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Tuesday Tidbits: Childbirth, Happiness, and The Sacred Feminine

November 2015 040Three articles to read this week:

  • 10 Unexpected Things To LOVE About Childbirth – Mothering. A lovely quote amidst several lovely quotes: “Contractions are beautiful in their own right. The peaks. The valleys. The steady, increasing rhythm of this glorious natural function. They are reflected countless times in the world around us, from the lapping of the ocean waves to the hills and valleys of nature, to the endless rhythm of the seasons. They come and go involuntarily, but unlike many other uncontrollable body functions, in the end you get a baby. Awesome.”
  • I’ve been heard to say: “maybe nothing really needs to change, just how I think needs to change.” And, my beloved Wayne Dyer always used to say: “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. So, I appreciated this article about why complaining is bad for your health: “Therefore, your first mystical scientific evidence: your thoughts reshape your brain, and thus are changing a physical construct of reality.”

Source: The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you. | Curious Apes

  • And, wow! A treasure-trove of links within this article:

But virtually every world religion has some revered mother figure — Durga (Hinduism), Tara (Buddhism), Rachel (Judaism), Mary (Christianity), Khadijah (Islam) — and even some newer religions have strong female mother figures, such as the Heavenly Mother in Mormonism. Scholars say many are linked to the prehistorical idea of the “sacred” or “divine feminine” — the worship and reverence of the female.

Is there something intrinsically spiritual or religious in motherhood? In the feminine? How might this be a bridge between different faiths? What role does the ancient concept of the sacred feminine continue to play in contemporary religions? In the religious and spiritual lives of contemporary women who are — and are not — mothers?

Source: Spiritual motherhood: Finding common ground in the ‘sacred feminine’ | ReligionLink

Other news:

We are participating in a fun pay-in-forward giveaway on Instagram via Mother From the Heart.

We’re also part of the Holiday Goddess Gift Guide | The Motherhouse of the Goddess:

12208600_765905926889347_5019755900831306084_nOur Christmas ornament sales have been beyond what we imagined, so we’ve had to stop accepting orders until later this week to give us time to catch up!

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Tuesday Tidbits: This Time Last Year…

As I mentioned in my 11 month update, the first year of life with a new baby feels like a journey through a labyrinth. The moments I experienced last year while pregnant take on a particularly poignancy as I round the curves of The Return, this time with baby in arms.

I love the moments of continuity…last year with my pregnant belly, this year at the pumpkin patch with a toddler selecting his own pumpkin.

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Last year getting my pregnancy photos taken and having a mother blessing, this year having some breastfeeding photos taken (note: carefully selected goddess sarong for photographic continuity!).

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_DSC0457fInterestingly, this time last year I was taking online instructor trainings for Sacred Pregnancy and Sacred Postpartum. This year, quite by accident (in terms of exact timing), I ended up starting the Sacred Pregnancy Birth Journey instructor course online. I won this course in a Red Tent fundraising auction via Moon Times in the winter, but I didn’t actually take it until this month.

For today’s tidbits post, I’m taking a walk down memory lane and looking at posts from around this same time last year…

Stretching time, wondering about twins, and making a belly cast:

I felt on the edge of tears from the time I woke up almost until the time we did the belly cast—feeling stressed, rushed, and WHY. However, we had a great time doing the cast (even though we had to stop to rescue a hummingbird from the actual jaws of a cat, save Alaina from being clawed by another cat, and answer computer questions from the boys. Sometimes I have to pause and realize that the overwhelm I feel lately is probably just a feature of the realities of having three kids with various needs already, a job, a business, a dissertation to write, books waiting to be born, and several serious life passions and be preparing to add another human to the family. Perhaps it would be weird if I didn’t feel overwhelmed and a little panicky, rather than it feeling like it is a personal failing that this is how I’ve spent a lot of time feeling lately.)

Source: Stretching Time | Talk Birth

Then, painting and re-painting that belly cast into a fall leaves theme that I still love: September 2014 122

I am 100% pleased with the re-do. Sometimes a revision is exactly the right choice! I feel like the comparison of my first attempt and my second looks like one of those side-by-side Pinterest comparisons, only both of these were from me!

