What’s your period got to do with Safe Sex?

The menstrual taboo is alive and well as we all know through direct experience, and as documented in the recently published book About Bloody Time. This taboo has many negative effects on girls and women, and society as a whole. As the authors of that book say, “despite the best effort of individuals (both private and professional) menarche, menstruation and menopause still tend to be difficult and traumatic for many girls and women.”[i]

We also know that our Rites of Passage influence how we are in the world, for these rites of passage are our initiation into the next phase of our lives, they provide us with messages about how to be and who we are.

What happens during and around this transition, whether by conscious creation or by default, sets the theme for a woman’s experience of her self in her new role in her next life season.[ii]

And given that menarche is our rite of passage into womanhood, into what it is to be a woman, then the effects of this Rite of Passage on a girls and woman’s life are profound indeed. 

Celebrating our rites of passage in sacred circle

There are many ways in which this pervasive negativity, and anxiety around our menarche and menopause plays out in the lives of girls and women, including alienation, body discomfort, low self-esteem, professional discrimination, economic disadvantage, and mental health. There is some strong evidence also on the relationship between menstrual shame and sexual health.

Research shows us that

women with negative attitudes towards menstruation have significantly less sexual assertiveness than those with positive attitudes.[iii]

And by sexual assertiveness we mean the ability to ask for we want, being able to openly discuss contraception, and being able to refuse unwanted activity. Sexual assertiveness is vitally important to the body autonomy and healthy functioning of individual females and for society at large. And yet it is undermined by the pernicious negativity towards menarche and menstruation.

If we want women to be able to enjoy safe fulfilling sex then it is necessary for the conversation around menstruation to change. Remember we were born with a clitoris, the main function of which seems to be sexual pleasure, and yet our ability to enjoy our own sexuality, to be assertive and creative with our sexuality is restricted by the menstrual taboo, and a wider negative cultural discourse on female sexuality .

Still from A Portrait of a Lady on Fire

The research reported in About Bloody Times demonstrates that seven in ten girls aged between 12- 18 have negative feelings about their periods- with four out of ten disliking everything about their periods.   Given what we have learnt about the relationship between sexual assertiveness and attitudes towards menstruation, this is indeed worrying.

Negativity about their periods is translated by girls and women into negativity about themselves. One of the deeply harrowing realities of our culture is the ways in which this negativity is internalised and manifest as shame. The report, Cycles of shame: Menstrual Shame,Body Shame and Sexual Decision Making, demonstrates that “shame about menstruation is likely to extend more broadly to the body as a whole. It is not just the act of menstruation that is dirty and shameful, the young women who menstruates becomes dirty and shameful.” [iv]

How is it that something so powerful, and so necessary for life became so reviled? Well it is precisely because of its power that menstruation became shameful in patriarchal societies trying to (and succeeding) in diminishing women’s power.

 “Instead of awe for the life giving properties of the menstrual cycle, our culture demeans it, fostering and perpetuating feelings of visceral disgust, revulsion and distrust, along with inconvenience, boredom, and resentment”. [v]

image from a 2013 One Billion Rising Vday Celebration

The menstrual taboo is a powerful way of keeping women in their place, and it continues to do this to this day.  We know that one of the most devastating ways we are kept in our place is through sexual and physical violence. In Australia on average each week one woman is murdered by her current or former partner.[vi]  Other horrifying statistics include:

  • 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.[vii]
  • 85% of Australian women have been sexually harassed[viii].

Clearly there are other factors at play here, but while women continue to internalise shame about themselves, it makes it easier for this kind of violent behaviour to continue. 

It is vitally important that we continue to do the work of reframing menstruation, our menstrual cycles and our rites of passage in order to restore dignity, body autonomy, health and power to girls and women here and across the world.  For these are global problems.   


We need to work to create different menstrual stories- one in which we celebrate the menstrual cycle, and its life giving properties. For many of us that means looking at our own stories and the ways we have internalised this shame too, for all too often we are unconsciously living out this internalised shame and passing it on to our daughters.  Unless we have actively worked to reframe our relationship to periods, our menstrual cycle and our sense of self, then it is highly likely that we will continue to be affected by it.  We humans are social and cultural beings, who absorb the stories and messages our culture gives us, unless we actively work to notice, and to change them.

I can see how this thread of shame, and the mistrust of my own body has been woven through my Rites of Passage. And I can also see the opportunity to reframe the story. My most recent rite of passage was Menopause- and this was surgically induced.  I now see that this has been a really important way to celebrate my body and to change the story, for I could have easily felt shame about having surgically induced menopause – I work in the area of the women’s mysteries, of reclaiming feminine wisdom and  yet I did not have a natural menopause. But instead I have turned this on its head and celebrate all the wonderful ways this has led me to reframe my whole menstrual story, and my story of myself as a woman.


And in my discussions with many women, and my reading on the issues, menopause is a really powerful time of meeting our sexuality-and ourselves, and coming to terms with all that we have internalised in our bodies, our images and our stories of self. For the loss of libido, the vaginal dryness, sleeplessness, the changing body shape- to name just a few instances,  can become powerful portals to healing past wounds, and to creating a new story of our own unique sexual selves, one which celebrates our desires, our creativity, and one which heals those wounds which will have been held deep in our bodies for so long.  But we need to support women to be able to navigate these profound changes- and we can do that not only by reframing menopause as a powerful rite of passage, but as the authors of About Bloody Time say

The best preparation we could give women for the new frontier of menopause is a healthy, respectful view of menarche and menstruation throughout their life leading up to that point.[ix]

Womb Altar cards: An illustrative depiction of cyclical changes in our wombs, & cervix in a monthly cycle

It is very helpful if women begin to understand the cycle itself, to learn about the fundamentals of this life giving process, for

We are here as testimony to this profound ongoing process

Not surprisingly the research also indicates that most women and men, have very limited knowledge or understanding of the menstrual cycle.  With this knowledge comes awareness and respect for the biological imperative of our menstrual cycles, and our bodies.

Indeed if we are to change the story of sexual shame, of body shame we need to begin this urgent work on reframing our menstrual cycle, for surely it is about bloody time.   


[i]  Pickering, K and Bennett, J, About Bloody Time, the Menstrual revolution We have to have, Victorian Women’s Trust, 2019.

[ii] https://janehardwickecollings.com/honoring-rites-of-passage-in-a-womans-life/

[iii] Schooler, D, Ward, M, Merriwether, A & Caruthers, A 2005: Cycles of shame, Menstrual Shame, body shame and sexual decision making, Journal of Sex Research 42:4, 324- 334.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Pickering, K and Bennett, J, op cit

[vi] Homicide in Australia 2012–13 to 2013–14: National Homicide Monitoring Program report, https://aic.gov.au/publications/sr/sr002

[vii] Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Personal Safety Survey 2016. ABS cat. no. 4906.0. Canberra:, ABS. Retrieved from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4906.0

[viii] AHRC (2018). Everyone’s business: 4 th national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. Retrieved from: https://whiteribbon.org/2Ea7Q6C

[ix] Pcikering, K and Bennett, J, op cit


Blessings Of Surgical Menopause

Menopause as Rite of Passage
 

Hello Dear Hearts,

This month I am sharing with you my story about Menopause- as a significant and holy initiation for women. Menopause is a naturally occurring rite of passage for women.  Sometimes however, it is bought on by surgery or a chemical process such as chemotherapy.  This means that menopause may be experienced earlier than would have occurred naturally, and in a much more abrupt way.  There are many challenges associated with induced menopause, and in my experience, there are also many blessings.  I want to share some of these with you.

But first lets see what’s coming up….and you will notice there is a lot less, as I am about to commence co teaching the Vic Four Seasons Journey with Nymh Fox, in the Otways. This will take up a considerable amount of my time and focus next year, so  I am not running as many other activities. Phew! 

