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Though the spark of life is promised between my hips,

It is only it is only death and destruction

Which greet me without fail each Month:
Skins shedding-
Stars exploding and then dying-

Black holes being etched into my womb-
Earthly bones and moans quaking the tombs of the Dead-
Phoenixes bursting through aching beaten flesh-

Whoever said that transformation was gentle,
That metamorphosis was painless,
Was a liar.

I was three months short of my thirteenth birthday when my first moon blood arrived. It came like a flash flood–without warning—and I was shocked and terrified of the mudslide like after math. I was alone in the bathroom at the theater I volunteered at. There was no one around to ask what had happened. This first moon brought on the impending loneliness that would follow my moon cycle in later years.

My mother had been preparing me for this moment for four years. She was convinced I would start my period at a drastically young age due to my early physical development and the fact that her and her mother both started their periods at the nubile age of eleven. My mother prepared teachers at my school to support me and have menstrual supplies on hand if I were to start my period while I was at school. But age ten came around…no blood. Age eleven…no blood. Age twelve…still no blood. I was convinced something was wrong. I saw an episode of E.R. (or one of those hit hospital shows of the 90’s) where a young girl wearing a ballet outfit was in a severe car crashed and her seat belt had cut into her abdomen. She had to have a scan to see the damage and what they discovered was that this young girl had no ovaries, and was actually born intersexed. I was convinced this fictional tale was the story of my life.

Months before the blood first hit, I discovered blood in my urine while babysitting. I thought that this was the big moment…I was becoming a woman, and I joyfully welcomed the change. But as it turns out, the blood was from a severe bladder infection. False alarm.

But no amount of fear based preparation my mother tried to instill my pre-adolescent existence with could prepare me for the moment when my reproductive organs opened to the light of the moon and poured forth a brown substance that made me question if I had shit my pants. But I felt no joy this time. Only fear and shame.

My mother tried her hardest to give me a “Red Party” to celebrate my becoming a woman. I did not want to celebrate this bizarre physical occurrence anymore. All I felt was shame and I refused to allow my mother to mortify me that way. I didn’t want anyone to know, especially my father or any males, about something that felt so shameful and secretive. However, I have no recollection of my vehement refusal. It was not until a few years ago when working on a Motherline project for gradschool that I asked my mother why she didn’t have a rite of passage celebration for me…and she informed me that that was not the case. That I was too afraid and ashamed to have such a gathering. How I wish she would have forced me to welcome this change.

As years went by, my period was neither a hindrance nor a blessing. I was fairly neutral about the red stream that came forth every month or so from between my legs. I did seem to bleed on every holiday…which always struck me as quite bizarre and comical.

I spent my adolescent years secretly hating my body and every ounce of myself. A combination of chemical and hormonal imbalances, being surrounded by peers that were from another planet, carrying the weight of my ancestor’s self-hate and the internal combustion of denying the fact that I was gay all lead to miserable invisible text book adolescence. On the outside I was put together, talented, successful and blessed…but on the inside I was so alone, dying and so lost. I always felt like I was an onlooker of a life I despised…always looking at myself from the outside in. I tried to inflict the pain I was feeling on my physical flesh…starved myself…made my self bleed and left scars that I still have today. I have wondered if all the energy I put into hating my body is what has forced my body to become a torture chamber. Perhaps my body is coping with her trauma the best way she knows how.

I eventually grew out of my destructive patterns, got some help, and moved away on my own before my 18th birthday. My independence and new chapter allowed me to start a life free of most of my self-hatred and detrimental thought patterns. I came out of the closet and began a life of adventure, college and self-discovery.

My first year in college, while exciting, was not without severe stress. The stress of taking on 10 extra credits over full-time status put my body into severe shock. Under such severe stress I would skip periods and my cycle became quite irregular. I was at a choir practice when I was nearly brought to my knees by ovarian pain. I’m sure I had experienced cramps or discomfort before then, but this was an all new level of pain. I had to leave school and went home to spend the day in torturous pain, alone, and endured my first rupturing cyst. The pain radiated down my leg and felt like an elephant was sitting on top of a flaming hot corkscrew that was digging into my left ovary. My period started to get really wonky, and around that same time I heard a voice as clear as day that said “you will not be able to bear children.” I was a little shocked, but I had known since I was a little girl that while I know I am meant to be a mother, that my babies were not meant to come through my body.

Soon after, blood work, an ultrasound and my first gynecologist diagnosed me with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. No one really had any answers for me…and even with herbs and acupuncture, ovulation was incredibly painful and ovarian cysts would rupture one or two times a year. But the onset of my period would be quite a relief, for the pain would subside. At the time, I had high testosterone and high androgens…which I physically manifested by shaping my appearance to be quite androgynous. I denied anything which I considered to be “feminine.” While I began exploring my earth-based spirituality, and began facilitating women’s spirituality groups, I never resonated with Goddess paths or the Divine Feminine. It actually made my skin crawl.

I know that most of my other lifetimes have been spent as men…so this lifetime, having a voluptuous feminine body has always felt incredibly foreign to me. I have more easily connected to masculine energy and the image and actions that masculine energy is associated with. However…I know that this lifetime is meant to understand and embody what it means to be a woman, to honor, celebrate and explore this physical feminine form.

Throughout my early twenties, my period would come and go as it pleased…disappearing for 6+ months sometimes due to stress, sickness or random weight loss. My body definitely felt like something that was unknown and uncontrollable. When my period was present, I would have a very intense and severe menstrual cycle maybe once or twice a year, but I never thought more about it.

