To tell you the story of Alicia, a girl just turning 12, we go back to before the beginning, to the time when she existed on other planes. We meet her parents, they have settled into a peaceful life together.
Martha and Jake fell in love, not like in the fairy stories, not even like in the movies; their love grew over a number of years when they were good friends.
They lived as part of a community of about fifteen adults, with their children; five boys and six girls between them. That was before Alicia was born. These people had decided they no longer wanted to live in cities, as so many people do.
They had searched for land. A place with lots of open spaces and a beautiful, magical rain forest and found two hundred acres of lush green pasture and fertile soil. Running through, was a bubbling creek and there was forest, with ancient as well as new growth trees as well as a pocket of pure, untouched rainforest.
The people who chose to live in this community gathered, they built homes for themselves and their families, clustering close together in little villages. Living interconnected lives, people cared for one another, living and working for the common good. Unlike some modern day cities, where thousands, even millions of people build their houses close together, but live isolated and lonely lives.
After exploring the land someone discovered the Father Cave and then the Mother Mound, tucked away from everywhere, not easy to find. The members of the community were excited, because these places felt Sacred, somewhere to go and pray, or just to be quiet in nature. They decided to use them as special gathering spots, where they held ceremonies and celebrations.
Those early years were tough. The first few winters bitterly cold and draughty. People built homes, planted vegetable gardens and fruit trees. They choose to live in an environmentally friendly way, using natural energy for their homes; solar, wind and water power. It was during this building time, Martha and Jake got to know each other, working side by side, shovelling earth and making bricks. They glanced briefly into each others eyes often, but to begin with, they didnt really take much notice of each other.
Over the days, weeks and months, and through the passing of seasons, Jake began to notice that whenever Martha was around there was a kind of gentleness in the air; like a soft sweet fragrance. He looked forward to seeing her. One time, watching her walking towards him, his heart started singing.
As this happened for Jake, Martha noticed how kind and considerate he always was. He went out of his way to speak to someone and they would cheer up; he cared for the way things were done. In the early days, he was away often to work, bringing back money, so the community could progress. Martha was aware that Jake had many fine qualities; she was interested enough in him, to take more notice.
Martha and Jake were ordinary people, who, years before, had done all they could to become aware and loving human beings. They studied with spiritual teachers, worked with therapists and supported personal healing and spiritual growth movements on the planet.
They entered into their relationship in a conscious way, both being spiritually, rather than materially inclined. They acknowledged the presence of Great Spirit or God in their lives.
One day whilst cooking a community meal in the main house kitchen, out of the blue, their hands touched - a kind of electricity surged between them. They stopped and gazed into each others eyes. The moment was timeless!
Though nothing was said, Jake and Martha knew in that moment, and made a silent agreement, about spending the rest of their lives together.
After that, everything moved to fulfil its destiny. They chose to spend more time together. Sleeping under the stars, sitting by campfires at night; swimming, naked in the creeks. As time passed they held hands, smiled often, opened their hearts to each other and, slowly, slowly over time, allowed themselves to get closer, closer, and touch. On the full moon night of their first kiss, and as their lips touched, it felt like the whole universe sighed in celebration. The earth melted under their feet as they lost themselves in each other.
Time passed and they spent more and more time together.
They had their own houses in different villages on the land but even after being lovers for more than two years, they chose not to live together. Not yet! Not until they felt truly ready.
At Spring Solstice time - the time that marks new beginnings and changing seasons, they called the community and special friends to gather together to ask loved ones to sanction their union. They desired to make their love into a commitment to each other, which was blessed by others - like a marriage in our culture.
During the commitment ceremony, they asked friends if any one knew of any reason they should not be joined, in a union for life. They wanted to find out if people could see anything in their characters that they were not able to see, that may stop them creating a happy and fulfilled life together.
At this stage, in the commitment ceremony, if anyone objected to their union, couples went away to strengthen their weaknesses, sort out unfinished business, or develop more understanding about each other. Not until couples were ready, would the community support their union.This they believed saved a great deal of pain for lovers. Such matters were considered carefully by all invited guests.
In the case of Jake and Martha, it was obvious to all who knew them, they were made for each other and not one person doubted their love.
