My Menarche by Freya

written by Freya age 14… (as published in She Who Knows Magazine)

In the summer of 2016 my mother and I went down from our town to Wales for a mother and daughter camp. I am a teenager who, like most others, doesn’t have a hugely close relationship with my mum and went for the three day camp to bond. At the time I didn’t release how much of an emotional journey it would be.

There were lots of other beautiful girls and there mums. It was amazing to see women together for a little while, enjoying their kids and loving everyone all the same. When we arrived I felt a little uncomfortable because I am so used to male company as most of my friends are boys as well as the fact that I’d never met any of the other women. I had just made the discussion that I wanted to change schools because I was being bullied and had completely shut myself away.

I felt as the days went past I could speak the women and I was able to play with the girls who were younger than me.

They had a yurt which was red, in the field and we’d go there each day for a ceremony. As I had already started to bleed, I was no longer one of the girls so they asked me to join the women. I then had a special ceremony of my own.

The other girls and I made masks, with the help of our mums, covering our eyes and we all decorated them with feathers to look like a cranes although mine looked slightly different as I was joining the women now. I was taken on a blind walk with my mask being guided by Rachael around to the red tent to meet all the women.

We then had some songs and after all the girls had returned and some wonderful stories were told, I sat in the middle and had henna tattooed on by everyone, which was very moving. There was drumming, tales of mothers and daughters in the past and the stages of womanhood.

We all ate our food together, shared experiences together and all slept on the same holy land. I completely forgot about being scared and cried a great deal like I should have expressed before. We were able to explore the land alone with our mums and have a real adventure.

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The lodge drum

The Spirit drum. .. written by Angharad Emma Varda

In September the core group had a beautiful sleepover with the girls without their mums.

The focus for this time together was the drum. The women of our community here in West Wales have been gathering around the Spirit drum for about a year. The spirit drum is a drum used by Emma and Shando in many ceremonies, circles, camps and festivals since 1975 when it was made! It is a travelling drum that reaches many  circles,people and places.

The girls and children have been connecting with and playing the drum on this land, and we felt a flow that this community needed a community drum for their lodge. We felt guided to help the girls make a drum for their lodge , and for this community of women.

It was a beautiful ceremony, the drum was birthed with song and drumming of the spirit drum, as the girls took turns to weave and tighten the lacing and paint the barrel with ochre designs.

We told drum stories and played drum games with the spirit drum, whilst the drum was carried into its new home in the yurt.

Womens Wisdom for Girls

Womens Wisdom for Girls

By Rachael Hertogs  (Article for Juno Magazine, published 2015)

Our daughters imitate, especially from age 8 onwards, when the hormones begin to stir, they start to watch women, watch the older girls in their families and their peer groups.

I have found this is the time to scoop them into the loving arms of women. I have wanted to invite young women in to our red tent group for a long time, but it’s been met with resistance- “Isn’t entering the Red Tent a right of passage for the newly bleeding young woman?” So I began yearly gatherings, inviting mothers and daughters. Last year we watched the film “Monthlies” and discussed how it might be to celebrate your First Blood/Menarche, this year we arranged a “Community Menarche Ceremony” complete with storytelling and feasting afterwards…from this a desire came from the mothers and the daughters to have their own space, their own women and girls circle. YES!

menarche-2015_1cTo be able to pass on Womens Wisdom, women need to do some inner work first, you cannot pass on what you don’t have! I’ve been inspired by Gail Burkett’s book “Gifts From the Elders- Girls Path to Womanhood” she advocates women and girls groups – to include girls from 8-18, but stresses the need for the mothers and women to do the personal healing and community building first, she encourages women to create ceremonies that resonate with their own beliefs- whatever they are and celebrate themselves though “Catch Up” work, reviewing the major steps in your life, and sharing and honouring them with women.

giftsfromtheeldersI feel blessed that I discovered Womens Wisdom in my early 20’s and so have been practicing a sacred Moon Time Quest for many years- this is a simple practice of moon watching, taking yourself away from your day to day life and being quiet, perhaps journalling, drawing, sewing, meditating, but being quiet and slow, just in my bed room, shutting the door to the outside world for a while. Even if for a few hours, an afternoon, a day, a luxury might be for 3-4 days, but not many of us can spare that much time away from our families. Practicing this Womens Way will set a tone for your daughters to tune in to.

