• Vika

Moontime for the modern menstrual cycle

The menstrual cycle is the most fundamental, earthy cycle we’ve got. Our connection to the archetypal feminine - our blood. The vast cycles of nature, the changes of the seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, all reflected on a compact scale in the menstrual cycle of the individual female body. In many cultures, the menstrual cycle has been viewed as sacred. Early societies respected the flow and its connection to lunar phases and the natural world, ritualising bleeding as a time of rejuvenation, purification, rest, and creativity. And it’s even believed that the first calendars were created as a result of charting ovulation and menstruation. Since the lunar cycle lasts 29.8 days, it made sense that it would align almost perfectly with women’s average menstrual cycle. Even the actual words ‘menstruation’ and ‘menses’ come from the Latin word ‘mensis’ which means ‘month’ and relates to the Greek word ‘mene’ which means ‘moon’.

How to build clocks and watches by Byron G. Wells, 1971

However, in modern reality the sacred magic of the feminine body became the inconvenience of the century. PMS labeled all the emotions along with the pains of cramping, tiredness, frustration, and yearning for seclusion, and you simply has been dismissed as overly emotional for a week or so. Every month.

From early on we’ve learned to pay little attention to our periods. Seriously, how long and how open was your conversation with any close female in your life regarding your first bleeding? I had none. A brief verbal exploration of the future adventure I ought to embark on, delivered by a nice stranger during sex education class at school, equipped me with a three page leaflet, sponsored by Procter & Gambler pad and a feeling that the entire thing was a weird and shameful phenomenon.

Too many of us absorbed attitudes of suppression and turned to a more controlled approach: taking birth control pills from the get-go, not for pregnancy but for the preference to regulate symptoms that seemed to be erratic.

But things are changing. Women are becoming more and more critical of the unavailability of first hand understanding, respect and appreciation towards their fertility and beauty of their natural rhythms. Honouring your period can be cathartic and instrumental to your healing. Viewing your body as a foundation of nature, rather than a miserable misfortune monthly, will come when you allow yourself to draw upon ancient wisdom of knowledge about your feminine body and open up to other women about the topic too, - dismantle patriarchal conditioning of uncleanliness and shame, and nurture attitudes of awareness, acceptance, and support with our connection to life and death.

from Jules Verne's novel Around the Moon, 1870

My first interest in tracking my period was shamelessly pragmatic. I wanted to have a consistent energy flow, or at least to be informed when is it exactly there will be that annoying bump in my performance. I downloaded period tracking app to do the job of the whistle-blower - to “dob” my own body at times it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do, like get up at 6 a.m. to workout, donate half a litre of blood without any sensation of fatigue, out do my to-do list three times fold. That way I could schedule my visits to Red Cross and gym (double gym, thank you very much, you’re so lazy and flake) after the irritating interruption and continue to treat myself…well, simply mean. Yeah, I know, all of us have their own loop of self-flagellation until we learn/heal ourselves to do the other way. The love way.

Being on your moon – the flow of energy & creativity //

The menstrual cycle governs the flow not only of fluids but of information and creativity. Each new month filled with creative possibility - literally, to create babies and new life! We also perceive and process information differently at different times in our cycles, our energy levels fluctuate accordingly as well.

Like the moon itself has a period when it is covered with darkness, and then slowly, beginning at the time of the new moon, it becomes visible to us again, gradually waxing to fullness, women, too, go through a period of darkness each month, when the life-force may seem to disappear for a while.

1-14 days before ovulation – your new & waxing moon

Many women find that they are at their peak of embodiment in the outer world from the onset of their menstrual cycle until ovulation. Their energy is outgoing and confident. They are fuelled by enthusiasm and excitement of new ideas, spark with vitality and optimism, as well as with willingness to help others. In that regard, the menstrual cycle itself mirrors how consciousness becomes matter and how thought creates reality.

On the strictly physical plane, during the time between menses and ovulation (known as the follicular phase) an egg grows and develops, while deep within the wall of the uterus circular collections of immune system cells, known as lymphoid aggregates, also begin to advance. Recent research has found that the immune system of the reproductive tract is cyclic as well, reaching its peak at ovulation, and then beginning to wane.

Talking ideas and creativity, this first half of the cycle is a very good time to start new projects.

Act. Initiate. Expand.

spring tray by Siv Lier, 2015

Peak ovulation – your full moon

Ovulation, which occurs at mid-cycle, is accompanied by an abrupt rise in the neuropeptides FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and lutrophin.

Ovulation represents mental and emotional creativity at its peak; subsequent rise in hormone production that accompanies ovulation may be the physiological explanation for this. At mid-cycle, we are naturally more attuned to others and to new ideas—more “fertile.” Sexual desire also peaks for many women at mid-cycle, and our bodies secrete into the air pheromones that increase our sexual attractiveness to others. A true manifestation of life’s desire for increase and expansion through procreation.

Tape Dispenser by Robert P. Gottlieb, 1963-73

14-28 days after ovulation – your waning moon

If we do not become biologically pregnant at ovulation, the weeks following ovulation we move into the second half of the cycle, the luteal phase, which leads up to the menses; this is, quite naturally, becomes evaluative and reflective time. During the luteal phase we turn more inward, preparing to develop or give birth to something that comes from deep within ourselves. We need not be afraid or think we are sick if our energies and moods naturally ebb for a few days each month. Ideal time for routine tasks that don’t require elaborate thought expenditure on your behalf.

Ways to bring sacred //

Since we live in the world that predominantly appreciates rationality in any aspect of our existence, many women gravitate towards things they can understand rationally, and tend to block at every opportunity the flow of unconscious “lunar” information that comes to them premenstrually or during their menstrual cycle. Lunar information is reflective and intuitive. It comes to us in our dreams, our emotions, and our hungers. It comes under cover of darkness.

