The period cycle is on average 28 days long and involves the shedding of the uterine lining once a month through the vagina. On average, menstruation lasts between 3 to 7 days, and at this time it’s common to experience a lot of side effects. These side effects can include for example, moodiness, fatigue, cramping and skin problems such as acne.
We were all taught this, right? And yet this purely biological description was likely the ONLY thing you were taught about the period cycle and its significance.
In this article I want to bring a scalpel to the myths we’ve been wearing for so long about our periods, and I want to show you how beautiful and powerful your Moon Time actually is.
First I want to share with you my own experience.
When I think back to my own menarche (first occurrence of experiencing my period), I remember that the only education I got was from a sterile sex education class in high school. And in primary school, I remember receiving a small sample bag full of different sized disposable pads and tampons (it was product placement for the Libra brand). I brought it home feeling excited to show my mother, but she quickly scolded me and told me to put it away in private immediately. I remember the feelings of shock, shame and embarrassment I felt, not knowing at that time that menstruation and the female sex organs were something “taboo” to be concealed from others.
In high school when I got my first period, I received my only education from textbooks and shy whisperings from other female students who were going through their menses. And when I bled onto my parent’s couch, the only mention my mother made was quickly showing me that pads were available in the bathroom cupboard. That was it.
As I grew older and became sexually active, the first option given to me was the pill. After being on the pill for many years, I’ve recently come off it because I was suffering from creative and emotional numbness, monthly (or moonly) depression and painful acne.
Coming off the pill at the beginning of this year has shown me just how out-of-touch I have been with my body and period cycle. For many months after stopping the pill my body was in a state of shock. As my body came to rely on synthesised hormones, my body forgot how to make and regulate its own. So I struggled to have a regular or healthy period for several months. I also discovered issues and malfunctions in my body that the pill had suppressed or exacerbated such as adrenal fatigue, low libido and vitamin deficiency.
But strangely enough the very month I got off the pill (and switched to an alternative contraceptive method), I felt better than I had for many years.
While I respect what the pill has done for women all around the world, I can’t help but wonder what it is teaching us about our periods.
How many times have you heard the women around you refer to their periods as a “curse” — or even talk about their periods with sarcasm (“it’s that time of the month again”)?
Yet before we started perceiving our monthly periods as annoying, scary and gross, we honored them and even planned our lives around them.
Can you believe that in ancient cultures the period cycle was deeply respected and revered? Although we try our hardest to ignore and control our cycles these days, our female ancestors actually celebrated it and let it flow naturally.
The most famous example can be found among the Native American tribes who reserved Moon Lodges for their menstruating women. These Moon Lodges were places for the women to gather, rest, introspect and dream. At this time of the month when the women were most sensitive, they would often have prophetic dreams about how to hunt and govern the tribe.
Some say that according to a Native American tradition the fastest way to destroy a village was to simply destroy their Moon Lodges — the place where the women gathered. And others say that according to the Cherokee, menstrual blood was considered a source of feminine strength that could destroy enemies.
These days, in some modern cultures such as those in Ghana, the Ivory Coast and South Pacific, the period cycle is respected, even celebrated.
Yet more often than not, menstruation seems to be denigrated. Just look at your own education. It’s likely that you were taught that your period is something socially unacceptable to discuss — or even disgusting and shameful. In fact, if you were raised in a similar culture to mine, you were taught that your period makes you something of a “bitchy” raving lunatic.
In fact, if you were raised in any of the world’s major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam etc.) you were likely taught directly or indirectly that menstruating renders you impure or unclean. And throughout history women on their periods have been pathologized and medicalized (the Victorian era), and genuinely thought of as being cursed (ancient Romans, medieval Europe).
Unfortunately, these degrading beliefs have subtly leaked into our present cultural attitudes towards the female period.
There is so much more to the period cycle than what we’ve been taught.
Our period cycles are physical, but they are also emotional, mental and spiritual. In other words, menstruation isn’t just about bleeding, cramping and getting PMS!
In reality, menstrual symptoms are actually messages in disguise telling you to slow down and honor your body. In fact, every month, our periods reveal to us just how many physical and emotional toxins we have accumulated —and we’re shown the state of our inner selves in complete rawness. To many females this kind of honesty is very painful and daunting to face. But that is only because we haven’t been taught how to listen and live in sync with our cycles.
So why is the period cycle not only sacred, but powerful?
Many women wonder why they are moody and irritable at this time of month. Often the result of this moodiness is getting into fights with friends or spouses. When these common symptoms are analyzed, we see that women simply want to be left alone. And what better way than to fight with and repel others? This is because not only do they lack the physical energy (due to blood loss and fatigue), but they are being called to take out time for themselves. This is a deep biological calling.
But the problem is, how can we take time out for ourselves? Very few of us have the ability to go on retreat during our periods. Most of us have full time jobs, children and other demanding duties to attend to.
So what can we do instead to honor our Moon Times?
The first step to honoring your Moon Time is to understand that it is a cycle. And this cycle can be divided into four stages:
Menstruation — Winter — The Crone — Days 1-7
Pre-Ovulation — Spring — The Maiden — Days 7-14
Ovulation — Summer — The Mother — Days 14-21
Pre-Menstruation — Autumn — The Mother/Crone — Days 21-28
As we can see, each week corresponds to a different season and feminine stage. Therefore, every week has its own energy to connect with.
Learning to love your body during menstruation is about realizing that as a female you are a cyclical being. This is one of the most charming and beautiful things about being a female: your body, mind and emotions are constantly ebbing and flowing.
You are like the moon, the seasons, the life force itself. In fact, the entire menstrual cycle is about birth, life, growth and decay.
This makes your period cycle sacred, for you are the embodiment of life and death. Each month you have the opportunity to live according to the patterns of this constant fluctuation of energy within you.
Here are some ways you can learn to honor your Moon Time.
Recognize how you’re feeling: At this time you’re feeling sensitive, quiet, and inwardly focused. Any issues that have been suppressed or attached to during the month are revealing themselves through your physical and mental state. You are in the process of dying to old things, both physically and mentally. You are in the stage of rest and renewal. You don’t want to be disturbed.
Key phrases: “I feel quiet,” “Please don’t disturb me.”
After bleeding: “I feel soft and tender,” “I’m quietly entering the world again.”
What you can do:
Designing your own Moon Time ritual is completely up to you and your personal needs. However, the most important point is to give yourself the space to slow down, be quiet and treat yourself with tenderness.
Nature has blessed us women with the ability to live according to a sacred cycle. This sacred cycle helps us to honor our energetic, sexual, emotional and spiritual needs each and every month.
While menstruation has been made “taboo” and ugly, it is actually a great blessing. It provides us with both the opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, and also to examine what we need to let go of in our lives.
Let’s not blame our mothers, or societies for teaching us to shun our bodies and hate our periods — they only acted out of ignorance. My hope is that we can unite once again as women, to reclaim this ancient wisdom within us so that we can guide the next generations with respect for this inner sacred cycle.