Source: Belly Cast! | Talk Birth

And, from there, making another belly cast with the intention of creating a pottery belly bowl:

During this pregnancy, one of my personal philosophies has been to do stuff that I haven’t done before. This is my last chance to be pregnant (really!) and I want to make sure I leave no stones uncovered or cool stuff undone!

Source: Belly Bowl! (and new altar bowl) | Talk Birth

And, it worked!

Completed Pottery Clay Belly Bowl! | Talk Birth

I mused over whether I was ready or not:

The inexorable march towards Birth-Day is such an interesting, liminal place to be in. It both feels “mysterious” and inevitable. The closer I get to my official due date, the more wide open the possibilities seem as to when he will be born…when, in reality, the options narrow each day! I still have a certain sense of unreality about the whole thing—like, am I really going to do this? Am I really going to have a BABY????!!!!!

Source: Ready or Not! | Talk Birth

But, my Sacred Postpartum training really helped me prepare, as I took a ceremonial bath:

And, that is when I had my “breakthrough” moment. My eyes were prickling with tears and I said: “I associate taking baths with being weak and wounded.” I associate baths with cleaning blood away from myself and gingerly poking around for tears in my most vulnerable tissues.

Source: Sacred Postpartum, Week 2: Ceremonial Bathing | Talk Birth

And learned how to make Happy Tea:

I’ve been interested to note that I’ve dreamed with increasing realism about the baby for the last three nights in a row. Last night, I was getting him latched on for the first time. The night before, my mom and Mark had brought him to campus for me to nurse on my breaks from class. The night before that was a water birth dream (two actually, both about twins). To me this indicates that whatever lingering “not readiness” I might be experiencing in my waking life, my subconscious is getting it. At some level, my brain is getting down with the idea of really, truly having another baby and it is incorporating him into my dreamscape/life accordingly.

Source: Sacred Postpartum: Happy Tea + 40 Week Update | Talk Birth

My Mother Blessing ceremony also helped me recognize my own strength and courage:

I discovered in this post-ritual reflection that it is just part of my personal process to be able to say, and be vulnerable enough to have people hear, see, or read, that I think maybe I can’t do something or that I’ve said yes to too much. The answer for me is not, “then don’t” or “stop” or “quit” or “take it easy,” it is to move forward and to see, again, that I was actually enough for what scared me or felt too big or too exhausting.

Source: Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual | Talk Birth

In the power of ritual, I learned (again) that life is like birth, and we give birth as we live.

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Closing the Bones…

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After my own postpartum sealing ceremony, November 2014.

I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Awen Clement on the Brigid’s Grove blog this month. She writes about Closing the Bones, a ceremony for postpartum women…

“After the birth of my son, I felt broken open”

Did you feel this way after the births of your children? Did you feel as though you had opened yourself body, mind and spirit to bring that new life into the world? Did it surprise you to feel this way?

We give so much when we birth our children, on every level, and then we keep on giving as we move on in our mothering. We feel exhausted, but that exhaustion somehow doesn’t seem to lift no matter how well we rest. We may feel as though something is missing, some part of ourselves that we were sure was there before. It probably isn’t something you would ever mention to anyone and even if you did many would simply point out that you’re a mother now, of course your tired and of course you feel different…

Read more here: Guest Post: Honouring the Bones of my Sisters – Brigid’s Grove

IMG_9800My own post about my postpartum sealing ceremony can be found here:

Ceremonial Bath and Sealing Ceremony | Talk Birth

Tuesday Tidbits: Women’s Circles and Cycles

11890947_1658752111003671_3875428907499186114_nOne of the things I notice in Red Tent work is how little information women had about their own fertility cycles as girls and young women. I feel like my own mother was more attentive than many in preparing me for my body’s changes with puberty, but I only really learned about my own fertility (vs. just periods and how to cope with them) after having my first baby. I am convinced that how girls learn to relate to their bodies during menstruation has a big impact on how they relate to their bodies during birth and breastfeeding. I don’t find it coincidental that our culture expresses an overall avoidance of menstruation and fertility (other than “don’t get pregnant” and “here’s all the ways to pretend that you’re not a cyclical being, but instead are always the same and no one should ever know that you’re menstruating”) AND also medicates women during childbirth and considers breastfeeding a “private matter” and “personal choice.” These events, the reproductive transitions of the female body, are largely supposed to remain culturally invisible.

