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Talk Books: Cycle to the Moon

c2m3D“Moontime opens up our intuition.
By allowing ourselves to honour this time,
we can eliminate premenstrual tendencies…
Moontime is a sacred passage leading
to a greater awareness of self.”

–Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon (p. 142)

In April, on the evening of our local Red Tent Circle, a package arrived for me from the UK. In it was the beautiful book by Veronika Robinson, Cycle to the Moon, that I won in the Red Tent fundraising auction for Moontimes. March 2015 183

Cycle to the Moon is a quick read and an inspiring one. The line illustrations are beautiful and the combination of journal pages/prompts and text is nice.

Cycle to the Moon also suggests a neat idea of creating a “Red Box” for a pre-teen daughter. Either together with your daughter or on your own for a surprise, collect special items in a box to be given to her upon menarche. It can have jewelry, garnet gemstones, books, cloth pads, tea, and so forth. She makes the potent observations that how we welcome young girls into womanhood, sets the stage for how they will view themselves and their life cycles and transitions for a lifetime:

“As we hold the hands of our young sisters when they cross the menstrual threshold, we would be wise to remember that their experience of this cycle will affect them throughout their childbearing years and into menopause. There’s a red thread which weaves through these major themes of our life. Every moment is connected. Whatever we have learned and integrated benefits not only us, but the culture” (p. 41).

Robinson also writes about the idea how you treat yourself during menstruation as a “mirror of your life”:

“The simple truth is that menstruation is a mirror of your life. If you’re not honouring your body through healthy food choices; ample hydration; rest; playtime; calmly managing stressful events; positive thoughts; creativity and sleep; then it will show up in your menstrual cycle…your hormones will come to call; and they will demand that you rest. You might try and quiet them down with headache tablets or something pharmaceutical for cramps, but they will keep talking to you (even if it takes twenty years), until you get the message. If you don’t honour your body during the menstrual years, you are highly likely to suffer when you reach menopause…

She also makes an interesting distinction between what is “normal” and what is “natural”:

“There is such a wide variance in cycle length these days that doctors consider it normal to bleed any time. It might be normal, but it is not natural. Modern statistics relating to menstruating women are taken from huge cities about women whose lifestyles are not in accord with Nature. Artificial street lighting, pollution, stress, foods coated in chemicals, nutritional deficiencies, are just a few contributing factors in the variance of cycle days.

Our body’s cycle is regulated by the Moon’s light. The pituitary and hypothalamus glands are light sensitive, which is why we disrupt our cycle immensely by sleeping near artificial light, such as street lights, computer, mobile/cell phone or clock-radio lights. In fact, keep all electromagnetic devices well out of your sleeping space. If you intend to be conscious of cycling to the Moon, and ensuring optimal health, then don’t sleep under or next to any artificial light. Instead, keep your room dark, and only open your curtain for the week of the full Moon, thus coming into alignment with it. If you live in the country it will not be necessary to keep out starlight…city girls often begin menstruation earlier than country girls because of street lighting” (p. 142).

There are also a number of great resources at the end of Cycle to the Moon, such as:

Red Wisdom

Red Tent

Red Tent Booklet

What we do in our own local Red Tent Circle varies each month, but we start with introductions using our maternal May 2015 047line and a red thread to represent our connection to the women who came before us and who will go after us, we sing, we have a sharing circle where we “pass the rattle” and talk about our lives and have what we say witnessed and held in safe space. We do a guided meditation and journaling and then a project. In April we had a salt bowl ceremony and then did footbaths and in May we made moon necklaces. We close with a poetry reading and a song. There is tea and a “reflection” table with guidance cards, art supplies, and books to look at. At our May Circle, I shared these two quotes:

“The revolution must have dancing; women know this. The music will light our hearts with fire,
The stories will bathe our dreams in honey and fill our bellies with stars…”

–Nina Simons in We’Moon 2012

“A woman’s best medicine is quite simply herself, the powerful resources of her own deep consciousness, giving her deep awareness of her own physiology as it changes from day to day.”

–Veronica Butler and Melanie Brown

I asked the women to share their revolutions and their medicine. As they spoke, I realized that my “revolution” and my “medicine” were in the planning and facilitation of these Circles, as well as in the online Red Tent Initiation Program I will be offering this summer. I’m so glad I decided to go this direction this year.