The luteal phase, from ovulation until the onset of menstruation, is when women are most in tune with their inner knowing and with what isn’t working in their lives. Studies have shown that women’s dreams are more frequent and often more vivid during the premenstrual and menstrual phases of their cycles, as if the “veil” between the conscious and the unconscious, the worlds of the seen and unseen, is much thinner. We have access to parts of our subconscious selves that are less available to us at other times of the month. As a matter of fact, some experiments succeeded to show that the right hemisphere of the brain — the part associated with intuitive knowing— becomes more active premenstrually, while the left hemisphere becomes less active. Interestingly enough, communication between the two hemispheres may be increased as well. Access to our magic is granted - our ability to discern and transform the more difficult and painful areas of our lives. Premenstrually, we are quite naturally more in tune with what is most meaningful in our lives. Our uncontrollable teary inclination may suggest simply that. We're more apt to cry, but it always feels as if our tears related to something deeply meaningful to us. Consider. The painful or uncomfortable issues that arise premenstrually are real and perhaps need your attention later on.

Sumerian astronomer record of events 29 June 3123 BC

1. Chart The Moon And Your Moontime

Jot down your cycle — when you’re bleeding, if and when you experience PMS symptoms, and around 14 days later when you are ovulating — in your old fashion paper weekly planner or calendar. Many calendars and diary will already have icons for lunar phases, but if you’re more tech-inclined, My Moontime and Clue are great apps for tracking your menses and the moon.

New Moon vs. Full Moon:

What Your Body Is Trying To Communicate //

After keeping track of your body’s cycles for a few months, you’ll know whether you tend to menstruate around the new moon — the beginning of the lunar cycle — or the full moon, which is the end of the lunar spin, or the waxing and waning periods in between.

Some believe that periods should align with the new moon, since the dark moon phase is so closely associated with rest and seclusion for self-care. However, period tracking app Clue analysed 7.5 million cycles and found no correlation between lunar phases and the menstrual cycle. Dr Marija Vlajic Wheeler, one of their data scientists looked at the data of their users and concluded that ‘period start dates fall randomly throughout the month, regardless of the lunar phase.’

There’s no “correct” moon phase to bleed with and no need to hack your period in order to align it with the moon. Tho it may not be entirely backed up by the science, it's a rather special way to observe when your period will be turning up that month. The lunar cycle in relation to your menstruation will have meaning for you personally.

According to Miranda Grey, author of Red Moon - Understanding and Using the Creative, Sexual and Spiritual Gifts of the Menstruation Cycle, there are two traditional menstruation patterns; “White Moon” - menstruating with the new moon and ovulating with the full moon, and “Red Moon” - bleeding with the full moon and becoming fertile with the new moon. Your period will attune to both cycles over the course of your life, but it’s interesting to note what’s going on in your life energetically as your body cycles. So, what is your body trying to communicate?

La Lune by Jacques Prévert, 1900

White Moon

This cycle follows the new moon, meaning that your body bleeds during the new or waning (decreasing) moon and is most fertile during the full or waxing moon (increasing).

Since biodynamics have shown that the earth is most fertile during full moons (when you ovulate), this cycle is most traditionally linked to fertility and motherhood. If you are a “White Moon”, you’ll likely feel a surge in your intuition during your period, and will feel the urge to pull out socially for introspection, nurture and self-renewal. Energetically you’re maxed up expended and have given the month your all - now it’s “me” moontime.

Red Moon

If your body follows a Red Moon cycle, you will have tendency to bleed during the full or waxing moon (increasing), and ovulate during the new or waning moon (decreasing). Because full and waxing moon phase energies are outgoing, vibrant, and creative, it may come across as contradiction to menstruation. Not at all. In ancient times, the Red Moon cycle was related to shamanism, high priestesses, and healers. Women who tend to menstruate with the full moon are said to focus their “darker” and more creative menstrual energies outward, rather than inward, in order to nourish and teach others from their own life experience. Often than not, women with this cycle will be increasingly committed to self-growth, development, mentorship, and creativity.

2. Enter the red tent: time for self

No matter when you menstruate, it is essential that you reclaim the time of your period as yours and yours alone, in whatever unique way you feel/need it. The first few days of the cycle are the most consuming energetically, and it’s okay to give yourself permission to take life gentler and slower during this time. Work from home if you can, or cancel plans all together if you feel inclined to do so. Listen to what your body is telling you; if you want to be alone - be alone, if you need some nurture – give it to yourself, feeling like some action in the bedroom – ask for it/DIY. Communicate your needs and boundaries clearly. There's nothing wrong with telling your flatmate that you’re emotionally fragile, your partner you need nurturing, or your colleagues you need some space.

Demetra da Ercolano shot by Mimmo Jodice

3. Ritualise it

Perhaps you already have a few rituals up your sleeve for your period - eating chocolate this time around is a spiritual act, not a crack in your bulletproof healthy lifestyle. Embrace those, and don’t panic about going over the border with self-indulgence. After all let's look at it as a celebration of your gorgeous, healthy, fertile body that works perfectly without any upgrades year in and year out. I just got “Hakuna-matata” message from my reproductive system! (Swahili language phrase from East Africa, meaning “no trouble”).

Build “looking forward to my period” momentum by fantasising about you options to honeymoon yourself during your next cycle. Next time make sure that your budget allows for a monthly “moontime package” to afford massage and treats. Unplug from everything and everyone and finally play some home spa with comforting bath soak and nourishing face mask, catch up on some favourite reading/TED talks, and perhaps you could let that violently obsessive thought of chocolate mud cake slice gain control over your willpower...just for today, babe!