It’s a term I recently learned1 that refers to “the process by which conservative forces sterilize subversive ideas before integrating them back into culture in a non-subversive form.” This term is aptly applied to everything from the appropriation of psychedelics by the FDA and ivory tower institutions like Johns Hopkins to the witch hunts which were, through this lens, necessary to subdue the potentially subversive poor and indigenous into helpless dependency on emergent capitalism.
This term has helped me to capture the essence of a pattern of self-betrayal women have engaged in their striving toward emulation of the masculine principle they were enculturated to believe would keep them safe, empowered, and ultimately worthy of love.
How we give away our power
Across the female lifecycle, it begins with tacit shaming, dismissal, or neglect of menarche as a right of passage, the adoption of chemical birth control as everything from a convenience to a treatment for otherwise misunderstood hormonal imbalance, the medicalization of birth to co opt a woman’s inbuilt opportunity for self-initiation, the blaming of the mother for all that is stripped from the postpartum experience, all the way to the framing of menopause as a biologically pathological withering into insignificance, impotence, and irrelevance.
We have given our power away.
We did that because we weren’t taught otherwise by our mothers or our mother’s mothers. We didn’t know how to love ourselves, our bodies, how to stand in our personal authority, or how to perceive the many places we might unconsciously choose to give our power away in exchange for seeming safety, approval, and validation. As I’ve said, until we learn to feel the feelings we thought would kill us as children, we are not yet strong enough to shed the self-betraying behaviors that enable others to violate us.
We colluded, unconsciously, with forces seeking power and dominance to allow for all of what is uniquely mystical, magical, and ultimately disruptive to an unbalanced society about a woman’s embodiment, to be recuperated by dominant orthodoxy. Think evil, green-faced witches in our cartoons and story-books, menstrual periods as an embarrassing “curse,” elective epidurals and c-sections, and antidepressants for your hot flashes. We, together, created a narrative that has stripped women of any connection to their unseen powers, their unique relationship to the natural world, and their intuitive capacity to guide from their felt perception.2
But, now we are waking out of our slumber. We are remembering.
The flavors of the feminine across the life cyle
Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman, offers a more nuanced archetypal progression than the virgin, mother, crone you may be familiar with. Instead, she suggests that the maiden/mother archetypal consciousness dominates the first stage of a woman’s life even through and beyond childbirth, and that the virgin archetype represents a woman whole unto herself, and emerges when the mother is in a stage of generating self-love, reliance, and wholeness…”The conscious mother gives birth to the virgin within us. She is one-in-herself and acts not for power or from the wish to please, but because she is true to her own nature. It is she who carries the new consciousness. The crone, related to the word crown, evolves out of both conscious mother and virgin. She represents detachment and fearlessness in spite of the fact that she has lost her ordinary power or influence.” So, it is us virgins, typically in our 40s and 50s who must lead the way, clearing the path for fierce love for the community at large.
It’s time for reclamation. And this grand process happens one woman at a time, prioritizing self-care, and choosing a new story in defiance of the ones handed down to her.
Breaking the cycle of trauma
I know that after I engaged the hierarchy of physical healing, psychological rehab, and spiritual transformation that I detail in Own Your Self, I was ready to come together with other like-minded women to reloom the frayed fabric of sisterhood that my soul knew was necessary to mend my motherline.
When I found a Waldorf community complete with woke, heart-centered mamas I would soon call my friends, one of the first impulses I felt was to request that we gather in ceremony as our daughters encountered menarche. I understood, intuitively, that gathering in celebration of our daughters’ first menstrual bleed would be an opportunity to break a multi-generational cycle of women divesting themselves of the power of feminine embodiment. We could, perhaps, in the sweep of a ritualized afternoon, shed centuries, even millennia of misappropriated shame and confusion around what it is to live with the cyclical energy of the cosmos, to work with a female body as navigational instrument, and to experience vitality as we bleed monthly, for days, without a wound. An opportunity to generate a field of intentionality that can transform our collective pain, grief, and disconnection into the exquisite tenderness of an open heart finally revisiting its native conformation.
Anatomy of a First Moon ceremony
In our (primarily Latin) community, ritual and ceremony are normative, so feel free to adapt these elements to suit your cultural and family context. This was our first go, so I imagine this will be an iterative process, but here is what we did:
- Commit: We made a sacred pact with each other to be on call for each daughter’s moon so that you can gather for two hours, ideally within one week.
