In the world as we know it today, that certain time of the month sends convulsing shocks of pain to women worldwide, both physically and emotionally, and sends men running for the hills. It’s hard to imagine a time when menstruation wasn’t such a taboo. Yet, our ancestors saw it as a powerful natural process.
Most words meaning menstruation were synonymous with sacredness, the supernatural, incomprehensible and worshipped. The ancient Indian tribes, Dogons of Africa and Native and South American tribes (Apache, Mayans) are rooted in the belief that there is no greater time for a woman to embody her divine femininity than during her menses. Special care and preparation was taken to ensure optimal comfort.
The Culture of Moon Lodges
It is in these cultures that we find the common custom of ‘moon lodges’ or menstrual huts. They were named moon lodges as usually women’s cycles would synchronize according to moon phases.
They believed that menstruating women had the power to peek into the future and needed time away from the tribe to hone their supernatural power. For this reason, women were given the option of spending their first few days in the comfortable seclusion of the lodge.
Why menstruating women aren’t allowed into temples
Ancient Vedic oracles describe Prana as the source of all life, giving everything vitality and direction. Prana consists of three doshas one of which is called Vata.
It is believed that the Apana Vata energy (downward flowing) that is predominant in menstruating women make them very susceptible to absorbing energy from the outside environment. This is why menstrual huts are common to many Indian villages even today.
This however, also forms the basis for a practice that is now the cause of outrage. Hindu women aren’t allowed to enter temples during that time. It is perceived to be inauspicious and impure but this wasn’t always the case.
In fact, it was precisely that all-absorbing downward energy that was believed to cause discomfort in temples where the energetic flow was upward towards the ‘source’.
The four seasons of our cycle
According to tribal lore, a woman is a vast eco-system within herself. It is not just four days of emotionality, rather a cycle. Therefore she does not just change for four days, rather week to week. In pagan terms it can be broken up into four seasons.
Pre-ovulation is spring; a time of motivation for new beginnings.
Ovulation is the summer and is a perfect time for creation, communication and relationships. It is also the most fertile time.
Pre-menstruation is autumn, the time of harvest and withdrawal. This one is difficult for most women as the energies draw inward and introspection begins.
Winter, the last season is menstruation. The woman begins to come to terms with her pain as she is faced head on by it. It is the most important phase to practice honoring her wishes, boundaries and feelings; to nurture and reclaim herself. Using this knowledge, we can make changes to our diet, goal plans and relationships so as to create balance in our lives.
Back when the divine feminine was respected and exalted, seclusion was a choice. The moment mankind starts to cling to ritualism for the sake of familiarity or ego, it loses its essence.
Intention sets the premise for all outcomes, all reactions. In the same light, there are many other stigmas against what was once (and should still be) revered as powerful and sacred.
Menstruation and Shame
It has become a joke among people to assume that an emotional woman must be on her period. In addition to that, the world of advertising uses embarrassment to sell products with promises to destroy nearly any sign of your menses. Just like pretending it never happened.
A large number of young girls from varied backgrounds even begin taking birth control as a means to put it off. The kind of message society receives from that is one of shame, suppression and non-compassion.
With all this pain surrounding womanhood it’s no wonder many healing practitioners believe it is the source for the supremely dreaded Pre-Menstrual Syndrome.
Why has PMS become synonymous with menstruation
P.M.S. causes abdominal pain, cramps, body ache (especially the back), acne, bloatedness, erratic mood swings and bursts of depression.
In an article by Lissa Rankin, a gynaecologist and healer she writes, “Some theorize that PMS/PMDD is nature’s way of making you slow down and take stock of your life.
You can’t be Superwoman all the time, and maybe your body is telling you it’s chick-flick night, and you need some personal, quiet time. In general, gynaecological issues stem from the second chakra. When our bodies struggle with second chakra issues, it’s an invitation to explore what might underlie the outward symptoms of PMS/PMDD.”
The energy in the second chakra enables us to leave from the tribe (as represented by the first chakra), develop a sense of personal identity, and establish boundaries. In our second chakra, we also deal with issues such as sex, money, power, relationships, and addictive substances. It’s also the center for creation. The energy of the second chakra gives us the power of choice. When we feel our choices are taken from us, we may manifest this in the form of gynaecological troubles.”
It seems that almost every woman goes through a minimum of three to four of these symptoms today. Perhaps this is a call from our bodies to really question the meanings we’ve assigned to womanhood.
Why we need to embrace our feminine power
This sensitivity is indeed a gift. It allows for immediate recognition of areas creating pain and resistance and propels us to understand the source of that pain. When it is properly felt out, the spirit becomes lighter and wiser than before. It’s no wonder the first shamans were women.
The aim now, is to let the wisdom of our ancestors inspire us. To see our women as power-houses bursting with pure potential. To respect the creative forces within us and use them to live fully, in a healthy manner.