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!
To 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.
I 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.
Talk, 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.
When 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.
If 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?
When 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)