Category Archives: red tent

cloth pad stitching ~ a woman’s gathering

P1240437On Saturday afternoon the women of Red Tent Gwynedd (a monthly public woman’s gathering centred around women’s empowerment, honouring menstruation and the environment in Wales UK) gathered for their very first ‘Eco Femme make your own pad’ stitching workshop.

Before the event the women took some time to read a little about the kits, the pad for pad scheme, and making re-usable pads in the larger context of the environment. One woman wrote “I am already feeling connected to other women just thinking about such an important step in creating this circle of pads.” I felt exactly same; the feeling of unity and harmony in knowing that similar groups and workshops are taking place all over the world.

As we gathered around in our sewing circle and opened up the kits, I noticed that every woman was smiling as she commented on the fabrics and the colours, the cycle chart, and the clarity of the instructions. For a while we took our time familiarizing ourselves with all the bits and then we started to create, joking that we would ‘stitch ‘til we drop’.

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It was a lovely peaceful afternoon and we spoke of many things; inevitably we discussed the impact of disposable pads on the environment, and that by using cloth pads women (collectively) could cut down on millions of tons of needless waste. We felt very aware that the ‘birthing’ of the new pad in our hands represented at least 75 disposable pads (probably many more) from being used and discarded.

We touched on whether cloth pad sewing workshops could work as part of the curriculum for UK secondary school girls (why not?), and wondered how the modern young woman at menarche age really feels about her menstruation ‘these days’. Whether she would happily carry clean or used cloth pads in her school bag (cloth pads look very different from plastic ones and can be ‘disguised’ a lot easier in pretty pouches) or if she would be embarrassed like we used to be at school. The thought of our young women still feeling awkward about ‘being found out’ made us feel more determined than ever to spread the positive word!

Talking about our own school days made us recall and share stories of our own experiences of menstruation as a young woman, some positive and some negative. Sewing together as a group brought back all sorts of long forgotten memories of our own home economics and sewing classes, which we had fun sharing.

We also spoke of how we wished we could had been given cloth pads by our mothers. And that if good quality reliable cloth pads had been invented sooner our mothers could have used them too. So many generations already have passed with the pollution of plastic disposables taking 500-800 years to break down in landfill sites all round the world.

There was also silence for a while; with each woman quietly absorbed in her own activity. I reflected on this too, about how natural it felt for us women to sit together and take part in communal activities, exchanging information and tips, working together naturally and effortlessly. Exactly what I saw so often on my travels to different countries, with crinkly old bright-eyed women sitting on the ground, chatting laughing and cooking together around a fire. Sadly in our culture we are often isolated, with no circle of women to sit in at all.

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Having this special pad workshop allowed us to set aside quality time and space deserving of this important activity, and made it really fun too. One pad took about 2 hours to stitch, including time to figure out the instructions and make some cups of tea. Everyone commented how great it was to be able to see inside the pad and feel the fabrics, and to see just how many cotton layers make up the pad. We chatted about general care instructions for cloth pads, the simple washing process (soak them rinse them then add them to the wash with your underwear), and how best to dry pads in our cooler rainier climate, where strong gusts of wind and warm fires make drying fairly easy.

This workshop also helped us to gain a new appreciation of the skill of the women tailors working from the Auroville Village Action Group campus, who produce the pads for Eco Femme! Some of our pads ended up a bit wonky, untidy, and a little uneven but despite some comical shapes and cries of “I’ve lost my wings” or “Which way round do the poppers go?” we still all produced functional cloth pads. Sewing our own pad was in some ways more meaningful than buying one, which happens when we create anything for ourselves. We all decided to love our newly stitched pad for all its imperfections.

What I was touched by was the enthusiasm for the sewing – women wanted to create nappies next, then breast pads, then pads of different sizes. It also turned out that the women were not just sewing for themselves but wishing to share the pads with their loved ones. One women was sewing for her niece, one for her friend, and another was sewing quickly so as to finish the whole set of three for herself ready for her menstruation in a few days!

For me, I just love that the pads are so pretty, and that the process was really enjoyable. The fact that I have sewn them with my own hands makes me look forward even more to using them each month, and that even in using the pads I have a connection with all the other women who have made them too, and who use cloth instead of plastic.