But the summer of my 23rd birthday, my hips began to spread. My body began to morph before my eyes..I suddenly had the body of a birthing woman. I morphed from a Maiden to a Matron in a matter of months. And at the same time, after enduring a brutal heartache inflicted by someone I consider to be my twin flame, I suddenly threw myself into Paganism and the Goddess. The Dark Goddess came to me and I was overcome by path of the Divine Feminine.

That fall in one of my Sisterhood groups I facilitated, I dedicated myself to the Moon. During that time my cycles were exactly 28 days I bleed on the new moon. I still experienced some discomfort, but for several months I was the most regular and lunar I had been my whole life. I felt I was diving into the Divine mystery of Menstruation and was deeply connected to my body and her cycles.

I was pursuing a Post Bacc degree in theater during that time. And sometime after the new year, I was busy building a set for my Tech Theater class when I started to experience nausea and a flooding of pain and toxins that I had never ever endured before. I had to sit down so as to not pass out. My pelvis began twitching and throbbing and I had no idea what was going on. I went to the bathroom, for I felt I was going to throw up  and discovered that I had just started my period. I had to go right home and for three days I endured excruciating pain.

That period was the harbinger of the pain, suffering and struggle that was to come for many many moons to come………..

To be Continued…..

Seeing Red: Menstruation, Misery and Metamorphosis

Vision:

Seeing Red is a theatrical production and project that has been gestating for several years. Inspired by my own personal struggle with endometriosis, doctors, pain, and struggling to see my moontime as a gift and not a curse, Seeing Red will be a story that tells the journey of wombed women everywhere. Seeing Red will explore the pain, the growth, and the beauty of what it means to be a bleeding woman. It will explore different cultural, medical, and spiritual viewpoints as well as myths, taboos and rituals that reclaim women’s natural cycles. Incorporating poetry, dance, music, art and visual mediums I seek to create a moving and inspiring full sensory ritual theater performance piece.

I want to tell your story as well as my own. I want to tell your personal narratives as well as give voice to the taboos, rituals, and cultural conditioning that shaped your experience of menarche. I want to hear your tales of your first blood. I want to know how you honor your body and moon after your body has stopped bleeding. I want to know how you view or honor menstruation if you were not born female but identify as woman. I want to hear your journey of seeking medical care for menstrual disorders. I want to hear how your culture honors or disgraces menstruation. I want to hear what menstruation means to you. This production is inspiring me to create beauty, magic and healing from what otherwise might be a silent personal tragedy.  I seek to have this production do the same for you.

There is no set production date for this project. I have just felt urged to begin gathering these stories and begin the birthing process for this project. I do plan to produce and direct a live performance run of this project with a full diverse cast at some point in the near future.

About the Playwright:

Annie Herring is a poet, drummer, singer, song leader, dancer, theater artist, writer, women’s group facilitator and women’s spirituality scholar who has decided to try her hand at playwriting! She holds a Master’s Degree in Women’s Spirituality with an emphasis in the Sacred Arts and Women’s Mysteries and has studied theater arts and directing at the post baccalaureate level. She currently lives in Portland, OR but will be relocating to the Big Island of Hawaii in the Fall of 2014.

Seeing Red Survey

I am hoping to have women from all different ages and stages of life, cultures, spiritual beliefs, identities and socio economic backgrounds answer these questions. Please pass this survey on to your daughters, mothers, sisters, friends and family. Feel free to answer as many or as few questions as you feel called to respond to. Please copy and paste your answers into an e-mail and send to: annie.c.herring@gmail.com.

Name:

Age:

Culture and Country of Origin:

Describe the first time you started your period. How did you feel? Were you prepared? Did you do anything to celebrate this change in your body?:

What facts, myths, stories or taboos did your culture, family or religion tell you about menstruation?:

What nicknames did your family, friends or community call menstruation or female body parts?:

Do/Did you suffer from any menstrual or reproductive disorders (such as PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, dysmenorrhea, cancer etc)? If so, what is your diagnosis, what are/were your symptoms, and what treatment have you sought (different types of doctors, supplements, medications, surgeries, therapies etc)?:

What does/did it feel like to bleed?:

Do you have any extraordinary, embarrassing, profound, moving, traumatic, or inspirational stories that you care to share about being on your period or menstruation?:

How do you view menstruation and what do you believe the purpose of bleeding is?:

Do/Did you do any rituals, ceremonies or practices to honor your moontime/period?:

How have your beliefs, feelings or thoughts about menstruation evolved over the span of your life?:

Have you ever had any bizarre or extraordinary dreams about menstruation or pregnancy?:

For women that have gone through menopause, how did you feel about not bleeding anymore? How do you honor your body and your womb space now that you no longer bleed?:

For women that were not born with a uterus or not designated female at birth, how do you connect to your feminine body? Do you honor a moontime/menstrual cycle? Do you have any stories or practices that initiated you into your womanhood?:

For individuals who do not identify as a woman but still have a menstrual cycle, how do you connect to your bloodtime? What does this time mean for you?:

What else should I know about your connection to your body and your cycles?:

Would you be open to being interviewed in person or having more questions asked? If so please include your contact information:

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR THOUGHTFUL PARTICIPATION! 🙂

 

Consent Form

By e-mailing your responses to annie.c.herring@gmail.com you are consenting to allowing Annie Herring to quote or paraphrase any portion of your words for use in the production of “Seeing Red: Menstruation, Misery and Metamorphosis.” Annie Herring will keep total confidentiality and anonymity unless you otherwise want to be credited for your responses.

