Category Archives: Jayleigh Lewis

Magical Moments and Safe Spaces during Spring 2015 Red Tents and Movie Screenings

by Jayleigh Lewis

Dr. Isadora’s recent travels took her to Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, where she attended Red Tent events both large and small. From an assembly of highly educated women at a psychology graduate school to a gathering of priestesses at an annual spiritual conference, the Red Tent brought magic and inspiration to all.

The filmmaker of Things We Don’t Talk About (otherwise known as the Red Tent movie) visited the Michigan School of Professional Psychology in Farmington Hills, Michigan (a northwestern suburb of Detroit), on April 26, 2015. She was there at the invitation of Ciera Bies, a doctoral student of Dr. Betz King, who is the coordinator of MiSPP’s master’s program. Dr. King and Dr. Isadora met in 2010 at a conference of the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology, of which the two are members. Dr. Isadora was giving a presentation of the research that would eventually become the Red Tent movie; Dr. King was offering a workshop on menstruation ritual. Dr. Isadora was intrigued by the workshop and, when offered the opportunity, attended and had a great time.

MiSPP is a small, independent graduate school that was founded in 1980 as the Center for Humanistic Studies. The campus is four acres but all classes are held in the same building. Students, as part of their degrees, are required to organize events that bring presenters to campus; since Ciera’s doctoral work is aligned with Dr. Isadora’s Red Tent work (which itself was a doctoral dissertation, the first non-written dissertation allowed by the University of Wisconsin!), Dr. Isadora was a natural choice of presenter.

The event sold out with between 75 and 100 women in attendance. It was a highly organized, professional affair. A silent auction consisting of 100 donated items raised $500, which was used to help pay the cost of the gathering. Additionally, 25-30 community organizations and businesses were sponsors, with advertising featured in the programs that were handed out to attendees. During the first half hour, women were free to socialize, participate in the auction, and enjoy catered food before sitting down to watch the movie.

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The large atrium space was also host to a post-screening Red Tent, during which it was revealed that the majority of the women present held master’s degrees, while half held PhDs. It was a very educated audience! Strangely enough, the school’s regulations stipulated that the male janitorial staff had to hang the Red Tent; this was done on the Friday prior to the screening. The Red Tent stood ready all weekend, just waiting for the women.

Dr. Isadora at the permanent Red Tent in Lousiville, KY

Dr. Isadora at the permanent Red Tent in Louisville, KY

On May 8, Dr. Isadora attended a much smaller screening at a yoga studio in Clarksville, Tennessee, called Yoga Mat. On the way to Clarksville, Dr. Isadora took a detour to the famous, permanent Red Tent in Louisville, KY, where she spent the night in the Red Tent. It was a fantastic space created by Amy and Rebecca, where they host bi-weekly Red Tent events for women and girls. For more info visit:  http://www.redtentlouisville.com/

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Clarksville, TN is home to a large military base, and the town’s culture mostly revolves around it. The yoga studio might be one of the only local places able to attract a crowd that would be interested in the Red Tent movie! The screening was sponsored by the studio’s owners: Trish, Erika, Amanda, and Erin. Approximately 20 women attended, filling the space. An unofficial Red Tent followed, during which the women participated in a discussion initially prompted by questions about the movie but largely self-directed. The women explored aspects of the experience of being a stay-at-home mom, with some women speaking from the perspective of moms who wanted to stay at home with their kids but couldn’t, and some speaking from the perspective of moms who do stay at home but want to work.

Recently, Dr. Isadora has been making Red Tent movie rentals available online for $1 on specific dates which are announced in advance. May 9 was one of those dates. For 24 hours renters could watch the movie as many times as they wanted. For upcoming dates when you can take advantage of this opportunity (and to buy your rental ticket), go to the upcoming screenings page. The next two dates are June 13 and July 11.

For the second time in two years, Dr. Isadora was invited to the Priestess Gathering of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess, International (RCGI), held in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. This year’s gathering took place during the weekend of May 15-17. The RCGI, co-founded in 1983 by Lynnie Levy and Jade River, is a legally recognized religion dedicated to positive spiritual growth for all people and especially for women. It is an endorser of the film. Last year’s Gathering included a film screening as well as a Red Tent that was raised for the duration; this year there was no screening but a beautiful Red Tent and Dr. Isadora hosted a Red Tent workshop.

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Built by Dr. Isadora and 2 incredible helpers, this year’s Red Tent was grander and bigger than last year’s. It included several nooks and crannies, including an “inner sanctum” encircled by a larger outside space. Many women commented that they enjoyed this layout; even though the Red Tent as a whole could hold about 10 people at a time, those inside felt such coziness and privacy that they could almost imagine that they had the whole Tent to themselves! Dr. Isadora already has a vision for next year’s Red Tent: a two-story stairwell, including a loft area, will be incorporated into it. The stairwell will become a “birth canal”-like tunnel of red fabric, and the loft’s balcony will allow women to look down on the lower portion of the Tent. Additionally, Barb, who every year creates wonderful, elaborate altars for the Gathering, has agreed to build a Red Tent altar of all natural materials. Those who heard about this plan are very excited and can’t wait for next year!