What’s On

Opening Gathering- 4 Seasons Journey Vic Otways, 
6-8 December 2019 
MoonSong  Menstrual & Cyclical Wisdom Workshop,
Friday 7th February, 2020, Carnegie 
Surgical Rites of Passage – Seven Sisters Presentation,
March 12- 15, Mt Martha
Two Day Drum Making Workshop – 28 & 29 March, Peace Farm,
Yarra Junction

Getty Images: Cervical cancer cells

Counting My Blessings
 

It may sound strange to see blessings in surgical menopause but for many women, there is often relief at having the condition/experience that led to the surgery, removed.  I had cervical cancer and although I tried many natural therapies for 18 months to avoid such cancer, once it was diagnosed I chose quite quickly to have surgery.  And almost two years later there is no sign of any cancer in my body, nor the Human Papilloma Virus, and for this I am very grateful.

I have experienced many blessings through surgical menopause.  It is not what I would have asked for or intended, but I’m really grateful for what I have been gifted through this process, and I hope that you too can see the blessings of this initiation, if that is the path which you are walking, or if you are supporting another woman on this journey.

One of the biggest blessings of my surgical menopause, was the time I had to contemplate Menopause, and my life in general.  Having had surgery I was required to rest for a considerable amount of time, to heal.  It took my body a long time to recover, and I am actually still recovering, though many would not see this.  This meant I was not working, and I was not responsible for family.  I was primarily responsible for looking after myself and healing.

And when I say looking after myself – I was cared for by my husband, my family and circle of friends.  We had meals cooked for us, we had washing done for us, and I had people popping in to check on me.  And again, this is not everyone’s experience, but it was mine and I felt very supported in this healing process.  Especially through the first two months of recovery, and again later when I had to return for surgery. (That’s definitely another story)

Which meant I had time to contemplate what I was going through and was given the space I needed to see the minutiae and the bigger picture of my menopausal journey.

I was on considerable pain killers for at least six weeks and most of my focus at the beginning really was around the healing of my considerable wound.  I had abdominal surgery with the removal of my womb, tissue around my womb, my ovaries and lymph nodes. So it was a challenge, and yet I had all this time.

One of the things we really want to gift ourselves during menopause is time.  Time to reflect on what has been our life thus far, what have been the patterns and stories we are living by, and what are the areas of unresolved grief

And through this reflection, we can also come to imagine possibilities and futures.

How do we want to live the rest of our life? 
Are we heading in the direction we want to? 

Such a radical intervention, not to mention having cancer, gives you great pause.  It also gives you time to be with these questions.

A few weeks post surgery looking tired and thin. And so glad for my garden!

Resting into Initiation


I spent many hours in my garden, simply resting, dozing, being with myself… allowing myself the time I needed to heal.  And my healing is ongoing.

This is what Menopause is all about. It is the last major physical rite of passage in women’s lives until the final one, Death.I really saw my menopause journey as an initiation into death.

Having cancer is a relationship with death, and this is a good thing.  Contemplating our finite nature can help us focus our Life.  At Menopause, we know we are half way through our life, and usually more, and so we need to get real.

We need to strip away all that is false, own our regrets, and be with what is our life thus far, and how we are going to be in the future.

This cancer and surgical menopause grounded me in the response-ability I have to myself to ride this journey with compassion and integrity.  So that time and space I was gifted through the surgery is something I cherish, and I wish every woman could have.  I know many women cannot as, work and family or other responsibilities prevent that. But making some time for self is essential.This is the pause in menopause.

We all of us need to slow down and take time to contemplate this journey we are on. Much more being than doing!

Yes, this is a blessing of the “forced rest” associated with surgical menopause, and in my case cancer.  People get this, they get cancer is a huge moment in your life, they might not frame it as a rite of passage, but they do support you to do what you need for your healing, and they understand you will “go away” for a while, usually hospital, and then once at home, they get you are still “elsewhere” while you heal.  They don’t demand or expect much from you, except to heal.

Can I just add my beautiful teenage daughter was in Paris for the first 3 months of my journey, which was actually another blessing as I didn’t have to worry about saying no to her many requests to drive her anywhere.  I’m being a bit facetious here, but teenagers don’t always get your perspective, they can be a lot like toddlers!  However, friends and family generally understand that you will be changed and will return somehow different.

And menopause as a rite of passage is a going away and a return.

A doorway- source unknown, pintrest

A Doorway – A Portal

Though it’s not really articulated in this way, we hope that each menopausal woman, is given the space to go on the journey she needs to in order to heal her life.  We hope she can return, recognised as changed, as the initiate returning as wiser, if not wise, woman.  Remembering that this journey actually takes years – and like birth, it takes as long as it takes. Allowing ourselves time to experience the full depth of this experience is so vital.

So, find as much time as you can to be with yourself.

Peonies and roses from our Closing Gathering Ceremony at Vic Four Seasons Journey 17

Ceremony

Celebration was another vital blessing of this surgical menopause journey.  In preparation for losing my womb I initiated and was gifted womb ceremonies.  These were profound opportunities to be with the experience of womb loss, to surrender to the process I was undergoing, and to make sacred this sacrifice.

The loss of my womb, what my womb meant to me, how sad I was to surrender it, were foci of these ceremonies.  I was given the opportunity to share my experience with my friends, to grieve with them, and it also gave them opportunity to reflect on their own relationship with their wombs.  Which were for at least a couple of women, very challenging relationships.

And so there were lots of tears. We could all grieve the way in which our wombs are not fully appreciated and celebrated in this culture. We could grieve the traumas that have been endured by these wombs, the babies not born, or still-born. We could come together in this.I encourage all women to hold a ceremony at the beginning of their menopause journey, to reflect on this process in their life, and to be held by other women in this.

I also had a very small and special ritual with my husband, where we honoured and blessed my womb, for her holding and growing of our beautiful children, for holding our lovemaking, for the creativity, and just for being a part of me.  And this was very special too.

These ceremonies have given me great strength through this whole journey.  I was spiritually and emotionally prepared for what was to come.

Riding the waves of a hot flush

Perhaps being in the public health system is also beneficial as there was two months between diagnosis and eventual surgery… And it was in this time that I went bush, went birdwatching, went floating in the rivers, felt deeply held in the currents of life as a I contemplated loss, and death.Being in nature is so healing. She shows us the way, always.

She shows us how natural and healthy these cycles of life-death-life are. And she is so damn beautiful.

Take yourself into her embrace, find spots to listen to birdsong, the flow of water, the breeze through the trees. Being in nature is so restorative and reminds us how natural our menopause journey is.

And for those not losing their womb, it may be that you grieve, and bless your blood, which will cease during the menopause.  And it can come as a shock to women who haven’t really enjoyed their blood time, to come to this great altar, and begin to understand the depths of the learning, the rounds of initiation that their blood gave them.

Think about how you might want to celebrate/grieve your womb/blood loss.  These ceremonies were “formal” ways to grieve this loss, this huge loss.  There are times still now when I cry, but ultimately, I have a sense of Okayness about this journey and I know that these rituals really grounded me in this.

I had time to say goodbye.

Making Sacred

My perspective was that I was sacrificing my womb, for something. I didn’t then know what for, but I knew that this was sacred.

The word sacrifice is to make sacred, and so I made sacred this radical hysterectomy, this surgical menopause. My womb was an offering back to earth.  I knew this was a special and significant moment and I made it sacred. And you can do this with your journey.

Our menopause is sacred. It is a powerful initiation into us, and the more we recognise this, the better.  Importantly if a woman’s attitude to menopause is generally positive then her experience of symptoms is generally less.

For me this is such an important message for women to hear, because it is the framing of menopause in our culture, and therefore within us, that can radically alter our experience of menopause.

One of the big differences of surgical versus organic menopause is the suddenness of the menopause journey.

Within 24 hours our oestrogen levels plummet. There is no slow ratcheting down, as once the ovaries are gone from our body, our bodies capacity to produce oestrogen is radically reduced.  The levels of testosterone and progesterone also plummet.

Although the adrenals and fat tissue will continue to produce small amounts of oestrogen these levels are fairly minimal.  So the symptoms associated with menopause may come on more quickly and with a higher intensity than for other women – and it was suggested to me that my experience of symptoms may be severe.

