Perhaps you have read or heard stories from hundreds and even thousands of years ago, when women gathered together in sacred spaces.. The Red Tent has been popularised in recent years thanks to the well known book by Anita Diamant, called The Red Tent. Here she tells the story of midwives and biblical characters from ancient times, weaving the life experiences of women coming together in the Red Tent.
Traditionally, humans did live in tribes and communities with extended families, where a regular and consistent support network was available. This allowed women to retreat into their ‘Red Tent’ when needed, knowing that life would carry on, held by the responsibility of others in the community.
Women could let go of their everyday life and the external world of work, chores, mothering and responsibility. They honoured the cycle of nature, and as women, were especially guided by the moon. When the moon is dark, it is a natural time for stillness, rest, introspection, rebuilding and gathering of energy, nourishment and vitality.
During these days around the new moon, women would retreat into a designated space, known as a Red Tent, Moon hut, woman’s or yoni temple to name a few. Inside this sacred place, women would bleed into the earth, reflect on life, talk, eat, laugh, sing or simply be in silence.
When it was time for a woman to give birth, she would retreat into the ‘Red Tent’ for weeks or even months being fed, massaged and nourished until she felt renewed, recovered and ready to emerge vital and able resume her daily life as a mother. Girls could enter the space from the time her menses began and it was a place where women could retreat when they were ill or recuperating.
The need for a Modern Red Tent
Fast forward to the 21st century. Here we are hundreds or thousands of years later, still biologically the same and needing the same monthly nourishment and rest . As modern life continues to speed up, primarily spurred on by technology, convenience prevails, allowing everything to be done faster and more efficiently.
Certainly, this has made our life easier is many aspects, although on the down side, this has meant that we have forgotten how to ‘go slow’, lounge around, rest and be in our pleasure. In general we have lost connection with our cycles and rhythms of nature... and stopping to fully acknowledge important milestones and rites of passage, such as menarche, birth and menopause. As a result, many of us women have become overwhelmed and stressed. Is it simply a co-incidence that there is an epidemic of women’s health problems, fertility issues, hormonal imbalances and auto-immune diseases?
Perhaps you live with a partner, family or with friends, who can offer you some respite from life. Although, it may not be possible to take 5 days off during your entire menstruation, even taking one day of rest a month is a wonderful thing. This gift to yourself will give your body, mind and soul the rejuvenation it needs for the month ahead.
If you no longer menstruate, your hormones will tend to be stable, giving you access to more energy and more consistent emotions. By moving through menopause you have gone through a rite of passage that offers you the title and role of a wise woman. If you feel called you may chose to inspire, mentor or guide other women in a Red Tent or women’s group. Even so, giving yourself regular rest time especially around the new moon can give you the vitality and energy you need for the rest of the month.
Here are a few ways to experience a ‘Red Tent’ in your life…
Join a Red Tent
There are many Red Tent organisations around the world that have emerged over recent years, particularly after the release of the brilliant book ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamont, from which myself and many others have been inspired to create our own red tent spaces or organisations.
In these places, there are usually monthly or regular meetings, groups or gatherings available for women to come together usually on the new and sometime on the full moon. Here you have an opportunity to sit in circle with other women – similar to the way women would have gathered together in a Red Tent or Moon hut. We can sit still, be in silence, reflect, share concerns, stories and celebrations.
Or if it feels right, we can move, dance, shake out our worries, breath out, sigh, moan, groan or even primal scream ! When we menstruate or honour the new moon, we are cleansing from the month gone by, clearing out not only the blood and toxins from our body, but also clearing out our emotions, thoughts, experiences, stresses or losses from the previous weeks of the lunar cycle.
Create your own Red Tent or Woman's Group
If you do not have a ‘Red Tent’ or women’s space nearby, then you could create your own. This may be done in a private setting in someone’s house or communal space where you organise monthly women’s circles or meet-ups for free or donation. Your Red Tent may be done on a larger scale by hiring a space on a regular basis or even creating a business, offering services for women and girls.
This could include anything from women’s circles, monthly moon gatherings, support groups for women, pregnancy, mothers and girls, massage and healing, workshops and events based around women’s health and empowerment. You may chose to simply meet informally with women in nature. This is a very ancient and restorative way to connect with yourself and others.
Having created and run a women’s space for 8 years, I do recommend that you build a community of women to share the responsibilities and workload, otherwise one can become pressured, overwhelmed and depleted. Speaking for myself, I know at times I certainly was. And what I realised in this process, is that the woman’s way is to work together, communally, collaboration. If you do find yourself taking the role as leader of a womans’ group, center or Red Tent, your need for self-care and rest becomes paramount, so that you are receiving as much as you are giving.
Your Personal Red Tent
If you do not feel inclined to gather with other women or would like additional opportunities to nourish yourself, then creating a mini Red Tent in your home is absolutely possible. Find a particular space in your house where you can close the door and be uninterrupted.
You may want to build an alter or just put a few of your favourite photos, artwork, possessions or jewellery on a small table. Lighting a candle is a lovely ritual to mark the beginning and end of your personal ceremony, which may be a meditation, breathing or yoga practice. It could be singing or chanting, moving or dancing. You may chose to simply lounge on a soft rug and cushions, read a book, write in your journal or draw. You could have a leisurely cup of tea or create a traditional tea ceremony. Every woman has a unique way of being creative and connecting with herself. This is for you to decide, discover and develop over time.
Once you begin creating the time and space for you, either on your own or with other women, start noticing the changes within yourself. They may be subtle at first, however, over time you may experience more energy, feel more centred, calm and even more intuitive. From this place, you can make wise and loving choices for yourself on a daily basis that ultimately allow you to create the life you really want to live.
I leave with you a simple question that I ask myself as often as I can ... "In this moment, what is the most loving choice for myself, and for those around me ?"
Emma Grant is the founder of Red Tent Yoga, and continues to support women through yoga, counselling, Ayurveda and Havening Technique for Trauma.
Emma is currently available for counselling, Havening or yoga sessions via skype/zoom.
tags: Pregnancy, prenatal yoga, Birth, Mother, Motherhood, Postnatal yoga, Mother & Baby yoga, Postnatal heath, baby, families, perinatal counselling, family counselling, Havening for Trauma, Eating Disorders, women, women's yoga, shakti yoga, shakti, women's health, Holistic counselling, red tent, red tent yoga, ayurveda, women's community, self care, postnatal depression, relationship counselling, birth trauma