artwork. Clearly they must have also believed that they could co-create with their deity by creating this small figurine and placing it among the dead.

The ecological situation on the Maltese archipelago is tenuous at best. Malone and other scholars, including Trump, have claimed that Malta was “an island world under powerful economic and environmental stress, where the communities were struggling to maintain their former standards of living and to feed the population.”[34] These scholars base this on the lack of trade and the preference to expend energy building communal temple and burial structures instead of homes. This assumption of the downfall of the culture suggests an internal prejudice of the scholars against female-centered religious systems. Trump has shown that the islands have sporadic rainfall and the summer is often a period of drought.[35] Soil erosion and lack of timber are also a problem on the island. However, the early Maltese were able to adapt; Trump states that they had methods of water catchment and storage, and knowledge of local springs.[36] While I do not deny that the islands were less than ideal for human habitation I look at the long history of progressive human habitation on the islands as proof that these early peoples thrived. Famed Malta archeologist Sir Themistocles Zammit stated that at the Hypogeum there was a deep-water cistern that has been in use by the public since ancient times.[37] The ingenuity shown by the early peoples is evidence of their ability to survive over time by utilizing the natural resources they had. This is confirmed, although not purposely, by Malone who stated “Their health was apparently very good, with few dental problems or other detectable illness,” meaning that these people lived well in contrast to many in developing countries today.[38] Furthermore, “The same anthropological features are present from the earliest Zebbug people to the late Tarxien population, which evinces little or no change in the genetic makeup of the early Maltese community.”[39] This time period is from 4,100 B.C. to 2,500 B.C. For over 2,000 years these peoples maintained cultural independence and environmental health. By demonstrating the veracity of the local people, Malone and her colleges extend the findings of Marija Gimbutas, and others, who believe that the Neolithic people were an extremely sophisticated society who lived well within the parameters of their environment.

Interestingly, Peg Streep writes that the temples were built to show “gratitude and honor due a deity who presided over a land that, while fertile, did not yield its fruit easy.[40] But to what deity were they praying? Malone, Trump and other prominent scholars have neglected to dig up the oral histories of the islands that contain the seed of their cultures early beginnings. Feminist Veronica Veen has researched the mythology of the islands and found existing living traditions of giantess stories told by local women. Veen states that the stories represent a matrilineal legacy and are passed from mother to daughter.[41] These stories are also place-related, meaning that they are linked to a particular physical place.[42] The stories are rooted to the places where they stem from, rooting them in the minds of the local people. This is a tale that Veen collected from Xaghra: “That a Giantess used to carry those stones from over Sannat to Xaghra: carrying it on her back, while she used to carry her baby-child, her baby, at the back. And during the way she used to eat beans.”[43] This story somewhat resembles the Xaghra Twins figurine in that a large woman with a child is represented. The Xaghra Twins may be a smaller representation of Gigantija. It is my view that such images lead to a larger cosmic worldview held by the Maltese in which female images hold power over life, death, and the continuation of both. Furthermore, the presence of the beans indicates that these few factors were important enough to pass on through the generations. This evidence shows that fertility and plant life were connected with the giantess.   Though modern archeologists refer to the corpulent figures as goddesses the folktales refer to them as giantesses, both possessing a supernatural width and whose primary concerns seem to be children and food.

Due to these somewhat harsh conditions the early peoples were adaptive and knowledgeable about their environment, including their food sources. Their connection to their deity and their food is apparent in the myths of the Giantess and her beans. Malone and Trump believe that environmental pressures caused the decline of the Neolithic Maltese, but their assumption is based on the lack of other data.[44] I agree with these authors that environmental pressure may have been a contributing factor, considering the evidence of soil erosion, but the health of the bodies do not point towards environmental destruction. x Thus, the lack of other data should not be brought forth as the proof for the decline of the culture. Instead, allow the early Maltese disappearance to remain a mystery until more evidence can be uncovered.

What we do know of the Maltese we know through the megalithic structures they have left behind and their own bones. The latter provides the most succinct data about the life and social structure. The dead at Xaghra Circle were buried in collective graves. This points to an egalitarian social structure. In her analysis of the Maltese temples Caroline Malone believes that the temples were ceremonial structures and that the culture was highly socialized under a chiefdom.[45] This theory is problematic given Malone’s own admission that “the Maltese evidence is more difficult here since the collective nature of the burial practice […] fail[s] to identify differential status in individual burial, even though the whole group could be seen as ‘wealthy.’”[46] Without evidence of a hierarchal social structure scholars should not attempt to put our modern societies social structure upon the Neolithic.

Conclusion

The finds at Xaghra Circle, and throughout Malta, indicate a society that recognized both female and male qualities as beneficial for the continued prosperity of their collective group. If a hierarchal ruler had led the people their high status would likely have been apparent in their burial by separating their body from the masses and marking it with jewelry or other treasures. Malone’s conclusion that the presence of a matristric, goddess civilization cannot be proven with the evidence available is interesting considering that she herself was unable to prove that a patrilineal clan structure existed. Instead the evidence points to an egalitarian society.