If you consent, please enter your name and the date below:

Name:                            Date:

If you want to have your name listed in any credits or your name used in the production, please enter your full name as you wish it to be listed and the date below:

Name:                            Date:

 

*******Again, please copy and paste the questions and your responses in an e-mail and send to annie.c.herring@gmail.com*******

I was feeling a bit down one day so I forced myself to write a poem. This is what came out. I have a feeling others may resonate with this. ❤

 

A Love Poem to My Cells…

This is a poem to all my cells

That feel unworthy of poetic professions-

The stagnant ones

The sickly ones

The ones that feel trapped

In confining corners

And never see the light.

This one is for you-

For the synapses and neurons

That fail to ignite,

Who think that brilliance is impossible

And that failure is inevitable,

This poem is for you.

For the aches and pains

And the fears and doubts.

To the demons and ghosts

That haunt the echoey halls of my memories

That seek to sabotage and destroy-

I write these words for you.

For the matrix of my mind

That believes abandonment

Will always find a way,

Know that these words will never leave you.

Trust that these words need you

As much as you could ever need them

That these words come alive

Through the petals of your pupils

And become glorious music

At the sound of your voice.

Feel these words.

Trust these words.

And know that sometimes,

The stories your cells tell are wrong

That despite what they say,

You deserve to let the light in.

And you always deserve to have

A fucking poem written

In your honor.

Step, Rock, Step

               Step, Rock, Step

                                Step, Rock, Step

                                                Step, Rock, Step

                                                                Step, Rock, Step…..

 

To all the broken hearts of the world

To all those who have lost their way

Trying to numb the pain with something

Outside of their own selves-

 

May their hearts be whole.

 

Grandmother Moon

Shine down and bless

All of your Earth-bound Children.

 

 

 

To all those that have ever

Doubted their divinity

Who felt they were not good enough

Who believed the lies they were once fed-

 

May they know their divine worth.

 

Grandmother Moon

Shine down and bless

All of your Earth-bound Children.

 

 

 

To all those who have felt

Being born was a mistake

And that having a body made of flesh and bones

Is a burden and a curse-

 

May they know the beauty that is the gift of life.

 

Grandmother Moon

Shine down and bless

All of your Earth-bound Children.

 

 Step, Rock, Step

          Step, Rock, Step

                                Step, Rock, Step

                                                Step, Rock, Step

                                                                Step, Rock, Step…

 

To all those who have been

Charmed and deceived by

Poisons and quick fixes

Now suffering from illness and addiction-

 

May they know true health and deep peace.

 

Grandmother Moon

Shine down and bless

 

All of your Earth-bound Children.

 

 

 

To all those that have known

The painful effects of addiction

And have watched their loved ones struggle

And succumb again and again-

 

May they not be afraid to love again.

 

Grandmother Moon

Shine down and bless

All of your Earth-bound Children.

 

 

 

To all those that have lost the struggle

Whose lives were forsaken,

Overpowered and overcome

By the force of their disease and demons-

 

May their souls know peace.

 

Grandmother Moon

Shine down and bless

All of your Earth-bound Children.

 

 Step, Rock, Step

            Step, Rock, Step

                                Step, Rock, Step

                                                Step, Rock, Step

                                                                Step, Rock, Step…

 

To all those who carry heavy burdens,

Who suffer and are in pain

To all those who feel alone

And are in despair-

 

May they know how much they are loved.

 

Grandmother Moon

Shine down and bless

All of your Earth-bound Children.

 

 Step, Rock, Step

               Step, Rock, Step

                                Step, Rock, Step

                                                Step, Rock, Step

                                                                Step, Rock, Step…

 

 

 

 

Aho Mitakuye Oyasin.

This goes out to women of all ages, everywhere. It has taken me a long time to come back to my body. I feel the most radical thing we can do in a world that tries to make us forget our divinity and our worth is to honor, accept and celebrate our bodies. So this is a “Moonifesto” to celebrate and affirm our bodies. ❤

 

 

This is my body.

This is my flesh, my bones and my sacred vessel.

I decide what comes in and what goes out.

This body is my home.

I decide who I let in, and when.

I decide who I connect with, and how.

No one makes decisions for my body but me.

Not my doctors,

Not my parents,

Not my partners,

Not society-

Only me.

I say NO to what does not feel good

And YES to what brings me joy and happiness.

This is my body.

It is a limitless source of wisdom, truth and beauty.

I trust and listen to my body

Because my body will never tell a lie.

I take care of my body

And give it the rest, nutrients,

Exercise and support it needs

Because I never doubt my body’s worth.

I honor my body’s cycles

And gracefully accept my body’s changes.

My body is sacred.

My body is a temple.

My body is perfect just the way it is.

My body is my own.

Ode to My Gynecologist:

If anyone tells me one more time

That the only way to ease my pain

Is to set off a bomb between my hips

Or embed an alien device into the most sacred part of me-

I think I’m going to explode.

 

If you tell me one more time

That the only way to end my suffering

Is to slice me open with a knife and rape away my womb,

My sense of belonging-

I’m going to become violent.

 

If I hear one more time

That the only way to make me “normal”

Is to pump my veins full of toxins

Silence my symptoms that are screaming out for help

And make me sick against my will-

The Kali that rests latently in my core

Will seep out through my pores

Grab you by throat

And fuck you up.

 

Do not tell me that I shouldn’t bleed.

Do not tell me that you want to control

My body’s most revered natural cycle.

And do not tell me that there isn’t a war on women

That the witch hunts ended long ago.

Because I am living proof of the hatred and violence against women

That is alive now more than ever.

 

See,

The seed of wisdom that is planted in my womb

Contains more knowledge

Than your androcentric sterile text book training

Could ever comprehend.

My body is capable of things

That not even the most well learned scientists

Can even begin to replicate.

My body holds the wisdom of the Universe.

Ever cell a solar system

Every ounce of me

Capable of a Divine big bang.

