By Jacqueline Riquez
The first time I found myself in a Red Tent, it was like a bolt of electricity : very powerful and hard to ignore ! And yet at the same time there was something so evident, so obvious about this experience that I knew I had tapped into something that went back to the Beginning, to a time before my knowing. I’ve had the feeling before, carrying water from a well with another woman, this intense flash of vestigial memory, the strongest sense of déjà-vu that one can imagine. That night in the dim light of the Red Tent I heard women speaking the strongest truths that spoke to the depths of my soul. There was talk of moon-blood and the words seemed to open a dam for me… I left that night with my mind racing and though I got home past midnight, it was hours later before sleep could claim me. ‘I must make my own Red Tent, this is what I have to do.’ It was like a clarion call – very powerful and hard to ignore!
I should explain that the Tent I went to here in France is really in a tent, though that one was kind of basic. My own tent borrowed the same concept and then went wild from there : don’t think of a tent for camping, think of a sumptuous nomadic tent, with cushions, blankets, candlelight, draped silks and an air of decadence, as though a harem of magnificent women were about to descend – and they do! It’s 9 feet square and 3 feet high at the sides, going up to 4 feet in the center, and though it’s a tent, it stays indoors. About 11 of us can fit in there at a time without it being uncomfortable. I started making it in the days that followed that very first Red Tent. I sewed and sewed and sewed, a good half mile of thread. My baby was just learning to roll over on her side and I would place her on the floor at the far end of the room, rush to my machine at the other end and sew like a Fury, looking over my shoulders as she rolled her way giggling down the room towards me. As soon as she arrived I’d take her back to the other end of the room and we’d start over. My first tent was sewn with my baby girl hot on my heels. My second tent, even more beautiful, was inaugurated last weekend. I found some fabric in a thrift store that I fell in love with and knew it had to become my Red Tent. Every piece of fabric came from yard sales and thrift stores and I delight in knowing that all of this material has already traveled and lived other lives.
Something about that warm, sacred space invites intimacy. Women often say with the conviction of those who know that it’s like being inside a womb. Tongues loosen, guards drop and we can all lay down our loads. I’m not great in small spaces, never have been, and other women who’ve come to the Tent feel the same, yet there is something about that deep red womb space that defies all claustrophobic comparisons : in here we feel contained, not closed in, safe not suffocated. I begin by reminding everyone that what is said within the Tent remains in the Tent. I invite them to share briefly what they’re bringing with them : no-one is obliged to talk but to honor the energy of the group everyone is invited to say where they’re at – ‘I’m having a hard time right now and I’m not sure I’m going to talk much’ – that’s fine. We fix a time to end the Tent together and then we’re off : I have rarely needed to get the discussion going nor wrest back the conversation from someone talking too much. No talking stick is required. I help things along if needed but I don’t run the show though I do make and serve the tea, not to mention the home-made crackers and cookies and the essential chocolate supply. The talk just flows : sometimes around our moon-blood, sometimes birth, sometimes sex : whatever comes is right. At the end we wind a red ribbon round our wrists as a reminder of our sacred connection. As I type here, there are still two ribbons on my wrist from two Tents over the last months : I am still connected to 20 other women via red satin.
I schedule the Tents every three weeks so that after four tents I’ve covered every phase of the moon. This seems to be more ‘democratic’ since we don’t all bleed in sync anymore. The energy that comes from the different moon-times is tangible : at Full Moon we’re often thoroughly over-excited and channeling some very sexy energy, we laugh more, sometimes until the tears are streaming down our faces ; at the Dark of the Moon we are quieter, more reflective and the Dark of our own natures emerges. If I contribute anything, it’s nudging women towards an awareness of their own seasons, to connect them with those of the moon, but also to the seasons of the solar year and those of a woman’s life. Towards feeling the rush of energy that I felt just recently: I was in the Fall of my cycle (pre-menstrual), with the moon waning, the leaves were reddening on the trees and here I am, 42 years old, in the Fall of my life as a woman, done having babies but still revelling in all the fruits of the summer. This is what I feel so strongly in my life when I have all four elements lined up like that – the profound feeling of being where I am meant to be.
I fill up the thermoses with hot water for the endless cups of tea and infusions we will drink, I burn sage and Palo Santo and lay out the candles, plump the cushions one last time. I breathe deeply and murmur my prayer : ‘to the fire above and the earth below, to the air that folds around us and the river that runs through us, to our Father the Sky and our Mother the Earth, to the cool glow of our Lady Moon and the warm caress of the sun, to the bonds of kin that hold me close, to all that I am a part of and to all that is a part of me, I bring myself to you. We are all one relation. ‘ I am ready now. I rise to invite the women waiting in the other room to join me beneath the silken skirts of the Red Tent. This is where we are meant to be.