In their book “The Myth of the Goddess” Ann Baring and Jules Cashford discuss the findings on Malta,

The unity and coherence of the metaphysical ideas of these ancient peoples become more accessible if we are aware of the limitations of our own minds in approaching them. If earth and sky were more resacralized, it might be easier for us to rediscover the ‘language’ of the goddess […] The discovery of these centers of Neolithic civilization […] must have implications for our conception of the evolution of consciousness. We will at least have to give up the idea of primitive tribes lurking in the darkness of prehistory awaiting our civilized minds to enlighten them. We would also lose the condescending terminology of ‘idols,’ Venus figurines’ and ‘fertility cults’”[47]

Baring and Cashford bring to light an interesting facet of modern archeology. Though it is likely an unconscious act, many scholars try to silence any artifact, myth, or object that does not confirm the current androcentric chiefdom society that we currently reside in. In an effort to better understand such wellsprings of knowledge as the Xaghra Twins figurine we must step back and question what prejudices we are bringing to the academic conversation. Marija Gimbutas has given academia the language to read the Neolithic world. Her gift should be utilized and critiqued so that a conversation that includes the female perspective is heard. Without these added voices the archeological conversation is missing half of its voices and should this continue our megalithic past will ooze into silence. Though this paper investigates only on one small figurine from a small island, it is a small example of what is missing from the bigger academic picture.

 

Endnotes

[1] David H. Trump, Malta: Prehistory and Temples (Valetta: Midsea Books, 2002), 178.

[2] Caroline Malone, “Temple Art of Ancient Malta” in Ancient Goddesses, eds.Lucy Goodison, and Christine Morris (London: British Museum Press, 1998), 151.

[3] Trump, Malta, 176-181.

[4] Trump, Malta, 176.

[5] Caroline Malone, et. al., “The Death Cults of Prehistoric Malta,” Scientific American (1993): 116.

[6] Malone, “Death Cults,” 113.

[7] Sharon Sultana, The National Museum of Archeology: The Neolithic Period (Valetta: Heritage Malta, 2006), 28.

[8] Trump, Malta, 44

[9]Ibid., 45

[10] Marija Gimbutas, The Living Goddesses, Miriam Robbins Dexter, ed. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999), 95.

[11] Marija Gimbutas, The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe (San Francisco: Harper, 1991), 174.

[12] Gimbutas, Civilization of the Goddess, 174.

[13] Gimbutas, Living Goddesses,, 95.

[14] Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), XV.

[15] Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 161-172.

[16]Isabelle Vella Gregory, The Human Form in Neolithic Malta (Valletta: Midsea Books, 2005.), 20.

[17] Gregory, Human Form in Neolithic Malta, 20.

[18] Caroline Malone, and Simon Stoddart, “Representations of Death – Discoveries at Xaghra Stone Circle, Gozo,” in Maltese Prehistoric Art: 5,000 – 2,500 BC, ed. Anthony Pace (Malta: Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti, 1996), 49.

[19] John Evans, “What Went On In a Maltese Megalithic ‘Temple’?,”in Maltese Prehistoric Art: 5000-25000 BC, ed. Anthony Pace (Malta: Fondazzjoi Patrimonju Malti, 2002), 42.

[20] Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 279.

[21] Anthony Pace, The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Paola. (Valletta: Heritage Books, 2004), 21. Note: the spirals in the Hypogeum indicate a strong religious connection between the main island of Malta and the smaller island of Gozo where the Xaghra Twins were discovered.

[22] Pace, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, 21.

[23] Trump, Malta, 93.

[24] Elizabeth Wayland Barber, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1994), 135-136.

Note: The oldest cloth artifact showing pleating is from 3,000 B.C. from Tarkhan, Egypt. Though it is not clear who invented the pleat design it is clear that the design was shared throughout the ancient world.

[25]Gregory, Human Form, 56-61.

[26] Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 167.

[27] Ibid., 100-107.

[28] Ibid., 104.

[29] Malone, “Death Cults,”116.

[30] Marija Gimbutas, The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of Michigan Press, 1982),152.

[31] Gimbutas, Gods and Goddesses,153.

[32] Gimbutas,Language of the Goddess, 92.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Malone, “Death Cults,”117.

[35] Trump, Malta,19.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Sir Themistocles Zammit, Malta: Tarxien Temples and Saflieni Hypogeum (Malta: Interprint, 1994), 133.

[38] Malone, “Death Cults,” 115.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Peg Streep, Sanctuaries of the Goddess: The Sacred Landscapes and Objects (Boston: Little Brown, 1994), 83.

[41] Veronica Veen, Female Images of Malta: Goddess, Giantess, Farmeress (Haarlem: Inanna-Fia, 1994), 21.

[42] Ibid,

[43] Ibid., 27-8.

[44] Malone, “Death Cults,” 117.

