For many years now, my Circle sisters and I have shared the story of Persephone as a metaphor for the turning of the wheel of the year. Each spring, we gather the young ones around and tell the tale of Persephone: On her maiden’s errand to gather flowers, she was abducted by Hades, king of the Underworld. This event caused Persephone’s mother, Demeter, such grief and despair that she was unwilling to care for the crops, thus leaving the earth barren.
Knowing that eating any food of his realm would seal her fate forever, Persephone refused Hades’ offers until her hunger could no longer be withstood; she ate six seeds of the pomegranate, thus consigning herself to become Queen of the Underworld. With this act, Persephone shed the innocence of her maidenhood, and gained the wisdom of womanhood.
Still holding out hope for the return of her daughter, Demeter enlisted Hermes to strike a deal with Hades. Knowing that Persephone was indeed bound by her choice to eat the pomegranate seeds, Hermes suggested that she rule as Queen of the Underworld for six months out of the year: one month for each seed. Hades agreed to this arrangement, thus freeing Persephone to return to the light from spring equinox until fall equinox. Demeter, full of joy at her daughter’s reprieve, resumed tending the crops during the months of Persephone’s return, and the earth was again bountiful.
The tale of Persephone is a beautiful metaphor for the turning of the year, and also has deep wisdom pertaining to our own monthly rhythm.
As I have become more in tune with my own cycle, I have learned that I desperately crave my time in the Underworld during my bleeding time. Fueled by a deep need to go within, to seek quiet and stillness, I embrace the archetype of Persephone as Queen of the Underworld. Hungry to leave the outside world, I count the six days;– one for each pomegranate seed.
And yes, the land may be fallow for this time. Things may not get done; laundry may pile up, phone calls and emails may go unreturned. But this time of resting is needed, it is necessary. Just as the fields cannot produce in perpetuity without time to restore resources for future crops, our female bodies cannot continue to give . . . to produce . . . to create . . . to nurture . . . unless we too allow time for quiet and rest.
Yet we live in a culture that not only lacks reverence for this time in a woman’s cycle, but in fact has demanded that we detach from and ignore it. We have been taught to see this time as an inconvenience, a burden. A curse.
We have been told to hide it, to suppress it, to chemically eliminate it. To keep going, without rest.
This is an unsustainable and unhealthy way to live. By not granting ourselves the right to slow down and go inward to renew our resources, we begin to manifest symptoms of un-wellness. Our bodies experience pain and disharmony in the face of our unrelenting demands upon them. We feel irritable, short-tempered, exhausted. We lash out in frustration, knowing that our birthright is out of reach -- yet so desperately needed and deserved.
But I have begun a shift, these past few years. Subtly, I have begun to honor my Underworld days in a fundamental way. I wear a necklace -- a jasper ring, symbolic of an open cervix -- during my bleeding week, to let my family know that I am not as physically and emotionally available as during the Earthside portion of my cycle. I honor my limited energy resources by saying no to things, or by choosing to not emotionally engage in everything around me. I move more slowly. I am quiet.
And this shift is not only key to my own physical and emotional well-being, but a fundamental lesson for my 9-year old daughter and 6-year old son as well. By modeling sacred self-care during this time, I am teaching my daughter to honor herself in the same way. By respectfully honoring my own needs and limitations, I am teaching my son to honor all women.
My deep dream is that by the time I reach my crone years, I will witness these visible acts of self-love and reverence among more women during their Persephone period. I imagine a time when all women signify their bleeding time in some way, whether it be by wearing all red, or by wearing a special piece of jewelry. I imagine a time when rather than being faced with dread, we look forward to our days in the Underworld as a time to rest and replenish ourselves. I imagine a time when our community -- men, women, and children -- see this as a time to honor and nurture us as we honor and nurture ourselves.
But this change will not happen overnight. As with all fundamental shifts in cultural consciousness, the ripples are cast with just one tiny pebble. Or one tiny pomegranate seed, as the case may be.
As women of the New Matriarchy, we are ever-evolving in our commitment to self-care and the connection to our hormonal and energetic cycles. Learning from each other what most of us never learned from our mothers, we continue to piece together the beautiful tapestry of what it means to be a woman with a menstrual cycle. The energetic vibration around the Sacred Feminine experience continues to rise on an individual level, and across the globe as a whole. We as women, and as a culture, are ready to shed the legacy of shame that our fore-mothers inherited, and in turn, passed on to us. Conscious of being role-models for a new generation of empowered young women -- and the young men who will presumably be partners to these young women, and fathers of their own daughters -- we are ready to leave the well-worn trail of physical and emotional disconnection from our cycles, and are instead intentionally walking a long-forgotten path of empowered embodiment, searching for guide-posts along our way, and leaving bread-crumbs for our sisters who come behind us.