So today, as I write about the event, I feel enormously privileged to be a part of the movement towards re-usables; spreading the word about this positive action to my sisters, contributing in a physical sense by making a pad that will save dozens of plastic ones from being thrown away into our Earth.  I would definitely love to run another pad stitching session again in the future, because in doing so it somehow feels as though the world is waking up, one pad at a time.

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beautiful red tent quotes

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“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go…a place of women, to help you learn the ways of women… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself… waiting to be released… A place of women…” ~ Judith Duerk, Circle of stones.

“The world is changing, rapidly & women in particular are actively seeking ways to empower themselves & change their lives for the better. A tradition which has been missing for modern women & was once considered intrinsic to a woman’s experience is the omission of the Red Tent, a moon lodge gathering undertaken by women of all indigenous cultures to mark their monthly lunar cycle which was honoured accordingly as a time of rest, reflection & renewal.” ~ Tanishka.

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“In response to an intuitive calling from the Earth Mother to seed Red Tent New Moon Circles in every suburb, town, state and country to reawaken the gifts and wisdom of the feminine to balance the planet.” ~ Operation Red Tent.

“What would the world be like if young women were mentored by older women? What would the world be like if we knew that we could have a place for our stories to be told?” ~ Red Tent Movie Trailer.

“In the ruddy shade of the red tent, the menstrual tent, they ran their fingers through my curls, repeating the escapades of their youths, the sagas of their childbirths.  Their stories were like offerings of hope and strength poured out before the Queen of Heaven, only these gifts were not for any god or goddess – but for me.”  ~ The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

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“I want to build a moon lodge, where old womyn braid my hair, brushing slowly, gently, the tangles of my life free, where there are no walls, only painted cloth, flowing, circling, blanketing me from the world.” ~ Jessica Todd.

“In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks — for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood.” ~ Anita Diamant, The Red Tent.

“In the native American tradition if you wanted to destroy a village you simply destroyed the Moon Lodge – the place where the woman gathered every new moon to intuit insight to govern the tribe. So it stands to reason that the fastest way to rebuild our global village is to re-instate the tradition of the Moon Lodge or Red Tent.” ~ Tanishka

For beautiful quotes from the women of my local tent, about how much the red tent means to them, or for top tips to set up your own, click here.

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the red tent ~ a place to celebrate our womanhood

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I have just finished my 9 month apprenticeship training with Alexandra Pope called ‘The Way of the Menstrual Cycle;’ a wonderful experience for me – not only a fascinating topic, but also it was the first time in my life I had experienced sitting in a circle, surrounded by a loving wise experienced and supportive group of just women, all sharing their truth. It was so refreshing and honest, frank, deep, funny, and grounding. I learnt so much.

Several of the women I met already hold Red Tent groups around Britain, and the conversation sparked something within me. I had read Anita Diamant’s book ‘The Red Tent’ a couple of years ago, and had dreamed of the possibility of this becoming a reality. And now I know I am not alone. There is now a world-wide Red Tent Movement, which aims to ‘‘seed Red Tent New Moon Circles in every suburb, town, state and country to reawaken the gifts and wisdom of the feminine.’ Even a film has been made about such gatherings of women, called ‘Red Tent Movie – Things we don’t talk about.’

I now feel SO inspired to do something to help my fellow sisters, that I am writing this with the intention to attract other women who share the same passion! I would love your comments about the Red Tent movement, your experiences of circles of women, or if you live in North Wales and would like to come to my new circle…please feel welcome come along.

Visit woman’s wheel for more advice and red tent information by clicking here.

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Traditionally the Red Tent performed a number of functions, including: rite of passage instruction and ceremonies, teaching and sharing of healing methods, teaching and sharing of pampering and beauty treatments, meditation and healing for self and the greater community, sharing of recipes, child rearing tips and life experience, sharing of personal stories and parables for spiritual teaching, counselling and emotional support, lunar and seasonal sacred ceremonies, and teaching and sharing of crafts, to name but a few.