[45]Malone, “Temple Art of Ancient Malta,” 163.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ann Baring & Jules Cashford “The Neolithic Great Goddess of Sky, Earth and Waters” in The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, (London: ARKANA, 1993), 104-5.

 

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Filed under Alexis Martin, blood, Guest Blogger, menstruation

The story of the blood was silent…

If we don’t talk about our blood, are we collaborating with an oppressive silence? Why is it so much easier to talk about sex than it is to talk about menstruation? When we gather in circle in the Red Tent, we share stories of this intimate yet ubiquitous women’s experience—and turn the cultural prohibition on its head.

Join us in the virtual “Red Tent” for today’s episode of Red Tent TV.

After you’ve watched the episode, I’d love to know…

Why do you think it is important to talk about menstruation?

I look forward to reading your comments below.

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About the Interviewee featured in this video:

DeAnna L’am, speaker, coach, and trainer, is the author of ‘Becoming Peers – Mentoring Girls Into Womanhood’ and ‘A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period’. She is the founder of Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women & Girls™ .

A pioneer in Menstrual Empowerment, DeAnna has been transforming lives around the world for over 20 years, by helping women & girls love themselves unconditionally!  She teaches women how to dissolve PMS symptoms; draw strength from their cycle (rather than be at its mercy); model self-acceptance, self-care, and self-esteem to their daughters; and hold Red Tents in their communities.

Visit DeAnna at: www.deannalam.com

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DeAnna L’am is excited to announce…

2nd Annual Red Tents In Every Neighborhood ~ Global Summit:

OUR DAUGHTERS, OURSELVES

 “A Mother-Daughter Interview in the Red Tent”
a New Video by Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost  and Teresa Moorehouse will be featured during the Summit.

What messages did your mother give you about being a Woman?

What messages are you offering your daughter, or son, about being a Woman?

What legacy would you like to pass to Today’s Girls?

About the Red Tent World Summit:

Join me to listen to Womb Wisdom, to Honor Our Mothers, Ourselves, and Today’s Girls! Get Inspired by Leading Visionary Women from Around the World: U.S.A, Spain, Austria, Italy, France, Ireland, India, Mexico, Chile, and New Zealand, with Special Guest – MARIANNE WILLIAMSON!

Our FREE Global Summit will air February 1-28,

and you can watch it from the comfort of your home!

join-the-telesummit

Leave a comment

Filed under "things we don't talk about", blood, DeAnna L'am, From the filmmaker, growing up, menstruation, menstruation video, moon, mooncycle, red tent, Red Tents in Every Neighborhood, The Red Tent, womb, women's stories

First blood stories…

Join us in the virtual “Red Tent” for today’s episode of Red Tent TV.

After you’ve watched the episode, I’d love to know…

What is your first blood story?

I look forward to reading your comments below.

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About the Interviewee featured in this videos:

DeAnna L’am, speaker, coach, and trainer, is the author of ‘Becoming Peers – Mentoring Girls Into Womanhood’ and ‘A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period’. She is the founder of Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women & Girls™ .

A pioneer in Menstrual Empowerment, DeAnna has been transforming lives around the world for over 20 years, by helping women & girls love themselves unconditionally!  She teaches women how to dissolve PMS symptoms; draw strength from their cycle (rather than be at its mercy); model self-acceptance, self-care, and self-esteem to their daughters; and hold Red Tents in their communities.

Visit DeAnna at: www.deannalam.com

bar

-1

DeAnna L’am is excited to announce…

2nd Annual Red Tents In Every Neighborhood ~ Global Summit:

OUR DAUGHTERS, OURSELVES

 “A Mother-Daughter Interview in the Red Tent”
a New Video by Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost  and Teresa Moorehouse will be featured during the Summit.

What messages did your mother give you about being a Woman?

What messages are you offering your daughter, or son, about being a Woman?

What legacy would you like to pass to Today’s Girls?

About the Red Tent World Summit:

Join me to listen to Womb Wisdom, to Honor Our Mothers, Ourselves, and Today’s Girls! Get Inspired by Leading Visionary Women from Around the World: U.S.A, Spain, Austria, Italy, France, Ireland, India, Mexico, Chile, and New Zealand, with Special Guest – MARIANNE WILLIAMSON!

Our FREE Global Summit will air February 1-28,

and you can watch it from the comfort of your home!

join-the-telesummit

Leave a comment

Filed under "things we don't talk about", blood, coming of age, DeAnna L'am, menstruation, menstruation history, menstruation video, moon, mooncycle, red tent, Red Tent TV, Red Tents in Every Neighborhood, Reproductive Health, The Red Tent, Video of the Month Clip

How to Discuss Menstruation With Your Child

by DeAnna L’am

“This is my Moon Flow,” I said to Ellah, who was about 4 at the time, when she saw me changing a pad. I never saw my Mom changing pads, and hence committed to not hiding my natural flow from my daughter. Without my flow, my girl would not have been born… How could this be anything but a source of joy in my ability to give birth? An ability she will one day share!