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Dr. Isadora noted one very special moment that took place during the Gathering, a moment so touching that, for her, it was “the one thing I was supposed to do that weekend” and by itself was enough to make her glad she had showed up. She had offered the veil dancing ritual (where a few women lie on the floor while the rest of the group dances around them with veils, eventually laying the veils down on the women and resting them there for a short time until slowly and gently lifting them back off) in the Red Tent, and about 13 women had participated. One woman had very much wanted to attend but hadn’t been able to. Following her intuition, Dr. Isadora offered to do the ritual again that night just for her.

Later, after the main event of the evening, Dr. Isadora was sitting at a picnic table with a group of women eating fruit, including the woman who wanted the veil ritual. She got up to go do the ritual, and all of the women at the table joined her! A spontaneous, magical moment that no one could have planned followed as the women danced with and honored their sister. Being a woman who does not fit many traditional feminine norms, she was deeply touched to feel this kind of support from other women. After the ritual, the group played the song “How Could Anyone” (“How could anyone ever tell you you were anything less than beautiful? How could anyone ever tell you you were less than whole?”) and sang the words directly to her. In that moment, nothing could have been more perfect.

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Women’s History and the Red Tent Movement: Provocative Questions at Georgia Screenings

by Jayleigh Lewis

From Latin American countries to college campuses, March 2015 was a lively month for screenings of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About. On March 5th, the film came to Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, while on the 12th a screening was hosted by the Feminist Collective of Northeastern Illinois University. A hemisphere away, the Parque de la Herradura Barrio Miraflores in Cali, Colombia, was the site of another screening on March 15; on March 28th the movie came to Talca, Chile, and the Casa de la Luna.

It is fitting that for Women’s History Month (celebrated every March in the U.S.) the movie traveled so widely and was embraced by those seeking to preserve and understand the story of the role of women in the world. The Red Tent movement continues to grow, to define its place in women’s history. It both complements and enhances other women’s movements of the present and past. The movie, as a readily accessible icon of the movement, inspires questions that help to clarify the unique contributions of the Red Tent.

March 27 in Canton, GA, hosted by the Youniquely Woman Red Tent community

March 27 in Canton, GA, hosted by the Youniquely Woman Red Tent community

Dr. Isadora, the filmmaker, attended two screenings in Georgia this past March, at which these questions took center stage. The first was on March 27 in Canton, GA, hosted by the Youniquely Woman Red Tent community. This dedicated group of women has been meeting monthly for about a year in a permanent Red Tent located in the home of Crystal Starshine. Since Canton is a rural community located in the hill country north of Atlanta, some women have a commute of over an hour! This screening, which included a potluck meal and a Red Tent talking circle, was attended by about 10 women; overall, it was relaxed and low-key. The talking circle was an opportunity for honest, open conversation and healing. Dr. Isadora particularly enjoyed the informal feel of the post-screening Q + A—instead of standing in front of the group as a presenter, she sat in a circle with the women and engaged in an intimate, collaborative conversation about the movie and the Red Tent. (An interesting anecdote: Dr. Isadora dreamed about attending this screening a few days before her arrival. When she shared this with Crystal, who, among other things, is a professional psychic, the two speculated that perhaps they had been unconsciously in communication prior to the event. A possible reason for the comfort and ease Dr. Isadora felt?)

March 28, in Atlanta. The First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta

March 28, in Atlanta. The First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta

The second Georgia screening took place the next day, March 28, in Atlanta. The First Existentialist Congregation of Atlanta, an independent philosophical and spiritual community, co-hosted and provided the space. Also co-hosting were Charis Books (one of the first feminist bookstores in the U.S.) and Charis Circle, the educational and nonprofit arm of the bookstore. This screening was well-attended, with about 50 people present. Two of the attendees, Mary Ann and Drea, are good friends of Dr. Isadora and longtime supporters of the Red Tent movie; they were instrumental in arranging this screening. (They also partnered with Dr. Isadora a couple years ago to host the largest screening to date of Things We Don’t Talk About: it was sold out with approximately 250 women present!) Mary Ann is actually featured in the movie, speaking about her choice not to have children.

This screening’s audience was composed largely of politically active women, many of whom had been involved in consciousness raising groups in the 60s and 70s. They were keenly interested in issues of feminism and how feminist values are represented in the movie. Some tough, thought-provoking questions were asked during the Q + A. Dr. Isadora was kept on her toes as the questions brought out the scholar in her and invited everyone present to truly think about issues such as diversity within the Red Tent movement. Is the movement truly welcoming to all women everywhere, or does it only (perhaps unconsciously) reach a subset of women? Are the women portrayed in the movie truly representative of the larger Red Tent movement? Whose stories aren’t being told? Does the Red Tent movement acknowledge its debt to other women’s movements, particularly those of the past and the work of older feminists?

