What is your ritual around your period? Is it one you consciously partake in? Or do you find yourself going through the same cycles monthly without the intention?
What I mean is, do you put thought into how you want to spend those first days of each cycle, or do you fall victim into the days of your period? Who is in charge?
Around the world, for centuries, women have created rituals around their periods.
Most of these rituals, in one way or another all fall under the theme of isolation.
The Hindu practice of chhaupadi is one where women are sent to isolate away from their communities; Native American tribes do not allow women to participate in the sweat lodge during their moon time; Middle Eastern communities do not allow women to cook during their menses. Jews are not allowed to engage (with any of the senses) with their spouse during what they call Niddah. Where do all these practices/traditions/policies/rules come from? Do they arise from any truth or do they all stem from some patriarchal misogynistic belief?
While it’s true that many of these practices are based in the idea that a woman is “inpure” while she bleeds, a deeper look into each belief system actually reveals that the opposite is true. Women are said to be the most powerful while they bleed, therefore are asked to remove themselves from the rest of the community. In the sweat lodge, for example, women who are bleeding are said to be so renewing their powers through the purification process of menstruation. It is said that her power is so strong that it diminishes, pulls away from or interferes with the power of the sacred Sweat Lodge ceremony. So no, it’s not because she’s impure, but the exact opposite of it. (To read more on this very amazing topic visit this page)
In my preparation for marriage, I recently met with a Jewish woman who meets with brides before their wedding day and teaches them some of the wisdom of the Torah. While I was born and raised Jewish, I only consider myself to be so under the view of Judaism as a race, rather than a religion. My three-hour meeting with her was beautiful and fascinating. Here’s what I took away: women are born holy. Women, unlike men, don’t have to work at being God-like. Men (in Judaism) must have a circumcision and must go through daily rituals to connect with God. Women’s only job is to bring the holiness they possess into their home. They do so (according to this belief) by lighting Shabbat candles and baking bread.
Then once a woman bleeds she enters a state called Niddah. And in the state of Niddah, she is not allowed to be intimate with her spouse. Intimacy (which my teacher described beautifully as into-me-see), is considered anything that connects husband and wife: passing the salt at the dinner table, putting on perfume which might entice the husband’s desire for his wife, wearing nice clothes, or speaking lovingly to each other. Using any of the senses might create desire, and therefore is not okay during the time of Niddah.
Why am I sharing this? First, while I’m not in a place where I feel the need to not have intimacy with my partner during my moon time, I do find it beautiful that we create intimacy in these ways. That the way we pass the salt to each other can be a moment of connection, rather than just another thing we don’t pay much attention to. Second, in this practice of Niddah (and this is my own interpretation) the Jewish woman is isolating herself. However, it doesn’t seem to be for her own benefit, but for the benefit of her husband. She must shut down her power and light as to not put the male at risk. And this seems to be the case in other cultures now as well. In Nepal, women were sent away during their moon time, and some died because of the conditions they were living in (it is now considered a criminal act).
But here is where it gets interesting: These rituals, or practices, stemmed from something true, from something pure and beautiful. They stemmed from women’s desires and knowing that they need alone time during their menses. They need a break from children, from husbands, from dishes and cooking and laundry. They needed time alone. Unfortunately, just saying I need time alone didn’t cut it back then, and doesn’t really cut it now.
But isolation, during our moon time, almost insists that we get silent. That we give ourselves time to ourselves. That we create space to listen to our bodies. To feel our emotions, to breathe. To not have to think about work, kids, partners, friendships, etc. To not have to have a schedule, or show up to work or to the gym. But to do what feels right, to eat well, and move slowly. To do yoga or go for a walk. To sleep all day, to watch TV or journal. This is the time in which we are most powerful. So how will we use our it? It’s the time we get to set an intention (consciously or unconsciously) for the starting cycle. It’s our time to review the previous cycle and grieve the loss of it. It’s time to gather our strength and get ready for the journey ahead.
I encourage you to start noticing this time, and if setting aside a whole 3 days seems totally unrealistic, set aside 1. And if that also seems like there’s no way it could happen, set aside an hour, or even 15 minutes. Sit with yourself. Meditate, breathe, pray. Do whatever you feel you need. The key word here is you. Not anyone else, but you. Isolate yourself from the rest of the world, and focus on your own needs.
And for those of us who are having challenges with their cycles: I encourage you to take time during the month even (and maybe I should say especially) if you’re not getting monthly periods. Setting aside this time for yourself can actually let your brain know it should be producing hormones for ovulation (which will lead to menstruation). So mark on your calendar a day & time and make it your moon time (you can even follow the moon calendar if you’d like!). And if that doesn’t work, just do it on a Sunday!
That’s all for now, feel free to leave your comments and expereinces in the comments, I’d love to hear how this resonates for you.
All my love,