But I have found that this framing of my menopause as a sacred rite of passage, as an opportunity of huge growth has meant that whatever I am experiencing, is okay. At least most of the time.

When we understand menopause as Rite of Passage, as an initiation into the next phase of our life, we have some perspective on what we are experiencing and can see value in the challenges.

So part of the work for the community, including the medical community, is to frame menopause in a positive way.

La Grand Mere Chamane by the French artist Caroline Maniere. Check out her Art at www.carolinemaniere.com

Reframing Menopause

The current discourse is often fear based and controlling. And women, can feel they are victims.

But reframe this! Reframe yourself as an initiate – one who is becoming a Wise Woman, a Maga, Magissa – the Magician.  Own this experience as yours, however it looks.This is a time for stepping into your power.

And know that often on a woman’s journey, stepping into our power is a descent. We descend into our power – as our menstrual cycle has been teaching us each and every cycle.

There have been some really challenging moments, such deep despair, but again I have framed this within the context of the cycles. Knowing that the descent phase is the place of regeneration and growth.

And this is the wisdom of the Life season of Maga – to be in full recognition of the power and blessings of the descent phase of our life. We have moved in the upswing of Maiden and Mother, and are becoming more fully present to the pull of the Maga and Crone energy.

We don’t have the “high” of ovulation, we don’t have the same hormones stimulating us in that way, but we have a steadier energy – once we get through the initiation of our peri/menopause dance.

d what a dance it is! I am still dancing though this initiation and despite the challenges (hot flushes, mood swings, vaginal dryness to name a few) I am relishing this opportunity to step more fully into myself.

Crone by Lucy Pierce Check out her art https://sites.google.com/site/lucypierceart/

Maga Wisdom

I see the Magas out there and I celebrate their wisdom, their way.  I honour their commitment to themselves and to the world. They know themselves, they meet themselves and other from this wellspring of knowing.

There is no one else to do this journey work for me, there is no other me, and there is no other you.

So we celebrate our unique diverse journeys. We celebrate this dance with descent, welcoming the wisdom that comes.

References

  Women with a negative attitude towards menopause were associated with more frequently reported symptoms compared to women with a positive attitude. Relationship between women’s attitude towards menopause and quality of life.

Yanikkerem E1Koltan SOTamay AGDikayak Ş. And Women with more negative attitudes towards the menopause in general report more symptoms during the menopausal transition. Maturitas. 2010 Jan;65(1):28-36. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2009.10.016. Epub 2009 Dec 1.

The impact of attitudes towards the menopause on women’s symptom experience: a systematic review.

Ayers B1Forshaw MHunter MS.

See you next month, Love Sarah xx

WomanCrafter- Crafting ourselves through this Crisis

image: by Jennifer Henrikson 
Full Moon – Truth and Dare

Under this Aquarian full moon Astrologer Grace Funk suggests we are asked to “Be Courageous in Living Your Truth”. And this is a very timely moment, for today I am reflecting upon who and what is a Shamanic Craftswomen? And for me she is Woman Standing Rooted in her Truth, determined to share her truth to heal the vast ecological crisis of our times.   She is Healing Woman, Healing  Earth.  So dive in dear sisters, and awaken to your own magnificence and power- you really have the whole earth and cosmos within you. Unleash your power as a force of good into the world.  Before reflecting further, here’s a look at what’s coming up..

What’s Coming Up

Shamanic Womancraft- An Introduction, August 18, Melbourne
Sacred Women’s Circle
 – September 19, Carnegie
Spring Equinox Dance  Sunday 22nd September, Carnegie
MoonSong – Menstrual & Cyclical Wisdom Workshop, 19 October
Sacred Women’s Circle – 24 October, Carnegie 
One Day Drum Making Workshop – Saturday 26th October, Carnegie
Two Day Drum Making Workshop – 9 & 10 November, Peace Farm, YJ
Sacred Women’s Circle – 21 November, Carnegie
Connecting with your Medicine Drum, Friday 22 November, Carnegie
Opening Gathering- 4 Seasons Journey Vic Otways, 6-8 December  
Shamanic Womancrafter

Given that Nymh Fox and I are holding a circle on Shamanic Womancraft, tomorrow, I wanted to explore my personal reflection on what shamanic craftswoman is,  and particularly to investigate “womancraft”- which is term that came from Jeannine Pavarti Baker. Baker is  one of my teacher, Jane Hardwicke Collings, most important teachers..so its part of the lineage of the School of Shamanic Womancraft.  I hope you can relate to some of my musings….they certainly feel relevant to this moon cycle.  

Woman – What is She?
She is beyond simple definition, or simple categorization- for She is vast, intelligent and diverse– the earth, of which we are one species among billions is nothing if not diverse.  And so She, Woman is of the earth and her bodied intelligence. We are all of the earth- made from her minerals, her particles, her rain, her living waters, her energy. We can tap into this energy, this earthiness of us, and when we do we can understand woman,

as, 
 “a staggering force of nature.” 


as Claire Dubois, of TreeSisters says.
image sourced from Desenio
When we think of woman, we often think of the bodied identification of woman which involves breasts, womb, cunt…(and if you cringe at that word, remember these taboo words/ways are often an indication of great power- a power that has been repressed by patriarchy….And our cunts are powerful, as I shared in my last newsletter, the root word of cunt, ken means knowing/wise and also relates to kindness.) And we think of the cycles, the cycles of renewal within our body, and the menstrual cycle. 

But even biology is not always a marker of what Woman is- we are being shown this by the many women whose biology does not fit into “normal”- She is beyond these categorizations. For some, She is beyond particular biology…but She is deep embodied knowing… that inner call of the feminine, this inner authority of being Woman whatever your biology is acknowledgement of Her Gentle Wild Knowing.

Woman is creative. She births life and death.  She cycles. And she is attuned to all life. She is life:

Woman is “tornado’s, hurricanes, we’re sumptuous meadows, were forests and oceans and rivers of awareness”. 1

 
Loutit Bay Lorne

The feminine power, that creative life force that birthed the earth, the stars, the galaxies flows in her and through her…and yet this flow has been blocked and dammed. Our awareness of our power, of the women’s mysteries, of feminine wisdom needs to be rekindled. For too many of us believe the lies that we are inferior, lesser. Too many are living out the wounded feminine. So part of our work as women is to enable that river of life to flow within and through us again.

Woman is needed now, more than ever in these times of great ecological crisis, of this tipping point. It is said that women will save the world, and Jane Hardwicke Collings said in her latest post, “Social change will be facilitated by women who are resilient, adaptable and accessing their inner strength.”  

Woman needs to remember Her innate power. She needs healing. And the way of the Shamanic Womancrafter is a way of healing thy self, with the support of safe and sacred spaces, and of gentle wild places. 
 image below from my MoonSong One Day Workshop for Women held at RAW Gardens
  Craft

And so to the crafting of Woman. Each woman is her own craftswoman, each is crafting her own story, reweaving herself back into the web of all life, or not.  Womancrafters hold space for other women. Womancrafters hold space for woman to recognise the dams, the stagnant pools within and for the tears to flow, tears that will help un-dam her waters, so that the river of life can flow majestically through her, so that she can become the woman she is, majestic and powerful.    

Crafting as the name implies takes skill, practice and patience. We show up again and again, in service to Life. We show up with all our messy parts, knowing that everything is perfect in imperfection. Nothing in nature stands still, all arises and erodes, arises and erodes. We are part of that too. We acknowledge the times when we are emerging, and when we are submerging. And thus we get to have another go, and another and another at showing up as we are….in the darkness and in the light.  

We use our hands, our hearts (yes we women have a womb heart, a physical heart, and an energetic heart ) and our heads. We are not stuck in the mind- though there is still much chatter there. We breathe and are breathed by life.  And the more that we can trust life, and ourselves, the more we can get out of our own way, the more Life will move us in the direction of our soul and purpose. 


 
my crochet
 As craftswomen we are crafting our bodies, our souls, our being into that which we came for. We are crafting ourselves back into the web of life, strand by strand.  Each of us is a beautiful strand in the web of life, and each of us is necessary, important, valued. And when we show up, as ourselves – our unique selves in service of the earth, we model this for others.