These questions can be answered in many ways, and the larger discussion is ongoing. On this particular occasion, the women and Dr. Isadora, through honest discussion, concluded that the Red Tent movement is indeed growing in diversity and that it crosses many racial, social, and religious boundaries. The movie was filmed in 2009 and 2010 and provides a snapshot of the movement during those years. Between then and now, the movement has spread and now embraces, for example, women who primarily speak Spanish or French (the movie is subtitled in those languages) and whose native cultures are very different from the English-speaking Caucasian women who are well represented in the movie.

While the film does not overtly address connections between the Red Tent movement and the larger women’s movement, since its focus is on the Red Tent, these connections very much exist, and Dr. Isadora believes that Red Tents represent what women want now. Each wave of feminism brought with it much-needed changes in women’s lives, sometimes in an attempt to rebalance the effects of previous changes. We are now in the third wave of feminism, when women are realizing that the stress of “having it all” (family, work, etc.) is causing them to become alienated from themselves and each other. The Red Tent, Dr. Isadora believes, brings women back to themselves and brings back women’s community.

What do you think about these crucial questions? If you have seen the Red Tent movie, do you think it accurately represents women and women’s communities? How would you add your voice to the discussion?

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January and February Red Tents and Movie Screenings: Warmth and Community in the Midst of Winter

by Jayleigh Lewis

Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, resumed Red Tent hosting and film screening attendance in January and February 2015, after a brief hiatus. As she reconnected with the women of her local Chicago community and traveled to Milwaukee for a screening co-organized by a Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference attendee, screenings were also taking place in other parts of the country and world.

Of particular note were the screenings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 25, and in Coyhaique, Chile, on February 7. The former took place at the Sophia Center for Goddess Study, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating men and women about contemporary Goddess traditions. It was well-attended; Dr. Isadora would have been there if not for her prior commitment on that date to the Chicago Red Tent. The latter screening took place at a Chilean women’s festival, Encuentro Ser Mujeres en Patagonia, held at the Centro Cultural Coyhaique. Approximately 300 women attended the festival, reflecting the explosion of interest in Red Tents among women in Latin American countries over the past six months to a year. Since Things We Don’t Talk About is subtitled in Spanish, the film is well-suited to be an introduction to the Red Tent movement in these parts of the world!

On January 25, Dr. Isadora hosted a Red Tent in her Chicago home. She transformed her dining room into a red fabric-draped space which was filled to maximum capacity by the approximately 15 women who attended. Many of the women brought their children; Dr. Isadora makes it a point to welcome moms who can’t always manage to get a babysitter but still need time and space away from their ordinary lives. (One advantage of this is that everyone gets a chance to hold the babies!)

Red Tent Chicago

The event was “loose and flowing,” a time for women to talk and be together in whatever ways they wished. Embodying her commitment to giving back to her community and to honoring the women who show up, Dr. Isadora offered foot rubs to all. She also bonded with the eight-year-old daughter of a friend while painting the little girl’s nails with sparkly polish. It was a gentle and nourishing midwinter gathering.

The February 7 Milwaukee, WI, film screening, which took place at the 5757 Spa Salon, had a similar light and flowing feel. Liz and Cathy were the organizers. Cathy, who works at the salon, had attended the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference last June and had seen the Red Tent movie there. She happened to have been sitting between a woman in her 80s and a young mother with a baby, and had an inspired moment when she realized that the Red Tent was needed by all generations. After that, she was determined to bring it to the women in her local community.

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The salon, a former doctor’s office, does not have many large spaces (although, in each of its many small rooms, unique inspirational sayings are featured, reminding clients to look for beauty within). In order to clear a space large enough for the screening, the merchandise storage area (which had originally been the waiting room) needed to be emptied, a process which took hours of work. But it was worth it when the women showed up. The event was sold out with approximately 20 women in attendance (including one woman who had driven two hours from Chicago and was glad to find out from Dr. Isadora that there is a Chicago Red Tent community!).

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The post-screening Red Tent, initially slated to last an hour and a half, stretched on for almost three hours; the women did not want to leave! Three activity options were available—henna body painting, chakra aromatherapy, and angel card readings—and in between “appointments” women relaxed, talked, and ate chocolate-covered strawberries in the Red Tent.

Dr. Isadora engaged several women in thought-provoking conversation during this time, bringing to life the spirit of Things We Don’t Talk About by talking about the things women don’t usually talk about! One woman, a nurse at a midwifery clinic, discussed what she knows about infertility and overcoming the fear of having children. Another woman, a salon owner and hairstylist for 30 years, who had been brought to tears by the film, told Dr. Isadora what had so moved her: the depiction onscreen of nonsexual intimate touch. She knows through experience how powerful this kind of touch can be, how it can generate instant trust. When women come to her to get their hair styled, they are often initially uncomfortable with the risk involved in changing their appearance. She has learned to subtly reassure them by unobtrusively massaging their shoulders as they discuss what they want—and thus what was a tension-filled experience becomes a healing experience.

