Since resuming my menstrual cycle after the birth of my last child, my relationship with my cycle has completely changed, especially my relationship with my blood. This year I’ve been learning to honor the wisdom of my cycles, the wisdom of my body, and to flow with her rhythms.
Last January I envisioned a large red mandala with black details, with long red and black fringe, and I knew this symbolized menstruation- more specifically, a release of personal and ancestral shame around blood and womanhood. Shortly after this creative vision, I had my first period in almost two years. I began working on the mandala during that first bleed.
The title “Reclaiming Menarche” came to me, and that’s what this piece represents. I listened to a podcast with midwife Jane Hardwicke Collings at that time and she talked about how the events of menarche (first bleed of a girl’s life), birth, and menopause are rites of passage and initiations for women, whether we acknowledge and honor them or not. What are we being initiated into with these powerful events? Our true deep feminine power? Or fear and shame?
For most girls in modern society, their first period is an awkward event that is kept quiet and hidden, certainly not celebrated. This is a complete tragedy. When a girl’s biological initiation into womanhood is kept in the dark and treated with disdain and disgust, how does that affect her own beliefs and experience about what it means to BE a woman? What does it teach her about her own body?
When my first bleed came, I basically tried to ignore it. I wore the pads and carried on as if nothing significant had just happened. And in a nutshell, that describes the type of relationship I had with my body for nearly two decades. I didn’t bother to really witness my body and her symptoms- I tried to ignore most of what I was feeling and experiencing, always trying to escape it. Like the blood I found gross and tried to keep hidden, my female body was a source of shame and embarrassment that I tried running away from for years. I was completely ignorant of the deep wisdom and love and creative power within my body and especially within my own blood, the very carrier of life within me.
I created this red mandala to represent a reclamation of my blood, my cycles, my womanhood, and my innate power. I cannot experience another Menarche- that initiation comes only once. But I can release the damaging beliefs into which I was initiated, particular during menstruation as my womb cleanses itself each month. As the old limiting beliefs are released, I step more into my own sovereignty and power.
This mandala is also representative of the first chakra, called the muladhara/root chakra, which is associated with the colors red and black and located at the base of the spine. Menstrual blood, red in color, must pass through the root chakra. This chakra is related to tribal identity and our feelings of security and belonging in the world. Our menarche, passing through our root chakra, is a major event that shapes how safe we feel in the world. What does it mean to inhabit a woman’s body in the world at this time?
Our blood is part of our feminine heritage and helps secure us in the lineage of our mothers before us. There is so much ancestral shame surrounding our blood and what it means to be a woman, and I think those issues are often carried in the root chakra (as well as sacral chakra). I believe honoring and working with our blood can help heal imbalances in our root chakras and restore our sense of security in our own bodies and the world around us, as well as access the collective strength and energy of women throughout time.
Some unintended deep symbology occured with the creation of this mandala. It is constructed on the number 10, as that’s how the cord setup and knot pattern works out. After I finished it, I realized it took 10 cycles from conception to completion. And the concept of 10 cycles is actually symbolic in itself. Pregnancy has been referred to as “10 Moons”, as it takes approximately 10 lunar cycles from conception to birth. When I look at this mandala, I can feel the personal (and global!) deep changes that have occured in the past 10 months and recognize I have given birth to an entirely new life and way of being. These past 10 cycles and bleeds have carried so much transformation for me, and I feel that when I gaze upon this mandala.
I’m beyond thrilled with how this mandala turned out. It’s final form matches the majestic concept I originally had in mind, and that’s always an incredible feeling. I have enjoyed seeing it on my bedroom wall, and it is a reminder to honor my blood and my cycles and the creative power contained within.
This is one of my favorite creations (I know I know, I have so many favorites!) and it is currently available for purchase in my Etsy shop:
***PLEASE NOTE: The red color of this mandala is not as vibrant/bright as appears in these pictures. I did my best with my camera settings and editing (I’m certainly not a professional!) and could not accurately capture the true nature of this red. It is not as vibrant, a bit more faded- but still a very rich red color.***