 

The only problem is

That my body has lost her way-

Because someone, somewhere

Told me that it wasn’t safe to be a girl.

Someone told me

That the curves that I would grow into

Were shameful

And that I should fear

My cycles and my blood

That would give me the power to create life, death

And to intuit all the changes that lie in between.

It was these voices

That made me flee from my flesh

Long before the blood even came.

It was these voices

That trained me to believe

That my self-worth

Was dependent solely on the size of my belly

And my ability to deny my body of what it wants and desires.

 

But I do not seek revenge.

For I know that these voices

Hold wounds even deeper than the ones

Inflicted upon me.

I know that I am just the product

Of generations of wounded women.

But what I do seek is wholeness.

What I seek is relief.

What I seek is not letting one more

Young girl grow up in a world

Where growing into a woman is filled with sorrow and pain.

What I seek is connection

And learning to drop roots in a body

That remembers how to bleed with the moon.

What I seek is a body that does not

Fight and resist the currents of the Ocean

That pulsates through my veins.

What I seek is rewriting my own herstory

Righting all the wrongs

And walking myself through the threshold

Of my sacred initiation and transformation

With hindsight, wisdom and grace.

 

So please,

Save the sharp tools and manmade poisons

For those who truly need them.

And please erase the hate speeches that

Roll off your tongue

Into the ears of young girls and women

Who have never been able to call their own bodies “home.”

And please spare me the scientific babble

That is an insult to my soul

And learn how to help walk me back to my own self….

 

 

© 2013  Annie Herring.

 

Moontime, Dreamtime

Menstruation is a very mystical and enigmatic phenomenon that has been both feared and revered throughout history. The changes and happenings that occur in a woman’s body, mind and spirit throughout the month are both profound and deeply mysterious. As a woman experiences her body’s cycle, her emotions change, her body changes and so do her dreams. Menstruation has long been thought of as a very powerful time for dreaming for women. A woman’s moontime is also her dreamtime. Evidence supports that from ovulation to actual menstruation, dreams and “dream imagery undergo changes throughout the menstrual cycle.”[1] Hormones have an important role to play in the vacillating and cyclical patterns found in a menstruating woman’s dreams. According to the Carleton College Psychology Department’s study on “Sleep and the Menstrual Cycle”, “the dreamer’s physiological state, particularly resulting from hormonal fluctuations, contributes to brain activation, and thus, determines the dream contents.”[2] In this paper, I will analyze the meaning of menstruation, examine the phases of the menstrual cycle and their hormonal effect on dreaming and dream content, and assess the importance of dreaming at all phases of the menstrual cycle.

The actual word menstruation “comes from the Greek menus meaning both moon and power, and men meaning month.”[3] Women have realized from the beginning of time that they are innately connected to the moon, and women’s bodies and menstrual cycles are in alignment with the moon’s waxing and waning cycles. The moon controls the ocean’s tides as well as the ebb and flow of women’s monthly blood. Dr. Christiane Northrup explains that “scientific research has documented that the moon rules the flow of fluids (ocean tides as well as individual body fluids) and affects the unconscious mind and dreams.”[4] Like the moon that dies every twenty-nine days only to be reborn again, women also “‘die’ at menstruation; a part of us that hasn’t come to fruition or being conceived dies off and is released.”[5]

Before the onset of electricity and unnatural lighting, women used to bleed together with the moon, “ovulating at the full Moon and bleeding at the new Moon.”[6] Northrup explains that “Even in modern society, where we are cut off from the rhythms of nature, the cycle of ovulation is influenced by the moon.”[7] Rates of conception are still at their highest during the full moon, and at the new moon, “ovulation and conception rates are decreased overall, and an increased number of women start their menstrual bleeding.”[8]

Many different cultures have special instructions and taboos for women during their bleeding time. Many indigenous cultures had moon lodges or bleeding tents where women would retreat to during their monthly moontime. Spider writes that “in ancient times, the women’s Bleeding Lodge was a structure set apart from the rest of the community where women would go to dream and communicate with the Ancestors when they were bleeding.”[9] Dreaming was an essential part of menstruation. Judy Grahn explains that “dreams were believed to be given by the moon, and evidently also by menstruation.”[10] Different cultures also have had varied beliefs about women’s dreaming during this time. Grahn explains that “in many menarchal seclusion taboos, the menstruant was forbidden to sleep because she must not dream during this numinous time.”[11] In other cultures that honored menstrual seclusion, a woman was encouraged and expected to share her dreams and visions.[12]

So how does menstruation affect women’s dreams? One answer can be found in the fluctuation of key hormones during menstruation. The menstrual cycle is divided into two phases: the follicular phase, or the weeks leading up to ovulation and the luteal phase, or the weeks leading up to menstruation. During the days leading up to ovulation, levels of estrogen, or the chemical hormone that plays “an essential role in the growth and development of female sexual characteristics and the reproductive process,”[13] are at their highest.  It has been found that “high levels of estrogen result in increased sense of wellbeing due to its effects on serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain.”[14] Ovulation is a time of action, social activity and mental and artistic creativity. Susan Roberts explains that in the “creative or “light” phase—ovulation—this power can be used to conceive artistic of intellectual offspring as well as actual biological children.”[15] During this ovulatory and follicular phase, it has been reported that women experience more positive emotions in their dreamscapes and during their everyday life than during any other point of the cycle. The most commonly reported dream imagery during this phase contains heterosexual dreams, aggressive themes, dreams of having babies or the fear of giving birth.[16]