Everyone understands that no union between two humans, is always happy and smooth running. It was felt, that Martha and Jake had the tools to work out any problems that may arise between them. Members of the community were always there to offer support, if need be.
Their commitment was celebrated by everyone. There was a great feast with singing and dancing late into the star spangled night.
At this point Jake decided to live with Martha, they agreed that they would live in her house. He would keep his, just as it was, for up to a year - they both knew it would be OK for him to go back and live there, if he needed, or wanted to, for any reason.
As destiny was bringing them closer, something unexpected moved in Martha. One day whilst walking through the valley, she sensed a strong soul presence hovering around her.
On arriving home, she took out her journal. Writing was one of the ways Martha connected with her inner wisdom. She believed if she made herself available, listening carefully to her inner voice, the soul she had felt around her would explain itself.
As soon as she had pen in hand this is what came to her: I am the soul of a child wanting to be born. I have been waiting for you. My time to be reborn is nigh. I would like you to be my mother and Jake my father. Can you love me? If you are ready and want me I will come to you.
Martha taken aback, sat quietly. Questioning - Do I want to give birth? Am I ready to be a mother? She knew motherhood is a great gift and also a huge responsibility. Had the years she had spent caring for herself prepared her for this? Was her bond with Jake strong enough to include and love another life? Did she want this child? She pondered for a very long time.
As she sat, becoming very still inside, she knew it was her time and this child her destiny.
That night Martha lay nestling in Jakes arms, she whispered about her experience of the day. She told him, about the child asking to be born, through them. Martha was feeling a deep peace, deliciously full of love for herself, Jake and the soul with whom she had communed.
As she spoke, Jake closed his eyes. feeling her fullness moving through him. He felt this child essence for himself. His heart filled with a longing to bring this being into the world. Opening his eyes, he saw Martha peering directly at him, into his soul. Was he ready, she wondered? They looked at each other for a long time. Both knew in their hearts, that it was so. They opened to each other and accepted their destiny.
Jake and Martha spoke of the child and the part they were to play in its coming into life, late into the deep dark night. Jake pledged himself to her. Promising to be there for her and the child, providing all that she needed to give birth, suckle and nurture their baby. He vowed to be a true father, loving her and his child, devoting his time and his life to them both, for as long as they both needed.
They held each other, tears trickling for the joy and beauty of life. Slowly Jake reaching to touch her, kissing her, moving into her, with all of his love. They melted, drawn by life, together, to be the making of a child. Their love-making was the most tender they had ever experienced. Jake and Martha joined in a union blessed by the angels. As his lifes seed poured into her, they both exploded, in a light, not seen, but sensed.
At that moment the soul of their coming child had entered into their union; into Marthas waiting womb.
That was how life started for Alicia.
We see her now, twelve years later, in the fields surrounding her home. She dances after butterflies and watches birds flit from flower to flower. As a growing girl, Alicia is beautiful, unhurt by life. Free!
Alicia knows, deep down, that she has led a blessed life, she is confident and strong in herself because her parents gave her affection, acceptance, guidance, care and love from the moment she was born.
As Alicia moves into puberty, she feels excitement and is prepared for her changes. Martha has spent many years listening to the wisdom of her body and knows the secrets of her cycle and what her body needs to be strong and healthy. Martha has prepared her daughter well for the changes she is about to experience as she approaches her Menarche (the first time a girls body shows forth the flow of her menstrual blood). Martha has taught Alicia how to look after herself so that her bleeding time will always be special.
Alicia knows that a womans body bleeds. Martha allowed her to see and touch her menstrual blood. Alicia is aware of the emotional and physical changes a woman goes through each month and understands that womens bodies are connected to the cycles of the moon. Each woman in her village celebrates her own special time during menstruation.
Martha told Alicia that women who take care of themselves, when they menstruate, offer a special gift to themselves. By being still, honouring their femininity and taking care of their own needs, they provide a balance of female energy on the planet. Alicia senses the mystery of womanhood.
There are special moon-time rituals that the women take part in. The women gather around the fire, dance and sing special songs. From an early age, the girls are invited to join these celebration times. They are also allowed to visit the Womans House, just once, before their time.