“All women flow with the moon,” I added, “and you, too, will flow when you become a woman.” Ellah smiled with the promise, and at four years of age this was enough. I didn’t refer to the flow as “blood” until much later, since I didn’t want Ellah to associate it with an “Ouwy.” The purpose with young children, both girls and boys, is to introduce, and talk about, this natural bodily function in the same neutral way as you do when talking about eating. Gradually, as the child matures, it is good to tie the flow to its purpose, which is a woman’s ability to give life.

If you find that you have some charge about your menstruation (such as physical or emotional pain) it is best not to introduce the subject to your child until you work through your difficulty and gain some balance for yourself.

Generally, it is best not to bombard children with information, but to wait for their questions. When Ellah was about seven, she asked me where does the Moon Flow come from? My answer was inspired by the Waldorf educational approach, and I explained that the Moon Flow is “Mom’s Nest.”

“Mommy’s Nest???” she asked in amazement.

“Yes,” I said. “When a Mama bird prepares for a baby bird to be born, she makes a nest. She flies in the forest and collects leaves, feathers, boughs, branches, and bits of fluff, and she weaves a nest for the baby bird to comfortably lie in.”

“Well…” I continued, “it’s the same with me. And with all women! Every month a woman’s body prepares a nest in her tummy, where a baby can grow. Her wise body gathers tissue and blood from inside her, and makes a warm and comfortable nest. Then, if no baby starts to grow, there is no need for the nest. So Mamma’s wise body sends the nest out in a big whoosh. That’s why the flow is red, because it’s made of all the good, nourishing blood that was ready to help the baby grow.”

“Every month,” I shared with my daughter, “I thank my body for being such a miracle, and for knowing how to make a baby grow inside… I also thank it for the wisdom of letting go of the nest, when I don’t need it…” Ellah was fully satisfied. She had a clear picture in her mind, and the Moon Flow made sense to her.

Telling your child a story of this nature doesn’t only encapsulate the physical facts associated with menstruation. It allows you to start instilling the awe, which our bodies deserve for their amazing abilities. Beyond that, you are actively bucking the cultural current of taboo and shame around menstruation. You are raising a girl or a boy who will have a different narrative with which to counter the cultural beliefs when they encounter them.

barAbout the Author:

DeAnna-Sacramento-WEBDeAnna L’am, speaker, coach, and trainer, is the author of ‘Becoming Peers – Mentoring Girls Into Womanhood’ and ‘A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period’. She is the founder of Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women & Girls™ . She is the founder of Red Tents in Every Neighborhood.

A pioneer in Menstrual Empowerment, DeAnna has been transforming lives around the world for over 20 years, by helping women & girls love themselves unconditionally!  She teaches women how to dissolve PMS symptoms; draw strength from their cycle (rather than be at its mercy); model self-acceptance, self-care, and self-esteem to their daughters; and hold Red Tents in their communities. Visit DeAnna at: www.deannalam.com

bar

-1

DeAnna L’am is excited to announce…

2nd Annual Red Tents In Every Neighborhood ~ Global Summit:

OUR DAUGHTERS, OURSELVES

 “A Mother-Daughter Interview in the Red Tent”
a New Video by Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost  and Teresa Moorehouse will be featured during the Summit.

What messages did your mother give you about being a Woman?

What messages are you offering your daughter, or son, about being a Woman?

What legacy would you like to pass to Today’s Girls?

About the Red Tent World Summit:

Join me to listen to Womb Wisdom, to Honor Our Mothers, Ourselves, and Today’s Girls! Get Inspired by Leading Visionary Women from Around the World: U.S.A, Spain, Austria, Italy, France, Ireland, India, Mexico, Chile, and New Zealand, with Special Guest – MARIANNE WILLIAMSON!

Our FREE Global Summit will air February 1-28,

and you can watch it from the comfort of your home!

join-the-telesummit

Leave a comment

Filed under ageing, and Hormone Cycle, blood, coming of age, daughter, DeAnna L'am, growing up, menstruation, moon, mooncycle, moontime, mother, motherhood, parenting, red tent, Reproductive Health, womb