DSC_0474Talk, talk, and talk to your daughters, from as early age as possible and engage them in womens wisdom as is appropriate for their age, I have 2 daughters- a 25 yr old and 5 yr old, both of whom I have kept the dialogue open about all things “woman”. I remember my eldest coming home from school after the visit from the “Tampon Lady” with all kinds of money off vouchers for products they had attempted to brain wash her in to needing! I had a proud moment when she told me her and her friend had stood up and told the “Tampon Lady” and the teacher about my “soft and pretty” Moon Times pads that they both used!

My 5 yr old accompanies me out in nature and this spring has helped me forage wild nettles, cleavers and plantain, that are part of my self care routine, making teas and juices from them. She has quite a knowledge of wild edible plants, which would have been something all children used to be taught in our “hunter gatherer” times, she also notices the moons phases with me, and I talk to her about womens special connection with Grandmother moon as a way of introducing her to the moon time mysteries.

foragingWhen it comes to products for our young girls, again I would introduce the idea of cloth pads (or whatever your preferred choice for your daughter might be) as early as possible, in my experience is it much easier to show 8 yr old girls moon pads and sponges than 12 yr olds! And even 16-20 yr olds (unless they have a leaning towards the environmentally friendly or wanting to know ways to save money) they are quite horrified by them. When I have done talks in schools the girls love the cloth pads (“they are so much prettier than the white, sticking plaster pads my mum showed me”) and are really open to the idea of using them.

prettyfabricIf you have sewing skills than allow her to choose the fabric for the pads herself and make them together, so they are ready for when her time comes. (There are a few “make your own” patterns on the internet, and at Moon Times we have a few kits that include everything you need to make a couple of pads) .

When my daughter’s first moon came and she had adjusted to juggling pads and pencil cases, we decided that cloth wasn’t the best option for school (there was a fear of a soiled pad being found in her bag) so opted for the organic disposables and cloth at night.

If you have a particularly sporty young woman, she may have peers pushing her towards using tampons, my advice to mothers is to encourage the Moon Time Quest as a priority, yes to take gentle exercise when they are on their moontime- but I’m not a huge fan of using internals like tampons unless really necessary. I would suggest that at least for her first 6 -12 months of flowing that a young woman stick to pads, just to give her and her body time to adjust to having her moontime, and see how she copes with it. After all it’s only a few days out of the month so hopefully she wont mind missing swimming/riding on those occasions. A bit of fun dancing is fine in a pad – she could have a go at home to see how it feels to dance and flow! I would encourage her to tune into her body and see if she really feels like swimming or dancing at that time. Being kind to her self is whats needed- so maybe introduce her to yoga or take her for a stroll under the moonlight?

moonlightWhen daughters do feel the need for using something like tampons, I would show her some Moon Sponges (you can get small sizes, ideal for young women) or one of the many menstrual cups that are on the market and see how she feels about them. I’m not sure I would have wanted to use a menstrual cup at 12, but then I hadn’t grown up with them, so if that’s your preferred choice and she is used to seeing you use it, then she will probably be excited to have her own and feel grown up!

Most of all I recommend celebrating your daughter, coming together with her and other wise women in your community to plan and create a Menarche/First Blood Ceremony, where she is the guest of honour. A ceremony can be as simple as dressing in red, singing some songs, and eating cake, or if your family are into nature based activities then plan something outdoors that might include washing feet in a stream or burning wishes in a fire. In my book “Menarche- A Journey into Womanhood” I have many suggestions of ways to celebrate and also share some women’s stories, as well as highlighting the hormonal ebbs and flows and physical changes we go though each month.

I believe by showing our girls a different way of being, and being filters of what society and the media portray, we are changing our future, not only for girls and women, but for the men and boys too, for they are watching us, taking care of the children for us and they witness the rejuvenation that happens and are starting their mens circles and men and boys groups. When more and more women all over the world, moon watch and create sacred ceremonies and practices, miracles will occur! As women gather in circles of moon lodges and red tents, our stories are told, Herstory is being woven and times are changing.