The Womans House is built on the Mother Mound, because it is such a powerful and special place.
Once when the moon was dark Alicia was allowed to visit the women who were menstruating. It felt peaceful and cosy, full of the aroma of the herbs, hanging as they dried.
What she saw fascinated her, several of the village women were sitting massaging each other, soothing away the tensions of the month. Jackie, who was at the end of her bleeding time, was relaxing in the steaming hot tub, cleansing herself in readiness to return to her home and family, relaxed and renewed.
Sarah, had been chosen to look after the Womans House. She was very wise and being one of the oldest women in the village had stopped her menstrual flow. Sarah was always there, preparing food and caring for the women.
Knowing that during menstruation, it was her place to be in the Womans House Alicia awaited her Menarche, with awesome anticipation. She would join the other women, and be celebrated as a woman herself. She feels happy and excited to be female and to play her part in Lifes Mystery.
All the women of the village were aware of Alicias developing womanhood. Her breasts swelling like little mounds and her eyes, the windows of her soul, sparkling and clear, her body, healthy, strong and fit. Budding like the perfect rose, Alicia is beautifully full of life. When her first blood arrives, the whole village would be told; and they will prepare gifts and a feast for her Welcome to Womanhood Ceremony. Such a special time it was for a girl growing up!
Alicia, also aware of the changes, both in her body and her emotions, writes in her journal: Spring is coming, and as the season changes I feel movement inside me. I see the leaves coming back on the trees, and the birds, long gone for the winter, return. Everything feels new and different. Something is changing. I feel my body waiting for something to happen. Its like Im holding my breath, waiting: Im not sure for what.
She closes her eyes and feels her body tremble, knowing her time is almost now.
Everything is prepared. Martha has made up a special basket, with all the things Alicia will need, special, softly sewn cotton pads, panties, relaxing herbs and aromatic oils.
One special morning in the Spring of Alicias twelfth year, she woke and wrote in her Journal: Today feels like time has stopped. Like the birds have stopped singing and are waiting for something special. Im going to stay at home and see what happens.
So she did.
There was a still point in time, which felt like a punctuation mark, awaiting the next word on the page - that didnt come. Her attention went inside, down into the depths of her body - she paused.
All day something moved inside. She felt twinges in her tummy. She sensed she was about to witness the redness that was her sign. When Martha and Jake came home that evening she shared her excitement with them. They went about their usual evening activities, but with a sense of wonder and waiting. It was a magical time. Alicia was almost ready.
Alicia went to bed that night and the feelings inside her tummy grew stronger. Her mother brought her a hot water bottle and they lay on her bed together, Alicia holding the hot water bottle close. It felt comforting. The tension in her tummy was getting stronger. Her mother told her those feelings were sometimes called cramps, and when they were strong, it felt similar to the contractions a woman has when giving birth.
Her mother spoke softly of Herstory and the Mystery of womens lives through the centuries. Alicia drifted slowly, gently into her dream world and rested in a deep and peaceful sleep.
Next morning, shed almost forgotten the excitement of the previous day. Until she looked down and put her still warm fingers between her legs, to her vulva. To her absolute joy, there on the tip of her finger, was her first blood!
Alicia looked at the redness in awe and wonder, amazed at the miracle of her body. She ran, excitedly, to her mother and fathers room, showing them her blood. Jake beamed at his daughter, tears brimming in his eyes; he held out his arms in welcome of her and taking her onto his lap, he gently kissed her flushed cheek. After some time of celebration together as a family, Martha said they ought to prepare to go to the Womans House.
As it was her first bleeding, Alicias cycle had not fallen at the time of the other women. This meant that Alicia would be in the Womans House alone, with Sarah caring for her.
She packed her special bag, containing her newly made pads and everything else she would need. In it, she placed her red and white ceremonial dress and her red shawl, which she would wear at the evening circle of women, on the second night of her bleeding time. The women of the village would gather to share with her their womens stories, passing on their wisdom; woman to woman. Alicia was excited, and although focused internally, felt very, very, special.
Martha and Alicia walked together up the hill to the Womans Mound, passing several women on the way. Everyone sensed the Mystery unfolding for Alicia. They waved and welcomed her as girl becoming woman, some came over and hugged her.