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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

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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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Mother Blessings and the Power of Ritual

Mollyblessingway 116You are the
most powerful
intelligent
inspirational

Woman

Close to my heart.

You continue to
become
exponentially more amazing.

Always giving
others the step UP.

Force of the cosmos
connecting the Web

You are.

Thank you.

–Phanie

 

At the end of September, my friend sat on the floor during my mother blessing ceremony and wrote the above poem for me. When she gave it to me she said, “I’m not like you, I don’t write things and share them on the internet.” It was very powerful to receive the gift of written word from someone who does not often write, but who knows how deeply writing speaks to me. 

My mother’s circle of friends began holding mother blessing ceremonies for each other in the early 1980’s. At the time they called them “blessingways” in honor and respect for the Navajo traditions that inspired them to begin their own tradition. As awareness of cultural appropriation increased, we shifted our language to use “mother blessing ceremony” instead, though I confess that “blessingway” remains the term rooted in my heart for these powerful, mother-honoring celebrations of the power of the life-giving woman. After having been blessed with a ceremony during her last two pregnancies in the late 1980’s and having co-hosted coming-of-age blessing ceremonies for me and my sisters in the 90’s, my mother reintroduced the mother blessing ceremony to my own circle of friends during my first pregnancy in 2003. We’ve been holding them for women in the area ever since. I believe each pregnant woman deserves a powerful ritual acknowledging her transition through pregnancy and birth and into motherhood, regardless of how many children she has.

Early this year, I became unexpectedly pregnant with the baby who will arrive into our arms at the end of October as our fourth living child. I did not intend to have more children and it has been hard for me to re-open the space in my mind, heart, and family to welcome another baby when I had mentally and emotionally “shut the door” and moved on from the childbearing chapter of my life. (However, it turns out that writing blog posts about how you’re not having any more children is not, in fact, an effective means of birth control.)

In the book Rituals for Our Times, the authors Evan Imber-Black and Janine Roberts, identify five elements that make ritual work. Mother blessing ceremonies very neatly fulfill all of the necessary ritual elements (which I would note are not about symbols, actions, and physical objects, but are instead about the relational elements of connection, affection, and relationship):

  1. Relatingthe shaping, expressing, and maintaining of important relationships…established relationships were reaffirmed and new relationship possibilities opened. Many women choose to invite those from their inner circle to their mother blessings. This means of deeply engaging with and connecting with those closest to you, reaffirms and strengthens important relationships. In my own life, I’ve always chosen to invite more women than just those in my “inner circle” and in so doing have found that it is true that new relationship possibilities emerge from the reaching out and inclusion of those who were originally less close, but who after the connection of shared ritual, then became closer friends.
  2. Changingthe making and marking of transitions for self and others. Birth and the entry into motherhood—an intense and permanent life change—is one of life’s most significant transitions in many women’s lives. A blessingway marks the significance of this huge change.
  3. Healingrecovery from loss, special tributes, recovering from fears or scars from previous births or cultural socialization about birth. My mom and some close friends had a meaningful ceremony for me following the death-birth of my third baby. I’ve also planned several mother blessing ceremonies for friends in which releasing fears was a potent element of the ritual.
  4. Believingthe voicing of beliefs and the making of meaning. By honoring a pregnant woman through ceremony, we are affirming that pregnancy, birth, and motherhood are valuable and meaningful rites of passage deserving of celebration and acknowledgement.
  5. Celebratingthe expressing of deep joy and the honoring of life with festivity. Celebrating accomplishments of…one’s very being.

Notice that what is NOT included on this list is any mention of a specific religion, deity, or “should do” list of what color of candle to include! Mollyblessingway 177I’ve observed that many people are starved for ritual, but they may also be deeply scarred from rituals of their pasts. As an example from the planning of a past ceremony, we were talking about one of the songs that we customarily sing–Call Down Blessing–because we weren’t sure if we should include it in case it would feel too “spiritual” or metaphysical for the atheist-identified honoree (i.e. blessings from where?!). I also remembered another friend asking during a body blessing ritual we did at a women’s retreat, “but WHO’s doing the blessing?” As someone who does not personally come a religious framework in which blessings are bestowed from outside sources–i.e. a priest/priestess or an Abrahamic God–the answer, to me, feels simple, well, WE are. We’re blessing each other. When we “call down a blessing” we’re invoking the connection of the women around us, the women of all past times and places, and of the beautiful world that surrounds us. We might each personally add something more to that calling down, but at the root, to me, it is an affirmation of connection to the rhythms and cycles of relationship, time, and place. Blessings come from within and around us all the time, nothing supernatural required.

