The dark moon of a woman’s cycle, menstruation, is a time of great mystery, healing, power and transformation. This article is based on interpretation of historical and archaeological evidence (mine and others), other research (see bibliography), and my clinical and life experience. My intention is for you to receive the transmission around the sacredness of woman’s blood and the healing and transformation available for men and women coming into union at this time. I invite you to awaken cellular memory and discover your own truth.
In ancient times women were honoured and revered. This was particularly so in the matriarchal period, thought to go back as far as 38000 BC. Imagine living in a time where the male role in reproduction is not yet known. Without an understanding of men’s role in conception, women could create life seemingly by magic. Women also bled each month during menstruation and did not die, whereas, men wounded in battle bled and died. During this time in history woman, her blood and sexuality were seen as sacred. Worship of a female Goddess dominated and property was handed down the female line.
The ancients personified the sun and moon as the Sun God and the Moon Goddess. The moon, was seen as feminine because of its cyclic nature, and became a symbol to the ancients for the birth, growth, death and renewal of all life forms.
A woman’s menstrual cycle and the moon cycle are closely connected. Various hormones rise and fall each month during a woman’s cycle and flow to the same rhythm of increase and decrease as the moon’s phases. When women spend time under natural sunlight and moonlight, as in ancient times, it has been found they are more likely to cycle in line with the moon phases, ovulating at the full moon and menstruating at the dark moon.
Symbolically the full moon is receptive and receives the greatest amount of the sun’s light. It has been found that a woman in her full moon, ovulation time is more likely to be open, receptive, magnetic and her energy flows outward, nurturing others. This is a woman’s most fertile time and creates the most favourable conditions for sexual union and conception.
Symbolically the dark moon is an absence of light, representing death and cyclical closure. During a woman’s dark moon menstrual time her energy flow turns inward and this is a time of wisdom, power, compassion, healing and transformation. Her psychic awareness is enhanced at this time. A woman feels more of a need to nurture herself. Her sexuality is more likely to be erotic, initiating, fiery and assertive and peaks just before menstruation when it is unlikely to lead to procreation. In the matriarchal period, all parts and expression of woman were seen as sacred, and she was loved for each part of her cyclical nature.
A woman’s menstrual blood was seen as healing, magical and connected with longevity, fertility and immortality. Blood at the earliest alters was menstrual blood and used in rituals of healing, magic and prophecy. It was thought the blood from a girl’s first menstruation contained powerful healing properties that could heal incurable diseases such as leprosy. Clothes stained with dark moon blood were seen as charmed with healing ability. Women’s blood was also used in ancient healing festivals to enhance the fertility of crops and menstruating women were thought to be able to protect crops.
In the early Goddess cultures there were menstrual huts, where women gathered for ritual and healing to bleed together, celebrate the Goddess and honour their bodies’ natural cycle.
Woman story: The news of my first menstruation was met by my mother with clinical practicality. I wonder how things would have been different if at my first dark moon, I was met by the ancient earth mother. I dream of the celebration, the excitement, the joy of being welcomed into the circle of women. Being told stories of what it means to be a woman, sharing experiences and hearing the wisdom of the wise crones. I dream of what it would have been like at such an early age, to learn and embrace the emotional, ever changing face of woman, her cycles and her healing, intuitive, magical qualities. I dream of how things would have been different if I had been more connected to nature and her cycles, the community of the sisterhood, and if I had known at a deep level the sacredness and power of woman and her blood.
In the matriarchal world, sexuality that took place during the menstrual time was ritually used for ecstasy, regeneration, healing and spiritual expansion. Menstrual sexuality was held as sacred. At the menstrual time, the power of a woman’s erotic sexual energy can be used for transformation, healing and magic rather than procreation.
In some traditions mixing and ingesting a woman’s dark moon blood and a man’s semen were thought to have transmuting powers that promoted regeneration and lead to enlightenment. Ancient tantric yogic practices teach that the optimal time to engage in sacred sexual union, for the purpose of spiritual expansion, is when the female “power holder” is menstruating and her red sexual energy is at its peak.
A woman is thought to be at her most psychic and powerful at her dark moon time. Coming into sexual union at that time she can transmit her wisdom and healing energy, at its most amplified, to her partner. This is a powerful time both for women and the men they come into union with.
Woman story: I had never had sex when I was menstruating. I thought it was too messy and was too ashamed. I worried about what the man would think. That was before. I had done a lot of work clearing the shame around my sexuality and my blood. This man understood the sacredness and our union was full of ritual and honouring. We anointed each other with my blood. All my energies ran, light and dark. At times I was the nurturing, outwardly loving “white goddess”, and then I would become the wild animal, the erotic enchantress, the powerful healer as the “dark goddess” energy moved through me. All my emotions were felt and expressed. He was strong in his masculine presence and held every part of me as I sang my sexual song. I knew then, that it was no longer enough for me or a man to merely “tolerate” my menstruation in sacred union. I would only ever go there with a man who was open to the sacredness, power and healing of coming into union at this time.
