When wimyn gather, knowledge, skills, and wisdom are preserved and experience expands.
Wimyn share stories and stories contain facts. They are the herstory of a people. We need every womyn’s point of view. We need the stories of the elders and the questions of the youngers. We need the depth of community, the feasting on soul food, the shared joys and tears, the raw and real that happens when wimyn gather. Especially when the season is ripe.
Innate community is built. Ritual and storytelling pass on tradition: the non-verbal and the sacred. From one generation to the next, the spirit of a people is kept vibrant.
When wimyn gather, they become torch bearers, preservers of all things sacred in their world. Their light becomes brighter. Their confidence grows. They walk forward less alone.
According to Harvard studies, they live longer. Man or womyn, we all live longer with girlfriends.
When we add a shared value or common purpose, the gathering of wimyn becomes something cosmic. Something aligned with the power of creation. Blessed by the stars, some say.
I started my first wimyn’s circle when I was 12. I have kept one alive every week of my life since that innocent beginning. It has made all the difference in my journey as a womyn and in the holywork of my soul. I was born in 1953.
I live in a little cottage in the woods on 130 acres, along with many woodland animals and native plants. Every Sunday evening a local circle of wimyn gather to feast and feed our bodies and spirits with wimyn’s soul talk. Over the decades the focus has changed to meet the needs of our evolving journey as maiden to mother to crone. We honor the wildish nature of wimyn by finding sacred and encouraging in ourselves and one another the ways of instinctive knowing, of inner growth and spiritual expansion, of innate community building and the passing on of wisdom through ritual and storytelling.
I have had the privilege of starting wimyn’s circles around the world. Some of them are centered around maidens, as we welcome them into the sacred circle of “she who bleeds and does not die.” Maidens are hungry to learn about their changing bodies. They have a thousand questions about why and how and when they will bleed and not die. They love to make a new language for their jeweled body parts and functions. They need to balance the seriousness of such responsibility with the mystery of belonging to a new dimension of womanhood. We talk about how to keep our sensual innocent natures alive while our mature sexual energies emerge. We face the reality that too often wimyn trade what feels good to them for what feels good to someone else. We learn together how to be true, honest, sincere, authentic, genuine, and happy, while discovering new definitions of companionship. By being in circle with all shapes, sizes, ages, and stages of womanhood, the false belief that there is one right body dissolves like butter in sunshine. Our negative self-talk melts away. We sing and drum and cast our prayers into the fire. We make garlands of willow branches and wild flowers. We cover ourselves with royal mud and swim it clean in creek water. We talk in the tipi late in the night with candles and curiosity as our light. We make many promises, including a most important one: to preserve and protect our sisterhood as “sisters who support one another.”
I am a midwife. Village Prenatals is a wimyn’s circle I created to support holy mothers during their pregnancies. It usually takes a full day where we center our attention on mothers of all stages and intentions for birth. It is the antithesis of a prenatal visit. We aren’t assessing or giving advice or evaluating. We spend the day caring about the “wombfuls” and their great journey ahead. Like wimyn who walk to the well, we sing together, rub feet, create a feast, and share positive birth stories. We use the talking stick to listen to the mothers describe their ideal birth. Without judgement we exclaim, “May it be so!”
We also listen to each mother describe her current worry, fear, or concern. Not as professionals, but rather as caring sisters and experienced mothers who have birthed in power, we declare in unison, “We are here for you!”
We listen and play with the womb-babies. We offer to create belly art with nontoxic body paint or creek mud. Using crystal water and a feather wand, we bless them with word medicine that will empower at the moment of birth when we have become but an echo in timelessness. We circle around them like an elephant circle singing our praise and confidence into their wombfulness.
The purpose is simple and sacred. We honor, tend, and care for the mother so she can grow her own strong instinct to mother her baby. Before the day’s end, stories have been shared about birthing babies and placentas, mothering, siblings, afterbirth days and ways, relationships, and self-care.
Her birth plan and team have nothing to do with belonging to the prenatal village. The way in which she plans to birth is not the focus. Birth she shall, and all the brighter with a prenatal village believing in her. Ideally, she is able to enjoy a village prenatal in early, middle, and late pregnancy. We send all left food home with the mothers-to-be. Every mother asks, “When do we meet again?”
Unlike many prenatal visits with a care provider, where the mothers come home worried or exhausted, wimyn participating in a village prenatal leave exhilarated, open-eyed, and eager to give back to the community when they have a turn.
Prenatal visits are not prenatal care. Prenatal care is something the mother does between prenatal visits. Village prenatals help.
I began wimyn’s circles as a maiden. I embellished them as a mother and midwife. I am now a grandmother and a crone. Recently, I had the privilege to take a wimyn’s circle to some elite crone wimyn of New York City. It was the most fun I have ever had! That shows my age and stage, as well. We are changing beautifully. They were uninhibited and enthusiastic. They embraced the elements of a traditional native wimyn’s circle with an eager hand on the drum and voice rising. I began by anointing them with sacred oil I had made from the wild roses of my holyland. “You are a preserver of all things sacred in your World! Be Welcomed Here!” I decreed as I placed a spiral of oil in each palm and then touched their heart, their forehead, and their crown.
I asked them one question. As a prominent New York City womyn and elder, what are your desires and what prohibits you from realizing those desires?
They took that question with gusto into their careers, their bedrooms, their motherhood, their kitchens, their relationships, their politics, their disgust and rejection of ageism, their passions, and their fierce determination to live longer and brighter.
We made a beautiful altar with dried flower petals I had brought from the holyland. They made prayers for self, family, nation, and world. One by one they breathed their prayers into a handful of the dried flowers. We captured the crushed petals in a beautiful bowl. I promised to carry their treasure back to the holyland and toss their power prayers into our sacred fire deep in the woods, near the creek, under a celestial moon where the ancients live.
I created a yoni steam throne for the NYC “white hairs” with sacred herbs from my land. They had not heard the Sanskrit word “yoni” for vagina nor did they know that vagina is a “sheath for a sword.” Appalled and inspired the eldest cried out, “Ladies, we were alive before women’s bodies, women’s wisdom was born! This night we are reclaiming the power that belongs to us!” They were brave and bold and one by one sat on the throne while we fed the “queen” chocolate on a jeweled plate and rubbed her feet with scented oil. She held the talking stick and spoke to us of secrets that are seldom shared. We, her handmaidens, fanned her and together we wiped an age-old tear.
We drummed and called forth the ancestors and made prayers for the generations that will call to us when we dwell in the stardust. With a never sleeping city as our backdrop, we threw up our arms and threw back our heads and howled like powerful she-wolves under a night sky.
I crowned them as Torch Bearers.
They stayed past midnight without a lull in soul conversation. “Let’s meet in Panama next year, ladies, and keep this going!” they decreed. Women who gather for soul talk always make promises to meet again.
Maidens. Mothers. Crones.
We all need a sisterhood.
Don’t hold back. Don’t hesitate. Don’t let the questions stop you from joining in. Grab a sister in one hand and find another for the other.
Gather the Wimyn!
Baby on your back or in your womb. Leave the kettle on the stove. Grab the drum. Slam the door! Throw a blessing over your shoulder! Hair and skirt flying! Song in your heart or a tear on your cheek! Follow the drumbeat! You are not replaceable. Come running!