Imagine that it’s the first day of your period—you’re feeling low energy, a little crampy, heavy, and worn out. Maybe you’re also a little blue, weepy, or just straight up depressed. You might have (I hope!) been able to set aside some time to rest, do a little binge-watching of your favorite shows, or cuddle up with a good book and some herbal tea. But what if you could do more?
Now imagine you have a special place to go, either in your own home or nearby, that’s quiet and comfortable, scented with soothing lavender or chamomile oils, lit with candles that intensify the glow of the dark red fabric draped on the walls. Other women are there with you, lounging on pillows, eating, talking softly. You might be able to get a massage, soak your feet, take a bath, or get a facial. You might sit in a circle of other women and have an opportunity to share your emotions without judgement. You’d be surrounded by healing, calming, loving energy, and be able to truly care for yourself during a time when you need it most.
Does that sound amazing or what!?
In all early societies, before industrialism, constant exposure to light pollution, and processed foods disrupted traditional cultures, women used their knowledge of the menstrual cycle either to avoid pregnancy or to conceive. In addition to that, many societies sequestered women who were menstruating or had just given birth in an area separate from the rest of their community. While in many cases (and even in some modern societies) this was because menstrual blood was feared, a Red Tent, Moon Lodge, or Menstrual Hut could also be a way to rest, connect with other women, and learn from your elders. Prior to the modern era of high-tech infertility treatments, women relied largely upon an understanding of their reproductive rhythms to get pregnant or to prevent conception. Over the past half-century, with the professionalization of health care, much of this knowledge was lost, and we have become increasingly out of touch with our bodies and how they work. For many women this has created an aura of mystery around one of the most natural of human functions: our monthly cycle and conception.
The modern concept of a Red Tent (or Moon Lodge) began to gain popularity in the late 90’s due to the popularity of the novel The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Here’s what the author has to say about The Red Tent (from her website):
“First, it’s important to note that I have never claimed that the women of the Bible actually used a menstrual tent; there is no historical evidence to support such acclaim. However, since there have been menstrual tents and huts throughout the pre-modern world, it seemed historically plausible to give them one.
The importance of the tent developed in the process of writing, but the idea of making it a place of community, rest, and celebration predates The Red Tent. Some years prior to starting the book, I heard a lecture by the Jewish writer, Arthur Waskow, who suggested rethinking a biblical law that required separation of a woman from the community for 60 days after the birth of a girl compared to 30 days after the birth of a boy. From a feminist point of view, this could be seen as a reflection of the notion that girl babies made mothers more “unclean”than boys. Waskow asked us to consider a different theory, no less feminist, but far more interesting to me. Perhaps, he said, this was an acknowledgment that giving birth to a birth-giver was a more sacred, a more powerful experience. The extra month could be seen not as a punishment, but as a reward.”
This book (which also spawned a miniseries in 2014), ignited a primal desire in women all over the world to participate in ancient practices that honor our bodies, the nature of our cycles, and the relationships we have with each other, and with our female ancestors.
This was the beginning of the Red Tent Movement, and since then, groups have popped up all over Europe and the US that hold monthly Red Tent gatherings.
Start by thinking about the space itself. Do you have room in your home? An actual, family-sized camping tent you could set up? A community building like a community space, church, yoga studio, etc. that would give you access to a room to use? The atmosphere of the space is important. Use red fabric—something rich, soft, and warm like velvet, silk, or a fine weave of cotton or linen, and hang from the walls, windows, or drape over furniture. You can also use red candles, pillows, or throw blankets. Use soft, warm lighting—salt lamps are a great choice. Consider using a space that has access to a bathtub or at least space for a foot bath. If you play music, make sure it’s something calming and meditative.
Next, think about who you want to share the space with. Try to aim for a wide variety of ages and backgrounds. Even though your first instinct might be to just invite all your besties, remember that part of aim of a Red Tent gathering is to give and receive compassion, care, and knowledge from women who are in a different place in life than you are. Invite mothers, grandmothers, and daughters.
A potluck approach works well—ask everyone to bring a comforting dish, and some self-care items like bath oils, lotions, foot scrubs, and heating pads, or hot water bottles. If you have friends who work with the body like massage therapists, acupuncturists, yoga instructors, etc, ask if they would be willing to donate care to participants.
The format of the event itself can be largely unstructured, with women simply dropping in, relaxing, and talking, or it can be more structured and involve a sharing circle.
If you do decide to facilitate a sharing circle, here are some tips:
For all you introverts out there, I get that organizing a large gathering of women, especially when you’re not feeling your best, doesn’t sound like a super fun way to spend the days of your moon cycle. While I’d still encourage you to check out events hosted by others, there’s a lot you can do for yourself, by yourself, during menstruation to honor your body and your femininity. You can set up a Red Tent space in your bedroom using candles, red blankets and pillows, and soft lighting. Your body works hard during menstruation, and you need more downtime to make up for it. Make sure to eat nourishing, warming foods—you can even prepare some freezer meals ahead of time so all you have to do is warm up a soup or stew in the crockpot. Go to bed early, sleep in late, and put off any tasks that can wait until your cycle is over. Try a calming herbal tea like chamomile, red raspberry leaf, or nettles. Take some time to meditate, pray, practice deep breathing, mindfulness, or any other practice that helps you feel centered and calm.
This is a fantastic make-ahead recipe to share with the women in your life during your own red tent gathering (or just to make for yourself!). It’s a sweet treat that’s also nourishing and comforting, especially if you’re menstruating:
3 cups almond flour
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp baking soda
1⁄4 cup warmed coconut oil (DO NOT warm in microwave, I usually boil some water, turn off heat and set a glass bowl with the oil in it and allow to melt)
1⁄2 cup honey
1⁄2 TBSP orange blossom water (you can usually find this in the baking aisle next to the rose water, sometimes I have seen it in the drink mixer aisle – make sure there’s no sugar or sweeteners added!)
2 organic eggs
Zest from 1 orange
Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix dry and wet ingredients until well incorporated. Line a muffin tin with 10 cupcake liners and pour batter in each cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 3 hours, drained and rinsed
Juice from 3 lemons
4 dates, pits removed
1 TBSP coconut oil (this does not need to be warmed, just scoop it right out of the jar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
A splash of orange juice
Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until you have a very smooth consistency. Add more OJ if you need to thin it out.
Spread cashew cream on top of each cupcake and enjoy!
I want to hear from you—leave me a comment below and we can continue the conversation!
Have you ever participated in a Red Tent gathering? What was your experience like?
What has been your most powerful experience in relation to your connection with your body and your menstrual cycle?
Spread some Red Tent lovin’! I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).
I’ve created a FREE video series to share my top natural remedies to heal the six most common hormone conditions that wreak havoc on your body AND your fertility. Get it HERE.
Research shows you have the power to shift your hormonal health and optimize your fertility with FOOD, and I’ll teach you how HERE. !
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about how to honor your body and needs during your menses? Schedule a consultation with me!