I don’t know about you, but my first period was not awesome, probably made worse by the fact that I had so eagerly anticipated it. The short story: following 3 days of agonizing cramps, at the age of 13 and a half, it started.
Shortly thereafter, alerted to the true nature of my malady, my little brother and his friend mocked me, running around the house yelling “She’s on the rag! She’s on the rag!” Not exactly the sweet discovery of womanhood that I had imagined for myself. I felt humiliated and distinctly disappointed.
Fast forward close to 40 years, to me anticipating my adolescent daughter’s impending menarche. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I had unwittingly assumed that her experience would be like mine, at least on a physical level: i.e. that I would have some warning in the form of the cramps. It was not to be the case, on any level.
I am embarrassed to admit it, but I had unwittingly assumed that her experience would be like mine, at least on a physical level: i.e. that I would have some warning in the form of the cramps.
Early every summer my family visits a semi-remote island for a retreat from pavement, screens, work and the other common trappings of daily urban life. We simplify our lives and routines, and spend most of our time wandering the forests and beaches, playing board games and sleeping a lot. Being in an electricity-free environment I find myself acutely aware of the moon and tides.
This year, watching my daughter (I will call her S) on the beach not long after our arrival, a friend asked me whether S had started her period yet. I was quick to reply in the negative, noting that she is more than a year younger than I was when I started, and, while her body had begun changing, she had not had cramps.
So much for that! Trust the wise friend’s intuition: less than 24 hours later S’s period started. Due to my own persistent needs, fortunately I happened to have sufficient supplies with me to see her through. I was shocked by how wildly excited I was: I honestly wanted to shout the news from the rooftops.
The timing could not have been better. Having told me in the past that she did not want me to “do anything” to commemorate her first period when it arrived, she was surprisingly excited about the prospect, particularly with not just one, but both of her godmothers slated to arrive not 48 hours later. She couldn’t wait to share the news with them. One in particular has a strong inclination towards ritual and Goddess spirituality, and, S knew, would be literally Over the Moon.
Anticipating the arrival of our co-celebrants, we chose a secluded spot on a favourite beach where we gathered thirteen large stones and placed them in a circle and added the further embellishment of 13 large clam shells.
The Godmothers arrived in due course, bearing flaming red flowers for a floral crown, among other gifts and ritual preparations.
For all of the women’s circles that I have participated in (many), I have never attended a menarche ritual. As mentioned earlier, Godmother #1 had brought her extensive Goddess faith experience – not to mention deep love for her goddaughter – to bear and had prepared a thoughtful ritual for us. She asked Godmother #2 and me to prepare some thoughts to share on the topic of positive experiences of transition, what our cycles and the notion of becoming or being a woman have meant to us, and how they have helped us to find strength. (If you’re curious – here are mine.)
On the chosen day and time (a full moon, no less!), we headed off to our special spot and opened our circle by calling in the four directions. Godmother #1 shared a beautiful reading, and from there we proceeded to share what we had written.
We then dialed up Sister Sledge’s classic We are Family on a phone and took a dance break. My daughter was then invited to share with us her thoughts and feelings. We all – at one point or another – shed a few tears at the love and wonder of this moment. One particularly lovely metaphor surfaced as we talked: that, as adult caregivers to this Moon Maiden, we pledged to be her “front porch”: a place where any question or need could be brought, which would be addressed and supported without question or hesitation.
One particularly lovely metaphor surfaced as we talked: that, as adult caregivers to this Moon Maiden, we pledged to be her “front porch”: a place where any question or need could be brought, which would be addressed and supported without question or hesitation.
We concluded our activities by each of the adult women inscribing a stone with our personal wishes for S, closed our circle and walked hand in hand down the beach.
As it happened, on our way home we were passing a group of women sitting on the front porch of a neighbouring cottage (I should add that we were all wearing dresses and that S was wearing her magnificent floral crown: we were not your average remote island sight).
“What were we all up to?”, they asked. Looking at S, one of them asked whether it was her birthday. There was a slight pause, and then S replied: “No: I just started my period and we’re celebrating.”
The response was electric: the women were utterly charmed and delighted, and several of them raised their glasses in a toast. They were clearly moved, and I realized that it was entirely likely they had never before had such news delivered to them, let alone with such confidence.
It was not until later in the evening that it hit me that they had been sitting on a front porch!
I should also add that there were a handful of men around – S’s Dad included – who were informed in a similar manner by her about her news. One of them was so deeply touched that he would happily have joined in our circle, given the opportunity!
I am still mulling the impact that S’s menarche had on the others surrounding her: it’s almost like a kind of hope or reverence: it literally lifted up everyone who received news of it.
My gratitude is boundless that this will be her story forever, and my hope is that all who hear it will feel similarly inspired by the knowledge that, one summer on a beautiful island, a Moon Maiden was sweetly celebrated and in turn graced us all with her magic.