POSTED: 2 JULY 2004 - 12:00pm HST
Women, Gather!

Preparations for a fire and seating at Women's Cirlce

by Linda Pascatore on 2 July 2004

It is dusk on a night of the new moon. Women walk towards the old farmhouse. They are teachers, massage therapists, store clerks, social workers, farmers, artists, and students. They range in age from 16 to 70. They carry dishes of food to share, blankets to sit on, drums, and rattles. One brings a basket, containing a large abalone shell, sage sticks, sweetgrass, a turkey feather, and matches.

Behind the house, at the edge of the woods, there is a large fire circle, ringed with lawn chairs. A small altar has been set up to honor the four directions and the four elements. On the east side of the altar is a feather, to symbolize the element of air. To the south, a lit candle symbolizing fire. To the west, a shell to symbolize water. To the north, a stone symbolizing earth.

The woman with the basket puts sage and sweetgrass into the abalone shell and lights it. Blowing on it to keep it burning, she takes a feather, and brushes the sweet smoke around each woman in turn. This is smudging, and is done for purification. It also smells nice and leaves one with a light, clear feeling. Each woman is smudged as she enters the circle.

When all the women have gathered, they open the circle. Seven of the women choose a direction to honor: East, South, West, North, the Above, the Below, and the Within. The circle of women turn to face each direction, and listen to each woman in turn, saying something like:

“We honor the East, the place of Inspiration and Creativity. The animal is the eagle, symbolizing lofty ideals, and the element is air. The east is the place of the rising sun, the dawn or spring of our lives, the place of new beginnings.”

“We honor the South, the place of Love and Faith. The animal is the porcupine, symbolizing the sometimes prickly and difficult lessons we learn from the world around us. The element is fire, the time is high noon, the heat of the summer. It is a place of action and passion, when we are at our peak time of action in the world.”
“We honor the West, the place of Achievements and Dreams. The animal is the bear, who after an active summer, the satisfied animal withdraws into his cave to dream. It is the sunset or Autumn of our lives, a time for taking stock of achievements and blessings, and then going within to contemplate the future.”

“We honor the North, the place of Strength and Wisdom. The animal is the moose, who survives the harsh winter. It is the midnight of our lives, the place of death and the potential seed of rebirth to come. It is a time of sharing our wisdom and our stories, of quiet, contemplative activity.”

“We honor the Above world; the sun, moon, stars, planets and galaxies. We realize our small place in this great universe. We are awed by the immensity, but realize that we have our place and are connected to the whole.”

“We honor the Below world; Mother Earth. We are grateful to the animals and plants of the earth that nourish and sustain us. We think of the creepy crawlies, the worms and bugs that enrich the soil, and are awed by the microcosm and how we also are related to them.”

“We honor the Within, our spirit or soul, the core of our beings that make us who we are. We honor the spirit within each of us, as well as in every plant, animal, star, rock, and atom, and realize that we are interrelated and interdependent.”

After honoring the directions, the women sit down and someone explains the purpose of the the gathering. They are a circle of women, gathered for spiritual purpose. The circle is a safe place to express thoughts and feelings without judgment, and in confidence. They realize the unique role of women, and need to gather to affirm and rejuvenate ourselves monthly in a supportive circle of friends. They all take time from our busy lives to move into sacred space, and look within and to each other for strength, wisdom and peace.

The gathering is on the new moon because that is a time of women's gatherings in many cultures. When a group of women live together and spend a lot of time outdoors, their menstrual cycles begin to syncronize. They will usually all bleed at the time of the new moon. In many Native American tribes, the women would go to the Moon Lodge together at the time of their menses. During their bleeding time, they would be segregated and not expected to cook, care for children, or do other chores. It was a time for talking and sharing with other women, and for introspection.

The Talking Stick is passed around the circle. The only one allowed to speak is the woman holding the stick. Women can share thoughts and feelings, or just pass the stick along. Wisdom, or just empathy, is shared regarding common concerns; health, child raising, stress, joys and grief. Sometimes a women asks the group to send prayers or healing thoughts to a troubled or sick friend or relative. At times one of the women present is suffering and needs a group hug. Many offer her different types of support.

The theme for this night is Peace. The women discuss actions they have taken for peace: political peace in the world, peace in their families, or personal peace within themselves. Everyone chooses a feather from a jar. A local Native American Elder taught that birds are messengers of peace, and that feathers represent peace. So each woman holds a feather and offers a prayer or hope for peace. They pledge a specific action to bring a little more peace into their world. Each takes the feather home to remind her of the pledge she made this night.

It is time for movement and action, and joy! Instruments are passed around and the women begin drumming and shaking rattles. A few begin to dance around the fire. Someone leads a song. The women enjoy the fire, the wind and trees and feel of grass beneath their feet. Most important of all, they soak in the Woman Spirit that energizes them to face the next month in the material world.

The drumming and singing slowly ebbs, and the women stand to close the circle. They join hands in harmony, feeling the energy moving around the circle. Then they reach to the sky to send some of this healing energy out to the universe. They bend and touch the earth to send some down to the Mother, and they reach across the circle to send some to each other. Finally, they bring a little of the energy back to their hearts to keep. They end the circle by individually hugging each woman in the circle. Then it’s time to go back to the house and share food, news and more worldly conversation.

As they drive back to their homes that night, each woman has been affirmed. She is smiling, relaxed, and full of light and energy. She will carry some of this positive energy and peace into her relationships and her life.Women’s Circles similar to the one described above are a growing phenomenon happening all over the world. I participate regularly in two women’s circles, one in Western New York where I spend the summer, and the other on Kauai. Both of these groups have a Native American influence, but that is not necessary. The important thing is for women to gather, at least once a month, for a spiritual purpose.

Author’s Note:

Over the years, we have had fun with various themes. We did Animal Medicine Card readings, and shared stories of our personal connections with animals and the lessons we learned from them. An artist led a us in an activity where we painted portraits of each other while blindfolded--what a freeing experience! Massage therapists have taught us to massage each others feet, or how to do hands on healing circle. We had a Gathering of the Goddesses, where each woman told the legend of her favorite goddess figure. We analyzed our relationships with our mothers one circle, and our fathers the next. We walked up a river and had a naked mud bath!

So, if you feel the need to gather with women, invite a few friends and start your own group! There are no hard and fast rules, you can make it up as you go along. I wish you Joy, Peace, and Rejuvenation!


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