Another conversation touched on a little-discussed aspect of menstruation. Some cultures have menstrual rituals that help to direct the intense energy of this time. Native American women who are menstruating enter moon lodges, because they are seen as too powerful to be part of mundane life; they need to be able to concentrate on ceremony and dreaming. The mikvah is a ritual bath taken by Jewish women that serves as a type of spiritual cleansing and reorientation to the ordinary world after they have finished menstruating. For some women, the Red Tent is a menstrual ritual that can help support and anchor them while they are bleeding. One woman offered the opinion that when women become bloated, “bitchy,” and depressed around the time of their menstruation, it is because they are carrying unresolved grief around the loss of the egg that is passing out of them, grief over the unexpressed potential for life the egg represents. If a woman feels this way, and wants a safe space to get in touch with this inner truth that might otherwise go unacknowledged, the Red Tent as menstrual ritual could be the perfect container for its expression.

Truth and trust were shared, bonds were strengthened, and sacred time was enjoyed during these recent Red Tent gatherings. And more are coming next month! To see a listing of upcoming screenings (including those Dr. Isadora will be attending), go here. If you don’t see one for your area, perhaps you are being called to host one?

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Life to Life, Woman to Woman: November’s Red Tent Stories of Transformation and Connection

by Jayleigh Lewis

During November 2014, travel slowed for Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie: Things We Don’t Talk About. Of the three screenings she had planned to attend, two were cancelled or rescheduled, and even with vending at the La Leche League of Wisconsin Continuing Education Conference in Milwaukee, WI, on November 7th, it felt like a short month. However, it was a deeply touching one. Like fibers from the Great Mother’s tapestry, the stories that arose from the Red Tent this month are made of the soul stuff that binds all women and all life together.

On November 22nd, Dr. Isadora attended a Red Tent movie screening at a private home in Muskegon, Michigan. This was only the second screening ever in the state, and Dr. Isadora’s first in Michigan. Only three hours away from her home in Chicago, it involved far less travel than many other screenings have!

Jessica, the host of the event, is in the process of launching a Red Tent in her city. Originally introduced to the idea of Red Tents through a woman she met at a Trance Dance event, she has been enthusiastic in researching and laying the groundwork for the group, which will be one of only a few in all of Michigan. The screening served as her Red Tent’s launch party.

Red Tent Movie screening in Muskegon, MI.

Red Tent Movie screening in Muskegon, MI.

Her living room was packed to capacity with about 20 women, many of whom were new to Red Tents. About half were members of a book group that had been reading Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent; they were now getting the chance to experience in person what they had been reading about.

The movie was followed by a Q + A and then by a short break, during which the women enjoyed delicious food (including gluten-free and dairy-free options) that had been lovingly cooked for hours by Jessica’s husband. Everyone reconvened for the Red Tent portion of the event, a talking circle during which the women were invited to share why they had come that day and what they hoped to experience in a Red Tent.

What arose was profound.

One woman, a regular attendee of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and a participant in many women’s singing circles, had shared with Dr. Isadora that she wanted to create local opportunities for women to sing together but didn’t know how to do that. Dr. Isadora suggested that, during the Red Tent, she share a song with the circle.

And so, this woman led the group in singing “How Could Anyone” (written by Libby Roderick), backed by Shaina Noll’s recording of the song as it played on Dr. Isadora’s computer:

How could anyone ever tell you
You were anything less than beautiful
How could anyone ever tell you
You were less than whole
How could anyone fail to notice
That your loving is a miracle
How deeply you’re connected to my Soul…

In a beautiful, spontaneous moment, the women held hands during the last refrain.

The theme of connection continued to play out over the course of the Red Tent, as it emerged that an unusual number of those present had the experience of not having a physical mother in their lives. Whether they had lost their mothers through death, having been adopted or having been put in foster care as a child, or through some other circumstance, many could relate to the feeling of missing a mother’s nurturing. Many also said that they were finding that nurturing in the Red Tent. Even those present who did have physical reminders of family (several mothers and daughters attended together, as well as a group of sisters) found the same.

This Red Tent also catalyzed a moment of synchronicity for Dr. Isadora that tied into her personal life in a heartfelt way. Earlier that week, she had driven to Madison, Wisconsin (where she had formerly lived and led Red Tents) to visit a friend, Mary, in hospice care in the end stages of terminal cancer. At Mary’s request, Dr. Isadora came prepared to build a Red Tent; it was Mary’s wish that this sacred space be among the last things she would experience in her life.

Mary and Isadora

Mary and Isadora

With the permission of the hospice center staff, Dr. Isadora built a Red Tent right in Mary’s bedroom. The two then shared three gentle, meaningful hours. Music played while Mary napped. Dr. Isadora rubbed Mary’s feet (and was touched when Mary, even in her weakened state, briefly reciprocated). Conversation turned to the topic of love. Mary wanted to be bathed in love in her final days: she shared that one thing still holding her in her body was her desire to let others know of her love for them. The song “Through It All” by Mother Turtle played:

Through it all, I will love

Through it all, I will love

I will walk through the pain and get drenched in the rain, but I will love.

And I may fall, lose my way, but I will heal anyway because I am love.

Through it all, I will love

Through it all, I will love

In the end, this is all that matters.