After Martha left her with Sarah at the Womans House, Alicia was weary. She had carried her bag up the long hill and was tired from the physical effort. She was learning to become independent, to take care of herself, relying less on Martha to do everything for her. From now on Alicia would be expected to take more responsibility for herself. Helping around the house; cleaning her own room and working in the gardens. She would also share in meal preparation, doing these things is an important part of growing up. Martha would become more of a friend and guide after she leaves the Womans House. As Alicia grows older, both will begin to let go of their mother/ daughter roles.
Alicia sits alone, surrounded by the beauty of the Womans House; the different fragrances, diffused light and peaceful atmosphere and she day-dreams.
At times she feels her body and becomes aware of the flow of blood trickling from her vagina, knowing that with this flow of blood, she is connected to all women and to the river of life, forever.
Alicia feels content and quiet inside herself. There was nothing to disturb her peace and dreaming. She knows bleeding time is a time for prayer and turning inward, returning to the Source of Life. In doing so, as woman, she can access her dreams and power.
Because the first two days of her first menstrual flow are a sacred time, she isnt allowed to eat solid food. Instead, Sarah prepares her the most delicious nourishing broth from fresh vegetable and iron rich seaweed.
On Alicias second night in the Womans House, the women and teenage girls who have already experienced their first blood, gather in honour of Alicias first Womens Circle. They too wear their red shawls to sit in this special circle. Sarah as the eldest, wisest woman, presides over the circle. She asks each of the women to share with Alicia the challenges they have faced as women.
Here is just a taste of what was said:
Janice a single mother, speaks of her struggle to survive and about the challenge of keeping some of her life for herself whilst caring for her young son.
When Thomas was born, I was not in a committed relationship with his father. We were together for only one night and I fell pregnant.. I was lucky! Just before I found out I was pregnant I had moved to the country - a chance for a whole new life.
As this baby grew inside my belly, I prepared for a home birth. It was difficult not to listen to the doctors, who said I ought to go into hospital, because I was over thirty-five. I wanted to listen to and trust myself, and chose to have my baby at home, in water.
I never realised what raising a child involved. I got so tired! He would wake often during the night and there wasnt anybody else to help. I lost a lot of weight. I had so much to face on my own. Other single mothers supported me, but it was very challenging. There never seemed to be enough time or money either.
As he got older I worked all day, collecting him from school, spending time with him. It wasnt easy to have time for me, it was hard to come back to myself and remember who I was.
Janice spoke her story quietly without regret.
Alicia thought how much easier it had been for Martha, having had Jake to share everything with. How lucky she was to have her father around her while she was growing up.
The next to speak was a woman in her sixties, named Pauline. A lesbian all her life, she had always preferred to spend her close, intimate, and sexual times with women, rather than men. She was a very shy, introverted woman and almost apologised for herself as she spoke.
I knew I was attracted to girls from a very early age. It was hard, back in those days, because people thought I had a disease. Being a lesbian was not acceptable. I was sent to a girls boarding school. I loved it there. I was really good at sports and all the girls loved me. I was the boy to them. It was great, because I got all the attention.
When I started my periods, I didnt want to bleed, I was ashamed, I wanted to be a boy. I used to hide my blood stained pads in the laundry bag, beside my bed, pretending it wasnt happening. One day something went missing and the nuns were ordered to search the dormitories. The nun who came into our dorm, asked to see what was in my laundry bag. I felt so ashamed as I tipped the contents onto the bed.
My challenge has been to overcome my shame. It is okay preferring to be with women. I tried the male/female thing and got engaged once, but I couldnt imagine belonging to a male in that way. These days its much easier and more acceptable to be a lesbian.
The atmosphere in the circle was very peaceful. Alicia listened enthralled. She had never heard Paulines story. She felt saddened because people are hurt in a world that doesnt accept individuality and freedom of choice. She also felt gratitude, she was fortunate to live on a community that accepted and welcomed differences.
Rena spoke next:
Both of my parents wanted a boy and I became a tomboy to please them. I felt alone and confused for most of my life. It has not been easy. When I was young I was able to make sad children smile and encourage shy children to freely express themselves. I never knew or understood what I was doing. People told me I had a gift, that I could easily work with children.