Here is an interesting article about what we need to teach young women about their bodies:

At the clinic I rarely met women, young or old, who understand their fertility and what happens during the menstrual cycle. They all know about the blood, although not always why they bleed. But few know anything about what happens between periods. No one has told them. Why have we kept this information from young women? Why do we tell them they can get pregnant any time of the month? If it’s to encourage young people to use protection when they have sex, it doesn’t seem to work.

Source: What We Need to Teach Young Women About Their Bodies | Ruth Miller

It also turns out that the age of first menstruation can have a lifelong impact on many areas of a woman’s life:

From academic success to cancer risk, research increasingly shows that the age at which a girl gets her period—called “menarche”—can have a significant impact on her life. These findings are especially notable given that, around the world, the average age of menarche has dropped steadily since the 1950s. With new studies coming out regularly about girls going through puberty earlier, we were curious: What’s causing this global decline—and what are the potential long-term consequences?

Source: Why the age you get your period can matter forever | Fusion

In my own local Red Tent Circle, we’ve been talking about having a “Pink Tent” event for girls this fall or early next year. My little girl desperately wants to go to a red tent with me! She asks every month if she can come with me. So, I’m hoping to plan and priestess a mother-daughter based event soon in addition to my women-only events. I enjoyed this article recently about planning a mother-daughter body-gratitude ritual:

​Break the generational cycle of body shame and body dissatisfaction, and enjoy special intimate time with your daughter. This is a beautiful way to start the day or to seed your dreams before bed. Ideally, meet in the same spot at about the same time each day…

Source: Mother-Daughter Body Gratitude Ritual – Journey Of Young Women

Speaking of Women’s Circle work, here is a good resource on The Twelve Tenets of Circle Work.

And, speaking of circles + teenage girls + women’s friendships, here is an article on The Art of Loving and Losing Female Friends.

First Moon Blessing Pocket Altar (mini altar, medicine bundle, blessing bundle, menarche, moontime, red tent)

First Moon blessing bundles in our Etsy shop

Sign up for the Brigid’s Grove Newsletter for resources, monthly freebies, + art and workshop announcements.

 

Red Tent Initiation Program Launch

Mollyblessingway 372Following the spiral path of maiden, mother, and crone…

Do you want to take a journey into a deeper understanding of yourself? Do you wish to unlock insight and understanding? Do you want to reach out to other women in sisterhood and co-create a powerful circle experience?

This new online program is both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles. You will listen to your deep self, access your inner wisdom and prepare to step into circle as guardian and guide for other women who are hungering for depth, connection, restoration, and renewal in today’s busy world.

This intensive course is limited to 15 women, to allow for deep connection and dedicated attention.

August 29-October 12, 2015

Your online experience includes…

  • Asix week immersive journey over the course of the spiral path
    • Knowing Self (Maiden Unit)
    • Might of Creation (Mother Unit)
    • Gathering the Women (Crone Unit)
  • Each unit includes a ceremony, meditations, discussion questions, journaling exercises, projects, and prompts designed to take you deep into the Red Tent process.
  • Live interaction, support, feedback, and conversation via a private Facebook group

With your registration, you will also receive an incredible resource package valued at more than $100 including:

  • 58 page manual: Restoring Women to Ceremony, The Red Tent Resource Kit, written exclusively for our Red Tent redtentkitKit and Initiation Program. In this collection of essays and ritual resources, you will find a complete Red Tent “recipe,” circle leadership basics, moontime musings, and readings, quotes, and poems to help you facilitate a rich, inviting, welcoming, creative space for the women of your community.
  • Womanrunes Book and Card set: used throughout the program for personal guidance and self-development. And, perfect for ongoing use in an inspiration and renewal corner at your Red Tent Circle.
  • Red Tent Goddess Sculpture: symbolic of self-care and of both receiving and giving.
  • Carnelian Pendulum
  • Moontime pendant with silver-tone, solid crescent moon charm
  • Red altar cloth
  • Red organza bag to store your resources
  • Altar Candle
  • Head wreath kit and tutorial
  • Special Red Tent Circle Leader initiation gift (to be opened only upon program completion!)
  • Red silken cord
  • Moon or spiral goddess pendant