According to Northrup, “the weeks following ovulation lead up to the menses; this is the evaluative and reflective time, looking back on what is created on the negative or difficult aspects of our lives that need to be changed or adjusted.”[17] The luteal phase gives rise to progesterone levels. Progesterone is responsible for preparing the body for either conception or menstruation. “Progesterone is sometimes referred to as the ‘feel good’ hormone due to its mood-enhancing anxiolytic, calming effects.”[18] Progesterone is reported as having profound effects on dreaming and dream recall. The Carleton College Psychology Department has found that “during the luteal phase, when progesterone levels are high, dreams are reported to have a higher degree of vividness, imagery, specificity, and concreteness.”[19] Progesterone also enhances dream recollection and memory function. “The enhanced memory activation produced by progesterone may result in a higher degree of incongruity of premenstrual dreams.”[20] Dream content in the luteal phase most commonly contains very high maternal content, anger, hostile and stressful themes, transformation and themes of change, as well as highly sexual content, particularly during the menses.[21] It is also found that “dreams become significantly lengthier and more complex during the premenstrual phase when both estrogen and progesterone are concurrently present.”[22]

There is a significant connection between premenstrual symptoms and the amount of sleeping and dreaming that occurs during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove explain that it has been discovered “that premenstrual symptoms are worse when women can’t sleep enough and improve when they are allowed to sleep more than usual.”[23] It has been found that the REM (rapid eye movement) dream sleep stage “increases towards the end of the cycle, around days twenty-five to thirty.”[24] As Rosemary Ellen Guiley explains, “we need to dream,”[25] otherwise we could “develop physical, mental, and emotional difficulties.”[26]   It is apparent that the need to dream is even more dire for premenstrual women. Shuttle and Redgrove ask a very important question,

Since dreams are the ‘royal road to the unconscious’ and to our unrealized selves, what perilous matter do these premenstrual dreams contain that produces strong physical and nervous reactions during the day, when dreams are not being dreamed, and which when given more chance to be dreamed, reduces these waking symptoms of premenstrual tension?[27]

In my research, I have discovered that there are very few studies conducted on the topic of the menstrual cycle and dreaming. Perhaps this is due to the fluctuation of hormones in each different woman. Perhaps this in part due to the lack of research on women’s reproductive organs, cycles and health in general. Perhaps this is due to the oppression of women’s power, starting with devaluing women’s natural cycles and the power women contain within their own cells. Or perhaps, as Shuttle and Redgrove suggest, “is it because too few women are allowed to believe that dreams themselves are important, and therefore when they have dreams they do not consider them much, all the less so if they are strange and frightening?”[28]

As a woman that struggles with menstruation due to the physical pain and complications it causes, learning to honor, embrace and understand my own menstrual cycle is very important to me. Struggling with endometriosis over the past few years has made me very aware of my body’s cycles and its changes throughout the month. Learning to pay attention to my own dreams and dream imagery has made me even more aware of my body’s hormone cycles, which gives me insight into where my body is at any given point in time during my cycle. I have realized that my dream cycles are very much in alignment with what the dream imagery studies have shown. Understanding my own dreams and my connection to the moon allows me to become aware of my own fertility, creativity, and bodily happenings. I am also learning how to take better care of myself by understanding what my dreams are trying to tell me.

Roberts explains that “the menstrual cycle is the missing link between women and empowerment.”[29] The menstrual cycle allows women to access layers of their biology and their subconscious that only a cyclical feminine form can provide. The dreams across the month, the cycles of the moon, and the cycle of menstruation allow women to access the archetypal feminine energy that can provide self-empowerment, self-expression, self-healing, and self-awareness. Oswell adds that when dreams are “shared with others and acknowledged for their messages, they can be the active ingredient in our menstrual alchemy.”[30] Dreaming just might also be the cure for undesirable effects of premenstrual syndrome, for “menstrual distress seems to be at a minimum when dreaming and the sharing of dreams is at a maximum.”[31]

From a woman’s corporeal connection to the moon, to the influence of different hormones that are present at different times of the month, women are intrinsically connected to their dreams. I believe that women need to become attuned to their own cycles, including the magnificent changing dream cycles that entrain with the moon, in order to reclaim their full power. Reclaiming our dreamtime during our moontime is one of the most vital steps to reclaiming our power as women.

[1] Carleton College Psychology Department, “Sleeping and Dreaming”, Sleep and the Menstrual Cycle, accessed October 9, 2012, http://guenishi.wordpress.com/dreams/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Spiraldancer, “Myth, Magic and Mystery”, Menstruation.com.au, accessed October 11, 2012, http://www.menstruation.com.au/contributors/moonflow.html.

[4] Christiane Northrup, “Wisdom of the Menstrual Cycle”, Christiane Northrup, M.D., accessed October, 9, 2012, http://www.drnorthrup.com/womenshealth/healthcenter/topic_details.php?topic_id=138.

[5] Felicity Oswell, “Wombmoon Woman,” Menstruaion.com.au, accessed October 9, 2012, www.menstruation.com.au/contributors/wombmoon.html.

[6] Spider, “Excerpt from Songs of Bleeding,Moonlodge Wise Woman Center, accessed October 10, 2012, http://www.susunweed.com/moonlodge.htm.

[7] Christiane Northrup, “Wisdom of the Menstrual Cycle.”

[8] Ibid.

[9] Spider.

[10] Judy Grahn, Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press Books, 1993), 113.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Joanne E. Manson, “Estrogen,” Healthy Women, accessed October 11, 2012,   http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/estrogen.

[14] Carleton College Psychology Department.

[15] Susan Roberts, “Blood Sisters,”  New Age Journal,  May/June 1994.

[16] Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, The Wise Wound: The Myths, Realities, and Meanings of Menstruation, (New York: Grove Press, 1988), 95.

[17] Christiane Northrup, “Wisdom of the Menstrual Cycle.”