It doesn’t mean that we are perfect, that we get it all right.. No, healing like everything is a cycle, a continuous cycle of renewal, and there are times when our wounds show up, loom up to the forefront,  but as womancrafters we bring consciousness to this, and all things.  We hold ourselves with compassion and tenderness, our wounds, our shadows, our orphans…And then we can do this for the women who come journey with us. We are offering ourselves back to Life, to this blessed earth, to the creative cosmos, asking to be in service again.

We can ask of our inner wise woman, and of the earth,  “Show me what I came here for, show me what is required of me, to live my full potential in service of you  Earth/Cosmos/Gaia”. And she will respond.  Life is supporting every inch of her to do this.  We need to remember how to listen….
 image below of Nymh Fox my co- presenter Introduction to Shamanic Womancraft and co teacher of the Otways Four Season Journey 2020
Plotkin says, “nature depends on us to embody our souls”  

And embodiment is necessary, coming back to the body, living our truth as part of the more than human world is vital now. And nature guides us, shows us. So as craftswomen we remember to listen, to watch, to pay attention to nature, to everything that is going on, to the messages the world is singing up.
 The image below is an original tablet showing Ninshubar (left)  and Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth
Ninshubar and Inanna, Image from Sumer c 2000 bce sourced Inanna Queen of Heaven and Earth
Woman crafters are embodied,  emplaced and empowered.

We are our own shining knight, we cannot look to others to blame or too rescue. Time is too short for that. But our sisters, our Ninshubar- are standing at the thresholds with us, drumming with us, staying present with us….waiting for us to return each time we descend, and each time we arise. Shamanic Womancrafters are Ninshubars drumming our sisters through her inner journeys.2

And I am reminded of the beautiful words by Bill Plotkin- author of SoulCraft
 The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it.3
And so this is our work as womancrafters, to remember we belong to this world.

The way of the Shamanic Womancrafter is a way of belonging, to ourselves, to our communities, and to the more than human world which is inseparable from our human becomingness…We are immersing ourselves back into the rhythm and cycles of nature. We are coming home.


 
women gathering around fire, Vic Otways 4SJ 2019
So come and join Nymh Fox and I for our introductory circle on Shamanic Womancraft- this Sunday at Laneway Learning in the heart of the city. We would love to see you there.  Deepest gratitude to all our teachers- the human and more than human .
 
A poem for you- actually a quote!

I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. 
And at the end of my prayers they teach me how to listen.
Terry Tempest Williams


References
1. Another beautiful quote by TreeSister Founder Clare Dubois, this from an interview as part of the Fearless, Female Entrepreneurs series hosted by Jocely Mercado.
2. Ninshubar is the “faithful servant”, ‘warrior, and sukkal to the Goddess Inanna. Inanna Queen of Heaven and Earth., Wolkstein & Kramer
3. Bill Plotkin, author of Soulcraft Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche


That is all for now folks,
Blessings and Love, 

Sarah 
xxxxxx

In the Flow-

View from a long boat towards Koh Phi Phi

Scorpio Full Moon Energy

Scorpio is an intense sign, of depth, transformation and taboo. It has been an intense and deeply troubling 24 hours. We see in these election results how few of us here in this Country know of our deep interconnection. We are not as a nation standing for the trees, the waters, the oceans or life. We are not standing for our children and their children. We have turned away again. I am deeply saddened by this.

And so after much tears and rage I drummed for the earth, for myself and for all my relations. I will drum each day again for the healing of our disconnection from our mother. This is my commitment to myself, and our Great Mother, the Provider, the Nourisher, She who Renews All. If you feel too you are welcome to join me. For drumming is prayer, it is how our ancestors prayed, millennia ago. It is how we can pray again. When we drum we connect to the frequency of the earth and her energy. It is calming and restorative for us and for the earth. I hope to feel you on the drum waves.

Drumming here with sisters in the Otways during the Four Seasons Journey 2018

Of course that is not all I will be doing. I will continue to be with women, in circle, in drum making and in the deep enchantment that comes from being on land with women. Read on to see some exciting news, for in this Taurean New Moon cycle (5th May ) some beautiful things have come to fruition while others have fallen away.   I am glad for the opportunity of winter to bed down some new growth, to let it rest in fertile soil before flowering later in the year.

What’s Coming up?

With my beautiful co-teacher of the Vic Otways Four Seasons Journey 2020, Nymh Fox

Exciting News- Teaching the Four Seasons Journey 

I am delighted to announce that I will be co teaching the School of Shamanic Womancraft Four Seasons Journey with Nymh Fox in the Otways in 2020.  I am very grateful for this opportunity to share this beauty way, this embodied ecological way of being with ourselves, each other and the land.  A way the world is calling for ever more loudly.

This is a sacred journey, a sacred re- imagining of the gentle wild feminine in all her diversity. We gather 6 times over the year to deepen our connection, to remember our interconnection to the cycles, the seasons of our lives, to our bodies and to the earth. It is weaving of story, myth, land and self, a re-enchantment with the All that Is.

It has been beautiful to walk this sacred way with Nymh as part of my apprenticeship and I am so happy to now co- teach with her. Please get in touch if you feel the call to journey with us, to dive deeply into the gentle wild within you, and within this blessed land. Her Song may be calling to you. Listen, rest back into the arms of our Mother Earth, and listen to that sacred call, that tremor of a Yes.  We welcome you all. 

The beautiful women who birthed their drums at our recent two day drum making workshop at Peace Farm in the Yarra Valley.

Drumming Ourselves Home

 The first creative act each of us does, is our birth.  We are co-creators in the birth process, and how we are birthed into this world leaves an indelible imprint on our creativity, on how we do creativity.  It is important to bring consciousness and awareness to this process, to see the ways in which this story of our birth continues to play out in our lives.

At the School of Shamanic Womancraft we birth a drum into the world as a mirror of our story.  It is a powerful and deeply sacred act, for not only do we get to see and feel this imprint in action, we get to create a personal tool of transformation. A lifelong tool to serve our highest purpose. This is a powerful initiation into this work and way.

My drum has held me in magical awe since I first birthed my drum into the world in December 2012. I have developed such a beautiful relationship with my drum and continue to learn and grow through playing him. He is definitely a “he” and that is tied up with my birth story which you can read more about here.

Emiie Alcato and I are also offering another Two Day Drum Making Workshop at the beautiful Peace Farm in the Yarra Valley. It is a deep privilege to work with women, showing up in all their vulnerability and beauty to be with their stories, to reclaim and remember the medicine inherent in them. In doing so they reclaim and remember these parts of themselves, for their own healing and for the healing of generations that come before and after.

 As with all the women who come to our workshops- including to the Four Seasons Journey I am always in awe of the women and the process. I have learnt to really trust the process. To know that whatever happens is the very thing that needs to happen.  And I watch the women laugh, cry, groan and delight in their own creative process. I watch the ah ha moments when they see the stories and imprints that are at play in their lives. They begin to see how these stories shows up in their lives, and how they can untangle the parts of the story that no longer serve.  So much love for all the women who come to birth their drums in the world. 

When you birth a drum, you birth yourself as a drummer into the world. This is a pan cultural lineage that goes across time and place.  Women have long been the keepers of the sacred rhythms. We see them in the ancient records, on cave paintings, on vases, in stone tablets, and in ancient carvings, with their drums. Whatever your culture your female ancestors will have at one time or another played the drum for sacred and holy ceremonies. This is your heritage too. 

We are indebted to the work of Layne Redmond, and her recently republished book When the Drummers were Women. It is definitely worth a look.

Enchanting Times

And these troubling times call for more enchantment, for a re imagining of our gentle wild selves cohabiting this planet with all of her creatures, of which we are only one. We are called to remember the delight and wonder of our inner child who looks on this world with love, awe and deepest curiosity.

