Sacred space

It’s been a while since I have been in this space. More than half a year. Late spring, plus summer and autumn have all passed on a spinning plate that wobbles somewhat precariously on some of my fingers whilst my other fingers attempt to weave the myriad threads of Day-To-Day Life, and my mind is scattered in a hundred places. And my ears try to attend to quite a few voices.

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Now we are sliding into winter where I live. Samhain-tide, I call this: the time from October’s Vanishing Moon (the waning crescent – the last quarter) to that of November. This winter seems to have come early with that chilly, biting kind of wind that makes you squint and chaps your hands as it dances around you like a playful toddler who wants to have fun but hasn’t quite learnt that teeth and nails hurt people! Samhain-tide is a sacred, liminal time where I say goodbye to the year – and with it the dreams I didn’t fulfil, the mistakes I made and hard memories that I’d like to bury. I picture them mushing into a sludge along with all the fallen leaves then sinking down into the earth, their secrets becoming the lessons that will nourish the seeds that grow next year. I look forward to that renewal.

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It’s a sacred time, these death-throes, and I find it’s easy to be tempted to skip over it and start focusing on the festive season, to start all the planning and making and buying and counting down. The shops lure us to do this from so early on. I find it sad not to give this time it’s own space, that we turn away from whatever song it has to sing – even if it’s not the prettiest song, and is often whispered.

I wonder if a parallel could be drawn between our society’s skipping-over of the year’s dying, and how we don’t talk about – or we make taboo – old-age and death of us as people.

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So I’ve tried to resist the festive magazines and refuse to eat a mince pie yet, until I’ve finished my Samhain-ing. I’ve been connecting with the slowness of this time, enjoying the invitation of the dark afternoons to cosy up and light candles, savouring the remains of Autumn’s beauty. (Like the revelation I had this week of how I prefer the deep red of the hawthorn and rowan berries now to their more scarlet hue earlier on). Protecting space as sacred can be hard though – whether that space is

  • a period of time in the calendar,
  • the “space” amidst all life’s to-do lists for self-care and spiritual practice,
  • personal space when your loved ones need endless hugs,
  • emotional space from those who are wearing you down a little,
  • physical space (say, protecting the nature table from being dismantled by the now-mobile baby!),
  • geographical space such as the land and water that those at Standing Rock are trying so very hard to protect,
  • mental space,
  • creative space.
  • And online space to come here and tell you all about it.

But I guess doing so is part of what makes it sacred.

Welcome back. Happy winter  ♥ ♥

Celebrating the return of my moontime

IMG_2571 Recently, my menstrual cycle finally returned following the birth of my son. I’m still breastfeeding, which delays a mama’s cycle coming back, but mine was kinda unusually delayed; Dylan was past his third birthday! When my first period in almost four years did arrive, it was something that I wanted to consciously welcome, honour and connect with.

I had at times worried about my lack of periods, although was reassured when my GP ran tests that all came back normal. On the advice of a couple of wise-woman friends, I started journalling as a way to deepen my relationship with my body, my moods and my intuition. I sought to deepen my connection with the moon’s cycle and the cyclic dance of my own hormones, trying to spend time outside on full and dark moon nights feeling the beautiful presence of those energies around me and deep within me. I also made myself a sacred space a little like my own Red Tent. IMG_2576 The Red Tent movement has developed over recent years, following a book of the same name, as global and local communities of women honouring their own and each others’ divine femininity and the powers that that brings. Red Tent temples are places for support, creativity and activism. (You can discover much, much more here). I desired a space in my home where I could sit and meditate, dream, journal, read a book or my Tarot cards… or simply drink hot chocolate mindfully and peacefully! In particular, I wanted a space designed for connecting with my sacred femininity and that of the Earth, my ancestry, the cosmos and women everywhere. IMG_2574 I gathered up mostly-red items that had special connotation, purpose and beauty to me. I created a little canopy from scarves. One of them I used to wear around my hips a lot – often going out to what were very much activities of the “maiden phase” of my life! I had a lot of fun then doing things that I admittedly wouldn’t do now. Things that were right for me at that time ; I find it important to acknowledge that “maiden” as part of who I am, part of my past, present and future self. IMG_2570 Other items represent the “Mother” phase of my life; my current phase. There’s a photo of me nursing Dylan when he was a few days old – as well as another of us – and there’s the badge above that a friend gave me. (Similar products with pro-breastfeeding slogans can be bought at Lactivist.co.uk). IMG_2577 My little red corner holds souvenirs from other important times in my life; from my wedding and from our travelling adventure. Flopsy the rabbit  was given to me the day after I was born!

