Just recently, here at my community, Ganas, a young girl from Israel wanted to read my totem. I obliged and was informed that the ant was my inner spirit animal. With this fascinating insight into my character in the front of my mind, I decided to bury a few that I found on the bathroom window in my potted plants. I’ve buried bugs in them before, thinking it responsible. As I poked holes in the dirt with my index finger,I began thinking of all of the little rituals that I’ve taken to performing in my life: a few friends and I recently went tree climbing in a near-by park at midnight as a means of mourning the death of a friend, before going to bed I recite four beautiful things that happened that day, I kiss trees when I’m homesick, I talk to the moon when I’m confused, I bury dead bugs in potted plants.
After I covered their bodies back up and said a few words under my breath, I turned my head and took note of Roberta Cantow’s documentary Bloodtime, Moontime, Dreamtime staring back at me. Claire Chambers and I asked filmmaker Roberta Cantow to present on the third section of this trilogy “Dreamtime” for our panel “Women Performing Spirituality in the Avant-garde” at last year’s Association for Theatre in Higher Education conference. It documents and analyzes contemporary menstruation art and ritual and we felt that it was a great connection to the root and tradition-seeking avant-garde.
I had yet to watch the entire trilogy but remembered a particular clip recounting that the word ritual stems from rtu, which is Sanskrit for menses. This seems to indicate that some of the the very first cultural rituals were dedicated to the celebration of the menstrual cycle. I never liked my period. Certainly, a similar sentiment is felt by the vast majority of women in contemporary society. I was even completely separated from mine from 17-21 as I was on Depo-Provera, which stopped my cycles entirely.
I finally decided to sit down and watch it completely through. I felt so many different mixed emotions. I was angry (which I often am). I felt cheated (which I often do). I had a right to this magic, this power, this connection to all other women, mothers, and creator’s throughout all of human history. I was led to believe that a menstrual cycle is a dirty little women folk secret to be tidily cleaned up and dealt with quietly. I then had a form of contraception thrust upon me which was known to cause significant and occasionally irreversible damage to the body–which is certainly why it was pushed primarily on low-income women and minorities.
The first part the film, “Bloodtime” looks at how blood is viewed as decidedly masculine, a symbol of violence, aggression, and war. It is both a cause for disgust and a signal of death. Many women find it hard to handle the site of blood. In other cultures, often tribal and less war-like, blood is feminine and signifies life, connection, beginnings, and purification. A woman’s bloodtime brings immense power. The film suggests that the red dot placed at the third eye of women in Hindu culture was originally menstrual blood. During her menses women are capable of finding great strength and entry into altered states of consciousness.
Various cultural beliefs and practices that surround a woman’s “Moontime” are then recounted and analyzed. The film culminates in an analysis of various communities of women who have developed their own rituals and artistic practices surrounding the menstruation cycle of women. It was decidedly inspiring to see women coming together, mothers, daughters, neighbors, and even fathers of divergent cultural background, to fill in a truly detrimental gap in our culture. They are making real and meaningful changes at a truly grassroots level. Should this phenomenon of celebrating woman’s power at such an intimate level within communities spread into mainstream culture, I truly believe that it has the potential to be revolutionary.
Bloodtime, Moontime, Dreamtime can be purchased at Original Digital, Cantow’s production company: http://www.originaldigital.net/bmd/