[18] Carleton College Psychology Department.

[19] Carleton College Psychology Department.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, 96.

[22] Carleton College Psychology Department.

[23] Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, 91.

[24] Ibid., 92.

[25] Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Dreamwork For the Soul: A Spiritual Guide to Dream Interpretation, (New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1998), 179.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, 92.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Susan Roberts.

[30] Felicity Oswell.

[31] Ibid.

Bibliography

Carleton College Psychology Department, “Sleeping and Dreaming. ”Sleep and the MenstrualCycle. Accessed October 9, 2012, http://guenishi.wordpress.com/dreams/.

Grahn, Judy. Blood, Bread and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. Boston, MA:Beacon Press Books, 1993.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Dreamwork For the Soul: A Spiritual Guide to Dream Interpretation.New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1998.

Manson, Joanne E.  “Estrogen,” Healthy Women. Accessed on October 11, 2012,  http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/estrogen.

Northrup, Christiane. “Wisdom of the Menstrual Cycle”, Christiane Northrup, M.D. AccessedOctober, 9, 2012,http://www.drnorthrup.com/womenshealth/healthcenter/topic_details.php?topic_id=138.

Oswell, Felicity. “Wombmoon Woman,” Menstruaion.com.au. Accessed October 9, 2012, www.menstruation.com.au/contributors/wombmoon.html.

Roberts, Susan. “Blood Sisters.” New Age Journal, May/June 1994.

Shuttle, Penelope and Peter Redgrove. The Wise Wound: The Myths, Realities, and Meanings of Menstruation. New York: Grove Press, 1988.

Spider, “Excerpt from Songs of Bleeding,” Moonlodge Wise Woman Center. Accessed October 10, 2012, http://www.susunweed.com/moonlodge.htm.

Spiraldancer, “Myth, Magic and Mystery.” Menstruation.com.au. Accessed October 11, 2012, http://www.menstruation.com.au/contributors/moonflow.html.

A few weeks ago I had the amazing opportunity of attending a weekend of grieving and ritual with the amazing Sobonfu Some. You can find out more about her here: http://www.sobonfu.com/

Here are my synthesized thoughts from this weekend. Grieving is so important…we must all learn to truly grieve.

 

 

           I came to Sobonfu Some’s Grieving and Ritual workshop with an overwhelming amount of heavy grief. I had found myself paralyzed by this grief. The grief I was experiencing was manifold; I had been experiencing grief from our lost indigenous past, grief from the trauma of my own indigenous ancestors, and the deep grief of our Earth-body. The grief I had been processing had been so intense that there were moments I found it nearly impossible to carry on with my everyday life and my studies. I have always felt the Earth’s moans and groans; I feel her deep struggles and longings; and I feel and hear her cries for a new paradigm and shift in consciousness. I feel the embodied pain of our Earth in crisis.

            I had also been hearing the wailing of my indigenous American ancestors; the ancestral lineage that has been silenced by the white European God fearing DNA that I also carry in my cells. For whatever reason, my ancestors have been speaking to me loud and clear. They have been making it nearly impossible to ignore their obstreperous lamentations. Their sorrow is astounding and their rage is righteous, for their land, their culture, their beliefs, and their dignity was stolen and raped from them.

            Until my weekend with Sobonfu, I wasn’t sure what to do with my grief. I have always believed that working through your grief is important, but I usually have a very hard time tapping into the great reservoir of tears, sadness, and anger that resides deep within me. I found that my grief would often seep out at inappropriate times when I was not capable of handling or fully processing the deep issues at hand. I also have always had a hard time crying in front of others or showing public displays of intense emotion. Throughout the weekend I realized that the grief I contain within me is so powerful and destructive when kept inside me. I realized my grief takes the form of anger: red, hot, fiery, boisterous and booming anger.

            I realized during the weekend that the grief I carry is what Sobonfu calls “complex grief.” Complex grief is grief that is repeated and visited often throughout a life time and can contain many other forms of grief within it. My grief was a complex grief that holds Earth body grief, or the grief that the Earth carries from the damage inflicted by humans; ancestral grief, which is grief passed down through generations, often with no identifiable origin; past-life grief where you can’t exactly pin point the source of grief but you sense it has been carried from another time and place; as well as invisible grief, which cannot be seen or easily understood by others. Understanding the different types of grief I have been carrying has helped me to have compassion for myself and the burden I have been carrying on my shoulders. Sobonfu also explained that other types of grief one can experience are simple grief, visible grief, and present-life grief.

            Another big thing that I have been grieving is the lack of community in our western world. The more I learn about indigenous societies, particularly African and indigenous American societies in my studies as a Women’s Spirituality Student, the more lost and frustrated I feel with our disconnected and isolated western world.  Our society lacks a true, solid and supportive community. Our world is too big, too cold, and too lonely. We have lost our innate senses of interdependence and interconnectedness that creates our human existence. Without our community to guide us, shape us and hold us, we become lost, reckless and grief ridden isolated individuals who have no sense of identity or family. Though I am blessed to have an abundant community and tribe of amazing individuals in my life, I still feel the lack of communal support and strength in my every-day life. Learning more about the people of Burkina Faso and the importance of family and community, it is clear that in order to be in balance and in grace, community is necessary.

            I am also an only child born to two parents who have kept me pretty disconnected from my blood family relatives. The history of my blood line is unknown and unidentifiable as well. I don’t know where my ancestors have been or where they have come from. I also carry Native American blood in my veins-a lineage that has been hidden and shamed, but it is the only bit of my identity I feel I can claim to. This lack of familial and community identity is another part of my existence that I grieve for. I feel as if though I do not belong anywhere. I feel as if I have no roots.