So many of us are inspired to integrate the inherent wild wisdom of our cycle, and the practice of self-care, into our daily lives, but we may not have been raised with the tools and language to create this positive change for ourselves. We may ask ourselves, How do I teach my children, and those in my life, to honor me as I learn to honor myself?
The use of metaphor is powerful means of engaging our loved ones with the beautiful rhythm of our cycles. Depending on the age of your child(ren), your family's spirituality path, and your own resonance with your body's rhythm, you may find one of the following analogies a helpful tool in creating personal ritual around your cycle, practicing sacred self-care, shifting the awareness of those around you, and raising the vibration of your home.
:: The Nest ::
For our youngest children, the analogy of the nest is a beautiful and accessible way to help them connect with the the purpose and rhythm of our womb. A nature walk with the intent of spying a nest (perhaps staged before-hand by you, if you aren't confident that you will be able to find one spontaneously; a squirrel dray would also work in a pinch), or showing our littles a found nest is a lovely opportunity to open the door for the discussion of our womb wisdom.
As with the mama bird, we can explain, human mamas create a nest for their babies, too. Our nest, however, is built right inside of our bodies where it is safe and warm. Each month, we build a nest just in case a baby is meant to come to us. And each month, if there is no baby, our body sheds the nest that is no longer needed. Building, releasing; this is the way of the woman's body.
We can explain to our children that the building and releasing takes a lot of energy, and that mamas need extra quiet and rest and gentle slowness during the releasing time of their rhythm.
:: The Seasons ::
If our children are old enough to understand the changing of the seasons, using the wheel of the year is a potent means of creating the connection with our monthly rhythm. Sharing the idea that each season represents a week of our (roughly) 28-day cycle allows us to deeply explore our physical sensations, emotional and energetic predispositions, needs, and strengths associated with each phase of or rhythm. Do we feel at times that we are in touch with our powerful potential, our outgoing exuberance, as in spring? Do we feel the power of shedding what no longer serves us in autumn? Sharing this with our children (and/or partners) helps them to connect to their first-hand understanding of the shifts in nature that our mirrored in our own female bodies.
This idea is described in beautiful and inspiring detail by Suzanne Mathis McQueen in her book
4 Seasons in 4 Weeks. I highly recommend this book for all women as a means of reconnecting to our inherent womb wisdom, and as a means of learning a new, positive language with which to describe our cycles.
Suzanne's analogy connects our bleeding week with autumn, pre-ovulation with winter, ovulation with spring, and pre-menstruation with summer. Her pairings may resonate perfectly with you, or you may find that you make sense of your seasons in a different way; rest assured there is no right or wrong way to use this analogy. The power comes from the knowledge that you have of your own cycle, and using that wisdom to map to the seasonal blueprint that works best for you.
:: The Tides ::
Many of my dearest sisters feel a deep connection to the ocean, and are drawn to the beach or shore by the hypnotic rhythm of the tides. Our internal ebb and flow is palpable, as we too are bodies of water. For those with a strong connection to the sea, using the analogy of the tides is an engaging way to help our children understand our cycle. As predictable as the waves rushing in and then rolling back out again, our menstrual cycle builds powerfully during the first phase until it crests at ovulation, and then inevitably flows back out again. Energetically, physically, and emotionally, we are sisters to the sea in our mutual building and releasing.
:: The Moon ::
Look to the night sky for another illuminating metaphor; the waxing and waning of the moon is not only symbolic of our monthly cycle, but indeed linked on a hormonal level to our rhythm of ovulation and bleeding. The word menstruation, in fact, is a derivative of the Greet root mene, meaning moon.
Prior to the use of artificial lighting, women the world over ovulated in sync with the full moon, and bled on the new moon. With the introduction of electricity, however, our natural rhythm was inexorably disrupted and disconnected.
We can still honor our inherent lunar legacy, however, by using the analogy of the moon with our nearest and dearest. Employing the new moon in her dark beauty to represent our menstrual blood, we can share with our children that this is the time for releasing the past and beginning the cycle anew, starting over; a time for resting and quiet. Little by little, the moon grows again each night, as our womb rebuilds herself for fourteen days, in anticipation of the egg - ovulation - symbolized beautifully by the full, round moon . . . when we are at our most brilliant and luminous. And as with the moon, our womb begins to wane, night by night, until we bleed again.
Whether you feel inspired by one of these analogies or choose one of your own, setting the intention to connect with your family in honoring your cycle demonstrates a love and respect for yourself that invites love and respect from them in return. With the foundation of reverence and understanding firmly in place, your practice of sacred self-care will be integrated harmoniously into the rhythm of your cycle, and the rhythm of your life.