Stay curious, follow the scents of delight wherever they take you. And listen to the ancient stories, to the voices of long ago, for they are rooted in the depths of our imagination, which is  a way into deep conversation with the land and sea herself. Let yourself dive into the mystery.

Fish in a cavern

And before I leave you all, here is another beautiful picture from my recent trip to Thailand, where i literally dived into the Mystery. I was so enchanted by the avian world and the underwater world especially on Koh Phi Phi and Phuket.  It had been over 30 years since I ventured to Thailand, and though much had changed, much had stayed the same.  This is a truly beautiful country and we were delighted to spend hours each day swimming and delighting in her beautiful seas….

Water is sacred. Life emerged out of her depths, and we continue to honour her, when we dive in and enjoy her beauty. I am sad to say that we are not proceeding with the Global Water Dance as we just did not have enough people willing to commit to the rehearsals. But I will dance for the living waters within and without, always.

And to help us get through this and whatever turmoil arises for you, here is a beautiful poem shared by one of my continuum teachers, Rebecca Lawson


A poem for you

Flow by Noel McInnis
Be
as water is,
without friction.

Flow around the edges
of those within your path.
Surround within your ever-moving depths
those who come to rest there—
enfold them, while never for a moment holding on.

Accept whatever distance
others are moved within your flow.
Be with them gently
as far as they allow your strength to take them,
and fill with your own being
the remaining space when they are left behind.

When dropping down life’s rapids,
froth and bubble into fragments if you must,
knowing that the one of you now many
will just as many times be one again.

And when you’ve gone as far as you can go,
quietly await your next beginning.

Thanks for reading
with love and blessings


Sarah xxx

The Ocean Bliss of You- March News

This lunar cycle began with a Pisces New Moon. On Thursday 7th March we dived into the watery world of Pisces, where intuition, imagination and feelings are very present. In her Lunar Journal Grace Funk says this new moon highlights, “my need to feel interwoven, to trust life and be guided by my intuitive wisdom.” For me this has been a time of big emotions, of crying, of tuning into sadness and being with my feelings. And yet through this I am coming into a sense of spaciousness and intuition that was not as present last month. And I am being offered a chance to show up trusting this life.

So this newsletter shares some insights on the watery realm, on the possibilities that arise in fluid movement, and of the generosity of our tears and heart. I hope you enjoy reading it.

How is this month for you? Are you tracking what is arising? Does watching the moon, and noticing her phases and signs resonate with you? Id love to hear from you on this or anything that arises in reading my material. Blessings on this cycle

Sarah xxx

The beautiful waters of Croajingalong National Park- A national treasure for us all.

What’s On?

MoonSong Workshop- One Day Workshop for Women
Global Water DanceFirst rehearsal of the Movement Choir
– 25/03/19 in Clifton Hill-
Melbourne Women’s Circle – Thursday 28th March
Two Day Drum Making Workshop– 30/31 March is Sold Out
November Two Day Drum Making Workshop
9 – 10 November, Peace Farm, Yarra Junction, Vic
Global Water Dance -Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
June 15th 2019 3.00 pm- 4.30 pm

Resting in our heart space

Only this morning I was participating in a “virtual” continuum dive, where a group of us meet with continuum teacher, Rebecca Lawson, via Zoom, and practice sounding into our bodies. I have written on continuum before but for those who want to know more about this movement practice, you can read more about it here.

Rebecca provides the details of the dive, what tissue and what sounds we will be exploring, and helps ground us in the movement practice via references to anatomy, embryology, or evolutionary ancestry etc that are relevant to the dive (the movement/sounding recipe so to speak).

Embryo at 7.5 weeks from the Endowment for human developmnet website.

This morning we were playing with the heart and arms.  And we learnt that during our embryological development our little fingers and palms rest on the heart, as do the lips. For seven days the rhythm of our own heart is the most palpable movement that resonates through the tissue of our hands and mouth, and from there to the rest of our body.  After those 7 days, the arm buds begin to grow, stretching out, as does the head, before returning to this place of deep connection. 

This connection between hands, arms, heart, and lips remains throughout our lives. We touch lovingly with our hands, and our lips- we reach out with our hands and arms to embrace, to give and to receive love.  

A scene from Franco Zeferelli’s Romeo and Juliet. Juliets love is manifest in her arms, hands and eyes!

And what a beautiful blessing this is, this giving and receiving of love. One of our tasks in this life, seems to be to remain connected to our open heart, to let the love flow from heart throughout our bodies to others, and to stay open to receive this love, to drink it back into our bodies.  And yet this can be such a challenge.

Tears of the Heart

I noticed how much tension was in my body this morning. The fascia of my left arm is taut, and tight. My scapula, my shoulder was holding tension too, and my arm struggled to open. ( I only worked with my left side- not even getting to the right). So as is the way of continuum I stayed where I was, I noticed this tension, and sent shimmers ( a shhh sound) down my arms, and the tears came too. The tears from my heart, from my womb, because I am not fully open. Because I have closed my tissue off from so much.  This tension is a protective layer, an old deep pattern, and has become a barrier to love, and to life itself.  But tears are a balm for the weary heart and body, and so I let the tears flow. I let the judgement of myself come, and then offered tears to that too.

This beautiful image of fluid movement in the scapula came from the website of continuum Teacher, Bonnie Gintis

Our scapular develops through various creeks and rivers of flowing fluid, so it seemed apt to allow my tears to flow to the scapula, to my shoulder, to the tissue in my arms. I was hoping and trusting that these tears would find flow not only down my face but down my body, that my tears and my attention would enable new fluid pathways to emerge.  Tears seem to be a way of unblocking stagnant energy, they are after all the flow of living waters. (Read more on tears here!)

 And then I allowed myself to meet the ground, to play with my arm stroking the ground, or really to  have the ground stroke me. The ground came to meet my tissue, to hold my tissue, to tend to my tissue.  And there is a meeting here, if we allow it. A simple and profound way to be met by the ground, by the earth.  And so this morning I yielded to this earth- which has been somewhat of a challenge for me. I go at life, I push at life, I make it happen. This Yang energy is the energy our culture exalts- at such a cost. A cost to each of us and to all Life. And so I am learning, slowly, slowly learning how to yield into the earth, to be met and held with love. Like the embryo in the womb, I lay myself against the heart of this earth body, and am soothed by her rhythm, her attention, her heart song.

It feels kind of vulnerable to share like this. To show up as a beginner in this living. To show up with all the ways I resist love and life, and yet in my work as workshop facilitator I am exploring, teaching, showing how love is the current on which we ride.  But I will trust that this is OK. For we have to be authentic with ourselves, and each other. And I know this continuum practice, this being where I am in my body, helps locate and ground me, so that I can meet whoever shows up from a more grounded and authentic place.

Menstrual Awareness

Media Poster, for the Oscar winning film Period. End of Sentence. Available on Netflix

Another really profound way of connecting to our authenticity, or as Alexander Pope calls it, Our Wild Power, is through connection with our menstrual cycle. And for those of us, who have ceased their cycling years we do this through the rite of passage that is menopause, and beyond.

There is so much to learn about ourselves through our cycles, and not all of it is comfortable, but the more we tune into the physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions of our cycle, the more we come to know ourselves.

seeds and cone from a Giant Magnolia in my local park.

I have been enjoying chatting to young women about fertility awareness and the necessity of getting to know your cycle to be fully fertility aware! And it is topical at the moment, thanks in part to the move. Period End of Sentence, which just won an Oscar at the Academy Awards. Shifts are definitely happening, and in the words of the director & producer, Rayka Zehtabchi, “I cant believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!” But it did!

We also had an article in The Age, announcing that all girls at primary and secondary schools would be given access to free tampons and pads, and  a new program Period Talk, aimed at “removing the stigma of periods” is being launched in Victoria. While this is great, many girls and women still experience body shame around their menstrual cycle, and beyond. But of course we want to go further than that. We want girls and women to understand the power of this initiatory rite of passage, and the blood mysteries as a whole.  But this is a great start. Let’s keep the conversations happening, lets keep learning and sharing all we can about menarche, the menstrual cycle and menopause! For we know that a “girls experience of their first menstruation had an effect on the rest of their lives” .

