Blood of my blood
Bone of my bone
Flesh of my flesh
Teach my spirit to be strong
[Warning: This entry will be talking very explicitly about body parts, genitals, and body fluids. If that is a trigger for you please utilize self care and go on with your internet browsing in peace]
I have been meaning to write this entry or an entry like this for some time now. In light of the gender exclusivity/inclusiveness issues that we are once again discussing as a community after PantheaCon, it just seems timely. For those of you who want to get up to speed on the events of this Pantheacon and past that have brought the community at large to, what I think, is a helpful dialog please see: Unity, Diversity, Controversy and Gender, Transgender, Politics and our Beloved Community. Also keep a weathered eye on the Wild Hunt for more. This entry isn’t actually about the events or the movement that is happening in the pagan community. Overall I think the conversations that are happening this year, the tone, and the direction is all towards the future and is all good. The majority is moving towards inclusiveness and are being very civil. Sadly I don’t have any new insightful points to shine greater light on the events that transpired, or the future of the movement. Most of what I feel and my experience are echoed in these wonderful pieces by: The Lady Yeshe Rabbit, Devin Hunter, Storm Faerywolf, and here
So then why bother with a post at all? What is this business of blood and flesh and all that jazz? The vast majority of the conversation this year is more civil than the year prior, and the focus being about education and the appropriateness of cisgender-ritual at a public convention. But filtering through my dashboard, facebook, and so on is one sentiment that I would like to bring a different point of view on.
That sentiment is that Dianics, or ciswomen’s rituals, or “women’s mysteries rituals” are supporting the idea that “women” should be defined by their reproductive organs and are thereby making themselves out to be no better than brood-stock. A general tonality of dismissal towards magic and healing focused specifically on shared body experiences. In some cases not just a dismissal but an out and out disdain and mockery of finding power and the divine within the paradigm of the body and it’s rhythms. Now, there may very well be women out there who do believe that a uterus, vulva, and the ability to give birth is the end all be all of the divine. They are not everyone who finds the sacred in these rites and rituals. I also fully understand that to some spirituality is about the mind and soul and has little to do with the body. Which is not an approach I understand completely but isn’t one I’m going to mock either.
Let me bring to the table a different way of approaching rituals designed around uterus, vulva, menstruation, pregnancy, giving birth, menopause, and what they can do for women who have those parts. Let me speak into this cacophony of hurt, fear and frustration, and just lay down my own truth. So often when the tides of change are upon us the voices of extreme filled with emotions are heard above all the rest. In those times many often think, “Where are the rest of us?”. It seems that in order for real growth to happen the rest of us have to sit at the table and hear each other out before the extremes can feel safe to do so. Or maybe they never will, but the important thing is for those who can to do so. This is me sitting down with no real expectation. Before I proceed let me say that I do not believe that all women have the same parts, or have all of those parts, or have those parts that work in the ways expected. I don’t believe genitals and organs make a woman. This is about what rituals about those organs and processes can do for those people who identify as women and have them.
Truth is if you had told me eight years ago that I would be a part of a feminist coven of ciswomen whose rituals honored the cycle of menarche throughout the year, and did so naked. I a) would not have know that the hell you meant by ciswoman and b) I would have taken you to the nearest mental health facility. Because I have actively worked against being defined by my reproductive organs. I am a person, an independent woman, whose experiences and life are the culmination of spirit, mind and body. I was the only girl in an entire city league of boys baseball. A self identified Tomboy who loved pretty dresses. I was so incredibly lucky, to have grown up pretty much surrounded by people who told me and BELIEVED that I could do anything I wanted to. Gender hardly played a role. I had supportive, encouraging adults in my life that saw me as a person and let my live that way. I will be eternally grateful to them all my days.
But lets pull the curtain back on that boisterous head strong girl.