            I have also never felt connected to my given birth name. Sobonfu had spoken a lot about names and the importance of naming, so I asked a question about how does one find or discover their own name. She explained to me that I must first reconcile my birth name. I must create peace with it before I am able to find my true name. This advice was hard for me to swallow. I didn’t want to accept my name or look deep into why I have always felt a sense of dissonance with it. I simply wanted to remove it, destroy it, and move on. Now, of course, I realize that this is incredibly irresponsible of me to want to take the easy road. I have a lot of work to do around my name, and I plan on being spiritually responsible and thorough with my process. Sobonfu did help me realize that my full name, “Anneliese” comes from the names “Elizabeth”, meaning “rebel,” and “Anne” which means “full of grace.” Therefore I am “Rebel, Full of Grace!” That I can accept and embrace!

            The actual grieving rituals were incredible. From the beauty of the three altars; the main grief altar, the ancestor altar and the self-forgiveness alter; to the amazing feeling of what it was like to hold space for another and have someone hold space for you, every moment was pure magick. I found that I had a hard time grieving on command during the first day. Like I stated above, I find it hard to show public displays of emotion, especially crying. I also felt like I had worked out a lot of grief simply by giving voice to it during a small group session. Though I was only able to allow deep breaths and sighs to escape, I still found it beautiful and very moving to be able to stand behind a person while they experience their deep emotions and let their grief flow. I felt the power of grieving through dancing and swaying to the beat of the drum and the vibrations and resonance of the words and song. I felt particularly called to the ancestor alter during the first day. I allowed myself to sit with it and allow the ancestors to hear my cries and prayers. They informed me, like they have before, that I needed to dance.

            The second day, we arrived to find that the altars, pillows and tissue boxes were still intact. I felt a little drained but also incredibly inspired and motivated to allow my grief flow through me. Sobonfu kept articulating that we were all being far too nice with our grieving. She explained that it was fine to scream, sob and shake. Apparently permission was all I needed to allow my grief to flow. I tried standing behind someone to hold space for them but soon felt the need to have my own grieving space. I called for a replacement and for someone to stand behind me. I instantly took to the ground and felt the current of grief flow through me. It was hard to allow this grief to manifest itself at first. I had assumed that my grief would come in the form of water from my soul and eyes like everyone else. However, I felt a fire deep within me. It was the fire of anger, frustration and sheer rage that was bubbling up inside me, begging me to break free. I found my body start to shake and my voice start to vibrate and sustain tones that turned into bellowing screams. I was shocked and even a little frightened by the intensity and immensity of the force that I was emitting. I am often afraid of the power of my voice. I am a singer, performer and actor and I inherited a voice that has allowed me resound and project in any hall without effort. I have also been shamed for this gift and strength and have been told that I am too loud throughout my whole life. Remembering all the times I was told that I was too loud provided inspiration to scream even louder.

            I screamed for what seemed like hours. I screamed until my throat was horse, something I rarely do due to my vocal training. But this time, I didn’t care. I couldn’t care. I had to let the anger and fire out. When I couldn’t scream anymore, I shook. I had to get the anger out of my being through violent convulsions and tremors. I felt I had to shake my grief and anger free. The shaking would then prompt my lungs and vocal folds to produce sounds that must have woken my ancestors up from their earthen graves. I screamed for my ancestors and their faces I have never seen. I screamed for my feeling of not belonging. I screamed for my anger at the way our Earth is treated. I screamed for the way Christianity has harmed my ancestors and my own self. I screamed for the anger I have for my oppressive dogmatic father whose ancestral anger I have inherited. I screamed for my health and my body that experiences so much pain. I screamed for the damage and lack of understanding that western medicine has. I screamed for all the broken hearts I have ever had. I screamed for the stress of school, papers, deadlines and never feeling smart enough. I screamed for never feeling good enough. Pretty enough. Normal enough. Whole enough. I screamed for every man and woman who had ever needed to scream. I felt as if I were a channel for all the grief in the world that had fermented into vehement rage. The pauses in between screaming allowed for the deepest most needed breaths I had ever taken.

            I felt that the screaming and the shaking cleansed my soul of all the grief that had been decaying in my body. I felt like I turned into a fire breathing dragon. I literally saw red.  I felt fire and lava purge from my physical form. It was one of the most liberating and healing experiences I have ever been allowed to have.

            That night, when I began to recover from the exhausting ritual, I sat down and wrote a poem. Here are the words that came out:

Dragon

Deep in the waters of Yemeya’s womb,

Prostrating at her alter

Where She eats our grief

And drinks our tears,

My soul opened up.

The fire in my belly-

Held between my knees and elbows

Which were pressed into the ground

Rose up through my core

And seeped out through the chamber of my mouth

Violent shakes and quakes

Gave way for the dragon to be released-

Fire spewing out of every orifice

Vibrational flames burning up

The improperly woven tapestry

Of my ancestors-

With tattered threads of guilt and despair

Subtlety sewn into the fabric of my identity

Anger surging out through every pore

Breath of fire obliterating the heavy grief

Hidden in the most shadowed and decaying corners of my being

Lava no longer trapped within my prison of flesh

Consuming me from the inside out.

There,

In the temple of sacred release and holy grief,

I screamed and shook my way to my own freedom…

 

            I am so grateful for the experience of grieving in community and for the permission to allow my anger to rise and to be expressed. In our western culture, we are taught to avoid anger at all costs. It is not polite or ever appropriate to let your rage be seen. But that anger and rage we hide and stuff deep down into the pits of our beings is what will kill us if we don’t let it escape. If everyone learned how to grieve, there would be no war. No violence, no hatred, no oppression or bullying. We would all be at peace. Just that one day of being allowed to express my anger, the grief I have been carrying has been transformed into something that is much more tolerable, bearable, and easier to digest. I can now use the grief as inspiration, fueling my fire to create change instead of getting swallowed up by my own flames. I am now so much more aware of the anger and grief I carry within me and my need to let it out. Dancing, shaking, singing, toning and screaming are rituals I need to enact on a regular basis to allow my body, soul and mind to be free.

