Sacred Journeys – October 2005

Two of my favourite people are turning 12 this year and will very soon begin their moon cycles, or menstrual cycles.

Let me begin by stating that first blood is very exciting. I remember twinges of jealousy that my best friend got ‘it’ before me, and was allowed to stay at home from school, where she dressed up as a princess and held court from her bed, being served lunch and hot chocolate.

Although I looked forward to this transition from being a young girl into a young woman, I treated it as a secret that bonded me to other young women. Today we are increasingly more open in talking about it, but not celebrating it with our larger communities.

So I would like to share with my young friends the teaching passed on to me by Grandmother Margarita at the Circle of All Nations Gathering at the Kitigan reserve, near Maniwaki, Quebec.

These native teachings can return us to a culture of respect for the sacredness of a woman’s life-giving blood, which is so connected to the the ebb and flow of the ocean tides, and the movements of the moon, and the movement of the solar system itself!

Grandmother Margarita began her teachings with a story of how Christopher Columbus wrote letters back to Europe about how there was no illness in North America. In part, she attributes this to a culture that did not suppress feelings, hide from natural cycles or repress women’s wisdom. For her people the holy grail is the sacred blood of the female.

Today, young boys of her village reverently carry menstrual blood out to family and village altars, as well as to the fruit trees and plants, as a blessing of Creator.

Four hundred years after Columbus, our own culture is still dysfunctional. For our parent’s generation women swooned at the sight of blood, and referred to their moon cycles as “the curse.” Our generation still thinks it is unclean, throwing pads into garbage cans wrapped in scented plastics to hide the very existence of our sacred moon cycles.

Grandmother Margarita reiterated again and again, that blood is the water of life. Women are the water carriers, they carry the source of all life. Blood is the most sacred of all things, and when women bleed they should collect it in jars to share with the Earth. Thankfully there are many women now using menstrual cups.

In your own offerings either make an opening or mouth in the earth and pour it in, intending to nurture the world with your thanks or simply feed your outdoor planters. She suggested that in a respectful marriage it is the husband who takes the blood out to the gardens or family altars. Now that is an example of moving the moon cycles out past the “secret” phase into a “sacred” phase and into the community in a light but meaningful way.

Grandmother Margarita was taking a group of us, who were bleeding, into a moon sweat lodge. Beforehand we were taught to make a moon, or menstrual, belt. We cut 13 pieces of red cotton fabric in two-inch squares to represent the 13 moons that occur in a calendar year. Each piece was given a pinch of tobacco and dried flowers, with a prayer (for people or self or world), then tied, forming a bundle, and attached onto a long string that became a prayer belt. It was to be worn high so that the prayers were over the healing energy of the womb, not the hips. The belt is worn throughout one’s cycle and the prayers burnt at the end of the cycle.

In closing, she asked us to only wear loose-fitting, breathable cotton, so as not to suffocate the vagina and increase infections. She reminded us that skirts are a sacred circle or hoop, surrounding our vaginas, and is the reason skirts are worn when we bleed and especially at ceremonial occasions.

Starhawk’s book, Circle Round, contains a short story by a teen girl recounting her first blood/moon. For her a celebration began out in a park with all female family and friends. A ribbon was tied to her wrist attaching her to her mother. They danced around a bit and then the grandmother cut the ribbon. The women circled her and offered their blessings, and shared stories of their own first moons. After lunch she was taken to a mixed community gathering. She sat in the middle, on a blanket with a basket, and people brought her pieces of bread with a blessing for her new life as a young woman. She gave a little impromptu free-form dance as thanks which was followed by a community spiral dance, gift giving, then a great party ensued.

So let’s plan a little party when the time is right for you, my two young friends, and we’ll celebrate sacred-you and your direct connection to the ocean tides, the moon and stars. If that’s not cool I don’t know what is!

Erratum: In the May 2005 Sacred Journeys an author and book was incorrectly identified. Right Use of Prayer is a chapter in the book The Isaiah Effect by Gregg Braden.

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