How a hundered metres of red material changed my life

By Angelika Rodler

The first time I saw a Red Tent was at a birth conference in Hungary in 2003. It was made of simple poster walls, covered with a lot of red material. I went in without any expectations, but I understood within a second. The tiny room was filled with pillows, honey was offered to honor the women who came in. It was so peaceful, silent – like coming home. A different world- and while outside the conference program stimulated the neocortex, here was the place to dream and share about all the new visions which were created on this pioneer´s conference. My friend and wonderful midwife Marina Alzugaray was with me and I could not imagine a better person to be introduced to the sacred space of the Red Tent. At this time I was organizing an annually birth conference in Austria and for 2004, I invited the Hungarian Red Tent Women to come with their concept and material. This first red tent was also very tiny, but the women at the conference loved it and this motivated me create our own one, much bigger, for next year. Many midwives used it to recreate, meet with friends and new contacts, take a nap…After this sweet experience I knew that I need a Red Tent. When I came home I worked like crazy and 24 hours later I had one in an free room of our house. A space only for my own needs and to share time with my girlfriends and my daughter…. In 2006 I became pregnant with my 5th child and I was sure that she will be born inside the Red Tent. It was candle lite, peaceful water birth with my midwife, Doulas, my daughter – and of cause my very supporting husband. This was really a birth party. I never will forget the magical hours of bonding with the baby in my pregnancy, this perfect birth and the recreation time postpartum, the breastfeeding, – every pregnant woman should have the chance to give birth in a red tent or enjoy the baby moon in red! That´s why pregnant women cannot only rent a birth pool for a home birth at our center, they also can rent the whole stuff for a Red Tent, can be 2,5 m x 2,5 m, or, if they want, 50 m². I would love to see a red umbrella-tent or some other solutions for an easy and not too exotic performance in the hospital (Doulas know what I mean ;-)), because I think this would be the perfect way to care for more privacy in labor….

I started to organize Red Tents in our Center (NGO/NPO for parents and children to support natural birth and parenthood in many ways)…. The first time 2009 we offered two weeks of Red Tent program, based on Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard´s inspiring book “Circle of Life”. We went through all the archetypes of women´s wheel of life –every day a new one. The day started with an introduction to the meaning of the archetype in the morning. The whole day there was a good mixture of open space and a program with leaded talking circles, short lectures, playful singing, dancing (wild and sweet), creative time to experiment with new arts and express your feelings, a slumber party with our little daughters and special massage for our own old mothers. We did “Let´s talk about sex” evenings and shared a lot of female wisdom with experts and our sisters in all ages. We could explore what women can be for each other, especially while they are going through their so called “blood mysteries”- menarche, birth, menopause. After two weeks we ended up with our visions about how we want to become old and die. We laughed a lot, cried a little bit and enjoyed being with women. The last day we closed the circle and celebrated the transformer in us. It was a well used chance to invite girlies and crones, who normally don´t come to a parents & child center and we really could take a look on the special needs and blessings of each lifetime.

While the Austrian Doula training (which I´m leading) I try to inspire the Doulas to see the Red Tent as a wonderful tool to work with women on every level. You need not to be an Expert to invite your girlfriends and clients to come to your red tent and feel joyfully how it works (yes, the red material works with it´s own magic – you can relax!). You need not to be an expert to create a space for YOU and allow women to come in when they need to be for their own– even it the space is tiny, it´s worth! BE the one who is inspiring other women to take their space! I´m thrilled about the huge potential of the Red Tent to bring together pregnant women (new clients and women who had a Doula f. e.) for sharing birth stories, do creative activities, chanting birth songs, showing birth films, the really good ones like “Orgasmic Birth”, do different kinds of bodywork. But I also love the meeting between the generations to understand them and f. e. how we were raised up…

For sure you are highly needed to talk open and positive about first blood, menstruation, birth, love and death (and of cause many other essential things and fun stuff). But don´t forget to offer blessing way parties, baby naming celebrations, a menarche party, …..So many opportunities really connected to our in-TENT-ion as Doulas…. if you are not the one to DO it, be the one who shares the idea, and I promise you – very soon you will meet the women you were waiting for to add their talents to yours and your circle will grow and shine and expand –because women are waiting for YOU to start!

As you see, my personal focus of the Red Tent is not only on Menstruation (although I love this topic, too) like in some Red Tent traditions. I enjoy the beauty and the many many roles in every women´s life and want to empower women of all ages to feel welcome, nurtured and treated with love. I can imagine how special YOUR Red Tent will be created and filled with energy…. let´s dream on, share methods of creating, building, let´s make a Red Tent Kit with the best ideas for celebrations – let us be the movement into more joy in sisterhood…!

For more information:

www.elysia.co.at

angelika@elysia.co.at

Angelika Rodler on FB

Töchter ELYSIA´s on FB

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Filed under birth, blood, Guest Blogger, healing, memory, moon, mooncycle, mother, motherhood, parenting, place, red tent, red tent experience, Reproductive Health, space, The Red Tent, Uncategorized

Return To The Red Tent

by Teresa Maria Bilowus

“Return To The Red Tent” was first published in Starflower Living Naturally, Issue 2, July 2014

“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go…a place of women, to help you learn the ways of women… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself… waiting to be released… A place of women…” ~ Judith Duerk, Circle of Stones

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

There is a place where women can go to tell their stories. A place where women can rest, create, sing, dance, sleep, or just ‘be’ for a while. There is a place where women can be witness to authentic sharing and connection. A place where women can hold each other and be held. There is a place where women can go to experience a ‘homecoming’ and leave feeling renewed, restored, replenished and open. There is a place for women. It is called the Red Tent. When women’s paths meet in this safe and sacred space, lives are transformed.

