Name: Rachel Ellen Haynes (I am named Ellen after my mother and my maternal grandmother. I changed my middle name to Claire as an adult as a ritual to stop the way of relating I saw passed down through my maternal lineage and to claim my clarity. That is why I now go by Rachel Claire, Claire stands for clear seeing, as in Clairvoyant.)
Title: Songstress. Weaver. Teacher. Lover. Daughter. Mother. Aunt. Spiritual Ambassador.
Where you live: Boulder, Colorado.
Current Season of Life or Cycle You Are In:
I am in the winter- reflective, quiet, restful.
Relationship status and/or mothering/grandmothering status:
I am single and I have no children.
1) My experience of my menarche (first menses) was when I was 11 years old. I vividly remember walking to school feeling like a woman because it was the first time I was wearing a bra and having my period. My main emotions and feelings about myself at this time were power, excitement, delight, initiation. I felt I was finally a woman. I told my family members, “I am a woman now.”
2) If I could tell young women one thing about her menses, it would be: that it is a great gift. A time to be honored and celebrated. A rite of passage. A blessing. Your connection to the moon and the tides of the earth and your own internal knowing and power. Heightened intuition. A time to listen to your inner knowing. A time of rest.
3) My favorite words for menses are moon and cycle and my least favorite are curse and rag.
4) My cycle secretly empowers me to do what I do and be who I am in the world because it is a reminder of the mysterious divine power, inherent in all things, a richly connective act, reminding me that I am made of earth and stars and blood and spirit. Every month, nature comes to tell me that I am a woman, I have the capacity to create life, I am powerful and I am one with the tides of the planet and the phases of the moon.
5) To be honest, what I find most challenging about my cycle right now is the tenderness of my breasts. I have to be vigilant about not eating certain things, like coffee, or dairy, or else I feel very sensitive and tender right before my period. When I eat very clean, no sugar, caffeine, dairy, then I have no symptoms before my period. I also get really teary the two days preceding my menstruation. I can cry at the drop of the hat. Usually when I start asking the question, “What is wrong with me?” I realize I’m near to my moon time.
6) My favorite ways to honor myself during my cycle (or to connect with the lunar rhythms) are to put on my favorite comfy pajamas and stay home. To relax. To meditate, do yoga, dream and journal.
7) I notice the effects of cultural shame and taboo about my cycles most strongly through the discomfort around talking about it. During my time as an educator for fifth grade students, it was a dreaded topic for girls, something they wanted to “hurry up and get over with.” There was also a big deal that was made out of talking about it from the adults, and messages about what shouldn’t be said, and how boys shouldn’t really be told what was going on with the girls and some women (nurses) expressed to the girls that they could use a tampon and then get on with their day, like nothing happened! Additionally, the fear I have to share this publicly on my blog, even after being a woman who bleeds every month for the last twenty four years, is remarkable. I still feel strange talking about it. Only in recent years have I begun to share openly with the men in my life about how it affects me and ways they could support me. It has been a quiet ritual for all of my adult life.
8) To me, a world where women loved their moon cycles (or menopause/post menopause/peri menopause) would be a world of oneness, celebration, honor, heaven on earth. You see, if women loved their moon cycles, that would mean women loved themselves and honored themselves as women, as powerful beings worthy of respect. That would mean women could acknowledge their cycles and talk about it freely. For that to happen, religious doctrine that teaches us a powerful cultural story about who we are and why we are here and who God is would have to change. We’d have to be telling ourselves a new cultural story, one where humans and all their naturalness was honored as part of being human. Many of us still believe that women are less than men. Women fell from grace. Woman is property of a man. Woman should be cut, maimed, have her genitals mutilated to lessen her pleasure and ensure her fidelity to her husband. If women, ALL women, loved the phases and cycles of womanhood, then that would mean that we had overcome thousands of years of hatred, violence and abuse. A woman who believes she was made from a man, and that God says her sexuality and her body is inherently sinful, who is violated and abused because she is a woman, is not a woman who can love and honor her womanhood wholeheartedly and in the light of day. Celebrating women and releasing taboo- telling a new story- like the one of “I heart my moon cycle” is a revolutionary way to free women to move closer to that light.
We have a long way to go, still, though. Right now, women are hiding in their homes in Egypt, afraid to come out or be raped publicly and then blamed. Just this morning on NPR I heard an Egyptian woman say that “An honorable woman can’t be raped.” As long as we are in the dark and blame women for violence and force women to hide in shame, we won’t have women who love who they are and celebrate their cycles. Over 100,000 girls roam the streets, tonight, just blocks from The White House, working as prostitutes in the sex trade. These are not girls who even care to honor their cycles, they care to only stay alive, get their next meal, avoid beatings by their pimps or clients.
I paint a grim picture, but I report only facts.
That is why I share my story with you today, and take a step toward abolishing taboo around the fact that the Goddess bleeds. Tonight, we are one step closer to the light.
(We all have a unique story about our womanhood and our cycles. 28 powerful women will be sharing the grit, glory, and unique challenge and empowerment menstruation and menopause brings them. It is inspirational! @Sara Avant Stover’s “I <3 My Moon Cycle Month.” Come join our conversation here. )