A purpose of this article is to give people with a female body information so they can make informed consensual decisions that affect their cycle regarding hormonal birth control, removing the blood entirely through menstrual extraction, or other methods of altering the menstrual cycle. Another purpose of this article is to breakdown the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a woman’s cycle for anyone who is interested in the healing of the world. This article serves to paint a more full picture of the effects of the menstrual cycle on the female body and psyche, and to show the potential of honoring a woman’s cycle, realizing menstrual powers, and giving her rights to be a leader in guiding society.
***I have chosen the term “the feminine” to refer to the archetypal and Divine feminine to be inclusive to those who identify as a woman without having a physical womb, those who don’t identify as woman but have a female body that bleeds and want to connect to or understand the Divine Feminine / Mother Nature, non-binary folks who bleed, etc. I’ll use the term “woman” for the sake of simplicity within this article, but please know I am supportive of all woman-identifying people in their pursuit of the meaning of the menstrual cycle. Also, I am writing about the cycle of the feminine with the recognition of the phases of the female body’s life (whether physical or energetic): adolescent, menstruator, and menopausal.***
Disclaimer: this is by no means a comprehensive examination into blood mysteries. Blood mysteries are vast and ever-creative and I am not attempting to summarize them in this brief article.
I was lying on my bed, with only a pot of red raspberry leaf infusion and tinctures of black and blue cohosh root beside me for support. I was flowing between tight, curled contractions and fluid, breathy release. Switching quickly between blistering sweats and icy chills, I swirled my body as my soul relished in the darkness and my spirit knew it was time to be within my womb. My experience with menstruation has been reunited with my human experience. I no longer dread my time of menstrual flow like I used to. This has drastically altered my life. This experience that is 13-16% (my own body’s percentage) of my life as a fertile person is crucial, holy, and powerful. It took dedication to wholeness and the earth’s healing to tell myself a new story about my cycle. It takes digging up ancient wisdom of my fore-mothers through texts, archaeology, and psychic ancestral wisdom. It takes council, ceremony, and celebration with my sisters who are also walking this underground path.
Just as the leaves of a tree must fall, so must my uterus release it’s lining. The purpose of menstruation is more than reproduction. Saying menstruation is only for reproduction is like saying sex is only for reproduction. It’s also like saying the leaves of a tree fall in order to make way for new life. While this is true, it’s not the whole story. Life’s sexual essence is cyclical and includes birth and death, creation and letting go. Life is naturally born out of the cycle which includes death. And beyond that, life cycles through itself simply because that’s what life does. Life takes pleasure in itself. Leaves fall because nature has a cycle and every living thing must return to the ground. The cycle of the feminine is mirrored in this natural phenomenon.
The “menstrual cycle” isn’t necessarily centered around the menstrual period. It’s a cycle, therefore every part of it is instrumental to the whole. The fullness of ovulation and the crescents in between are just as pivotal as the time of menstrually letting go. Just as we acknowledge the moon as being in a cycle at any point, so we should be acknowledging women as being in a cycle all the time. Those of us who bleed are always on our cycle/moon cycle.
While the cyclical nature of a woman is something to be recognized, getting specific we can examine the connection between a woman’s cycle and her physical health. “‘The menstrual cycle is a window into the general health and well-being of women, and not just a reproductive event,’ said Dr Paula Hillard, professor of obstetrics & gynecology and pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. ‘It can indicate the status of bone health, heart disease, and ovarian failure, as well as long-term fertility'”. (Grigg-Spall). According to the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, “Illness, not eating enough for our energy needs, angst or abuse are the common causes of adaptive disturbances of cycles/ovulation”(http://www.cemcor.ca/resources/contraceptive-choices_effective-convenient-safe). With the menstrual cycle predominately an ignored research topic in the western medical field, women’s health is ignored. Think about it: a fertile woman is cycling through drastic shifts in her body every few days. This clearly affects her entirety.
And yet, women are prescribed hormonal birth control everyday without any long-term research to prove the pill’s safety. According to Holly Grigg-Spall in Sweetening the Pill, 80% of women will take the pill at some point in their life and 100 million currently take the pill everyday (and it’s being pushed on women in non-western countries). Tens of millions more are sold long-term acting hormonal contraceptives such as the shot or IUD. This is terrifying when in fact: “The sex hormone cycle regulates 150 bodily systems all of which are suppressed by hormonal contraceptives and all of which are interrelated to all other body systems (including the endocrine, neurologic and immunologic systems). Therefore hormonal contraceptives impact: energy levels, memory and concentration, motor coordination, adrenalin levels, pain threshold, vitamin retention, blood glucose levels, thyroid and adrenal function, sleep patterns, body temperature, skin color and texture, brain wave patterns, metabolism rate, visual auditory and olfactory acuity, concentrations of vitamins, and immune system” (Grigg-Spall).
According to the western medical industry, the entire female cycle is unnecessary if a woman isn’t trying to get pregnant. Hormonal birth control prevents ovulation, therefore disrupting the entire cycle and the entire woman. “The [hormonal birth control] pill is often described as ‘regulating’ periods. The pill does not regulate women’s periods. That would mean that women on the pill continued to have periods, only more regularly spaced. The bleeding, or fake period, experienced when on the pill is a withdrawal bleed and not like menstruation in anything other than the appearance of blood” (Grigg-Spall). It is not true consent if the receiving party is not given full information. Women are lied to and misinformed daily when prescribed hormonal birth control. Women in the modern world are generally not taught about the biology of their cycles and how it is related to their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual states.