So know that when I am promoting my MoonSong Workshop- or those of my co teachers- we are promoting this work, this remembering of how important our menstrual cycle is for empowering us. So please learn about your menstrual cycle, your rites of passage- understand them as the natural, initiatory powerful processes they are, and teach your daughters, your nieces, your friends, your students….It is time.!

Embodying Water- Global Water Dance

Dancers from Global Water Dance

From tears and blood to the rivers of  life.  Charlotte Young and I are hosting  Global Water Dance, Melbourne at the Royal Botanic Gardens on June 15th. We would love you to be a part of this amazing event.

Global Water Dances “aims to use the international languages of dance and film to promote awareness and a behavioral shift toward solutions for water preservation and conservation through community engagement”

We need movers and dancers willing to learn the Global Dance – The same dance will happen on the same day all around the world, so we will be having rehearsals to learn that. There will also be a dance co-created by whoever joins with us. This will be an opportunity to choreograph a dance in which we become water, river, stream, ocean, puddle. To round off the event there will be a water ritual and an invitation to the audience to move with us.  An all ages all abilities dance is offerred for all. While the event is free, it would be very helpful if you would  register for the rehearsals- and the main event and please share with your friends too.  We are dancing for safe water for everyone. 

There will be presentations and talks by RBG staff and aquatic ecologists too on ways we can all celebrate and save this precious resource, this life giving water. We hope to see you there.

A Poem for You

When by oneself, flooded with delight
Simply in the memory of that kiss…
Here is the inner ritual.

That lick, that taste of nectar,
That caress, embrace, particular pressure…
Your subtle body replays the dance,
Inundated by divine sensations.
Melting, merging, swelling…

Surrender to the deluge.
know it as your own.
This ocean bliss is you.

from The Radiance Sutras, no.47, Lorin Roche

Go well dear hearts,
Blessings
Sarah xxx

On Tears

Tears have the capacity to change us. Crying can be at once an acknowledgement of pain and sorrow, and the release of it.  For when we give our loving attention to whatever is arising in us, we are also, allowing it to shift and move.  Tears flow, as does the energy of whatever it is we are crying about. This is not to say that it will be the end of the grief, or pain, but it will allow for the possibility of movement, of change, rather than of stagnation.

I am working with Skeleton Woman. She came to me several years ago in a drum journey and has journeyed with me ever since. Those of you who read my newsletters regularly will know her powerful story and its impact upon my life. You can read some of my earlier reflections on her here. And I will mention a small part of the story now, for She is walking with my Spider Sisters in this year’s Otways Four Seasons Journey.   

Image still from Skeleton Woman film by Edith Pieperhoff : http://redkite-animation.com/_redkite/projects/skeleton-woman/

Skeleton Woman comes to us from the Inuit peoples of Northern Canada. Though for me, and many others it was Clarissa Pinkola Estes who introduced us to Skeleton Woman through her much celebrated book, Women who Run with the Wolves.  

The tale of Skeleton Woman, like all myths is multilayered, and so too are the meanings, messages and truths that can be gleaned from her Story. And for now, I am only referring to one aspect of the myth, the giving of tears.  For in this tale, When the Fisherman has finally stopped running from Her, “a feeling of some kindness” has arisen within him. And he begins “like a mother to child” to gently untangle her.  Long into the night he works, “until Skeleton Woman’s bones were all in the order a human’s should be”.  And when finished, he “lights a little more fire” and he sits with her. And she sits in silence with him. No longer afraid, he is at last able to sleep. And while sleeping a single tear escapes from his eye. And Skeleton Woman, “put her mouth to his tear” and drinks “for this single tear was like a river and she drank and drank and drank until her many years long thirst was slaked.”

We see in this myth what a nourishment tears are. We see how the man has gifted Skeleton Woman his tears. And this tear is a deep well of nourishment, for it comes from a place of compassion, of his “deepest feeling”.  This is his gift, to be true, and kind and generous with his whole self. And in return Skeleton Woman is willing to meet himself and herself there. For she drinks from his well. She drinks and drinks and drinks. We must be willing to receive this nourishment when offered. We must listen to our deeper knowing, and be present to the extraordinary capacity of tears to transform. And Skeleton Woman is a tale of deep transformation. And if you haven’t read it, please do. There is so much to learn. And if you haven’t cried much lately, perhaps it is time for that too. Perhaps there is some deep nourishment for you in the flow of tears, in the movement that arises when we surrender fully to whatever needs expression in our being.

The dam at Hedgehogs Garden, Barkers Creek

Love your Menstrual Cycle

Do you know how to recognise your signs of increasing fertility? Are you aware of when you are ovulating? Is the rhythm of your own cycle familiar to you? What about your daughters, your nieces, do they know?

Today many women know very little about their own menstrual cycle, and yet this knowing is vital for our own well being, and is recognised as a barometer of our overall health.1 Getting to know your own cycle is a way to deepen your understanding of yourself, your connection with the earth, and is a safe and highly effective way to assess your own fertility.

Ï want our daughters to know there are safe and healthy ways to avoid or achieve conception. I want our daughters to know about the power and pleasure of their cycles because this will help them become empowered and to make choices which enhance their connection to their body and their sexuality. 

Womb Altar card illustrating metaphorical and real womb changes during ovulation

But the cult of the expert is alive and well. We use technologies to suppress our cycle, to interfere with and alter a normal healthy function of our body- our menstrual cycle. It’s a drug that many of us encourage our children to use!

What are the alternatives? Are they safe and reliable?  Incredibly, Yes. 2 Your body has a cycle and very clear signs to show you when you are fertile and when you are not!  As Francesca Naish says, “You can learn to distinguish these marvellous and unmistakable signs that your body gives you an use this information to avoid or achieve conception, depending on your choice for the whole of your fertile life.” 3 Yes, for the whole of your life!

Our MoonSong Workshop is a day to discover the ‘secrets’ of your cycle….And they are only secret because our culture doesn’t really get the wisdom inherent in the cycle. It doesn’t get that women learning about and loving our cycles and our bodies is empowering women…or maybe it does, and that is why we are not taught about it! But you can change that old story. Join us as we explore the deep embodied wisdom that is our menstrual cycle.  We show you a treasure map- that is inside you. What if you’ve finished menstruating? No problem, the moon and the menstrual cycle are intimately linked and you can learn how to flow with the moon!

The moon and her phases are mirrored in our menstrual phases.

Come sit with your sisters and learn about your rites of passage, your life seasons, your womb, and the moon! This is a beautiful day of remembering – we share what women have shared for thousands of years. Our next MoonSong One Day Workshop for Women is on Sunday 24th March in Carnegie. We would love you to join us. Book here.

Paired share reflecting on your menarche rite of passage at a recent MoonSong Wrokshop
  1. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  2. Bennett & Pope, The Pill Are You Sure its for You?
  3. Francesca Naish, Natural Fertility

Womb Altar Cards- the Back Story

Three days before Christmas, 2016, I was diagnosed with andeno-carcinoma in situ (ACIS). I didn’t know anything about this disease- but I knew the word carcinoma and I was scared. My GP referred me to a specialist- whom she had already spoken to and made an appointment for me as it was, she said, urgent that I saw him.  This idea of urgency continued when I did see the specialist- he performed a colposcopy to determine if I had cervical cancer or ACIS only. ACIS is considered a “premalignant glandular condition” in the lining of the cervix- and is the precursor to cervical andenocarcinoma- in other words, cervical cancer. So regardless of the outcome of the biopsy he recommended that the safest and best option was to have a hysterectomy immediately.

A hysterectomy is removal of the womb and would mark the end of my menstruating years. I wanted more information before I went down that route. I wanted to know what the likelihood of getting cancer was, what other alternatives were, and I wanted to share with him my belief that the womb was sacred. I told him that although I was passed my child bearing years I wanted to keep this part of me.  Throughout this journey I was told by the medical profession that as I no longer wanted to birth more children then my womb was unnecessary.  The idea that menstruation might have an important function and meaning for me, really was not considered and the idea that my womb was the birthplace of creativity was also not acknowledged.  Though I did point this out whenever I could.