How the Blessing became the Curse
The patriarchal period is estimated to be the last 5000 years. The Old Testament begins around this period documenting the biblical patriarchs and the destruction of the Goddess religions. Men’s role in reproduction was now known. During this period there was a shift to worshiping a male God and property began to be handed down the male line. Suppression and repression of sexuality also began around this time. One of the reasons for this was to ensure paternity.
The patriarchal world view is one of duality where opposites exist with a judgement of one being better than the other e.g. good and bad. A duality world view equates light and increase with good, black and decrease with bad. This way of viewing the world has affected perception of a woman’s emotional sexual cycle. The receptive, surrendering, ovulating, full moon, feminine whose procreative nature supported the patriarchal system, became a symbol of ‘good’ qualities. Aphrodite, Isis, Demeter and Tara are examples of archetypes of the full moon White Goddess.
In the patriarchal period the non-procreative qualities of the Dark Goddess became seen as undesirable and bad. In myth the once sacred, loved and powerful Dark Goddess became demonised and seen as evil. Kali, Lilith and Hecate are examples of archetypes of the Dark Goddess. The demonising and rejection of the Dark Goddess included maligning the gifts of her blood mysteries and her intuitive, healing, transformative qualities.
Woman story: I was 40 years old and had never really looked at my yoni (vagina), except for practical purposes. I was disconnected from this part of my body. One day I got a hand mirror, sat down and looked and touched. I was amazed to discover the petals of a beautiful flower. I sketched my yoni, and as I did I felt the connection growing with my yoni and my woman, sexual self. I sketched in detail every fold and crevice and revelled in her beauty. I felt inspired to paint my yoni, in bright, bold colours of beauty and celebration. I painted my yoni dancing.
When life is viewed as cyclic, as in the matriarchal view, death is seen as a necessary part of the life cycle. Death is a time of transition, essential for renewal and creation of the new seed so the cycle can continue. When life is viewed as more linear, as in a patriarchal world view, death is seen as final, the end. In our society we have been taught to fear and resist the decreasing energies represented by the dark, by decay, death and the unconscious. Darkness has become a symbol of the unknown, hidden, concealed and evil.
To Goddess worshipping societies, the cycles of nature, the moon and the menstrual mysteries were the foundation of their beliefs. Women did not use the peak of their menstrual sexual energy in service of men or to produce more children, which was all important in the growing patriarchal system.
As the social system of patriarchy strengthened, men became fearful of menstrual and childbirth blood, and menstruating women. Taboos were introduced to protect men from the unclean, sexually devouring, magical, assertive dark feminine. These taboos separated woman from the sacredness of her blood, the source of her power and connection to the Dark Goddess.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron … “When a woman has a discharge of blood which is regular discharge from her body, she shall be in impurity for seven days, whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And if any man lies with her, and her impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean”.
Leviticus 15:1 19, 24 rsv
The male God worshipping religions of the patriarchy saw menstruation as a sign of evil in woman and the mark of the devil. From a biblical perspective, menstruation was seen as the punishment God laid upon woman for her sin in the Garden of Eden.
What was once seen as a blessing became “the curse”. Women became banished from churches and societies in their unclean time. The menstrual huts, once a place of sacredness and community, became a place of rejection. Women were seen as impure, filthy and to be feared during their menstrual time, and a threat to the growing male God worshipping religions.
Woman story: I was having some healing work done, to clear emotional blockages around my sexuality and deepen my relationship with my woman self. I was menstruating. Would the woman healer want to touch me? I felt ashamed. The woman healer, embodying a midwife, gently and lovingly validated and birthed a freer me. I released layers and layers of shame, anger and grief about my blood, and each time I let go, the muscles in my yoni let go a little more. I felt tingling and energy flowing in my yoni, it felt pulsating, alive and relaxed. I can’t remember ever feeling this before.
The patriarchal culture has succeeded in disconnecting woman from the sacredness of her blood. Many women have feelings of shame, disgust, apathy and resentment in relation to their blood. Some people, today, including women, still refer to menstruation as “the curse”. The mystery and magic has been forgotten.
This disconnection of woman from her blood has been found to be linked to premenstrual symptoms of physical pain, bloating, lethargy, emotional irritability, and depression. One view point is any suppressed rage over the rejection of her menstrual cycle and her blood becomes directed inward. The dark moon time, once such a time of sacredness, celebration, community and bonding of the sisterhood, has become for many, a condition suffered alone, holding no value or meaning.
Women are cyclic beings. The feminine energy has many faces and expressions. Her blood is sacred. I invite you to reclaim your dark moon energy and the divinity, magic, healing and transformation available to you and others at this time
Demetra George, Mysteries of the Dark Moon (HarperOne 1992)
Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, The Wise Wound: Myths, Realities and Meanings of Menstruation (New York, Bantam Books, 1990)
Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets (San Francisco, Harper and Row, 1983)
Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother (San Francisco, Harper and Row 1987)
Merlin Stone, When God was a Woman (USA, Harcourt Brace, 1976)
Journal: American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 137:834 1980 Lunar and Menstrual Phase Locking
Law, Sung Ping; The Regulation of the Menstrual Cycle and its Relationship to the moon, Aeta Obst Gync. Scand 65:45 1986