Last summer, I read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Told from the perspective of Dinah, the daughter of Judah, it fully unleashed something inside of me that had been stirring for quite some time. In it, Diamant, an ancient Hebrew scholar, lays out a world before Patriarchy has fully taken hold. A world where women have their practices and men have theirs. A world where the menstrual blood is sacred, and the bleeding time is holy. This understanding begins to lose footing during the course of the novel, and I’ve come to understand that women ceasing to give their blood to the Earth is the reason we are living in the out of balance, war-mongering, planet-destroying, woman-hating world we find ourselves in today. But we’ll need to take a pass through Neil Gaiman’s American Gods for me to explain what I mean here.
First, though, come walk with me through a garden I’ve been working on for a while…
In Diamant’s Red Tent world, the original blood sacrifice was that of a woman giving her menstrual blood back to the earth. When we understand this, we can see that our present idea of blood sacrifice is so perverted as to be almost unrecognizable.
I’ve been working with my relationship with my menstrual cycle and my blood for a while now. Even amongst those seeking full body acceptance and promoting body positivity, dogging on our periods is still the norm. Women have been taught nothing other than an antagonistic relationship with their periods. Period blood is seen by both men and women as being completely disgusting. We literally call our periods “The Curse”. We totally freak out about it—so much so that even pad commercials show some blue dishwashing detergent to demonstrate their product’s effectiveness. Because red liquid in that context is just SO GROSS.
Not because we as a culture hate the sight of blood, mind you. We love blood. The bloodier, the better. Splash it on the camera if you can—but only the blood of death. The blood of slashing and shooting and hacking is welcomed, relished, craved. It is only the blood of life that makes us recoil in horror.
About a decade ago, I realized that I wore tampons as a way to not have to deal with my blood at all. To close my eyes to the messiness that is Life. I went for a while without tampons, only using pads, in order to face my blood. To have to deal with it. To quit hiding. I ruined a lot of clothes and eventually learned to only wear black on my heaviest days, but I didn’t go back to tampons until I had moved from horror at the sight of my blood to it just being a part of my life.
In the last several months, I’ve started doing a free-bleeding ritual on the little patch of grass in my back yard. I go outside, under the moon, and sit on my grass with no undies or protection and meditate for a while. As I’ve been doing this, I keep getting this image of the Earth and me sharing a circulatory system. In the grounding mediation that I do to start, I breathe out of the bottom of my spine into roots that go into the ground. I breathe deeper and deeper into those roots. Deep enough to reach the pulsing red core of the earth. Then I breathe that ruby-red pulsing energy back up into my heart space before breathing branches out of the top of my head that reach into the heavens. As I was doing this, I saw and felt the connection between the pulsing red core of the Earth and the pulsing red core of me—the seat of my power and intuition, the gateway to all human life on the planet: the womb.
It’s been incredibly powerful.
Last month, I had one of the most painful and heaviest periods I’ve had in years and years. I had to go buy another heating pad so I could have one behind me and one wrapped around my belly. Two days into it, and realizing it was nowhere ready to be done, I remembered a thread I’d read on a homesteading site about using cups instead of tampons and diluting the blood to water the plants with and how the plants had responded. I figured if I’m going to bleed this much and it be so painful, I don’t want it to be for nothing, so I started collecting my blood and then giving it to the plants every night.
Having something for the plants every night made the day worth it somehow. I was almost sad when I didn’t have anything more for my little green babies. I ordered a FemmyCycle cup to make collection easier next month (I’ve had no luck with other cups I’ve tried).
This week, candidates that are anti-choice are running on Democratic tickets, and the Patron Saint of Progressives not only endorsed them, but told those upset about it that they needed to put their issues aside in the name of progress. The Handmaid’s Tale came out on Hulu yesterday. In order for Atwood’s Gilead to happen, both the left and the right need to agree that women’s rights are negotiable. Apparently, they now are.
As I’m left to ponder how we keep ending up in this space- how we keep having these movements that seem to push society forward only to be pulled back further than we were when we started, an ad for Neil Gaiman’s American Gods goes across my screen. I listened to the book this last year as well. In the book, as devotees come to America, they make a blood sacrifice to their god and it brings the god to the New World. Only America is a fickle country, and it’s hard for gods to survive as we tend to shift the object of our devotion so very often. The final battle scene in the book has made me wonder as I wander about the machinations of our current political and media climate--- but that’s another discussion for another day (and I don’t want to give any spoilers here).
Yet, one thing that happens in that battle is different gods getting folks to do some act at the beginning of the battle to dedicate it to them. That way, any energy mustered, any blood spilled will contribute to that particular god’s strength and energy.
Any blood spilled will contribute to that god’s strength and energy…
And suddenly, I get this flash of understanding and the rolling through millennia of history that comes with such flashes and I see so very clearly how the only blood that’s been spilled on the Earth for such a very long time is the blood of death, destruction, chaos and domination. These are the forces that have been consistently fed. The blood of Life, creation, communion, community has been largely absent here -in the Western World anyway. We are not feeding The Great Mother. We are not feeding Life. Women in the West (and many other places) stopped giving their blood back to the earth a long time ago. Is it any wonder that the spirit of the Feminine has been so weak?
To give that blood back, we’ve got to change our own relationship to it.
It’s time for us to return to the Knowing we’ve lost. It’s time for us to renew our relationship with the Earth. It’s time for us to quit hating our blood – quit cursing it- and recognize the power that it has. It’s time for us to claim our blood, and dedicate it to the Earth. Give it to Life. Bless it in the name of The Great Mother.
So however you handle your menstrual blood, when you dispose of it, dedicate it to The Great Mother. Honor it in the name of the Divine Feminine. Bleed for Life. Bless your womb.
And if your womb no longer bleeds, yet this idea stirs something inside of you, find a space somewhere on the earth, under a tree perhaps, and take off your shoes and sit for a while. Breathe deep into The Mother, and ask what you can do for her. How you can make her stronger. What you can do to reclaim the Divine Feminine within and bring us back in to balance.