The Healing Powers of a Women’s Circle.
“Her words, like the hum of a bee to the lavender flower; a soft, gentle murmur of devotion and gratitude. Inside her heart walks the goddess — barefoot and shining like a vast ocean unfolding and dancing, as her great eagle wings rise with the moon to kiss the stars.”
Women and men have been gathering in circles since time immemorial. Women in particular would come together during certain lunar and menstrual cycles throughout the month or for special events in the year.
“Women have a sacred bond with each other, a bond of trust, which has broken down and been forgotten by societies over the last decades. Women’s circles help us to rediscover and re-establish that bond and the value of being a woman, having a sisterhood and being a mother in and of the universe.” ~ Be Woman Project
This is an ancient practice the West has forgotten… until now. These circles are making a comeback in Western societies. Tribes all over the world still participate in sharing circles that also include ceremony and ritual, thus creating a safe, sacred space for women of all ages, allowing women to witness the Divine Feminine in and around themselves.
It is a powerful force when women come together to support, embrace, and inspire one another as we move through life’s cycles.
At its core, women’s circles and relating to goddesses is deeply psychological and very healthy. The Sacred Feminine in psychological terms is the archetypal imagery within and around us all, much like dream symbolism. Through the power of story and metaphor, they bring our psychology to life so that we can better understand our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Most importantly, through understanding different archetypes we are able to get in touch with — and heal our relationship to — different parts of ourselves and others.
The Hindu goddess Saraswati, for example, is the goddess of knowledge, study and creativity. Focusing on her symbolism within yourself encourages you to aspire to perhaps study hard for an exam or feel passionate about a creative project.
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and sacred beauty. She reminds us to practice love in all forms, to feel sensual and beautiful as we are, for we are already whole and complete.
And there are many more archetypes out there that may resonate with you… or not. The power of symbolism is present everywhere in our everyday lives, from fashion icons, the colors we choose for interior design, to the celebrities we watch on television. The human desire to be a part of a collective but also aspire to have certain beautiful qualities is deep-rooted.
Sharing circles centered on Devi, on goddess, reminds us we do not need external things to feel happy, to be goddess. We already are goddess, we already are Saraswati and Aphrodite and Quan Yin and Calypso and so on, what we have is already within us all along. All women are shining jewels, all women are goddess.
This is the core of what women’s circles teach. Bringing women together in a circle to share stories, leaving jealousy and competition at the door. To see a mother, daughter, sister, Devi standing in front of you, raw and vulnerable, beautiful and strong. We listen to each other’s stories without judgment and with collective compassion.
Singing, dancing, poetry, flowers, chocolate and ceremony usually occurs, with an altar present for everyone to build together with their own offerings to the moment and to Mother Earth.
History versus herstory
Circles with a sacred center are ancient. They are the oldest form of social interaction. The fire was in the center as the people cooked and ate their food, heard stories, worshiped their gods and goddesses, and passed down the traditions and wisdom through folktales, songs and dancing. This kept the people alive and healthy, and was also a form of entertainment and brought the tribe together.
More often than not, the medicine woman (or man) would facilitate the circle to keep the energy flowing and the enthusiasm strong but also taught lessons on plant lore, map of the stars and of the seasons.
The medicine women were probably the most learned individuals in the tribe or village, and as we progressed in history, they were usually quite literate and well-read and so their community looked up to them for guidance on all matters of life from leading spiritual ceremonies to advice on relationships, fertility, healthcare, gardening, herbal remedies and much more.
Women-only circles have been taking place for ages all around the world. Many were directly tied to menstruation and the moon cycles. There are menstrual hut and moon lodge traditions all over the world that date back to 800 CE and in some places are still practiced today. When women come together, their menstrual cycles and heartbeats sync, like many drops of water in a vast ocean.
It was thought that that ceremonial rock circles from bygone days were linked to human sacrifice, but evidence suggests the blood found on these rocks is menstrual blood.
It was actually common practice to collect menstrual blood to pour back onto the earth, not only as a sacred act of devotion to Mother Earth but also because menstrual blood contains three primary plant macronutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Women of the ancient world knew that their monthly cycle flowing together whilst celebrating in a circle is great for growing a healthy garden!
Tragically, herstory and goddess cultures that encouraged respect and adoration for women were to be sent underground. For example, in 1484, the Hammer of Witches publication by two German Dominican monks began the systematic destruction of women’s spiritual practices and healthcare by torturing and murdering women healers and spiritual leaders.