IMG_2567 IMG_2564 I made the bunting (photo at top of post) and also this red drawstring bag that stores my moon cup and washable moon cloths. I like to use these re-usable menstrual products for environmental, financial and health reasons – most disposable pads and tampons are not biodegradable, are expensive over time and are full of chemicals that I just don’t want next to a delicate area of my body! My inspiring and wise friend Rachael makes these pads which she sells along with other lovely moontime products on her website. IMG_2804 Other things are from special women in my life. The cross above – although a symbol of a spirituality different to my own – belonged to my late paternal grandmother who I felt much closer to after I became a mother myself. The decoration it is attached to was made  for one of Miranda Gray’s incredible womb blessings with wool that I spun. There’s something from my mum, from her mother and from one of my great-grandmothers as well as from my lovely oldest friend. IMG_2583 IMG_2568 One scarf was a leaving gift from a team that I was privileged to work in; this small team was, by coincidence, all-female and each of these wise women taught me so very much. I often wear it during meditations or womb blessings. The drum (and large elephant wall-hanging) are my husband’s; although this space is primarily for my honouring and practising feminine aspects of my spirituality, the divine male energy of the cosmos has a place here too. My husband is very much my partner in day-to-day life and on a soul level – and had a somewhat significant part in my becoming a mother! The journal was a gift from his parents.

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The red sari (awesome charity shop find!) stretches across the bedroom and hangs over my desk: my physical space for sewing, writing and knitting creativity. I like that this area is feels connected to the “red tent” corner – during one moontime I actually didn’t feel like spending much time in that space I’d made but just wanted to do lots of sewing!

The benefits of creating and using this space are already tangible and precious to me. A space where my womb energy can stir and speak. Space for me to hear it. Space for me to, sometimes,  simply sit with myself. That’s particularly important as an at-home mama where so much of my focus is on my son and on the running of the home. Yet although this is a rich environment for this personal practice, it does lack the benefits of a physical community; benefits that Red Tent gatherings or other womens’ circles can offer. Fortunately, many towns and cities do have these. Read here about how Rachael at Moontimes is creating a gorgeous community Red Tent in Pembrokeshire – and how you can support it . I’d also recommend Lucy Pearce‘s lovely, easy-to-read book Moontime for inspiration on creating your own personal retreat space – or a community one – and for wisdom on connecting with your cycle positively and meaningfully. IMG_2803 In both joining a community Red Tent/womens’ circle, or creating a personal space like I have, I feel there’s real power in making womanhood and fertility special. (fertility in the baby-making sense and also fertility in terms of our broader creative energy). In our society these things often aren’t seen as special. We’re taught that menstruation is a nuisance and a curse. Our “sanitary products” give the impression that it’s unclean and medical. A lot of society’s approach to fertility, contraception, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding all carries an underlying message that womens’ bodies can’t possibly be trusted to do what they’ve been doing for centuries without pharmaceuticals and medical interventions. I appreciate that some women really do have horrific PMS and a painful bleeding time – I used to. Thankfully some dietary and lifestyle adjustments such as those that can be found on Marylin Glenville‘s website helped me a lot.

In making a special space – and special time – to listen to and honour my body, I feel the empowering “specialness” of my womanhood.  I’m getting to know this “specialness” through the mediations, reflection and self-care that I enjoy in my little red corner. I’m learning to trust it. I’m gradually learning it’s song and letting it sing to me of how my sacred femininity not only has its place inside me, but inside the universe. ♥

IMG_2569 Maiden, Mother and Crone painting by Wendy Andrew.