I also find that it is very possible to plan and facilitate women’s rituals that speak to the “womanspirit” in all of us and do not require a specifically shared spiritual framework or belief system in order to gain something special from the connection with other women.

In the book The Power of RitualRachel Pollack explains:

“Ritual opens a doorway in the invisible wall that seems to separate the spiritual and the physical. The formal quality of ritual allows us to move into the space between the worlds, experience what we need, and then step back and once more close the doorway so we can return to our lives enriched.”

She goes on to say:

You do not actually have to accept the ideas of any single tradition, or even believe in divine forces at all, to take part in ritual. Ritual is a direct experience, not a doctrine. Though it will certainly help to suspend your disbelief for the time of the ritual, you could attend a group ritual, take part in the chanting and drumming, and find yourself transported to a sense of wonder at the simple beauty of it all without ever actually believing in any of the claims made or the Spirits invoked. You can also adapt rituals to your own beliefs. If evolution means more to you than a Creator, you could see ritual as a way to connect yourself to the life force…

In the anthology of women’s rituals, The Goddess Celebrates, wisewoman-birthkeeper, Jeannine Pavarti Baker explains:

The entire Blessingway Ceremony is a template for childbirth. The beginning rituals are like nesting and early labor. The grooming and washing like active labor. The gift giving like giving birth and the closing songs/prayers, delivery of the placenta and postpartum. A shamanic midwife learns how to read a Blessingway diagnostically and mythically, sharing what she saw with the pregnant woman in order to clear the road better for birth.

Baker goes on to describe the potent meaning of birth and its affirmation through and by ritual acknowledgement:

Birth is a woman’s spiritual vision quest. When this idea is ritualized beforehand, the deeper meanings of childbirth can more readily be accessed. Birth is also beyond any one woman’s personal desires and will, binding her in the community of all women. Like the birthing beads, her experiences is one more bead on a very long strand connecting all mothers. Rituals for birth hone these birthing beads, bringing to light each facet of the journey of birth…

As my friends spoke to me at my own mother blessing ceremony, I felt seen and heard. They spoke to me of my own capacities, my Mollyblessingway 190strengths as a leader, teacher, and organizer. And, while I believe they were also actually trying to remind me of the opposite message, to take it easy and relax sometimes, one of the things I woke up the next day realizing is that yes, I do feel overwhelmed and overbooked and stretched thin at times. And, yes, I do whine and complain about it on Facebook sometimes, but in the end, I am always enough for whatever it is. I get it done anyway. I don’t think I’ve ever felt overwhelmed and then not done it (assuming “it” wasn’t a self-imposed expectation that I mercifully realized could be let go of). That is one my strengths: feeling the fear or the strain or the pressure or, yes, the excitement and thrill, and NOT getting paralyzed by it or letting myself off the hook. I work my way through and come out the other side, usually with my smile intact, my energy full, my head bubbling with ideas, and my eyes casting around for the next project. Occasionally, I do drop a ball, but pretty rarely, and when I do, I either find it or explain where it went and why I’m going to let it keep rolling away.

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. I woke up the morning following the ritual in appreciation of my own capacities and how they continue to expand, even when I feel as if I’ve reached my own edges. I actually feel “too much,” “too intense,” “too big,” or “too fast” for people a lot, but what I don’t ever need is to be told to make myself smaller. I usually need to be able to say, “Yikes! What am I thinking?!” have that held for me for a minute, and then do it anyway. Just as those of us deeply invested in birthwork would never tell a laboring woman, “you’re right. You probably can’t do this. You should probably quit now,” my mother blessing ceremony reminded me that I am stretched thin precisely because I have it in me.

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I wish for you a life full of ritual and community.” –Flaming Rainbow Woman, Spiritual Warrior 

(in The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens)

Molly is a priestess, writer, teacher, artist, and activist who lives with her husband and children in central Missouri. She is a doctoral student in women’s spirituality at Ocean Seminary College and the author of Womanrunes: A guide to their use and interpretation. Molly and her husband co-create at Brigid’s Grove: http://brigidsgrove.etsy.com.

