Sacred Menstruation 101: How To Reclaim Your Period

    Moontime for the modern menstrual cycle.

    by · November 25, 2015

    collage photos via getty images

    Real talk: There is so much magic in bleeding. Eons before Tampax or even our beloved Diva Cups became staples of menstruation, women across cultures have found ways to not only cope with the physical discomfort and emotional upheaval associated with symptoms of a monthly period, but also embrace its power and beauty. (Yes, I said beauty.) Early societies respected the flow and its connection to lunar phases and the natural world, ritualizing bleeding as a time of rejuvenation, purification, rest, and creativity. As patriarchal society bucked the divine feminine, the ancient moon lodges and women’s community circles masterfully illustrated in Anita Diamant’s bestseller, The Red Tent, were replaced with shame and uncleanliness (don’t even get me started on the smear campaign against midwifery…). And just like that, getting your period went from a rite of passage into a new month filled with creative possibility—literally, to create babies and new life!—to a resented curse and feared taboo (hello, misogynistic tropes of the raging PMS beast-woman).

    Honoring your period can be a healing, cathartic, and—dare I say—fun way to reconnect with your body, your creative force, and nature. Ahead, from moon charts to massages, more ways to bring back sacred menstruation for the millennial age.

    Moon Phases: Charting Your Cycle

    Women have been looking to the sky for cues about their fertility for ages, and it’s even believed that the first calendars were created as a result of charting ovulation and menstruation. Since the lunar cycle lasts 29.8 days, it made sense that it would align almost perfectly with women’s menstrual cycles. By tracking your period and your body’s changes throughout the month, you’ll gain a better idea of when to expect Aunt Flo and a clearer understanding of your body’s unique rhythms. Jot down your cycle—when you’re bleeding, when you experience PMS or PMDD symptoms, and about 14 days later when you are ovulating—in a good, ol’ fashioned journal, calendar, or agenda book. Many calendars and agendas will already have icons for lunar phases, but if you’re more tech-inclined, My Moontime is an excellent smartphone app for tracking your menses and the moon.

    New Moon vs. Full Moon Bleeding: What Your Body Is Telling You

    After keeping track of your body’s cycles for a few months, you’ll know whether you tend to menstruate around the new moon—the beginning of the lunar cycle—or the full moon, which is the end of the month’s lunar cycle, or the waxing and waning periods in between. Some believe that periods should align with the new moon, since the dark-moon phase is so closely associated with rest and withdrawal for self-care. Still, there’s no “correct” moon phase to bleed with, and personally, I feel much freer allowing my body to “go with the flow” (all puns intended) and observe how I align with the moon.

    According to Miranda Grey, author of Red Moon—Understanding and Using the Creative, Sexual and Spiritual Gifts of the Menstrual Cycle, there are two traditional menstruation patterns; “White Moon” bleeding, or menstruating with the new moon and ovulating with the full moon, and “Red Moon” menstruation, which is bleeding with the full moon and becoming fertile with the new moon. Your period will attune to both cycles over the course of your life, but it’s fascinating to note what’s going on in your life energetically as your body cycles. So, what is your body trying to tell you?

    White Moon: If your body follows a White Moon cycle, you’ll tend to bleed during the new or waning moon. Since biodynamics have shown that the earth is most fertile during full moons (when you ovulate), this cycle is most traditionally linked to fertility and motherhood. If you are a “White Moon” woman, you’ll likely feel a surge in your intuition during your period, and will feel the urge to withdraw for nourishment and self-renewal. In other words, you’re tapped out energetically and have given the month your all—it’s “you” time.

    Red Moon: This cycle follows the full moon, meaning that your body bleeds during the waxing or full moon and is most fertile during the new or waning moon. Because full and waxing moon phase energies are outgoing, vibrant, and creative, some feel this is counterintuitive to menstruation. Not so. In ancient times, the Red Moon cycle was associated with shamanism, high priestesses, and healers. Women who tend to menstruate with the full moon are said to focus their “darker” and more creative menstrual energies outward, rather than inward, in order to nourish and teach others from their own experience. Many times, women with this cycle will be more focused on self-growth, development, mentorship, and creativity.