We see the girl who was “gifted” with “assets” early in her development. That wanted sooo badly not to grow up that she bound her breasts daily. Wearing 2 or 3 sports bras that were sizes too small, even to bed. We see a girl who was desperate that no one know she had started menstruating she hid it for a year. Stealing sanitary pads from her mother, and throwing away the stained underwear in the middle of the night. Even when her mother did find out she still didn’t talk about, didn’t want anyone to ever know. We see a girl who reacts violently to anyone who insinuates that her strong emotions are due to her “time of month”. And that’s the key, even though she would have never been able to articulate it then. This girl is a deep emotional being who is loud and opinionated. What happens to such a person when it is found out that they are on their period? They are dismissed. The one cancels out the other. And there is nothing more infuriating and frightening than being dismissed in her world.
So I hated my period. HATED it. It was a curse. It was disgusting and vile, I could barely stand to use the restroom because it would mean that I would have to come face to face with my filth. That’s what it was to me, filth. I begged my mother for years to let me buy tampons so that then I wouldn’t have to see it, it would be more contained. With that change it was so much easier to pretend it wasn’t there. With applicators, I didn’t have to touch the mess. The horrid smell was much less. All I had to do was make sure that I kept up a tough front if I got cramps and no one would be the wiser. That was the reality of my life for a long time.
Granted entering the active sexual world helped me to get over my issues with my breasts, and generally lighten up about my body. But I still couldn’t stand for my partner to know I was bleeding, I couldn’t talk about it. It also turned my period into a bizarre co-dependency. On the one hand nothing had changed, I still hated it, it was still disgusting. I considered myself to be untouchable during that time. On the other I was on the pill now and anxious every time for my period to start, as it meant I was not pregnant. Which is still an issue and a fear of mine. But tabling that for the moment.
How did we get from that girl, to ordained HPS of the Amazon Tribe, facilitator of numerous menarche cycle rituals, and advocate of menstrual blood magic?
Ritual. Connection to the divinity of this body. As with so many important things I don’t remember the why or the how I found myself going to these circles. I suspect it was because someone dear to me asked me to go. Being naked in front of strangers was more than a little weird. From the brief look into my life, I’m sure you can gather that up until this point I did not have a large group of female friends. The few relationships I did have were not the kind where we talked about body things. My mother while not nearly as obsessive about hiding her bodily functions as I, was sensitive to the fact that I did NOT want to talk about it and didn’t press. There I was in a room of naked women, at a ritual that focused around the flashing of a vulva to get a goddess to smile – I was out of my element. Here were women talking about “it”. Some in polite euphemisms, some in straight vernacular. Announcing that they were on their “moon time”, talking about bleeding, diva cups that overflow, about environmentally friendly washable luna pads, about raspberry leaf tea. Sore breasts, aching backs, cravings (of food and otherwise). There were words I had never heard of (what’s a yoni?). But above all it was just being talked about, and talked about without shame. There was no dismissal of thoughts and emotions that happened to coincide with bleeding. Most radically though was the undercurrent and explicit idea that menstruation was powerful.
I learn a lot through osmosis. Weird thing to say but it’s true. I was a Marine Brat, moved around a lot, had to learn to adapt, to fit to my new surroundings. Thus being around things I pick up knowledge, information and skills, without conscious effort. So being surrounded by women talking frankly began to seep into my consciousness. The key I suppose was the frankness. It wasn’t all glitter and bejeweled vulvas (tho I admit there was talk of that too). It was the frustration, the pain, resignation, the nostalgia from those having gone or going through menopause. The bitter and the sweet. It was the natural acceptance of the whole messy process.