After your process is complete you will also receive:

  • Certificate of Completion
  • Ritual Recipe Kit e-book
  • Circle-ready digital files of the rich meditations and insightful readings used in the program
  • Ongoing support and guidance through continued participation in our private Facebook group

Mollyblessingway 238For inspiration on your own path, feel free to listen our local Red Tent Circle singing the beautiful chant Dance in a Circle of Women during our May Circle

Register via our website or check out via Etsy here.

 

From Mother Blessings to Red Tent Circles: What comes after a Sacred Pregnancy?

IMG_5745In 2008, a small postcard at the local Unitarian Universalist church caught my eye. It was for a Cakes for the Queen of Heaven facilitator training at Eliot Chapel in St. Louis. I registered for the training and went, driving alone into an unknown neighborhood. There, I circled in ceremony and sisterhood with women I’d never met, exploring an area that was new for me, and yet that felt so right and so familiar. I’d left my two young sons home for the day with my husband and it was the first time in what felt like a long time that I’d been on my own, as a woman and not someone’s mother. At the end of the day, each of us draped in beautiful fabric and sitting in a circle around a lovely altar covered with goddess art and symbols of personal empowerment, I looked around at the circle of women and I knew: THIS is what else there is for me.

My work following the birth of my first son came to center heavily around pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding, Mollyblessingway 156the stage of life in which I was currently immersed. I’d wondered several times what I would do when those issues no longer formed the core of my interest and personal experience. How could I ever stop working with pregnant and birthing women? How could I stop experiencing the vibrance and power of pregnancy and birth? Would I become irrelevant in this field as my own childbearing years passed me by? Looking around the room at Eliot at this circle of women, only two of whom were also of childbearing age, I knew: my future purpose would be to hold circles like this one. I found something in Cakes that I needed, the recognition that I wanted to celebrate and honor the totality of the female life cycle, not just pregnancy. As a girl, I loved the mother blessing ceremonies my mom and her friends held to honor each other during pregnancy. They hosted a coming of age blessingway for all of their early-teen daughters as well and I helped to plan a subsequent maiden ceremony for my younger sister several years later. Locally, we carried that tradition forward into the current generation of young mothers, holding mother blessings for each other and enjoying the time to celebrate and share authentically and deeply. After my training, I facilitated a series of Cakes classes locally, attended a women’s retreat at Eliot Chapel, and began to facilitate quarterly women’s retreats for my friends. One of my stated purposes was to honor and celebrate one another without anyone needing to be pregnant. Somehow, even though our own local mother blessing traditions were beautiful, we had accepted that the only time we had ceremonies with one another was when someone was pregnant. I wanted to change that!

This year, my offerings has expanded from the women’s spirituality retreats and classes I held in my own home, to a Red Tent Circle held at WomanSpace in my nearby town. Our local Red Tent Circle definitely doesn’t focus exclusively on menstruation or on currently menstruating women (all phases of a woman’s life cycle and her many diverse experiences and feelings are “held” in that circle)–in fact menstruation sometimes barely comes up as a Mollyblessingway 215topic—however, one of the core purposes of our circling together is in celebration. We gather together each month to celebrate being women in this time and in this place, together. As I noted, I started out my work with women focused on birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum. While those are formative and central and important life experiences for many women, it became very important to me to broaden my scope to include the totality of women’s lives, not just pregnant women. I want to honor and celebrate our whole lives, not just pregnancy and birth. Having a mother blessing ceremony during pregnancy is beautiful and important and special, but I feel like that care, attention, value, and ceremony can be brought into the rest of our non-pregnant lives through gathering together in a Red Tent Circle. This is one reason why I developed an online Red Tent Initiation Program. This program is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles. These circles bring the sense of celebration and power we may have experienced during our pregnancies and from our Mother Blessing ceremonies more fully into our lives as the honor the fullness and completeness of women-in-themselves, not just of value while pregnant.