A modern day red tent usually involves a circle of like-minded women sharing with each other and allowing each woman to have some time to express herself. It might be enough for the rest of the circle just to listen to her, to witness her. Or it might be a discussion on spirituality, astrology, menstruation, health, some kind of support on her life journey, gentle motivation, setting an empowering intention, or simply a back-rub!  It is really to create some special time to express her own needs; a gift that women rarely bestow upon themselves with the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Women can also contribute something to the circle – whether that be a song, a poem, a piece of art, an inspiring quote, reciting a dream or story, an insight into their last menstrual cycle, or just to have a discussion about ecological cleaning products or household tips! Occasionally one of the women may want to lead an activity, such as craft or an alternative therapy. Anything goes, but generally the red tent gathering just flows along beautifully with no rigid set pattern.

The following information has been copied directly from a free download available by visiting Tanishka’s website.

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Why is the Red Tent held at New Moon?

‘New moon is the time of the month, 2 weeks after full moon when we tend to feel tired, inward & vulnerable. It’s when our insecurities & old wounds surface… our shadow self that we often try to hide from others. But if we don’t learn to accept & heal our shadow (like Peter Pan) we never grow up & so we end up with a society so afraid of aging we think it normal to carve ourselves up rather than be publicly seen as an elder.

It is for this reason women of all indigenous societies for thousands of years gathered together at his time to reflect upon their lives, offering emotional support & healing to one another rather than expect their partner to intuit & fulfill all their emotional needs. The new moon is also the time when most women experience their ‘moontime’ or ‘heavenly water’ as it was known in traditional Chinese medicine.

So this custom offered a time out to working women & mothers, enabling them to turn inwards & rest & replenish when their lunar tide was out each month & their life force at its lowest ebb. Another reason for this time honoured practice was that during one’s moontime (the most common time for women to menstruate) & generally at new moon, women are at their most psychically open. When they were considered to be, ‘closest to God’ as it’s the most inward time of the cycle, making it the ideal time to meditate on behalf of themselves, each other & for the greater good – channelling intuitive insights & guidance.’

The Cultural Cost of the Omission of The Red Tent

‘The Red Tent also helped to sustain healthy partnerships & marriages. Because just as our bodies are ruled by the moon, so too are our emotions. And just like the moon women are changeable & emotional beings. So when we experience the dark time of our emotional lunar cycle, it is best for the longevity of our relationships that we take sacred space from our partners & children so they don’t experience our destructive side when we are in the little death phase of our monthly mandala.

If we take this time to focus on our inner needs at this time we can return to our loved ones full of self love & nurturing so we have it to give to them the rest of the month without burning out. Without this cyclic acceptance of our need to give back to the self we end up with a Western epidemic of breast cancer in the ‘civilised world’ where women are culturally expected to nurture 24/7 without asking for anything in return. Just as we need to breathe in before breathing out, so too women need to take time & sustenance for themselves if we are to continue giving to others from a centred & full sense of self.

Similarly, by taking responsibility for our emotional well being through a monthly practice we lessen our need for emotional comfort through overeating, as the sacral energy center which resides in the abdomen is governed by the moon. When women don’t honour their emotional needs the result is gluttony, the vice of the sacral chakra.

So with the omission of Red Tents giving women a regular time to process their emotions we see eating disorders as common place, particularly amongst teenage girls. Other feminine health complaints such as menstrual disorders & depression are also often alleviated through this simple, cyclic practice.

For women raised in a Western (masculinized or yang) culture that had no understanding of ancient women’s traditions so dismissed them as old wives’ tales or feared them as the work of the devil, we can now see the physical cost of women who aren’t in touch with their feminine essence as infertility is now at an all time high in the West. New moon circles offer the most fundamental & practical way to attune women’s natural hormone cycles to the moon, regulating their endocrine system without the invasion of synthetic hormones.’

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“I want to build a moon lodge

where old womyn braid my hair

brushing slowly, gently

the tangles of my life free

where there are no walls

only painted cloth

flowing, circling

blanketing me from the world”

~ Jessica Todd

See how the red tent has grown! Visit woman’s wheel for more advice and red tent information by clicking here.

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