This diagnosis was the start of an ongoing healing journey. And I mean ongoing, I am still deep in process.   While I waited to find out if I had Cancer or not- I spent two weeks in Croagingalong National Park, Gurnai/Kurnai country. A truly beautiful spot on the east coast of Victoria- and it is full of birds. I spent a lot of time listening to and looking out for birds. I spent much time drawing on the energy of this place, to create as much calm and nourishment as I could.  Nature has long provided me with a sense of connection and belonging. And though I hadn’t been to Wingen Inlet before I felt welcomed to this land, and a deep sense of peace here.

Upon return to Melbourne I learnt I didn’t have Cancer- yet. That was the framing though, that this disease will likely lead to cancer.  I decided to have surgery -but not a hysterectomy. I had a cone biopsy which involves a cutting a wedge out of the cervix and testing for the disease.  This was supposed to be minor surgery- but was a huge and challenging journey for me.  Mainly because I caught an infection- which impaired me for 6 weeks.  This recuperation was however, a deeply transformative time as I travelled on the portals of illness to new understandings about myself, my body and life.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, illness is a gateway into another way of being.  Time shifts and morphs. The hours do not tick by, for those clocks hold no sway. You are in another realm. In this realm ordinary things become extraordinary, drinking water, sensing sunshine on your body, the rush of the wind in the leaves. All these little moments are magnified and intensified. This is the realm of magic and wonder. This is the realm of the Shaman. And here I roamed for three weeks, in and out of time, of sleep, of dreams, of earth. She of whom we are all made.

And around this time I began to explore my relationship with my cervix.  I realised my understanding of my cervix was limited and at times, simply wrong.  I had always pictured my cervix as a flat circular muscle which opened during birth.  It is in fact more like the throat, a tubular organ linking the vagina to the womb.  It has two openings, the internal and external OS. And it is the external OS that opens when giving birth.  For much of my life all that I knew of my cervix was limited to the information given around birth, that it was the opening to the womb and during birth was able to open to 10 cm to allow the baby through. And for a long time that was all I knew.  Then during my Four Seasons Journey with the School of Shamanic Womancraft and later my MoonSong Apprenticeship I learnt more. I learnt that the cervix produces much of the changing mucus that we experience during our cycles, and that the cervix also changes position during our cycles, opening to blood, to sperm, and closing also. And yet there was still much I didn’t know.  But all that was about to change.

So, began a journey of getting to know my cervix.  I re-read two of the books essential to teaching MoonSong Workshops, Becoming A Woman by Jane Hardwicke Collings, and A Blessing Not a Curse (Jane Bennett)– it’s amazing what you pick up when your focus has shifted.  I really digested the information on the cervix, especially around her opening and closing in time with the cycle, and the softening and hardening of her entrances.  I began looking at pictures too…though there were not many I found the most amazing photographs from My Beautiful Cervix project which, when I looked in 2017, was just one woman’s account of her cervix throughout one cycle.  The site has grown since then and now has photographs from several different women’s cervixes throughout their cycle- and importantly has images of a cone biopsy and radical hysterectomy! I wish that had been there earlier!

Using these images, the information I had, and the feelings within my own body I began to draw my cervix, and her changes. Initially I drew her as a donut, a fleshy deep pink organ with a hole in the centre. And yet I wanted to draw my cervix in relationship to the whole of the yoni- connecting her to my vulva, vagina, and womb…. To show her as the throat, or neck like structure that she is.  I also wanted to show how I now saw the cervix – as a sacred gateway, a portal to the temple of our womb- our creative centre. I began to draw the changing  dynamics within the whole yoni region of the body. And so, began my drawings for my Womb Altar Cards

As a teacher of MoonSong I regularly used the Altar Cards produced by Jane Hardwicke Collings as a teaching aide. These cards include a set of the moon phases, the earth seasons- depicted both within the context of a rose, and through the seasonal celebrations in the pagan wheel of life, and the life cycle of woman, (drawings by Lucy Pierce and photographs of JHC and her family ).  We didn’t have cards specifically for the menstrual cycle.  So I used all these cards as inspiration- drawing on the wisdom contained within each set and the correspondences between them to create my Womb Altar Cards. For we cycle- that is our nature during our menstrual years, and these cycles correlate to and with the moon and her phases, and the earth and her seasons.

I wanted to capture these relationships in my cards. I wanted to show how dynamic and alive our cervix and yoni is. How our bodily changes reflect inner and outer changes within us too. All the while being mindful that everybody is different. As we say in the MoonSong workshops this is the map, your body is the territory. These cards are a guide for you to get to know your own body, your emotions, your feelings and how you change within your own cycling ways. And my learning went deeper too.

Susan Weed writes of the cervix, “take you’re your power. Claim your cervix and your genitals as your own. Possess your cervix, your uterus, your vagina. Look at your cervix, accept it, love it, cherish it. When we reject a part of ourselves, we can find ourselves “losing” that part to surgery!”  So, I took to looking at my own cervix, the My Beautiful Cervix project has kits you can buy to help you do this too. You just need a scapula and mirror! Though they provide some guidance too.  I was also drumming to journey to meet my cervix- my womb, my inner Goddess, and to listen to the inner wisdom and words of my body and guides. This was a time of deepening connection and love. Love for the parts of myself that still held shame, and fear, and pain.

And someone I knew pointed my in the direction of the online Self Cervix course, which is “A journey of pleasure and awakening.” For the cervix is also an integral part of our sexual anatomy and expression.  But it is often blocked and armoured, and a lot of the course was focused on de-armouring our cervixes. For it is only when they and we feel safe enough that we can really access the eroticism and pleasure that is our birthright. And I really came to know this through the course. But this information is not widely known, and when I told one of my specialists- a Gyny- oncologist Doctor, he dismissed this idea, and, when I told him that I knew from my own experience that my cervix was and is part of my pleasure zone, he wanted medical proof!!!!  How far we have to go.

I wanted to share the sexiness and juiciness of our yoni’s and the ways this shifts during our cycle too. Clearly ovulation is the peak of our overtly aroused state and yet our menstrual time has its own juicy magic. And of course, all of this is entirely personal. When you feel most alive and aroused etc is not necessarily when I do, and it’s not necessarily when you are most fertile. Arousal and pleasure are very personal and individual, and yet there are biological times when our bodies are “ripe” and ready for possible fertilization of the egg. And of course, many of us do not have male partners, and yet our bodies continue with the magical cycle of preparing for, releasing and letting go of the egg…. with all that this entails- and it’s a lot!  I must skip over so much information- but have a look at the cards, much of it is in them!

And of course, the creativity that is arising at the time of ovulation is more often than not about creative projects, ideas, thoughts and ways of being, rather than the creation of new life.…. During my ovulatory period, I used to feel a lot of love for everyone. I was also more talkative, and full of ideas…. A few days later on, a sense of perspective would arise, and it was time to let go of the many stimulating ideas.  And now I find this second half of the cycle, a time of quiet creative energy. I am more inwardly focused and so I am often writing stories, poetry and editing during this phase.

And as someone who no longer has a womb I still love to use my cards, and I hope these cards can be of use to other women who don’t have a womb- for whatever reason.  The cards are illustrative of the energy of the moon phase I am flowing with, and of the seasons.  I like to look at my day 21 card as the Maga card, this is the stage I have entered, and there is lots I can gather from meditating on the image here.

So, having produced a set of cards that I was pretty happy with I put them out to my School of Shamanic Womancraft community to gauge responses and feedback and I am pleased to say that the response was really positive.  I then set about producing more cards and releasing them to the wider community. I also produced a brief guide for using them, which you get when you purchase the cards, but they are your cards and how, where and when you use them is up to you. I hope you enjoy playing with them.