It is unlikely that when Anita Diamant published her best-selling novel ‘The Red Tent‘ back in 1997 she could have imagined how her work would be a catalyst for a ‘Great Remembering’. Anita Diamant’s descriptions of the monthly celebrations in The Red Tent not only illustrate the close relationship with land and nature and the moon cultivated by semi-nomadic women in ancient times, they also indicate the strong bond between women who would menstruate together in a sacred gathering space. It was in this sacred space, the Red Tent, where every girl became a woman.

Whilst the origins of the ‘Red Tent’ are fictional, women sitting together in circle is ancient and very real. Women coming together to bleed is found in almost every culture around the world. In some traditions women were segregated from their communities for being ‘unclean’ during their monthly bleeding time. But in many cultures women were honoured during the bleeding days and went to a special place within the village to commune with other women. Sometimes this place was called the women’s lodge, the moon lodge, the menstrual hut, the bleeding lodge, or by some other traditional indigenous name. These spaces all had great power and significance because it was the space where women bled together and shared wisdom. It was in these spaces that women passed down their traditions and shared their aural history – their stories and their mythology. It was in these sacred dwellings that women connected to their own inner power – in particular the intuitions and visions that came at the time of bleeding. And it was in these gathering spaces that women helped guide young girls into womanhood and were themselves guided by the community elders.

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

Today, the Red Tent is a global women’s movement. There are an estimated 20,000 Red Tents worldwide. In thousands of locations around the world women are once again gathering together to share the cycles and the stories of their lives. These are important times. For the last 4000 years the entire history of ‘woman’ has been suppressed. Women’s songs, wisdom, traditions, intuitions, stories, methods of healing, mythology, knowledge of herbs and of the stars, and of magic and the underworld have all been vanquished. Patriarchy effectively wrote history in the image and the voice of the masculine. This doesn’t necessary mean that history is wrong. But it does mean that without the voices of women, history is wildly incomplete.

When women enter the Red Tent a ‘Great Remembering’ takes place. Women the world over share the same experience of coming into the Red Tent for the first time and yet it being deeply familiar. The Red Tent is a gathering ground for which women have been yearning, but until women actually enter the space, this yearning has not been released. Adeola from the Red Tent community in Bournemouth, UK says “I found a space I hadn’t released I craved, to speak with a voice I had never heard, about a wisdom I had carried since birth but had no awareness of.”

It seems that ancient women-wisdom is woven into the very fabric of the Red Tent space. From its fictional beginnings, women all over the world have breathed power and life into the Red Tent. Some Red Tents focus on celebrating menstruation and the blood mysteries, others are simply a place where women can dance, sing, rest and speak their stores. Healing, transformation and renewal are common themes within Red Tent communities. Regardless of age, culture, background, experience, religion, or circumstance, all women have a home within the Red Tent. There is a deep-knowing that when a woman enters the Red Tent she is supported not only by other women, but by an ancient energy that has drawn women together since the Beginning.

Women have big, important stories. Deep, painful stories. Stories that matter. Stories make up the meaning of women’s lives and yet for so long there has not been a place for women to share these stories. It is so easy for women to hide what has happened to them – to stuff their own experiences down into a hidden-away-space so as not to feel them. It makes it easier to ‘get on’ with day to day life. But within the walls of the Red Tent women are experiencing the phenomenal healing power of telling their stories. No one needs ‘fixing’ or advice in the Red Tent. There is no judgement or ‘therapy’. But there’s lots of compassion. And there are lots of women being heard. When women speak it, shout it, cry it, scream it, feel it – whatever ‘it’ is, then it comes to the surface to be released. Women’s stories are monumentally important. Each and every one of them. All over the world the Red Tent is providing a safe and sacred space for women to tell their stories. And be heard.

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

In September 2012, award winning film-maker Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost released a ground-breaking documentary entitled “Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent‘. This 72 minute film seeks to ‘humanize the stories in the Red Tent – to put a face on the space’. Recently I had the wonderful pleasure of connecting with Dr. Isadora to talk about her film and the worldwide Red Tent movement.

Dr. Isadora, can you define what the Red Tent is for modern-day women?

“The Red Tent today can be anything you want it to be. The Red Tent is to fulfill the needs of your community. What do women need? Who would come? Sometimes women need to dance, sometimes to talk, sometimes to rest, to laugh, to cry, or to eat soup. There’s no one right way to create a Red Tent space. It has to meet the needs of the community, whatever those needs might be.”

Why now? Why at this time? Why has the Red Tent movement become so big?

“Contemporary women have a need for sisterhood. The Red Tent movement has a wonderful ability to cross all boundaries of culture, religion and background. No matter who you are, what language you speak or who you love, inside the Red Tent we are all sisters. I’ve heard women’s stories from Red Tents in India that are the same as women’s stories from Red Tents in Chile. The Red Tent transcends everything and brings women together to just ‘be’ in a safe and sacred space.”