Portions of this post are excerpted from our Ritual Recipe Kit booklet.

Adapted from a post at Feminism and Religion.

Other posts about mother blessings can be found here.

All photos by my talented friend Karen Orozco of Portraits and Paws Photography.

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Goddess Cookies!

Photo

You know you have people in your life who really love you when they make cookies like this for your mother blessing ceremony and carry them to you all the way from California! What a beautiful surprise these were from my aunt for my mother blessing ceremony last week. My aunt is a true cookie artist. For these cookies, she did not have a goddess cookie cutter, she invented them herself using a Christmas ornament cutter and a circle cutter to put them together. (See more cookies by checking out her page on Facebook.)

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Mollyblessingway 196

I couldn’t believe it! I felt like I wanted to keep one in a frame or something. Part of the zen of cookie art, as I understand it, is the impermanence, however, and so we ate them all up!

I have lots more to say about my ceremony as well as the many other lovely, thoughtful gifts I was honored with, but these were particularly special and so cool I wanted to share them in their own post before going on to other special things!

I took some pictures that night and put them on my Talk Birth page. I love Alaina’s winky face. 🙂

My aunt also made dragon cookies with the kids at Lann’s birthday party at the end of the week.

Thanks, Nancy!

Mollyblessingway 155

(*pro pictures taken by Karen of Portraits and Paws Photography. Non-pro, iphone pictures taken by me.)

Red Tent!

In 2012, when we held our first Mamafest event, my eye was caught by this room within the beautiful setting of Tara Day Spa:

August 2014 013I wanted to have a Red Tent in this room! I could just feel it calling to me. The next year, when the time came to plan the event, I was dealing with a lot of different things and I knew I did not have the energy to also pull off a Red Tent event and so I tabled it again, but still, I saw that room that year and I wanted it.

The following year,  we started planning even earlier for Mamafest and I had been seeing posts and updates from the Red Tent Movie (Things We Don’t Talk About) and I decided I wanted to host a screening and a Red Tent event during our Mamafest this year. While there are things I would do differently in the future, notably that having a screening at the same time as another event was simply too much, I still feel so happy and pleased that I did it. I scheduled the film based on past experience in which the final half of Mamafest slows down in terms of traffic and so it seemed like the film screening would be a good way to keep people involved with the entire duration of the event. However, this year was so busy and vibrant and successful and energetic, it felt like it was actually disruptive to the flow to try to pull people away for the screening and the “calm” and contemplative energy of the film ended up not matching the celebratory, exciting atmosphere of the rest of the event. If I had it to do over again, I would absolutely do the screening separately and then offer the Red Tent space and mini-ritual during Mamafest itself.

Anyway, back to set up. We arrived at Tara Day Spa almost three full hours before the event was scheduled to begin and we needed every single minute of it, plus some. I am so grateful to my husband and my friend Amy who took over most of the actual hanging of the red fabric in the Red Tent space. When I saw the finished entrance, I knew I’d fulfilled my dream!

August 2014 023We set up the inside in an inviting manner with several little stations: a refreshment station with chocolate, tea, and bindis, a henna tattoo area, and a free jewelry making station. Due to size constraints, we actually had to make an “emergency” decision to move the screening of the film itself to the upstairs room at Tara. It was a little stressful to make this transition, but I think it was the right call. We did a mini ritual to open the film (had some technical difficulties getting the film equipment set up and I was extremely flustered to have to make this last minute switch, so that was not ideal for the mood I had wanted to create), we watched the film and then closed by circling up and singing a song together. We ended right on time and then it took more than another hour to dismantle and repack everything. This type of event is not for the faint of heart! Nor is it for pregnant women unless they have husbands and good friends to pack up most of their stuff for them! My midwife was at the event and we did a short prenatal visit in the Tent while we were taking it down. My blood pressure was reasonably normal, but my heart rate was 104 (normal for me is in the 70’s)!

