Observation of the natural world by early peoples was essential to their very existence. Their lives depended upon how they read the messages brought to them through their interpretation of natural phenomena. Such actions as observing the skies for signs of approaching storms could mean the difference between life or death to a migratory population. For sedentary peoples, the hunting of animals, planting of crops, gathering of food all depended on their relationship with the elements.
Early societies tracked the movements of the heavenly spheres and made accurate correlations and predictions based on them. Imposing structures such as the Mayan Pyramids and Stonehenge have scientists shaking their heads in wonder that such so-called primitive peoples could build highly accurate astronomical observation posts.
It would also be of significant interest in the survival of the species to correlate what was happening externally to what was happening internally within the human body in relation to natural phenomena as well. Menstrual flows were observed to be cyclic like the lunar phases and over time a woman’s flow or “moon” was dedicated to this natural rhythm of our closest heavenly body. A young girl’s first flow or “First Moon” was often celebrated with feasting and ceremony marking this all important step into womanhood.
With societies living closely together, aware of each other’s rhythms and smells, it was not uncommon for women to cycle their menstrual flows close to the same time. This can be observed today among roommates in women’s dormitories in all quarters of the world.
Because it was believed that women were at the height of their spiritual power during menstruation, many early peoples among whose societies were dominated by males, demanded strict observation of taboos especially in relation to male hunters, warriors and shamans. These taboos were to guarantee no loss of power during hunts, wars or spiritual healings. A woman does feel the powerful influences during her moontime and special structures called “Moon Lodges” were erected apart from the village or rooms were partitioned off in the homes so that women could stay separate from their families and their responsibilities during their periods. Some societies, however, viewed a menstruating woman’s time away as a means to acquire fresh spiritual power and others saw it as an opportunity to meditate on what it was to be a strong presence in her society.
Today, although many women view menstruation as more of an inconvenience and a sign of not being pregnant, our bodies show we are still under the same lunar influences as our early ancestors but hopefully open to more supportive and less prejudicial attitudes. Our lives are affected by the same natural cycles of weather and time. We are creatures affected by natural rhythms even unto death. It will be valuable to the reader to keep this in mind as she progresses through Changing Moon.
The last menses or “Changing Moon” as I prefer to call it, is akin to a maiden’s first flow as both menarche and menopause are unique hormonal events. The female body prepares itself by sending the appropriate signals and through hormonal responses, prepares the uterus to receive an egg or not. Although subject to natural rhythms, environmental or mental stress may affect the timing of the event. Due to the nature of this metamorphic journey, however, the last menses can be elusive –– here one month, gone the next, only to reappear in a few months. It might create a heavy flow one month and be a mere spotting the next. Changing Moon represents this elusive, last flow of womanhood, the sign we are embarking on a deeper understanding of our archtypical relationship to the Sacred Feminine. (To be continued in Part III)