And despite all that I did to heal myself, I did get andeno carcinoma. I found out after my second cone biopsy- many months later. I kept my womb for a year longer than was originally proposed and I am so grateful for the gifts of this journey.  Which I can some up as love and trust instead of fear, and embodiment. I have connected to my body in ways I had not. Ironic that illness and disease have been portals to a greater aliveness in my body.  Before sacrificing my womb, I had a womb loss circle with dear friends- several actually, to share my grief and love of my womb, and to celebrate wombs everywhere…My husband and I also had a gentle and intimate goodbye ceremony. These ceremonies were all very healing, not only for my womb, but for the collective understanding of our cervixes and wombs- which still suffer from ignorance, shame, and fear.  This journey to love our cervixes, and our wombs is a profoundly healing process- for ourselves, all our relations, and for the womb of the earth.

In February 2018 I had a radical hysterectomy, the removal of my womb, my ovaries, some lymph nodes and extra tissue. The surgery was huge, and the recovery long and slow. But my womb, and my cervix live on in these Womb Altar Cards, and in the energy within me, a loving space where the creative energy of these cards came from. That energy remains. I bow to the womb energy within you too, whether or not you have a womb.

love and blessings

Sarah xx

What lies beneath?

What lies beneath?

This is a question I have been feeling into for many moons now. What lies beneath? What lies beneath oubluelaker feet, beneath our paved roads and footpaths, and beneath the layers of protection, scaffolding, and armour that we wear around ourselves? And while feeling into this question, I heard a tale of a beautiful lost lake that once crowned parts of west Melbourne. It triggered in me a sense of deep loss, and an affirmation to continue searching for the places of forgotten beauty, and of those places not considered beautiful; the watery wastelands of our psyche and our landscapes.

In response to this tale and song, I created a painting in two parts. The first is an image of the blue lake that once covered parts of west Melbourne. It was said to be, “a real lake, blue, nearly oval and full of the clearest salt water…Fringed gaily all round with the purple mesembryantheum (pigface) in full bloom, it seemed in the broad sunshine to be girdled by a belt of magenta fire.”   But this beautiful lake, although clearly appreciated by some, was undervalued by those with power. And by the 1860’s it was completely lost as it was covered over with bitumen and tar. The second part of the picture depicts the built world, whatliesbeneathand it is entitled What lies Beneath, or Only the Sky Remembers.  The lake is there but hidden underneath. Upon hearing The Orbweavers sing of this lake, I was moved to reflect again on this question of what lies beneath all of us, and how can we reclaim those parts of ourselves and of the earth that need to be reclaimed. I link these two questions as part of the same one as I feel  that whatever we do to her, we do to us, and whatever we do to us, we do to her.

So I am finding my way home to myself, and to the land I live on. I am finding my way home to a wholeness that connects us all by looking at what lies above and what lies beneath. But the journey is not easy nor the path defined. But my questions guide me, as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen said to a teacher of mine, Your questions are your quest. And I am questing this year to reconnect myself to land, to country and to myself as healed and whole. Part of this involves learning the art of Dadirri, or Molla Wariga, of deep listening. This requires the giving of time and attention, of pausing, and reflecting. I feel the blue lake is a symbol of all this because water gifts us these ways of being. We pause at a lake, we listen to the birdsong, to the flow of water and we see our reflection. We trust in the flow of water, in her way of being. The Blue Lake was a salt lake and was linked to the tides, to the moon, to the cycles, the seasons. And this is another clue, to remember our own cycles as part of the larger whole. This is another part of the journey.

redtent3Although questing is often seen as a solo journey and part of it is done alone, we are also guided with signposts, and messages. We find timely reminders that we are not alone. We are gifted with others who will walk with us at least some of the way.  For me, women’s circles and Red Tents help us to remember our deep connection to each other, to the land and to the spirits. It is part of my journeying home, and may be part of yours too.

And today I watched a beautiful video Dissonant Bundles and the Power of the Circle by Bec Funk,  and Jacqui Grace of Beautiful Wasteland, and even that name conjures up so much of  what I am trying to express….what is a wasteland? What is beauty? What aspects of our own beauty have we denied, repressed, estranged, paved over because it was not valued by ourselves or others?  They explore these questions too. And while watching the video I am reminded of the story, Skeleton Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This story is worth exploring, for it also dwells with the need to accept and love the not beautiful aspects of self.  Again this requires time, attending, and a willingness to really look beneath the surface and to allow others to do this too. Part of this is to risk showing ourselves to ourselves and to others. We are often surprised by what we find, for beauty is so much more than that visual aspect that we place so much importance on in this culture. Life in all her curiosity, wonder, wildness is beautiful.

The skeleton woman story may come to visit you, or maybe another is calling you. I believe the stories come to us when we are ready, and sometimes even when we are not. Another story that has been working its magic on me, is the tale of Persephone, and her descent into the underworld. I am dreaming up a workshop in which we use this tale as the starting point for exploring our own descent into what lies beneath. The descent is a necessary part of our journey, it is the heroines own healing. So this story presents a highpmythicpowerful reminder of the tools and resources we have at hand to be our own heroine, to journey down, and to descend into our power.   The workshop will look at the tools can we use in order that we can be with, what it is that we find. And then having reclaimed these aspects of self, we will be guided in ways to ascend again while staying on the path of renewal.

Renewal requires a death and a letting go. Let us spend some time in renewal, regeneration and remembering. Let us see what happens if we walk the country of our inner landscape and the outer landscape. Let us see what happens if we dig below the surface to reclaim those places that we thought were not beautiful, that we through were wasteland, and see if we can be surprised by what we find…

As that beautiful poet ee cummins once wrote

For what ever we lose, (Like a you and a me)
It’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

Blessings on the descent, on this day before the dark moon.

Sarah  xxx

Words for deep listening:
Dadirri is from the Daly River language group
Molla Wariga is from the Gurnai Language group

For more information on the blue lake, go to
http://www.robynannear.com/docs/mrs-bradleys-melbourne.pdf
and scroll to blue lake. The quote is from George, Gordon McCrae…taken from this site.

Moonsong- Listening to the Feminine

So blessed to sit in circle today with 20 women at RAW Gardens, to celebrate International Red Tent Day. Such gratitude to feel the magic of the circle, the healing that comes with showing up, with sharing and with listening with the ears of our heart to our sisters speak… It is time to find our voices, our truths, and to listen willingly and openly…it is time for our families, communities and the world to hear the voices of women, to let the feminine speak in her myriad voices of her truth. Not the truth of a world/cultures which denigrates women, the body, the earth, life/death/life but the truth that comes from deep within, a truth that is rooted in the earth, in her and our bodies. Our lived experience.

The redtent3time is now, so find your way to love yourself enough, to honour yourself enough to reach out to support other women, and to hear their stories, their songs, their poems, their tongues, their carvings, engravings, weaving….find women, listen and be listened too. Such healing arises when we feel we can be really heard. When we listen to ourselves, and give ourselves the space to acknowledge, to heal, to be.

I am blessed to have such a group of dear women around me, my family, my friends, my mermaid sisters, my teachers…and all those who came today, and who come to the call of the feminine….If you feel a desire to go deeper in this work, then i encourage you to find a red tent near you. There is a revolution and they are springing up everywhere..You might also consider a year long dive into the feminine mysteries with the School of Shamanic Womancraft.This was and still is such a profound journey or healing for me, and those who i have journeyed with. It is MAGIC!!! And if you want a taster of this work, I am also hosting a day, to explore the treasure map of our blood mysteries, our feminine mysteries, with Moonsong.

In this workshop you will:

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  • learn about the wisdom of the cycles and our life seasons
    • the influence of the lunar cycle and the earth’s seasons
    • the spiritual practice of menstruation and the transformative power of our rites of passage
    • understand why you feel the way you do!
    Sunday 17 January 2016
    9.00- 5.00

    • Carnegie, Victoria  (address provided on booking)
      Morning and afternoon tea provided…$80
    • bookings essential

Many thanks again to all those who showed up today. Gratitude for the feminine flow!

Blessings sarah zxx