We also had a Brigid’s Grove booth right outside the Red Tent space (plus, I brought the materials for our LLL booth and for the RBN booth itself. My car was so full!) I had mistakenly assumed that I could move between both the Tent itself and our booth and I told Mark that I thought it was unlikely we would sell anything, or maybe just a few dollars worth of charms, so I wasn’t concerned beforehand about adequately staffing the booth itself. My focus was on the Red Tent and on giving this experience as a community service, not on trying to sell stuff. As it turned out, our booth was much busier and more successful that I ever expected (we ended up making almost as much money in just four hours at this event than we did in two 12 hour days at the La Leche League of Missouri conference in Columbia this summer!) I am eternally grateful to my friend Amy who sat at our booth most of the time and did not get to enjoy most of the rest of the event accordingly. It was not her “problem” that I couldn’t divide myself into multiple people (can’t perform that magic trick until my due date in October!) and work at everything that needed me to work at it, but she was very helpful and I appreciated it so much. If I was doing it over again, I would have asked Mark to stay to work at the booth rather than taking advantage of my friend. He assumed it was a woman-only space and it would not be really appropriate for him to stay (plus, someone needed to take care of our kids), but really our purpose is not on an event that is exclusively for women, it is simply an event focused on woman-celebration and men can certainly be involved with that!

IMG_5663Another friend took this picture of me at my free jewelry making station. You can feel the 104 heart rate, perhaps, but also the satisfaction of mission accomplished. I did what I said I wanted to do three years ago when I saw that beautiful temple-like room sitting there waiting for me!

IMG_5659I would like to plan an ongoing Red Tent Circle throughout 2015 and I set up a Facebook group for Rolla area women who are interested in participating in future Red Tent activities.

There were a lot of fun activities as part of Mamafest and one of those was a photo booth from Little Mother Photography. When talking about props prior to the event, I’d suggested a cowboy hat and they brought one! I’ve never worn a cowboy hat before in my life, but when Kandi said she had it there especially for me, I had to give it a try. Unfortunately, they laughed too much at me to capture my lasso pose…

10385401_267689683431682_4380530872449780696_n(1)Other Little Mother photo booth pictures are here.

For additional pictures from Mamafest, check out the photo album available on the Rolla Birth Network Facebook page

When my friend and doula Summer and I conceived of this event three years ago, we said we wanted to plan an event that we also wanted to go to. And, we did it again!

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While Summer was the central organizer and coordinator of this event and I was also responsible for a large portion of it, many other friends and community members came together to make this a true success!

Huge, enthusiastic thanks to Tara Day Spa in Rolla for allowing us to host our event in their space. It is a beautiful and perfect and special setting for Mamafest!

IMG_5691Dream fulfilled!

Rolla Red Tent Event!

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On August 2, 2014 in conjunction with Rolla Birth Network’s annual MamaFest event, we will be hosting the Missouri Premiere of Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Voices from the Red TentI am thrilled to bring this film to Missouri and I hope many, many woman come to enjoy the Red Tent atmosphere during MamaFest. We aren’t just showing the film, we’re also having a real Red Tent event with free activities available from 4-8:00 (film itself from 6-8:00). If the event goes well, I’d love to continue hosting Red Tent events at other points during the year (perhaps quarterly). I already priestess a small monthly women’s circle and have done so for several years, but a Red Tent event would be broader in scope and open to many women of all kinds of belief systems and backgrounds.

Red Tents are safe spaces for all women that transcend religious/cultural/political barriers and just be about coming together in sacred space as women. While I personally have a Goddess-oriented perspective, Red Tents honor the “womanspirit” present within all of us. Within the safety and sacredness of the Red Tent, women’s experiences across the reproductive spectrum are “held” and acknowledged, whatever those experiences might be. (As well as menopause, menstruation, assault, grief, loss, etc.—it definitely isn’t just pregnancy related!)

In our Red Tent at MamaFest, we will have jewelry making, henna tattoos, tea, and bindis. I have a mini ceremony/ritual to do before the film starts, the film screening itself, and then a scarf dance and song to close it out. This is meant to be an inclusive setting/experience for women of many backgrounds and beliefs!

I’m still collecting red fabric and decor for our Tent and it is really exciting to me to finally be doing this, since I’ve imagined doing it for a long time! (Goodwill last week was a jackpot of red curtains!)

You can learn more about the film and about Red Tents in general by checking out filmmaker Dr. Isadora Leidenfrost’s YouTube channel.

I’ve also written some Red Tent themed posts in the past:

Tuesday Tidbits: Red Tent

Red Tent Resources

Tuesday Tidbits: Pregnant Woman

100 Things List!

mamafest 2014 flyer