Rachael Hertogs is a mother of 4 gorgeous children, she lives with her husband and 2 youngest in the Wilds of West Wales where she runs workshops, womens and girls lodges and her Moon Times business…they also have a small holding; growing veggies, keeping bees and playing with their chickens in the puddles and the sun!

She began her ‘menstrual journey’ when she started making cloth pads when she had her first child -over 26 years ago! This led her to explore her cyclical nature and find healthy ways to ease her PMT and work on her relationship to her body. Her passion lies in empowering young women through celebrating their first blood “Menarche” and believes the continuity of encouraging menstrual health in our young women leads to easier monthly flow and brings empowered women to their birth altar! She has written a book- Menarche- A Journey into Womanhood, a mums and girls guide to celebrating her first period! (available from www.moontimes.co.uk or Amazon)

Her websites:

www.rachaelhertogs.co.uk

http://www.moontimes.co.uk

http://www.moontimes.co.uk/blog

http://www.jamsponge.co.uk/

Ponderings on our Mother and Daughter Camp….

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We put up the tipi in the sunshine and sang to the elements, praying for holding for the camp…and good weather!

Friday evening the mothers and daughters began to arrive….we had our meal and then the fire making started!

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We had a sharing of the 9 passages of womanhood, made prayer bundles to lay on the altar. We prepared together for the  mid- girl ceremony which was to come , makimg masks, and sharing stories  and singing whilst and mothers and daughters painted each others faces!

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The evening was a time for the women to gather for a powerful sharing and healing of their mid -girls, while the girls shared about the feminine spirit and  Heron Medicine…All preparation to hold the coming  ‘Girl bloom’ ceremony the next day. For the older girl, her emerging ‘woman becoming’ was being prepared for ceremony.
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The next day the women gathered in the Red Tent and welcomed Freya as “woman becoming” into the lodge. We meditated on our maiden selves and stood at the truth cairn and declared our truths and authentic selves.

After a morning of games the girls were ready for their Girl Bloom Ceremony.

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The brave young girls were given a challenge to overcome, whilst finding their way to the house of the women. They were held with drumming,  river songs and  River’s medicine story : story of the girls ebb and flow.

For the full Girlbloom ceremony : https://talesfromtheeartheart.com/ceremonies/

 

Each girl was blessed with water by Rachael, Emma and Jenny and embraced by their mothers.DSC_0484

After her own challange , Freya was honoured by the women and girls as a bleeding woman (woman becoming). It was so important that the younger girls witnessed this celebration and honouring. We painted her in henna and sang from our souls.

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As always, we finished our ceremony with a delicious chocolate cake made by Jenny!

That evening we turned the Red tent into a temple of light, we gathered for a women’s wisdom story and made girl-women bundles.

How to make a Bundle – https://talesfromtheeartheart.com/ceremonies/

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The Camp ended with a beautiful gratitude sharing and honouring of the girls and their mothers.

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What a beautiful camp, it was immensely powerful and we are sure the mothers, daughters, and core group will be processing it for months to come.

Feedback from some of the mothers:

“What peacefulness, gentleness, acceptance and love from beautiful women and beautiful land. Having my daughter held, seen and initiated by other women was so special. The blend of ceremony, space, fire, song, nourishing food, crafts, circle and rest was so cleverly woven and sensitively birthed. The girls ceremonies and activities were prefect and beautiful”

“I loved the red tent yurt! Beautiful space. I felt held by this beautiful land and the weather held us too. Wonderful to have a variety of women holding space. I loved Emma’s stories, being in a circle of women, meeting new women/mothers. Seeing my daughter immersed in this environment. Seeing her being held, heard, seen, witnessed, honoured as herself. Being held, even in our shadow moments, that is true holding. Wonderful that this is being organised and held by English/Welsh women on UK soil!”

“I enjoyed the sacred space of the lodge, the stories, songs, ceremonies….the company of other women and the girls”

If you would like to come next year, see our info here…. https://daughtersoftheearthlodge.com/journey-into-womanhood-camp/