            I learned so much from my weekend with Sobonfu. Her words, stories and wisdom will stay with me for the rest of my life. Knowing how important it is to grieve in community, and knowing what community really is and what it will look like has inspired me to share this with my communities. We are responsible for changing the world and creating a world that we want to live in. I feel that proper ritual grieving is such an integral and important part to healing ourselves, our communities and our planet. I am so grateful for this experience.

Dad,

I am writing you because I know you wouldn’t let me speak the words I need to say. You wouldn’t take the time or have the courtesy to hear them. So instead, I will let you read them on your own time. I hope you can find it in your heart to hear my words.

I must start by saying that I am grateful that you have found a faith tradition that resonates with you and brings you the comfort and purpose that you need. That is the point of religion-to give us meaning and purpose and to offer a guideline of morals, values, and ways in which to conduct our own lives. I am glad that Christianity is the way in which you find and connect with God. But this is not the path for me.

The path that resonates with me is an Earth-Based path. Yes, I am a Pagan. I have followed an Earth-Based path for over 7 years now. You have to understand that this does not make me a sinner or a Godless heathen. In fact, the many forms of Paganism or Earth-Based Spirituality do not believe in Satan, sin or evil-those are all Christian creations. I follow a path that is far older than Christianity and it is a path full of beauty, love, balance, gratitude and connection with the Divine. I honor the female face of God and I believe in the power of Nature, the Elements, the Directions and the power of people gathering together with positive intentions to promote change and healing. I am a very spiritual person and I lead a good, honest, faith based life. My religious choices inundate my life and these traditions are what I am studying at a Graduate level. My religion and spiritual beliefs and life path are not a joke.

I believe that all paths lead to the same destination-to the same Higher Power. Different religions just have different routes, rituals and language that bring lead us to the Divine. No religion is better than another. There is no right or wrong when it comes to faith-only differences and perspective. Everyone is entitled to their own belief systems. And Freedom of Religion means any religion.

I do not expect you to understand my life, path and spiritual views. But I do expect you to tolerate them. I need to you accept me-my views, lifestyle, life choices and beliefs and respect them. I refuse to allow you to belittle me and outwardly criticize and judge my path anymore. When you scoff at or brush aside my beliefs or points of view you are disrespecting the deepest parts of me. Even though I disagree with your beliefs, I honor them with respect, acceptance and tolerance. I see beyond our differences to find a common ground of understanding. I can only expect you to do the same.

Jesus was a man of unconditional love, acceptance and tolerance for all those around Him. True Christians follow in His footsteps. Since you take the title of a Christian, this is what I expect of you.

The choice is yours though. You can choose to accept and respect me and tolerate my differences, which would result in having a daughter that respects you as well. A daughter that is a friend. Or, you can choose to carry on in the fashion that you always have by being intolerant and unaccepting of who I truly am. If you choose to do this, you must know that you will be choosing to have a daughter that is around for obligatory reasons alone. You will lose me and you will be missing out on a lifetime of love and friendship.

I am tired of holding anger in my heart for your lack of understanding and tolerance. Anger is not a value that is indigenous to either of our faith traditions. I refuse to carry it anymore. Which is why I am asking you to tolerate and respect me and my beliefs. I can tolerate our differences, but I will not tolerate hatred, judgment and oppression.

So the choice is yours.

You can choose to talk about what I have written in this letter, but I do not expect you to bring it up again. I would love to have theological and cosmological discussions, but only if they are brought about with respect and tolerance for other’s differences.

I do hope you choose the higher path of respect and acceptance which can be seen in your words and actions. But again, the choice is yours.

Thank you for reading my words and hearing my truth.

In perfect love and prefect trust,

Your Daughter

Equality….

So…tonight I am feeling a little disheartened about marriage equality…

Lately I’ve been having this radical thought.

I personally feel that all heterosexual couples should boycott getting legally married until gay marriage is legalized.

Ceremonies are grand and fine…and should certainly be granted for heterosexuals who want to make a commitment to their partner…for no one can stop the gays from having a commitment ceremony…but the legality of it is still banned from us in most places.

I feel that if the “sacred institution of marriage”  was threatened…by not having any new subscribers…that something would have to change. That change would need to be equal marriage rights for all.

To anyone who thinks otherwise…or thinks “how dare someone say I can’t get married”…”how dare anyone even suggest that my love should be outlawed”….well….WELCOME TO WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE A GAY PERSON.

Welcome to what it feels like to have your love, your commitment, your partnership viewed as a big  joke. Welcome to be discriminated against due to your choice to start a life with the person you love. Welcome to inequality on a daily and lifelong basis.

Please…can some one explain to me why even though I am in an amazing, strong, beautiful relationship with someone I no doubt want to spend the rest of my life with…and even though this is the most “normal” experience I have probably ever had in my life….please tell me why I can’t take my partnership to the next level that 90% of the general population has automatic rights to!?!?!

This is wrong. This is unfair. And this needs to be stopped.

So I am proposing (all puns intended) that heterosexuals who believe in fair treatment and that all people are created equal…and deserve to be legally treated as such…should boycott legally getting married until lesbians  and gays have full and total equal rights to marriage.

I’m sure this is a pipe dream….but I feel it is a sound and logical idea.

Anyway…just had to put it in writing.

Thanks for reading. 🙂