"If menstruation has always been feared or misunderstood, how do we learn to feel good about our bodies when we bleed?"
This is the question that Margaret Kalms attempts to answer in her photography. Visit her website to view more of her work
The way the menarche and menstruation are dealt with in our culture, our families and our communities clearly influence how a young woman understands what it “means” to be a Woman, a cyclical sexual fertile female human being.
The Apache Native Americans held ceremonies for days with the whole tribe present to celebrate girls entering their Womanhood. The Nootka tribe had a party to honor a girl’s menarche after which she was taken far out to sea and left to swim back to the land. Once she had done this she was recognized by her community as a woman, strong and brave and ready for the responsibilities of womanhood – marriage and rearing children.
In modern times, some families acknowledge the menarche with a gift for the young woman, a celebratory dinner, even a party. Sometimes this happens within a circle of women who welcome the newly fertile woman, the initiate, to their sisterhood. They share stories of their own experiences of menstruation and make wishes and blessings for the new woman’s future life.
And for others the menarche is not acknowledged at all.
Few of us were treated with celebration and honoring to welcome us to our next phase – Woman. So few of us know what to do with our daughters. We need to welcome our daughters to womanhood and teach them that they are special and valued. We need to tell them it’s important that they honor their cycles. To go with the flow, as it were. However first we must do that ourselves, and heal from any wounds from our own menarche rite of passage.
In my community we welcome the girls to womanhood with a beautiful ceremony to honor them. We sit in a circle and the maiden sits in the centre. We all wear red and she wears a circlet of flowers on her head. Her Mother is there. Each woman around the circle shares with the young woman what they wished they had been told at their onset of their fertility cycle, what they were told that really helped them, what they have learned through and from their cycles over the years and a special specific wish for the maiden from them. We then give her gifts and have a tea party. The girls feel like they have been initiated into a special club. Indeed they have – it is called womanhood.
I love some of the young women’s comments after their Menarche ceremony:
Chelsea: I didn’t want to do this you know, but it was cool, the best day of my life!
Katelyn: I feel special, like I’ve won something, you’re all being so nice to me!
And Tess and Millie, 10 and 9 year olds who where at the ceremony with their mothers, said they were going to watch the moon together, so their blood would come at the same time and they could have their ceremony together.
We also have a circle once a month, with these girls and others who have started menstruating, who have also had menarche ceremonies. It’s a beautiful thing, we each talk about where we are in our cycle and how we are experiencing it. We talk about the opportunities that our cycle gives each week, very like the seasons of the Earth.
These young women certainly feel a connection with each other and with the cycles of the Earth and Moon. How will this affect them as they grow in to adulthood? My guess would be that it will build on where they are at now, feeling aware, conscious and in tune with their cycles, and comfortable in talking about it all and understanding why they feel the way they do on certain days. They say they feel very glad that we gather and do talk about this kind of stuff, and that most of the other girls at school don’t and to them that seems immature.
Why wouldn’t we do everything we can to help our girls as they embark on their journey into womanhood? Who knows, we may even heal ourselves in the process.
Jane is the creatrix of the Rites of Passage in a Box Kits which provide detailed instructions and the special items that you will need to create a ritual to celebrate Menarche. Check these out along with our other empowering Moon Time Gifts in the yOni Unique Gifts for Her catalogue. For more information about Janes work see her bio on our contributors page
Coming soon - Blessingway - Celebrating the Mother to Be
Editors comment - An interesting research study considers how girls' and women's attitudes about menstruation may shape their developing beliefs about sexuality. Published in the Journal of Sex Research, Nov, 2005 you can view the findings here. See also my account of a creating a belated menarche ritual for myself and other women who wanted to heal that gap in their lives and be better able to support their daughters or other young women in this transition.