I long to speak out the intense inspiration that comes to me from the lives of strong women.” –Ruth Benedict

I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong.” –SARK, Succulent Wild Woman

I am inspired by the everyday women surrounding me in this world. Brave, strong, vibrant, wild, intelligent, complicated women. Women who are also sometimes frightened, depressed, discouraged, hurt, angry, petty, or jealous. Real, multifaceted, dynamic women. Women who keep putting one foot in the front of the other and continue picking themselves back up again when the need arises.

I feel like my interest in social justice, women’s rights, and human services are intimately entwined with my spiritual life. Indeed, I almost cannot separate the two. I believe it is possible for us to have a truly loving world—a world in which the inherent dignity and worth of girls and women is not in question–and there is much good work that needs to be done in order for this world to be a reality.

This work I am now doing, both in person and online, represents an integration of something I feel with my mind, heart, and spirit. My whole being. At that Cakes training years ago, I glimpsed the multifaceted totality of women’s lives and I longed to reach out and serve the whole woman. My range of passion has extended from pregnancy and birth to include the full woman’s life cycle, rather than focusing exclusively on the maternal aspect of the wheel of life as I did for ten years. I create rituals that nourish, plan ceremonies that honor, facilitate workshops that uncover, write articles that inform, and teach classes that inspire the women in my personal life, my community, and the world. This is what else there was for me.

So, after you’ve experienced a sacred pregnancy filled with ceremony and ritual and celebration, what else is there for you? After you’ve worked for years with pregnant and birthing women to honor and celebrate them in their tenderness and strength, how might you branch out to hold space for all of women’s experiences and the many transitions of their life cycle? Like me, you might find your answer in holding a monthly women’s circle.

Learn more about our Red Tent Initiation Program, this in-depth online class is designed to be both a powerful, personal experience AND a training in facilitating transformative women’s circles.

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Restoring Women to Ceremony: The Red Tent Resource Kit

 “… Every day, we witness the positive, transformative effects of, ‘restoring women to ceremony’…another reason it is vital that we continue our work…”

–D’vorah Grenn (Stepping into Ourselves, p. 56)

We’ve been hard at work over the last three months giving birth to a new project!

Introducing…The Red Tent Resource Kit

redtentkit

I actually ended up sort of accidentally writing a whole new book to go with this kit. It was originally going to be a collection of handouts as a pdf. However, as I put the handouts together, I realized I was actually writing a short book or manual instead. I also reflected on how I am tired of only getting pdf manuals and ebooks when I sign up for different programs, rather than an actual, printed book. One of my mottoes this year is to follow the inspiration, so I went with it, and at the end of last month our new books arrived and they’re beautiful and I’m so excited about them!

Our unique, signature Red Tent Kit includes ALL of the following resources:

  • Womanrunes Book and Card set: ideal for personal guidance and self-development, or for the inspiration and renewal corner at your Red Tent Circle.
  • Red Tent Goddess Sculpture: symbolic of self-care and of both receiving and giving.
  • Carnelian Pendulum (kit exclusive!)
  • Brand new 58 page book: Restoring Women to Ceremony, The Red Tent Resource Kit, written exclusively for this kit. In this collection of essays and ritual resources, you will find a complete Red Tent “recipe,” circle leadership basics, moontime musings, and readings, quotes, and poems to help you facilitate a rich, inviting, welcoming, creative space for the women of your community.
  • Moontime pendant with silver-tone, solid crescent moon charm
  • Red altar cloth
  • Red organza bag to store your resources
  • Coupon for $100 off the companion Red Tent Initiation online training to be held in July-August
  • Extra surprise bonus goodies intuitively chosen for you!

The contents of this Kit are valued at $100 when sold separately!

When I was taking pictures for the Kit, I randomly drew three Womanrunes cards to include in the pictures. The ones I drew were absolutely perfect for sharing the message of what this collection has to offer to others and what we hope to create in restoring women to ceremony:

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