Tag Archives: “How Could Anyone

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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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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