Through Mary, as well as through the death of her grandmother last December, Dr. Isadora felt opened to the possibility of death as a spiritual experience, something that doesn’t need to be sad but could be instead a glorious celebration of life. She and Mary spoke about this during their Red Tent. Dr. Isadora felt that she had become a midwife for death, sitting with her friend inside a symbol of the passage that Mary would soon make. The Red Tent is a womb, a portal from one kind of life to another. Not only did Mary believe that she would continue after the death of her body, but she also believed that one day she would reincarnate and literally return to the womb. The Red Tent thus became a kind of dress rehearsal, a promise of what lay ahead!

This soulful experience was still fresh in Dr. Isadora’s memory as she participated in the Red Tent at Jessica’s home in Muskegon. Thus, when she chose a goddess tarot card from an altar Jessica had set up for personal reflections, it was a perfect sign from the universe that the card she chose was that of the goddess Mary.

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October’s Red Tent Movie Screenings Facilitate Connections Across Distance, Gender, and Circumstance

by Jayleigh Lewis

Between September 28, 2014, and October 26, 2014, Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent Movie: Things We Don’t Talk About, attended eight screenings in five states spanning four different time zones. It was certainly a packed month (which, coinciding with Mercury retrograde as it did, contained its share of travel difficulties and communication problems—Dr. Isadora ended up arriving late at three of the screenings, an extremely rare occurrence!). It also contained some beautiful moments of support and co-creation (many provided by men), as well as inspiration for new Red Tent activities.

The first screening, held in Hudson, Massachusetts, on September 28th, took place in the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson and was hosted by the Hudson Red Tent community. It was an intimate gathering of women co-facilitated by Dr. Isadora, Nancy (leader of the Red Tent community), and Reverend Alice (minister of the church).

Nancy had recently had a hysterectomy; beforehand, she had been acutely aware of the finality of her last menstrual cycle. In order to celebrate the holiness of her last blood and to preserve its power, her friend Mary Cote-Diaz (of Drumblebee), a drum maker and Red Tent leader from Grafton, MA, had worked with her to create a custom drum made from goat skin. The drum had been decorated with Nancy’s last menstrual blood, which was then covered over with paint. This deeply meaningful gift was presented to Nancy for the first time in the Red Tent that day, in the presence of her community.

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This Red Tent gathering featured activities that allowed the women present to interact and get to know each other in creative ways. As each woman arrived, she wrote a question she wanted an answer to on a piece of paper (the questions could be about anything, from a personal situation to an existential pondering). The anonymous questions were mixed and read aloud at the end, so that anyone present in the room could answer them. Questions included “What is humility?” and “How can you be resilient in times of suffering?” Collective wisdom provided much fuller answers than any one person could have provided alone.

A second activity was led by Reverend Alice and was based on a Unitarian Universalist tradition. She had written down a list of experiences that might be encountered during a lifetime as a woman (for example: being a daughter, being a mother, having lost a child, feeling not good enough, being proud to be a woman), which she read out loud, one by one. As each experience was named, those in the room who had had that experience stepped into the middle of the circle to be seen by their sisters. Dr. Isadora was so impressed by the silent yet palpable solidarity and bonding created by this activity that she decided to bring it to all subsequent Red Tents she facilitated at screenings this month!

October arrived, and Dr. Isadora traveled to Pennsylvania for two back-to-back screenings. The first was in Reading on October 3rd, in a former warehouse turned community arts space called the T.E.A. Factory. It was organized by the Reading Spiral Sisters LLC, a women’s group led by a young woman named Kelsey. Many of the members of this group are also regular attendees of the yearly women’s festival Where Womyn Gather, where the Red Tent has been a presence for many years.

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora's Garden

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora’s Garden

These women were inspired to create a Red Tent for their own community; they applied for and received a grant, planned and built an elaborate semi-permanent Red Tent at the T.E.A. Factory, which would be open to the public on designated days during October and November 2014, and set dates for screenings of the Red Tent movie to kick the whole thing off. What they did not know was that Dr. Isadora was already planning to be in the area at the time of the screenings! When they found out, they quickly worked together to partner and co-host the screening together. Dr. Isadora enjoyed meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends from Where Womyn Gather while relaxing in the Red Tent, which had been installed in the former bank safe of the old warehouse, a soundproof room which she described as the “womb of the building.”

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora's Garden

Photo courtesy of Lore Stephan-Zora’s Garden

The next day, she was off to York, PA, for a screening hosted by a new Red Tent community led by a woman named Susan. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York (UUCY) provided the space. Susan’s partner, a contractor, helped put up the Red Tent; he was the first of many men who would provide such support over the next few weeks. The community, although only months old, is strong, and the screening was well-attended. During the Red Tent, women participated in the veil dance (the ritual Dr. Isadora first learned in California in February and has been bringing to Red Tents ever since) and in the “stepping into the circle” activity from September’s Hudson, MA, Red Tent.

Traversing time zones, Dr. Isadora landed next in Elgin, Illinois (about an hour away from Chicago), on October 10th. The screening she attended was held in the Elgin Artspace Gallery and Lofts; it was the centerpiece of a week-long women’s event called Rise and Shine: Awakening Heart to Heart. Kathy, the organizer, had planned something special for every night, including a women’s art show in the gallery space.

