So begins an article in The New York Times chronicling alternative menstrual products, illustrated by a black and white drawing of a naked woman, illuminated by the moon, emitting a long, scarlet stream of menstrual blood.
NPR dubbed 2015 “The Year Of The Period.” Since then menstruation has become a widespread and even trendy topic in Western media. Period panties brand Thinx ran evocative ads on the New York City subway that sparked controversy. Free bleeding is a broadly discussed phenomenon. Health activists are calling for an open disclosure of menstrual product ingredients. Teen Vogue offers readers a guide to the shades of period blood.
We’ve become more and more vocal about menstruation. But what exactly are we saying?
“Blood,” A 2016 commercial from feminine hygiene company Bodyform, shows women engaged in extreme sports and getting bloody from busted knees and raw knuckles. The tagline—”No blood should hold us back”—is a direct reference to menstrual blood. The commercial signals an intriguing duality. On the one hand, the open display of blood suggests that menstruation is not something to hide or be embarrassed about. On the other, there’s a need to push fearlessly through the blood as if it didn’t exist.
A related sentiment is found embossed on boxes of Lola tampons and blown up on New York City subway ads: This too shall pass.
The sleek, entrepreneurial, women-at-work chicness of the new period aesthetic—Lola’s tidy packaging is reminiscent of a box of Moo business cards—communicates that periods can be easily contained in order to forget about them. They are something to get through.
This messaging seems to gloss over a simple truth: Periods are messy. They are organic, bodily, and raw. They are bloody. They are wild.
Ancient wisdom tells us that rather than being held back by her period, a woman is actually graced with incredible power and spiritual openness. Wild Woman healing traditions honor “blood mysteries,” the mysterious force behind someone who bleeds but does not die.
Traditional red tents and moon lodges were sacred places of retreat for women. While bleeding, a woman’s intuition was thought to be at its peak and could be used to give her tribe vital information for their survival. These traditions view menstruation as a source of power, not something to be ignored.
How can you harness the power of your period in this complicated day and age, amidst different pulls for your time and stories about periods that are not fully embodied? Here are some ways to honor your moon.
Marvel at The Moon
The words moon, month, and menstruate come from the same root, mensis. The moon and the woman’s cycle reflect one another, a powerful reminder that feminine energy is cyclical rather than linear. In astrological terms, the time of menstruation is akin to the new moon. Also called the “dark moon,” the new moon is the perfect time of the month to go dark. Set intentions for the coming month; retreat from the world and see where you are internally.
One step toward menstrual empowerment is getting to know the fluctuation of your own inner moon—when you are waxing, full (ovulating), and waning. You can keep a journal of your cycle and become familiar with your fertility schedule. And when you see the moon out in the night’s sky, remember that it is a reflection of you.
Give Yourself A Day
The moon time is a period to rest, retreat, and withdraw. This type of rest is essential for honoring the heightened spiritual awareness of your moon. Take a day in the beginning of your cycle to simply rest with the intention of nourishing yourself and luxuriating in your womanhood. If you are unable to block out a whole day, think of this as an attitude shift. How can you be a little less active? Where can you release some pressure? Where can you receive more? And of course, if you are able, taking several days of rest works, too.
Gentle, creative activities can be particularly nourishing during this rest, because menstruation highlights creative capacity. In many healing lineages, the womb is seen as the center of women’s creativity. It is where the second chakra lives, an energetic vortex inside of your body that houses your sense of creativity, abundance, fertility, and sexuality. Ways to tap into your creative wellspring include listening to music, drawing and painting, journaling, crafting, anointing your body with oils, singing, reading a book you love, and smelling beautiful scents.
Listen To Your Body
If you experience deep pain during menstruation, take this as your body asking for your attention. Your body is not trying to make your life difficult, but it might be attempting to give you information, even simply asking you to slow down. One of the ways you can use your heightened intuition is to feel into the messages coming from your body. As you begin each day of your cycle, check in with your body and think about what it might need. Are you exhausted? Famished? What kind of movement would feel good today? What sensory experiences do you desire?
Though you may be craving everything that’s on your “unhealthy” list during menstruation, think of the food you eat on your moon as pure nourishment. Consider what foods make your body feel most tended to, and opt for these items. If you do indulge, enjoy and savor your food to the fullest. Notice how your connection to food unlocks your sensuality, which is connected to your womanhood, which is absolutely, intrinsically tied to your moon. Toast to yourself with a tea like red hibiscus or red raspberry leaf and drink plenty of water. You might notice that your taste buds are more alive when you bleed.
Cleanse and Clear
“ Nature intended menses as a way for the body to cleanse itself.” Fire Heart
In Fire Heart, Maya medicine woman Beatrice Torres Wright explains that the blood that leaves your body is an energetic and emotional purification for your whole system. Each day as you bleed you can think of yourself releasing whatever you would rather not hold onto. A great way to enhance this cleansing quality is to take a bath or immerse yourself in water. Release anything you need to let go of.
Speak With Integrity
“My uterus is trying to kill me.”
“The bitch is back.”
“It’s shark week.”
Pay attention to the words you use to describe your period. Do they feel empowered to you? Are there certain words that make you feel uncomfortable? Find a way to describe having your period that feels comfortable to you, speaking about it in a way that is kind. “Moon time,” “bleeding,” and even the sassier “riding the crimson wave,” are some suggestions.
You may have noticed that many of these ways to honor your period can produce a change in how you view your period. This is the shift from thinking that Aunt Flo is a burden, to knowing that your Moon is a blessing. In this new yet ancient perspective lies freedom and embodiment. Perhaps the biggest transformation of all comes from realizing a simple truth: The process of menstruation is mind-blowing. The blood that leaves your body contains the lining of your uterus, which means you did not become pregnant this month. Within you lies the potential to give life. That is powerful. We have no need to overcome our period, but we can be overcome by its richness.
Honoring your period is akin to cultivating a healthy, long term, relationship—nourishing the seeds of yourself to blossom. The ways you choose to honor your period may change and grow as you do. It’s a great time to get your period, always.