When I first learned about wise woman, midwives witches and healers, I understood more about myself. I would spend long periods of time in nature by myself and then be in the world, with people. I felt called to be there when they wanted support to heal themselves.
My challenge as a woman has been to love and accept myself for myself, especially to embrace womanhood; as well as to be in service to others. Ive been lonely at times.
Another women had to break the law in order to do what she felt was right for her. She was a midwife. She assisted at many births, helping the women to be empowered in their birthing, and to have what they wanted, in childbirth, a most vulnerable time. When the laws changed, making midwifery by non medically trained women, illegal, she helped deliver babies anyway, at risk of going to jail. It was what she felt called to do, it was her greatest gift.
Alicia was beginning to see that every woman has her challenges to face. All women have Herstory to tell, wisdom to share and she had something to learn from each woman.
Alicia knew that as a woman herself, she too would need strength. She recognised the courage these women had and felt a warm glow of respect and recognition for them.
After every woman had shared Herstory, it was time for Alicias ritual of separation from her mother. While Alicia sat in the middle of the circle, Martha sat facing her. Sarah asked Alicia to tell the women what she was willing to let go of, from her childhood, in order to move freely into womanhood.
Alicia had been preparing for this question all day. Most of all she wanted to let go of sadness. Especially the grief she had felt when her grandmother died. Although she knew that all life returns to the earth and that the time of passing was a celebratory time she still missed her grandmothers presence in her life.
She also remembered the time when she was teased by children at school. They tried to make her feel bad about herself. She had been hurt by their spitefulness; it was time to let go.
As Alicia spoke of her painful memories, the atmosphere in the circle became tangibly lighter. Every woman knows that pain and suffering can be released, magically, when shared in the Womans Circle.
It was now time for Martha to tell Alicia her wishes for her passage from girl to woman. I wish for you, Alicia, to stand in your own wisdom, knowing what is right for you on your Journey. One day I will no longer be your mothering, mother but I always want to be your friend. I hope that you will trust me to be your guide, until you are old enough to make all of your own decisions. I want to be there for you in any way I can, to help you grow more fully into the beautiful woman that you are.
Deep emotion rose in their hearts for the love they feel for each other and tears roll down their cheeks. The eyes of all present glistened as they remembered their own time. Few had been welcomed into the Circle of Women, when they were young. They were deeply moved and grateful to be a part of this important ritual.
Alicia was asked to describe her first bleeding time, to have this experience acknowledged by all those present and to remind others what a precious gift this sacred time is.
I feel a funny feeling in my tummy, right underneath my belly button. Kinda like a heavy feeling... something thick, like custard or corn flour and water. That feeling in my tummy is like my soul inside myself. I feel really connected to that. Feels like theres a long silver chord going from that place into my brain. Going deep inside its like fairyland.
Its like Im in a little white land of fairies, with snow trees, everything is white and fluffy... every time I close my eyes I see this white stuff. Its nice. Its kind of dreamy....
I feel really special to know that everyone is there for me and supporting me. I feel very different. Im a bit tired.
The women sat in silence for a long moment, allowing Alicias words to move through the air and settle where they would, like leaves softly falling onto the earth.
Sarah asked each of them to give Alicia the gifts theyd brought. Martha had made a dream catcher, that looked like a spiders web. She would place it at her bedroom window to protect her dreams as she slept. Pauline had made a special box, for precious things and had placed a crystal in it. Her wish was for Alicia to be always clear and strong. Janice gave her a picture of a deer she had painted, Alicia reminded her of a deer.
One by one each women gave her gift. Something that was special for Alicia to remember this time by.
Each woman, in turn, told Alicia about the good they saw in her, qualities and gifts she had: That she was nimble like a butterfly in the forest and always kind to animals. That she was strong like a tree but flexible like the willow. That she was soft like a gentle sea breeze but could be powerful like a storm, when she needed to be.
On and on they went, painting rich pictures, for her to see herself through. Alicia had never felt so special in all of her life. That night after the songs had been sung and the circle brought to a close, Alicia wrote in her Journal.