This Red Tent (somewhat unusually, though not, apparently, for this month!) was put up and taken down completely by men; one was a construction worker who had previously helped to build LAX and O’Hare airports. They were happy to help create sacred space for the 70-80 women who arrived for the gathering—so many women, in fact, that the Red Tent portion of the evening could not actually be held in the Red Tent, since there wasn’t enough room. Instead, the main gallery space was used.

Dr. Isadora led the group in the “stepping into the circle” activity and in an activity she calls the “proud circle,” which she learned at a women’s festival in California in June 2013. In the latter activity, women form small groups of four to five, and each woman in turn takes one minute to speak to her group all of the things about herself and her life that she is proud of. Afterward, as the gathering was coming to a close, the men who were taking down the Red Tent brought in the parachute that had formed its roof—and, just like at the screenings in Vermont and Massachusetts this summer, the women began playing with it. Perhaps this too will become a Red Tent ritual!

Serendipity played a big role in the next screening Dr. Isadora traveled to attend. Initially, she had four screenings booked in Oregon for mid-October, but, one by one, all except a screening planned for Portland were cancelled or rescheduled. Since she had already bought her ticket, she decided to head that way anyway and take some time to visit her godmother, Tamara, and goddaughter, Esme, who live in southern OR. She also put a call out on Facebook to see if anyone in the area might want to organize a last-minute screening.

One woman, Claire, who had participated in September’s Red Tent TV online launch party, responded to the call—and she happened to live in Grants Pass, OR, very close to where Dr. Isadora was already staying! She needed a venue, however. This was serendipitously provided when Tamara, who works as an OB/GYN, offered the conference room in her office. Thus, on October 17th, The Women’s Center, a building dedicated to women’s health, hosted a screening of the Red Tent movie. It was a very fitting extension of the Center’s mission to support the well-being of women.

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The screening in Portland, OR, on October 18th was also a success. Susan, the organizer, is in the process of establishing a business called Moondays, which she hopes will eventually be the host of a permanent Red Tent space. She is currently running a crowdfunding campaign; the screening was her launch party. The event, which took place at TaborSpace (a neighborhood gathering place which describes itself as being like a “community living room”), also included a Red Tent. Women participated in the same “proud circle” and “stepping into the circle” activities that their sisters in other states had earlier in the month.

October’s final set of screenings also involved a fair bit of serendipity. Dr. Isadora had already planned to be in Colorado for 10 days to help a friend decorate her home, but when two local women with whom she had previously corresponded (they were seeking advice about how to start a Red Tent) found out she was in the area, screenings were quickly arranged!

Jessica, the leader of the Nectar of Life Red Tent Temple (begun this past summer in Colorado Springs, CO), had already planned to hold a screening on October 25th. She had held one previously, in late August, but had had to limit it to 15 people due to the size of her space, and now wanted to have a bigger event. This screening, to which Dr. Isadora was invited, was held in the Movement Arts Community Studio. It, like the previous screening, was very well-attended. It was also supported by Jessica’s husband, a lieutenant colonel in the US Army who was on leave for a few days—and who spent part of that time putting up the Red Tent! Yet another man giving practical support to women’s community.

Red Tent Movie screening at Colorado Springs, CO

Red Tent Movie screening in Colorado Springs, CO

The second local woman, Ananda, who lives in Denver, CO fell in love with the Red Tent Movie and wanted to bring it to her home community and to the women of The Temple of the Crimson Lotus, the Red Tent she started recently. When she found out Dr. Isadora would be nearby, she organized a screening for October 26th and invited the filmmaker.

The event took place in a private home that frequently hosts women’s activities. It was a small gathering, but a sweet one. Two of the women in attendance brought their very young babies, only weeks old. The women joined Dr. Isadora in the same activities previous Red Tents this month had engaged in, as well as in a “fire releasing” ritual, during which they wrote on pieces of paper things they were ready to release and then burned the paper.

Despite (or because of?) many unusual circumstances, this month’s Red Tent movie screenings facilitated a variety of powerful connections: between sisters separated by distance but united in common Red Tent activities, between men and women engaged together in creating Red Tent space, and between women longing to create Red Tents and those with the resources to help them. The movie continues to fulfill its purpose.

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The Red Tent Movie: Changing Women’s Lives for Two Years and Counting

by Jayleigh Lewis

On September 15, 2014, the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, marked two years since its world premiere. In that time, it has reached thousands of men and women all over the world and has had a significant impact on the lives of many. Not only does the film tell a powerful story, but inspiring stories continue to grow out of the screenings that are taking place every month, many of which are attended by Dr. Isadora, the filmmaker. As she reports her experiences, it is clear that the movie remains fresh and relevant, a catalyst for women’s encounters with their own most astonishingly beautiful selves.

Circle of Women International, a Vermont-based non-profit organization dedicated to bringing women together to teach and share traditional ceremonies, hosted its second screening and Red Tent in Montpelier, VT on August 15 (the first was in September 2012 and was only the second public screening attended by Dr. Isadora!). President and co-founder Katrina Coravos is also the owner of Liberty Chocolates, an organic chocolate company that donates a portion of the proceeds of every sale of its pomegranate and cherry-flavored Moon Time chocolate bar to the Red Tent movie.

