I don’t often contemplate the joys of menstruation, indeed, most of the time if those words come out of my mouth, it’s in a very sarcastic or cynical way. I don’t really find joy in bleeding once a month (ish). But, no more than some of my work for Brigid doesn’t cause me joy either, it’s a necessary part of life for (and a lot of other people who happen to have a uterus). And it does form part of my spiritual life. Now I’ve done a class on this over at the Irish Pagan School, but that a few years ago now and things have developed a bit since then. Whether you call it a bleed, your period or menstruation, all phraseology is welcome here!
Image of lower part of the body showing vulva with different elements labelled
Well things have, of course changed slightly. I’m still shocked no one ever mentioned Bartholin glands to me, very important in engaging the vagina’s lubrication systems (Look I’m a mechanical engineer, it’s part of my job to get excited about lubrication!!) By engaging with reading and learning (like this course at DCU I’m doing right now) I’m learning ever more about my own body and in general about how bodies with uteruses (uterii?) work!
But of course the spiritual element also changes. And since we’re in the Imbolc season, I’m reviewing my spiritual practices in general. I’m considering how my menstruation practices work currently and if I need to adapt or change anything. Change occurs naturally over time, of course, like changing from a menstrual cup to period knickers has changed how I deal with my menstrual blood. I can add the rinse water from the knickers to the ground now rather than pure blood so to speak. It also changes how I look at my period. Aside form putting a different pair of knickers on during my period, outwardly, things remain pretty much the same.
Well, I say the same, but I do take things easier during my period these days. I can usually manage to either work from home (during the week) or rest on the couch (at weekends) on the first day, or sometimes the second day. My energy levels will be lower at this time and I can’t be running around like a March hare while I’m bleeding. I accept my reading tastes and food tastes and clothes tastes will all change. And that this is not the time to have difficult conversations in work, unless I need to be very very quiet during them! All that will be staying the same unless there is a very high need to change – like for example an important meeting that I can’t move or avoid during that menstruation time.
My spiritual practices around my period these days mostly involve around reflection and meditation, inner work that suits the mood my body is in. This sometimes leads to revelations about next steps in various things I’m working on, or a path forward. Sometimes, I’m giving myself space to disengage from a problem that’s bothering me, to return to it later with a fresh mind. Sometimes I get the equivalent of a nice hug or a slap upside the head from herself about various things. It varies.
Other spiritual practices around my period involve a sacred wash, whether bath or shower.
I need to be very clear here. I do not think having my period means I am unclean in any way.
Bathing and indulgence
Nor is anyone else, for that matter. But as I shed my uterine lining, I think it’s important to consider what else I might want to shed as well. And a sacred wash helps with this. Now, this can be as simple as lighting a candle before getting into the shower and consciously and intentionally cleaning my body, my mind and my spirit. Or it can be a lovely luxurious bath with lots of candles and bubbles and bath bombs and all sorts. I sometimes use music to help clear out the energy, I sometimes don’t. I sometimes use herbs, I sometimes don’t. It’s important to me that the relinquishing of things I need to let go of and clear out falls in line with my energy levels and capabilities. Some months, menstruation is just harder than others.
I will indulge my body during this week as well. Some may say this isn’t a spiritual practice, but frankly, screw them! If I want chocolate – I’ll have it. If I want to lie on the floor in a yoga pose I like to call “flopping” – I will. If I want to sleep all day and all night and just not move – I will. If I want soft clothes and jammies and that sort of thing, then that’s all I’ll wear. Ok, some of this is limited to the weekend, but not all of it. This indulgence is part of what makes the inner work easier. I feel more in tune with my body and mind at this time.
Connection to Imbolc
Well, there is the old thing about Brigid and Imbolc being related to fertility. And our menstrual cycles are definitely related to fertility. When we were trying for a baby (we = the husband and myself here), I did some extra fertility work around this time. Trying to tie in with the season that’s in it, you understand. These days, the fertility work I do is more along the lines of prosperity rather than fertility specifically. I like to light the candles to acknowledge the day. Leave out something that represents the household’s prosperity to encourage things to grow in the coming year. You know the sort of thing I mean!
I still use my menstrual blood when I walk the bounds and grounds. Or at least, I do when the timings right. I believe there is power in blood, more so in menstrual blood. Period blood is the blood that starts off life, it has all the nourishment a growing fetus needs. I don’t particularly want to go creating a wound just to add blood to that ritual though. So, I take advantage of the period blood when it’s convenient and manage without when it’s not.
What if you don’t bleed?
When I talk about menstruation spirituality, for me it is centred around my blood. That, to me, is the most obvious sign of the practice. But not everyone bleeds. (Whether you have a uterus or not, I believe you can engage with menstruation spirituality. Just to be clear. And not all people with uteruses bleed either.) But you can follow the rising and falling energy of your body. You can honour your body’s needs over the course of a cycle. Some people follow the lunar cycle to make sure they are not overdoing. The dark moon is a great time for inner work, reflection, retreat.
You may find, whether you bleed or not, that actually, there are other cycles that influence your energy. Maybe you work on shift and that affects you more than anything else. Maybe you have children and their energy cycles have more of an effect on you. Solar energy might the energy you’re most attuned to.
Honestly, there are so many energy cycles in this world. And to a certain extent, we are all exposed to them differently. So, ultimately, you do you. You don’t really need me to tell you how to manage your energy. I can advise, and share things that help me. I can share how I use certain things as signals for certain types of work. But how you manage yourself, your energy is entirely up to you!