What is the Red Tent?
We get asked this one all the time - "What is the Red Tent?" It's not always the easiest question to answer, because the Red Tent is many things - a safe haven, a place of worship, an ancestral practice. To fully explain the Red Tent, we have to take a walk back in history to a time much different than we live in now. Walk with us...
Long, long ago most people lived in communal settings. Each individual in the community had their rolls and responsibilities, and all things were done with the betterment and prosperity of the whole in mind. During this time we were intrinsically connected with nature - her many cycles greatly influenced our way of living. Women had an especially intimate tie with nature, reflecting the cyclic nature of the moon and the seasons within their own wombs. Their menstrual cycles were synched with that of Grandmother Moon and with one another. They bled together, often menstruating during the days of the new moon and ovulating with the full moon - their wombs fertile while the moon also glowed in her fullest expression. The women were the time keepers via their moon cycles and this divine reflection of nature within their bodies was deeply honored and respected. During their time of bleeding, the women would gather together in the cool shade of Red Tent for a few days each moon cycle. The Red Tent had different names depending on what lineage it came from. Other names include the Moon Lodge and the Menstrual Hut. Regardless of the tradition, it was a place for women to be in ceremony together. While they prayed and engaged in ritual, the men would take on their duties such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children. The women took time and entered into a sacred space to be together as they transitioned into the deep portal of menstruating.
It was understood that blood is a sacred and powerful medicine and that during their time of bleeding, it was necessary for women to go into a gestation-like period, where they could safely travel through the shadow realms of menstruation and re-emerge with clarity. Blood was honored and it was an integral part of womanhood. While in the Red Tent, the women would hold sacred ceremonies and initiation rituals, carrying on the traditions of the women who bled before them. In Miranda Gray's, Red Moon, she expresses how "a woman becomes open to the older, more primal energies and instincts," (Gray, 1994) while menstruating. The blood was viewed as an oracle, and often they would have dreams and visions the would divinate the future and help the community make choices that would bring them more prosperity. The women would also utilize their physical shedding of blood as a mechanism to intentionally shed energies from the past cycle for the collective that no longer served them, bringing peace and harmony back to the community. The rituals and ceremonies acted as a midwife, assisting the women in this deep process.
Through time, as the patriarchy rose and we shifted from a Goddess to a God worshiping society, the traditions of the Red Tent, and menstruation itself became increasingly taboo and feared. The Red Tent thus shifted from a place of divine worship to a place of banish and shame. Menstruation became viewed as impure, and a menstruating woman, dirty.
Today, we aim to reconsecrate the menstrual cycle in our Red Tents. We aim to tap into the wisdom and ways of our female ancestors, gathering together again in sisterhood to heal ourselves and our lineages, and bringing restitution to all bleeding beings.
The Red Tent is a safe space, a sanctuary, a place of worship where the Goddess thrives in her full power. Here, the womb and the blood are honored, known to be holy. The Red Tent is a place to bleed in ceremony, connecting us back to the intrinsic wisdom of our wombs. Power is restored in the Red Tent. Guided by the blood that visits us, we come into deeper union with ourselves and and the natural rhythms and wonders of the Universe. Many of the rituals and ceremonies in the Red Tent lineage have been lost due to its nature as an oral tradition, the wisdom passed down from woman to woman through the generations. However, the most integral piece of the Red Tent has not and never will be lost, and that is the blood. As long as we are bleeding, the wisdom of the Red Tent will live on. We will forever be able to access the codes of creation, the mysteries of the Universe and the ways of our female ancestors through our blood.
To revive an ancient tradition that has been lost among the imbalances, fears and taboos of our 21st century world is no simple task. The hope lies in the fact that it is nothing to re-write or re-create. It is a matter of restitution, consecration and remembrance. Those of us who menstruate already have an intrinsic understanding of how to let something die, only to give it space to grow within us again. That is the power of bleeding. That is the Red Tent.