- Prepare: the mama of the First Moon daughter created a box of gifts including essential oils, menstrual underwear, silicone cup, pads, a moon-oriented journal. She shared the intention to celebrate with her daughter. I personally believe that this ceremony is a “top down” community experience where the women are holding space for the initiate, so I don’t recommend involving the daughter in the planning too extensively.
- Divide and conquer: each mama was given a job, role, and responsibility including preparation of a flower remedy personalized for the daughter, special meditation offerings in the ceremony, flowers, food, candles, etc.
- Here is the structure of the ceremony:
- With a quiet and solemn tone, each attendee is cleared with palo santo on arrival by one of the mamas…
- Daughters sat with their mamas around the circle (we included all ages)…
- Greeting by the mother of the First Moon daughter…
- Calling in of the 4 directions, ancestors, guides…
- Words from the mother to the daughter. How beautiful are these from my beloved Daniela?!
My only desire for you is that you always find the courage to love. That your young heart grows wise through experience. A heart that can hold the suffering of the world within it, and yet find space for peace, for sweetness, for tenderness… free yourself from the too-small loves of the youthful heart and come to understand and accept the wisdom of your more mature heart. You are not to give into less than you are worth, or to the shaming stories of others, you are not to give in to the idea that you are a victim and cannot free yourself from your suffering or that you are less than any other. These are lies, DO NOT BELIEVE THEM…roar at those lies until the weak glue holding them together melts under the fire of your holy breath. You have whatever is necessary to succeed and overcome any mountain that comes before you. You are a match to your mountain. My love, I am with you, and together we claim divine victory and love….
- Womb blessing meditation. The glorious Trinity Devi happened to be trained in this attunement but there is more info here.
- Offerings: We each brought a crystal, plant, or stone and some words of love, support, and wisdom (through many tears) for the First Moon daughter and went around the circle to give her these. Susan offered a chanted mantra for women in times of transition, my daughter picked a yoni-looking flower, I offered a custom flower remedy, Vero gifted a hand made yoni necklace, and even the littlest among us offered a special object to the First Moon daughter.
- Flower adornment: We cascaded rose petals over her and whispered blessings in her ear (ie your body is beautiful and strong). You can also include Lotus Wei mists, and light massage.
- Symbolic passage: We made a bridge with our arms from the smallest to the biggest and had the First Moon daughter walk through after stating something that she will be leaving behind/growing beyond. She emerged to be draped in a red cloth with a flower crown.
- Celebration! Then we danced and ate beautiful (sugar, dairy, and gluten-free, organic) food!
I know that because of the experience we created, all of the 11 other girls in attendance now look forward to their First Moon cycle as the moment they are celebrated and also as the time that they begin to assume the responsibility to learn to love with maturity and courage, beginning with themselves.
Step into your role as the conscious virgin
The feminine is rising and has come out to declare a firm, fierce, and compassionate NO to all of the oppression, abuse, fear, and confusion that has run rampant during her time out of balance, and a YES to all that is radiance, light, laughter, play, pleasure, and joy. You might recognize her rising in each of us (men and women alike) if you are feeling called to join, manifest, or otherwise interact in community, if you are dancing, singing, and prioritizing good, clean fun. Mamas, it’s time to open to this level of healing, and allow yourself to feel the longing for the support of a sisterhood. When women sit in circle, the world changes.
It is time to break the cycle of dimming, smalling, and recoiling from the witchery available to every woman, here and now. In order to break this cycle, we have to move through the discomfort of betraying family-held programs, societal constructs, and chiefly, we must reclaim and love all of the parts of ourselves we have denied and rejected so that we can mother from that place of wholeness.
My matrilineal chain is rife with trauma, pain, rage, fear, suppression, dissociation, and rivers of uncried tears. There is also big, bold and brave love. I imagine this is true for you, as well. Let’s make room for this love through reverence, brought to the seemingly mundane, quotidien, irrelevant, and otherwise pathologized elements of our feminine lifecycle, reigniting all of those recuperated flames into a blaze that will burn the confining walls of our prisons, to the ground.
- 1 https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/02/psychiatry-capitalism-recuperation-psychedelics
- 2 https://parabola.org/2016/01/29/marion-woodman-and-the-search-for-the-conscious-feminine-by-patty-de-llosa/
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