A woman’s biology, mental state, and emotions are indisputably linked. A woman’s estrogen, FSH, and LH hormones spike at ovulation, resulting in an egg bursting through an ovary. At this point, progesterone (another hormone) levels rise. If the egg was fertilized, it will implant itself into the uterus and an embryo will usually start to grow. If the egg was not fertilized, it will disintegrate. Menstruation will then occur, releasing the uterine lining. In the follicular phase, from menses to ovulation, a woman goes from being inward and reflective to growing to become highly outward during ovulation. Generally, her energy levels rise so she may need less sleep, her appetite may decrease, her desire to connect through sex or conversation rises, her libido increases along with her vaginal fertile fluids, among other things. In the luteal phase of the cycle, ovulation through the onset of menstruation, a woman’s energy and attention move inward to focus on the shedding of the uterine lining and the shedding of psychic stories that no longer serve. During ovulation, the rise in estrogen levels causes “a rise in left-hemisphere activity (verbal fluency) and a decline in right-hemisphere (visual-spatial ability, such as the ability to draw a cube or read a map). Ovulation represents mental and emotional creativity at its peak; the FSH-LH surge that accompanies ovulation may be the biological basis for this. The weeks following ovulation lead up to the menses; this is evaluative and reflective time, looking back upon what is created and on the negative or difficult aspects of our lives that need to be changed or adjusted” (Northrup). Naturally, when a woman is tuned into her cycle, she has the power to distinctly see changes that need to be made in personal and societal ways. Shamanism therefore comes naturally to a woman, as she intuits what should be brought to life and what should be sacrificed and brought to death.
When a woman’s hormones are suppressed paired with not being taught the full power of her menstrual period, she is being denied her rite to relationship with the Divine as a natural shaman. The transformative nature of her essence is eliminated and not passed on to her awareness. With the understanding of the siddhi (spiritual superpower) of menstruation, a woman reclaims right relationship with the gift of her blood. “The notion of transformation is central to a spiritualised understanding of the power of the menstrual cycle: for, it is through an acceptance and understanding of the rhythms of our own monthly cycle that we are able to accept the transformative wisdom…” Without understanding and acceptance, “then the greatest siddhi of them all becomes nothing but a heavy burden” (Dinsmore-Tuli). The patriarchal suppression of everything that is Sacred and Feminine has lead to the misunderstanding, shame, and general disinterest of the menstrual cycle. This is widely robbing half the population of understanding their soul’s connection to Life. It is robbing everyone and all of the earth of a peaceful human population.
The misunderstanding of the female cycle is maintaining status quo of female oppression in patriarchal capitalist society. Considering the degree to which women change every few days because of their cyclical nature, the linear, do-it-now, push yourself lifestyle is anti-female. This lifestyle is affecting women in more ways than one, but an example is: “all kinds of stress-related disease, ranging from PMS to osteoporosis, could be lessened a great deal if we simply followed our body’s wisdom once per month” (Northrup). Women are not given permission to follow their body’s wisdom once per month if they have to go into work or socialize and act as if they’re not bleeding out of a hole in their body. In order to truly begin giving women equal rights and living peacefully on this earth, we must address the fundamental act of menstruation.
We will find the truth of what it means to be a bleeder when we jump deep into Gaia’s oceans filled with dark, thick moon blood. We will know the fullness of creation when we taste and smell her juicy, ripe fertile cervical fluid. We will know we are whole when we honor each phase of Her and I’s cycle as equally important for the Whole. We will know we are One when we gaze upon her eyes and see her psychic knowing of the relation between death and life. We will know.
And so it is.
Here are some solutions so you can act on all of this information:
~Understand that with the rise in consciousness, more women are going to want to start honoring their cycles. Make room for this by keeping your heart open for when a woman tells you she has to cancel coming to an event with you or coming to work. She may be bleeding.
~Consider the cyclical nature of life and women when planning events, work schedules, etc. Honoring the phases of the moon and the reality that half of society reflects the phases of the moon is feminine-friendly. This leads us farther from patriarchy and towards reunion and a peaceful society.
~Support the raising of Red Tents where women can gather with other bleeders when they are menstruating and not have to be dealing with stuff.
~If you are a bleeder, consider trying (I understand it can be difficult) to give yourself some time away from obligations while you’re bleeding, even if it’s just the first few hours on your first day. Reach out to me on my Instagram: @annahatanow or my email email@example.com if you’d like some suggestions on how to spend this time.
~If you are wondering how to prevent pregnancy without hormonal birth control, check out the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). This is distinctly different from the faulty Rhythm Method. These two methods often are confused by doctors, politicians, and the general public. I recommend Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility to learn about FAM. When used in conjunction with condoms or abstinence during the fertile phase, it is as effective as the pill in preventing unwanted pregnancy.
There is a prophecy that says: “When women give their blood back to the earth in a sacred way, men will no longer have to spill their blood in war, and the world will know peace”.
Sweetening the Pill or How we got hooked on hormonal birth control by Holly Grigg-Spall
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
Yoni Shakti by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli PhD