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Montpelier, VT Screening

Approximately 10 women participated in this intimate event, which included a pre-screening Red Tent and a post-screening community meal—and plenty of synchronicity and joy. Dr. Isadora reports that at the very moment the women joined hands, preparing to set their intentions at the beginning of the Red Tent’s opening circle, a grandfather clock in the room chimed. This unexpected affirmation led participants to wonder whether it was really a grandmother clock giving its blessing to the proceedings!

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Montpelier, VT Screening

During the takedown of the Red Tent afterwards, the five or six women who were helping Dr. Isadora had a moment of pure childlike fun when they spontaneously began playing “parachute” with the roof of the Tent (which is actually a red parachute). The opportunity to play like little girls was so refreshing that Dr. Isadora is now going to encourage women to do this at every takedown!

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Red Tent created by Cherie Ackerson at Women Circles in Rowe, MA.

From August 23-28, Dr. Isadora attended WomenCircles, a women’s spirituality camp that is held every year at Rowe Center in Rowe, Massachusetts. Currently directed by Marie Summerwood, this camp, in its many incarnations, has drawn women to these mountaintop woods in the Berkshires for nearly 40 years (and now runs concurrently with Woman Soul, a women’s spirituality camp with a focus on mysticism). Dr. Isadora already knew many of the women in attendance at both camps, but was still surprised at what a transformative and bonding experience the week was for her.

Red Tent created by Cherie Ackerson at Women Circles in Rowe, MA.

Red Tent created by Cherie Ackerson at Women Circles in Rowe, MA.

 

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Photo of Cherie Ackerson in the Red Tent she built at Women Circles in Rowe, MA.

A Red Tent, created by Cherie Ackerson, priestess and WomenCircles staff member, stood for the duration of the camp. Dr. Isadora noted that it was large and beautiful and that she spent time in it every day, but was grateful that she hadn’t had to put it up herself!

The movie screening was held on Sunday night and featured some unique forms of audience participation. Many of the women in attendance were very familiar with the movie and those featured in it; some were in it themselves. Every time a woman known to the audience appeared, her name was shouted out. Mother Turtle, one of the week’s workshop leaders, wrote three songs that are part of the movie, including the theme song, “Red Tent Temple.” During her workshop earlier in the day, she had played two of these songs, teaching the words to the women who were present. Thus, they were able to sing along during the movie, something Dr. Isadora had never seen before! (Mother Turtle also, before the screening, told the story of how she had initially written a different theme song for the movie and had been told diplomatically by Dr. Isadora to try again.) The screening was followed by a long, informal Q + A session.

WomenCircles was a powerful experience for Dr. Isadora not only because of the enthusiasm of the women present but because, for her, it felt like a true retreat. She often works at women’s festivals but doesn’t often get to be a participant. Here, she was able to genuinely “check her title at the door” and become one sister among many. She even participated in the talent show at the end of the week, creatively showcasing her talents for filmmaking and card making!

In order to meet a challenge she had given herself—to shoot, edit, and show a mini-movie within one day—Dr. Isadora shot video of women dancing and playing “parachute” in the WomenCircles Red Tent (the latter activity inspired by Big Winters, WomenCircles staff member and co-founder of Circle of Women International, who told the group how much fun it had been in Vermont) and then spent the afternoon editing the footage. She described the final product, which she showed that evening at the talent show, as “pretty” and “joyous.” She also announced during the show that she would create a custom-made card in under seven minutes for one of the audience members; the songs “Everyday Goddess” by Celia and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” (from the famous movie “Dirty Dancing”) kept time while women danced around Dr. Isadora and her art supplies. The finished product went to Marie Summerwood, but Dr. Isadora promised to send cards to the rest of the women after camp.

Red Tent TV launch party (Sept 5 & 6, 2014) with 35 events worldwide and more than 6,000 people participating! For more info visit: www.redtent.tv

Late August saw two more premieres of Things We Don’t Talk About (Colombia and the La Coruna region of Spain), while the beginning of September saw the launch of Red Tent TV. This free weekly online TV show features never-before-seen footage from the movie plus ideas from Dr. Isadora for things to do in a Red Tent. The global launch party took place within a jam-packed 48 hours on September 5 and 6. The statistics are mind-blowing:

During these 2 days, when the movie was available online for free, 6669 people from 42 countries watched it. Free screening licenses were also available during this time, and 35 public screenings took place in 10 countries, including 2 country premieres (New Zealand and Italy) and 4 state/city premieres (Madrid, Spain; Montreal, Canada; Manitoba, Canada; and Kansas, USA). Dr. Isadora participated in 35 15-minute Skype Q + A sessions, one for each screening, plus 3 live teleseminars that lasted for 30 minutes each (one solo; one with ALisa Starkweather, founder of the Red Tent movement; and one with DeAnna L’am, founder of Red Tents in Every Neighborhood). (That’s 38 Q + A sessions in 48 hours!)