    Syncing Your Period to the Moon

    Now that you know your cycle a bit better, you might find that you prefer to bleed with the dark moon and ovulate with the bright, full moon, there are ways to realign your cycle’s energy over time.

    Light + Dark
    Obviously, light plays a huge role in our bodies’ natural rhythms, and with smartphones, computers, TVs, and artificial-light pollution, it’s no wonder most of us are out of whack. So, the first step to get in sync is to align your circadian, or sleep, rhythm: Keep your home light during daylight hours, preferably with sunlight, and dark during night time. During the daytime, try to wear sunglasses as minimally as possible—especially during ovulation—and keep lights dim and soft at night.

    Moonbathe
    Moonlight plays a huge role in our monthly rhythms, regardless of whether your live in an urban or more rural area. Sleeping with a 100-watt light bulb on during the five to six days of the full moon—and sleeping in complete darkness for the rest of the month—has shown to regulate menstruation. Just being in natural moonlight is incredibly healthy, physically and energetically, so take time to appreciate Luna during the full moon. Hang out outside, take a walk, or just open the blinds during her five days of brightness, and you’ll feel a change.

    Crack a Window
    Yup, getting back to nature can be as simple as opening your bedroom window. No matter the season, allowing natural air to circulate is essential, along with taking in the sounds of birds, trees, and the weather. Keeping several houseplants in your bedroom is another brilliant way to up the ante on nature’s presence in your home, and in your cycle.

    Entering the Red Tent: Time for Yourself

    No matter when you menstruate, it is essential that you reclaim the time of your period as yours and yours alone, in whatever unique way you see fit. The first three days of menstruation are the most intense energetically, and it’s okay to give yourself a pass to take it easy, work from home, or cancel plans during this time. Listen to what your body is telling you; if you want to be alone, be alone, and if you want to go out, blow off some steam with your girls at the bar, then go for it. Some women abstain from sex during menses to guard their physical space, while others are hornier than a frightened porcupine (hey, it’s your hormones a-raging!). Don’t be shy to let others know what you need during this time; tell your roommate you’re on edge, your partner you need nurturing, or your parents that you need some space—a little understanding goes a long way.

    Letting Go (Emotionally)

    For ladies with normal periods, menstruation is a helpful message from your reproductive system letting you know that all’s well and healthy. Energetically, periods can be a time of massive emotional release. Think of all the crap you’ve endured during the previous weeks—disappointments, excitements, stress, anxiety, sadness, even contentment—our bodies absorb those emotions’ energies like a sponge, and it’s widely believed that menstruation is a powerful time of purging those toxins. Many of us find that we’re emotionally fraught during this time with rapid mood swings, and that’s okay. There’s no shame in crying to Adele, laughing at reality TV, or having to scream into a pillow. Allowing yourself to feel all the feelings will clean the slate and rid yourself of the pent-up emotions you’ve sucked up, strengthening you for the next month’s challenges, leaving you more in touch with how different emotional energies affect you in the long run.

    Ritualize It!

    You likely have your own rituals in place for your period (hello, Oreos-and-Netflix marathons, anyone?). Embrace those, and don’t be afraid to go a little nuts with self-indulgence. Shut the world out and finally use that Lush Bath Bomb this month, buy yourself a trinket that gives you a thrill, and don’t you dare feel obligated to restrict your diet, unless of course, you have a medical condition that requires that. I make sure that my budget allows for a monthly “menstrual massage” at my favorite spa, and I take time out from real life to read quietly, do a home facial, and catnap. Those who love altars may find comfort in decorating theirs with red roses or other symbols of fertility, feminine power, and bleeding. And, if you use a Diva Cup or other menstrual cup, you can save your menstrual blood (stay with me, people), dilute it, and water your houseplants with it—a mini-ritual based on ancient rites of collecting menstrual blood and sending it back to Mother Earth.

    Tags: culture, periods
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    Last updated: 2015-11-25T15:12:13-05:00
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