The Circle was so special. All the women told me things that I didnt know I had. I will never forget it in all of my life. My wish is that all other girls who are bleeding are given this. I felt like I went from being a girl up to the next step and all the women were guiding me. The circle was glowing with light and it was beautiful. I cried when my mother spoke to me about being a woman. I will never forget this day.
She slept a deep and dreamless sleep.
The next night was spent with Sarah, and the elder wise women, sharing their wisdom and tales about the mysteries of life. They taught her about the moons cycles and how, when women live closely together, and connected to nature, they will often bleed at the same time.
They told her that moon dark is a time for connecting deeply within, being quiet. When a woman bleeds at moon dark she is more or less fertile when the moon is full. At full moon, people are generally more extroverted, full of energy. Cycling, like for the moon, is a natural part of being a woman.
The wise women told her why its important to rest her body at her bleeding time so that it renews itself and become clear and cleansed again.
They explained that if she didnt express the whole range of her feelings, during the month, then she would find that just before she bleeds, she would get more emotional and expressive than usual. This is healthy they said. Her body wisdom knows what she needs in order to stay in balance. All we have to do is listen to it and follow its directions. The wise old women answered all her questions, she was comforted, knowing they were there for her.
On her last day in the Womens House, Alicia was given the chance to read the stories of other cultures. She found out how other peoples marked this special time. African tribes take the girls away from the villages for anything up to three months, before their first blood. They stay in isolation, and the old women serve them only light food and broth. At her bleeding time all the women came and the girl would be bathed in stinging nettles. This wild herb is a blood cleanser. She would then be taken out to where her brothers waited and bound her to a tree. At this time they would scar her back to let everyone know she was now a woman. It was a great honour to go through this ritual for the African girl. Fascinating stories from all over the world showed her how significant this first bleeding time was.
As her blood stopped its flow, she prepares to leave, she has a hot tub, washes and brushes her long golden hair and puts on her red and white ritual dress. Adorned in her own innocence and sense of completeness Alicia looks more beautiful than she ever has. Her inner radiance shines like a sparkling crystal, everyone sees the beauty of her soul.
The girl, Alicia, as she had been known, no longer is. She has undertaken her Journey and is now a blossoming woman. The men and women gather in honour of Alicia to welcome her back from her First Blood time.
Alicia knows inside that the old ways, the sacred ways are coming back. That this is how it could be, for all girls, becoming woman... everywhere.
Alicia understands that Grandmother Moon follows the sun across the sky and that every month she too will feel the fullness of the moon in her body. Like the moon she will rise and fall, go in and out and that she is connected to the cycles of life.
Through her body, Life can give birth to itself. In her fullness, life becomes ripe. As time passes her body will feel like that first volcanic red river running from the centre of the earth and every so often burst forth as her menstrual blood arrives. Her emotions will become more extreme, angry, passionate, joyous - more intense. Her life taking on a deeper meaning as she matures.
Monthly she will be able renew and replenish herself. By taking good care, she will constantly regenerate herself. And like the full rounded moon in the sky shell know when to withdraw, to go away for awhile and look after her own needs, as a menstruating woman.
That by listening to her body; taking rest when she needs to, she is providing a balance for the whole of the Earth. She is giving space for the feminine to flourish, honouring herself and all the cycles of life.
The time at Menarche is her Rite of Passage. Once she leaves the Womans House she will never be the same again. Everyone in the village will treat her differently. More will be expected of her, she will be taught how to be more responsible, to make agreements about her behaviour and learn to keep them.
She was ready!
The villagers down below awaited her return. People had travelled from far and wide to welcome Alicia back into the community, as a girl becoming woman. They had prepared a feast, and there were many gifts for her.
Her excited father, waiting close to the Womans House, with his brothers, her grandfather and men of the village. They had come to carry her down to the centre of the village; singing and celebrating, the men raised her high about their heads.
What a time it was.
And Alicia was very happy!
Back tothe main page
To the questions to ponder upon
See Amrita's book for young people Getting Real ... About Growing Up
Also check out the Temple of the Blood CD, a guided meditation to assist
in reclaiming the power of your bleeding time
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