I have been searching for a new psycho-spiritual map of womanhood for a long time. Many others before me have created maps of this terrain and I have spent years studying them, drawing from their strengths. However I have gradually come to the conclusion that they are not inclusive enough, for me to comfortably continue using them.
Miranda Gray wrote the ground-breaking ‘Red Moon’ 21 years ago. She presented her model ‘Virgin, Mother, Enchantress and Hag’ and applied it to the differing stages of the menstrual cycle – pre-ovulation, ovulation, the pre-menstruum and bleeding as well as the cycle of the moon. Other women’s mysteries teachers before and since have developed similar versions. I devoured their teachings hungrily and shared them with others. For years the models served me well but, with the utmost respect to Miranda and the other teachers, they have their shadow side, with many women and menstruators being left out in the cold. Some find the idea of ‘Virgin’ old-fashioned and repressed with its expectations of female purity. Millions of others do not resonate with the word ‘Mother’ as they are either childfree through personal choice or childless by circumstance. ‘Enchantress’ can feel whimsical and ‘Hag’ ugly and sex-starved.
Feminism and gender-politics have moved on in leaps and bounds since 1994, with many people now wanting freedom from rigid gender roles and prejudice. The Red Tent Movement, which continues to gather momentum and expand its red web outwards, is all about women’s empowerment and self-knowledge. If people feel excluded and alienated, and turn away from the wisdom in the blood mysteries teachings, then perhaps it is time for a brand-new inclusive paradigm. One that builds on the old, well-loved models, standing on the mighty shoulders of our pioneering sisters.
I became more passionate about discovering a new model which mapped the journey of today’s menstruator. I journeyed and dreamt on it. I walked the land, observing the natural rhythms of the moon and Earth in relation to my blood cycle. I tried and tested out different names and energies throughout the month, rejecting the ones that didn’t work. Many cycles of bleeding passed until the map slowly birthed itself, not without pain or effort, unfolding, raw and vital from my unconscious. I realised that the model had to do more than merely change the names of the stages and so set to work on making a deeper-acting tool by exploring the thresholds between each stage.
A map with four main stages has emerged, using signage that relates to being on the land, following both a physical and symbolic journey: The Spiral Journey ~ Pathseeker, Trailblazer, Mapmaker and Gatekeeper. It offers a psycho-spiritual tool for self-empowerment. The paradigm describes four key life stages, mapping these out against the four stages of the moon cycle, the four seasons, the four directions and the four elements. It also identifies the key characteristics of each stage and what is required to cross over the threshold of the next one. The map is not a one-way street. Life changes can push us backwards or forwards. It is possible that not all parts of our life will be at the same stage at the same time.
The Spiral Journey also enables us to harness the wisdom of our menstrual cycle as well as that of our life’s journey. The stages relate to menarche, the bleeding years, menopause and death. Individuals can use the map as a personal development tool by plotting the stages of their cycle onto it. It is named The Spiral Journey because those of us who menstruate go through this voyage many times in their lifetime. Each time the spiral goes deeper, teaching us more about ourselves on every level – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Even though the map is useful for menstruating women, trans-men who bleed and non-binary people who bleed, it does not actively exclude women who do not menstruate either. I’m hoping that the map will be of real interest and use to both transgender women and men, as well as cis men and cis women.[i]
The realm of the Pathseeker lies in exploring the many different options for our path in life. Everything is possible. The future is up for grabs. Life is tangy and fresh and we can feel energised by the ride. We skip or run along many different paths and avenues, accepting our need to experiment and the inevitability of mistakes. Eventually we reach the threshold of the Trailblazer. Here a sacrifice is required; we must relinquish our freedom to do as we please with no commitment to our self or others, before we can move on.
The Trailblazer makes a clear choice about which way to follow and instead of following paths made by others, begins to carve out her/his own way. This is hard work and can include creating projects, teaching, birthing businesses, creating works of art, nurturing our beautiful planet, giving love and care to others, as well as traditional parenthood. In return, we receive the gifts of focus and determination, which ultimately leads us to fulfilment as we pledge ourselves to the task in hand.
When we reach the threshold of The Mapmaker it may be time to revisit the paths we explored as a Pathseeker before crossing the threshold. We can then let go of any regret associated with other paths not trodden and opportunities not grasped. We come to terms with this by expressing our feelings with honesty. Once we have truly accepted our life, then we are open to receiving the gifts of truth and assertiveness. We can see our life as it is and can be thankful, deciding to finish projects off or to gather seeds for new ones. We harvest all we have learnt and begin to share our wisdom with others. We amass the power of having journeyed through the previous two realms, carrying their energetic imprint with us.
At last we reach the final realm of the Gatekeeper. On this threshold we must sacrifice our attachment to playing an active role in the external world. This is the time for returning to our innermost self, relinquishing the need to be active and productive. A time to be, to contemplate and be peaceful, observing activity in others, without feeling a need to join in. A time to let go of anything we no longer need, to metaphorically and literally lighten our load. In return we receive the gift of wisdom. The Gatekeeper describes the time of menstrual bleeding and the metaphysical death of that particular month. The threshold beyond Gatekeeper refers to our actual death. Women who are bleeding have to sacrifice the security and stillness of the death state embodied by menstruation in order to become Pathseekers once more. The gift that they then receive is that of new potential and beginnings.
I am excited by the birth of The Spiral Journey and am eager to engage in dialogue about its development, as well as share more of it in future workshops and writings. I am holding a workshop at Dryade Druid Camp in the Netherlands in June 2016.
[i] ‘Cis’ is short for ‘cisgender’ (opposite of ‘transgender’), used to describe someone whose gender identity matches their anatomical gender at birth.