I should note and reiterate here, that no one ever told me to be ashamed and hate my period. I wasn’t slapped and told I was dirty as I know some of my sisters experienced. It was never implicitly stated or even implied. It was a reality that grew out of my mind and out of the cultural context of the world around me. It was so core to my being that it blinded me from the direct conflict of such thinking and my own spiritual path and world view. I have always been an animist at heart, everything that we come into contact with in our life has an energy and a spirit. The closer that I got to the raw elemental nature of things the more I knew that to be true. The more that I connected with those spirits in my life and practice the more powerful they were. It is the cornerstone of my practice. Simple, basic, elemental, primal. That is how I work, that is what works well for me. I’d been using spit for protection sigils for years. My hair is a potent ingredient to any spell and is use with forethought. I’ve never batted an eyelash at pissing in the witches bottle, or around the property itself when needed. There are rites and spells that I spill blood for. Yet I was blinded by my prejudice against my own body to the power of my blood. I’ll say that again, I was PREJUDICE against myself. For no real reason. Because the fact of the matter is I don’t hate my body, I knew it to be a powerful part of my human experience in this life. That’s not how it is for everyone, but for me becoming aware that my emotions and prejudices where not in line with my overall world view, was shaking.
To be clear it wasn’t a single ritual, or one ah-ha! moment that brought me to this place within myself. It was time spent in sacred space where these rhythms and organs where being honored. It was experiencing the visions of women’s blood flowing down the thighs of a Goddess that was soul moving. It was then going to my own altar, and being in sacred space with my Goddess and her once again flinging wide the doors of my mind that I had kept shut. Revelations, deeper connections, and just facing myself.
What was it about menses that made me become shameful, and hate it? Was I going to continue to allow society and the invisible them to have final say on whether or not my emotions and opinions were valid? In all other aspects of my life I have moved to a place of being open and owning of myself, imperfect and human that I am. Why not this? My shields have always been sparse, and compact in the front of me. Allowing for agility and ease of movement rather than to barricade. Why? Because I can handle myself. Because I am capable, because in the end any hits someone gets in is just going to make me stronger. Yet I was going to let the ignorance and misogyny of the imaginary, or the careless parroted words of others bring me down and make me hide myself? No longer.
So was that it? Was it a simple awakening realization, continue going to rituals and ta-da? Yes, no. Yes, it was an awakening realization, hours of meditation, offerings, petitions, oracles. Yes it was continuing to go to rituals. No, that was not all. It was also working with the rhythms of my body and incorporating that power into my craft. It meant I had to face what I had deemed filth, and look at it in a new light. So it was bleeding and not just letting the tampon absorbed it up and never have to touch it. It was getting that blood and tissue on my hands and reaching out to test and feel if there was any energetic power there. It was realizing that I work with organ meat, butchery, bones, and dead animals. The smell of menstrual blood is not the most foul thing I’ve ever smelled. In fact it just smells like blood. Iron, salt, and mortality. It was owning my body as whole and holy. It was using my blood in a spell, and it fucking working. And in doing this work, at home, at my altar, I became a more confidant and powerful woman, witch and priestess. I could speak candidly with my friends, sisters, partner and not feel ashamed, embarrassed or that it somehow lessened my value. I don’t know any other way to explain it other than to say that I felt the surge of power that comes with walking your walk completely, and owning yourself.
Now, do I think that space and revelation could not have happened if transwomen had been in that space as well? Personally, no. I don’t see that as being an impediment. I see an underlying fear that these vulva, uterus, menstruation rituals will be edged out if the circles are open to all women and not just ciswomen. We don’t have to create that reality. This post was triggered in large part by a lot of posts and comments made by ciswomen who have no interest in having rituals focused on the cycle of menses, it’s not for everyone, it doesn’t need to be. But it is important and sacred for many. My story, is sooo small in comparison to the many other stories of healing, transformation, and power that can be heard about these body focused rituals.
We can keep that sacred space of healing, and open up to more women who may find healing there without changing the focus. That’s what I would like to see. That is what I want to focus on in my own community. The talk on the internet will continue as it always does, PantheaCon will make decisions and changes for their own visions interests as is their right to do. Each group or coven has the same. For me, it is important to speak out and openly about the power and sacredness that I have found within these rituals for whomever wants to hear it. May it do some good in whatever way the powers that be deem fit. And in turn look to my own community to speak, and shape the future.
May everyone find power and the sacred on their path, let all people worship what gods they will.