So is the Red Tent part of the feminist movement?

“Well, firstly, let’s define feminism. My definition of a feminist is someone who believes that all women should be respected, honoured, nurtured, and heard. A feminist wants all women to believe in themselves. A feminist is someone who wants women to muster up the courage to live what they came here to do. I believe we are in the third wave of feminism. The first wave was the right to vote. Then came the second wave which was for equality. But we went out too hard. We burnt ourselves out. And so now the third wave of feminism is about self-care and self-love. It’s about bringing everything back into balance. The Red Tent gives us a place where we can find this balance. We can find sustenance communing with other women within the walls of the Red Tent. This gives us the power and the strength to go out into the world and do our work. Women need this balance.”

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Photograph © Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014

 

Dr. Isadora, in addition to being a filmmaker, you are also a textile historian. How important is the ‘fabric’ when creating a Red Tent?

“I have personally done over 500 film screenings of ‘Things We Don’t Talk About‘. Each screening is done in a Red Tent. I set up these Red Tents in gardens, churches, houses, forests, community halls and theatres. I have a great love of fabric. I have lived in 18 countries and I am intrigued by the history of fabric. I create amazing Red Tents with beautiful fabrics that I have collected from all over the world. But I know women who simply gather in circle each wearing a red scarf. That’s a Red Tent too. The Red Tent is any embodied space that honours the needs of women.”

Could you share your forward vision for the Red Tent movement?

“I would like to see The Red Tent movement get to places that are not so westernized. I would like to see it grow into places such as Eastern Europe and Asia. I’d like to see the potential that the Red Tent movement has to support women in those countries. I’d also like more international festivals with huge Red Tents. I envision global summits and international symposiums on the Red Tent movement where women from all over the world come to share their experience and their future vision.”

And finally, what about the future vision for your film? Where to from here for ‘The Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About’?

“I would like to do lots more film screenings within the US and internationally. And I’d like to make another Red Tent film. The next one would incorporate women’s stories from the global Red Tent movement. I’d like to film women from the Red Tent telling their stories in their own countries, culture and language, and then subtitle them in English.”

When contemporary women are asked what the Red Tent means to them, they share that the Red Tent is “a sacred feminine temple where I can honour myself”, and “home”, and “a place of powerful healing – healing where nothing needs to be done”, and “a place where I can come back to my pack.” There is a gentleness, kindness and realm of support for women within the Red Tent that is not found anywhere else in modern day society. Many women are witness to the powerful outpouring of love that takes place in the Red Tent. Women who have previously felt resistance toward women’s circles because of negative experiences of malevolent or competitive women are being drawn back to reconnect with women within the safe space of the Red Tent. Here, women are being nurtured by each other. Women can enter the Red Tent at any time. This supportive space is no longer just for women at the time of menstruation. The global Red Tent culture offers a place for all women to gather and honour their own individual journey while experiencing oneness with a united sisterhood.

There are often regular monthly gatherings within a Red Tent community. These monthly gatherings might be loosely structured to include movement and music, talks, rest time, craft activities, body work, creative pursuits, pampering, reading, journalling and much more. In addition, Red Tent communities offer open days where women can use the space in whatever way supports their needs.   Workshops or special events held in the Red Tent are often focused on areas that are deeply raw and painful for women. These can include topics such as healing from birth trauma, dialogue about sexual abuse and rape, mother wound healing, and empowerment around the menstrual cycle. Often when women take part in a workshop or retreat, they can experience big shifts only to go back to the ‘real world’ where there is no where to discuss, share, explore, or expand these shifts further. This can be difficult when the work is deep and the processes new. Within the space of the Red Tent, women can find ongoing support around such shifts from other women in the Red Tent community and from the space itself.

It is common within the Red Tent to find teenagers conversing with crones. This is a space where all stages of a woman’s life are recognized and honoured. The sacred trinity of maiden, mother and crone are melded together in a diverse and dynamic group of women defying societal norms on age segregation. It is within the Red Tent that young girls are experiencing powerful coming-of-age circles and empowering mentorship programs. Once again women are guiding girls into womanhood. For the first time in generations girls have a place to go to learn the ways of women. The Red Tent is a collaboration of women. All women have gifts to bring. Some women give massages, as others make tea. Some women bake cakes while others brush hair. Some women read poetry as their sisters are painting toenails. The Red Tent is where all of this can happen simultaneously and with complete spontaneity.

The healing that is taking place in the Red Tent is vital for our planet. When women heal themselves there is a ripple effect that touches their ancestors, their children, and the entire global community. Courageous women all over the world are speaking their stories. Women are finding their voices. When a woman comes to the Red Tent she experiences a ‘homecoming’ and a deep sense of belonging. Each time she returns to the Red Tent she returns home to herself.

© Copyright Teresa Maria Bilowus 2014 All Rights Reserved.

