Monthly Archives: March 2011

Making Ritual: Part II

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/

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Making Ritual

Interesting Fact:  The word ‘ritual‘ comes from ‘rtu’ which is Sanskrit for menses.

Inspired by a very emotional visit to the Song for the Horse Nation exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian and an amazing documentary on modern menstruation rituals by Roberta Cantow, I will be making a series of blog posts on contemporary American rituals, both individual and community-oriented.

The Horse Song exhibit touched me so deeply, because of my own personal and family rituals that involved horses and riding. I rode regularly since I was five years old.  In fact it was my life-line being a rather isolated child. My horse Nugget (short for Golden Nugget,  a Palamino, Quarter Horse/Arabian mix) was my best friend. She was my source of power and magic. Leaving her always hurt a little.  I remember when she was born and “broke” (no, I don’t like that term either) her on my own; however, we didn’t become good friends (share a mind about things) until I started riding bareback and using twine on her halter instead of a bit when I was about twelve. I would grab her mane by the neck (no it doesn’t hurt them) and swing my leg up around her, “like the Indians did it,” my pap would tell me. She hated saddles and always puffed out her stomach to make tightening them difficult. Besides, riding bareback made going swimming together, which was our favorite thing to do even in fifty degree weather, all that much easier. We shared favorite paths and had rituals for each one and each different season. She would notice if I tried to skip something and get angry, especially in the fall when she got a crab apple at the end of the lane near the far pasture. Skipping really only occurred if we  had decided to get lost together (which we did often) and were trying to make it home before dark.

So, to kick it off this series of posts, I am  going to share a found poem, which is so beautiful to me that I cried when I first read it. It can’t be improved upon. However, I am working the basic concept into a poem of my own authorship at present. Hopefully, when it’s finished it will get picked up by an appropriate forum (Crazy Horse would be perfect. They have personally rejected me very kindly twice so far, so maybe third time will be the charm.)

What a horse was worth in 1867

1 fine racing horse=10 guns

1 fine hunting horse=several pack animals

1 riding horse=8 buffalo robes

or 1 gun and 100 loads ammunition

or 3 pounds of tabacco

or 15 eagle feathers

or 5 tipi poles

or 1 buffalo hide tipi cover

or 1 skin shirt and leggings decorated with human hair and quills

 

 

 

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