50 episodes of Red Tent TV were available for these 48 hours, and 2779 people watched them. And, a live global Red Tent took place within a private Facebook group, in which 658 people generated 23,976 comments and likes. Dr. Isadora posted a new question every 15 minutes, in addition to the Red Tent TV episodes, and she moderated the whole thing for the entire 48 hours!

 

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After this clear success (and getting some sleep), Dr. Isadora attended a September 19th Red Tent movie screening in Lucknow, Ontario, which marked her third time attending a screening in Canada. This one was hosted by the Grassroots Rural Retreat, a 100-acre family-owned farm near Lake Huron. Vicky and Roger, the current owners, raise cattle and horses as well as run a spa, a bed and breakfast, a retreat center, a hair salon, and a yoga studio on their land. When a Red Tent began meeting there less than a year ago, Linda, another staff member, became its facilitator. The women who attend display real dedication; since Lucknow is a small town in the middle of Amish/Mennonite country, many drive over an hour to get there each month.

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A three-hour Red Tent preceded the screening. It was relaxed and spontaneous, with small groups of women engaging in different activities, including henna body painting and conversations about past lives. Towards the end, the entire group watched the new 2015 video from One Billion Rising, the worldwide campaign to end violence against women. Together, the women learned and practiced the dance to “Break the Chain,” which has become the anthem of the campaign. Dr. Isadora noted that this video is a huge inspiration to her; it motivates her to be a better filmmaker and to continue her work with women.

After two years, the message and heart of the Red Tent movie is still going strong. May the inspiration continue!

 

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Red Tent Communities of Chicago: Tending to Home

by Jayleigh Lewis

Sometimes, you don’t have to travel far to find your tribe. Sometimes, a wealth of community, sisterhood, and inspiring conversation finds you right where you are. Dr. Isadora, filmmaker of the Red Tent movie, Things We Don’t Talk About, had this experience last month (July 2014) when she attended two Red Tent events in her current home city of Chicago.

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The first event was a combination film screening and Red Tent, co-facilitated by Dr. Isadora and local life coach and energy worker Andrea Friedmann. Andrea, a vibrant Colombian-American woman who strongly supports women’s community and owns a coaching business called Vibrations Coaching, met Dr. Isadora initially through Linda Conroy of the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference. It was at their first meeting that the idea to host an event together in the Chicago area was born. The vision became manifest on July 20, when an intimate, multi-generational group of women gathered at Grace Lutheran Church in Evanston, surrounded by the red fabric of Dr. Isadora’s traveling Red Tent.

After watching the film, the women participated in activities led by Andrea, including a talking circle and a “soul journey,” which Dr. Isadora described as an adventurous guided meditation, the purpose of which was to connect women with their souls and encourage them to make discoveries about the deepest parts of themselves. Dr. Isadora witnessed a rich diversity of personal stories emerging from the group as women spoke about their feelings and experiences.

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One woman, in response to a question posed in the talking circle—what story from the film did you relate to?—shared the resonance she felt with the woman who spoke onscreen about the complicated emotions that arise from knowing she won’t have children. She could relate, as she is coming to terms with knowing she won’t have grandchildren.

Many women in the room spoke about wanting local community and not having it. Dr. Isadora and her mother, who was in attendance at the gathering, echoed this theme. Dr. Isadora spoke about wanting to have more friends in the area who are “real”—people who can be honest and vulnerable about the experiences and challenges they are moving through and who won’t just tell her they’re “fine” when she asks how they are. Her mother, who is making plans to move her art studio to the Chicago area, said that she wants to spend more time around women like those who were in the room. All seemed to share a longing for community whose roots run deep, and when one woman proposed hosting a local Red Tent, everyone said they would come.

In another Chicago suburb (Berwyn), Dr. Isadora attended another local Red Tent gathering on July 27. Led by Celena Chavez, co-host of the Red Tent at the Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, this community is relatively new, having been started by Celena after she recently moved to the area. Dr. Isadora described the gathering as relaxing and peaceful; she really appreciated being able to attend a Red Tent that she didn’t have to create!

Many women present had young children with them. One woman who was seven months pregnant spoke with Dr. Isadora about how the latter overcame her fear of pregnancy but is still feeling into what it means to enter this life stage, in anticipation of eventually having her own children. Celena, a mother of young children herself, shared about her practice as a midwife who works with placentas. Some of the children present received astrology readings from Dr. Isadora, containing information about the unique challenges and life lessons each was born with—invaluable for their mothers’ understanding of how to support them.

In keeping with this Red Tent’s theme for July, “Moon in Leo,” women spoke about how they, like the archetypal lion, symbol of the sun, are shining in their lives, and how they want to shine even more brightly. Intuitive ways of knowing were honored as women shared card readings with each other, using angel cards and mother wisdom cards. The archangel card Dr. Isadora drew reminded her of the importance of bringing more humor into her life.

In the midst of her near-constant travel to attend Red Tent movie screenings and Red Tent-related events across the country, these two gatherings allowed Dr. Isadora to stay close to home and connect deeply with local women. She plans to continue this practice!

What stories, experiences, and gifts are you exchanging or do you want to exchange with the women in your geographical community? How are you growing relationships with deep roots?

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