 About the Author

Teresa Maria Bilowus is a facilitator of workshops and retreats pertaining to Women’s Blood Mysteries. She is a Menstruality Empowerment Activist. Teresa facilitates Red Tent Bournemouth (Dorset, UK) and is the founder of Moon Girl Warriors, a powerful coming-of-age mentorship program for girls. Teresa is passionate about giving voice to womb-space wisdom and educating women on the rites-of-passage from menarche to menopause. She studies metaphysics and is a freelance writer. Teresa is the inspired mother of two phenomenal daughters.

Teresa can be contacted at: returntotheredtent@gmail.com

 

For further information on the Red Tent please visit:

Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost – ‘The Red Tent Movie – Things We Don’t Talk About’ http://www.redtentmovie.com/

The Red Tent Temple Movement http://redtenttemplemovement.com/

The Red Tent Directory – UK and Europe http://redtentdirectory.com/

Red Tents In Every Neighbourhood http://www.deannalam.com/global-network/

And for further information about HERSTORY – A Womanifesto (an informative free e-book) please visit the website of Jane Hardwicke Collings: http://www.moonsong.com.au/

 

 

 

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An Invitation into the Red Tent (sound meditation mp3)

by Delphine Demore, PhD

It is dark inside the tent, with the light muted by the enclosure. At this late afternoon hour, the entire dwelling is tinted red and pink and orange. Soon the sun will set and the glow of the fire and burning coals will be the only light. You sit in the Elder’s chair, near the doorway. The fire is burning brightly and there is water in the clay jars at the other side of the room, to keep it cool. There is food, cooked ahead and preserved, with fruit and cheese. A week of freedom from preparations, child care, household chores, marital responsibilities, a time all the women come to treasure. Tonight, there are a few newly bleeding girls joining the Red Tent. They have not been to the Women’s tent before and they are curious, eager but worried too. Like all fledglings, they anticipate and fear what is unfamiliar. You smile, remembering your first time in the tent. The tenderness you feel for the newly fertile girls was shown to you then. The tradition of women handing down their wisdom and teaching their daughters is ancient and honored here.

11-minute Guided Sound Meditation. Featuring the song “Dream Wisdom” by David R. Maracle

You hear the approach of the first woman. She is a young matron with 2 small children. She smiles at you and you anoint her forehead with the blessing oil. You embrace, kissing each other on each cheek. She takes a seat in the circle around the stones. Soon others join her, standing in line for their anointing, embracing you and each other with warmth and welcome. The first timers come together, finding courage in numbers. They are welcomed in kind.

When all have arrived, you begin the Women’s Chant, calling on the protection of the Divine Mother. The women join hands and chant, filling the tent with their sweet voices. You pour the first cup of water on the stones in the center, sending up a burst of steam into the hole above the circle. Your chant begins to quiet and your prayers are sent out into the sky.

The youngest women rise and address the new arrivals. They tell of their first time in the tent and their first menses. They honor and bless the girls, welcoming them into the circle of women. They are each handed a branch of lavender and rosemary, as a symbol of love, peacefulness, protection and healing. The other women come forward, one at a time, in age order, to bless the girls and tell a short story of their own blood time. Finally, you are left to speak. Though you have not bled for a long time, you often volunteer to anchor the Blood Times Tent. All the women come if they can. Many are needed to care for children and do the women’s chores while the bleeding women are sequestered.

The women again join hands and hum softly as another cup of water is thrown on the hot stones. When the steam dies away, there is a collective sigh and everyone relaxes.

As the women begin to talk to each other, in pairs or small groups, enjoying the leisure that their nomadic life prohibits during the rest of the month, your attention drifts and you remember other Blood times, other days, women who were friends and who are gone now. You remember…

You see yourself pressing your lavender and rosemary between stones after your first time. Like the young girls here tonight, you stored them in your amulet. Reaching for the amulet that hangs from your neck, you know that you have them still. You remember bringing your first babe with you, nursing her in the steamy air, content to drift in and out of the conversations, absorbed in the love affair of motherhood. Your other babies were also brought here, but the memory of that one is still sharp in your heart. Your daughter goes to another tent somewhere else, in her husband’s family, taking your granddaughter with her. You wish you saw them more often.

You recall the first time your daughter came to the tent, brave and strong. She was not timid, but walked in with her head high, expecting to be accepted, expecting to belong. As a mother, you had taught her well to honor herself and the sacred mystery that is fertility. You are proud of her. That tradition goes on, wherever your daughter and granddaughter go.

Today, your other daughter is present here, following the Shaman Way rather than the motherhood path. You are proud of her too.

In the tent, friendships are forged and confidences shared. All seek understanding, celebration and solace from each other. You remember your mother, taking her turn as elder in the tent, looking at you with that proud, fierce mother look. Even now, after so long, you miss her. Soon, you will travel that ancient river and be reunited with her. The cycle of life, like the blood flowing here, will go on…

We honor that ancient tradition here today. Taking a deep breath, bring yourself back here to the circle. When you are ready, open your eyes.

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