This oppression lasted 500 years and was carried with colonialism to every corner of the Earth. Even Rosh Chodesh circles faded from popularity — in part because of the Holocaust, which decimated the Jewish population and took many of its written historical records with it.
Women still found ways to come together in groups that was more acceptable in society though, such as tea parties, knitting clubs, and mum-and-baby groups.
Anything that empowered women or gave them safe places such as red tents, covens, gatherings and circles were soon considered shameful, women became persecuted for gathering together. Red Tents went from being a sacred place of rest and refuge of honoring a woman’s magical ability to bleed and create life, to a place women are sent for being unclean.
Witch trails also spread around most of the world to rid local communities of wise women and herbalists whilst science and male doctors were on the rise, knowledgeable women were seen as a threat to the patriarchal culture now on the increase in societies across the globe.
What are Red Tents?
The Red Tent or Moon Lodge is simply a gathering of women that occurs at the new moon when girls and women are most in need of support, rest and reflection. This is a timeless tradition observed by the old ways, which serves as a regular forum for empowering women’s sense of selfhood.
Traditionally, girls would start attending the Red Tent when their bodies started to cycle with the moon. It was here that they would learn about their fertility cycles and every facet of being a woman.
Initiating young women into the monthly gathering with support from older women encouraged the natural process of individuation from their mums. Menarche ceremonies were also customary as a way to celebrate a young girl’s right of passage into womanhood.
Without this transition being celebrated and young women being afforded a larger circle of support, this can be a tense time behind closed doors with teenage girls rebelling against their mothers in order to assert their own feminine identity with only fashion magazines, clinical sex ed lessons and badly acted television shows teaching them about womanhood.
Red Tents are beneficial on a physical level too. It is scientifically proven that the female body needs to rest during the winter of her cycle. When a woman bleeds, the body is using a lot of energy and hormones to be rid of the unfertilized egg. This is why many women feel fatigued during this time and why the modern working environment is detrimental to a woman’s well-being.
The ancients understood a woman’s need for rest, and they knew Red Tents were so integral for the community as a whole.
In ancient sharing circles, when one woman gives birth to her baby, she is allowed to heal and to rest for at least 40 days. Both mum and baby are taken care of by the community. In modern society, you see Western women cleaning the house and vacuuming the carpets after a few weeks’ rest from a C-section and going back to work soon after!
The ancients recognized that the first few months are so important for healing and for bonding, these are precious moments for mother and baby.
Knowing this, we understand why in the West there is an increase in post-natal depression and in children growing up with a number of mental health issues related to isolation, feelings of depression, social anxiety, lack of healthy emotional attachment and abandonment complexes.
I believe a lot of it stems from mother and baby not being given the proper love and support very early on in the child’s life and post-pregnancy.
You can see how gatherings such as these are very beneficial to women of all ages, encouraging a sense of togetherness, support, adoration and bonding.
The Be Woman Project
“Know Woman, Be Woman, All Women.
Nature, Nurture, Me.
Free Woman, Strong Woman, Brave Women.
Find your Voice and Shine.” ~ Be Woman Project mantra
The Be Woman Project appeared to me as if by magic! It was during a time in my life where my idea of reality was crumbling, I was experiencing so much heartache and pain every day, which manifested into anxiety attacks, depression, self-harm and deep feelings of unworthiness. Being involved with The Be Woman Project gave me courage.
I felt held and nourished by Sharada, who is the founder of this amazing project, and by the women I met on my first Women’s Circle Facilitator training retreat. At the time, I am sure people judged me under the belief I was wasting time and money frolicking about on holiday in Ibiza, but in reality, it was the best thing that happened to me, and it paved the way for me to embody the woman I am today.
I truly believe that in our darkest hours, something good appears in our lives to give us hope and encourage us to keep on fighting, keep on surviving. And when that magical thing jumps into your life, I suggest you take a calculated risk and go for it!
The Be Woman Project came to me just when I needed that glimmer of hope and happiness to hold on to but also offered me support, like a giant white bird protecting me under her wing.
The two training sessions I have been on with the Be Woman Project not only guided me to see my radiance but set me up with the skills to facilitate my own circles, to support other women in rediscovering their sacred beauty too.
My teacher Sharada has such passion and love for the Sacred Feminine, Vedanta and Sanskrit that she birthed Devi Women’s Circles, retreats and sacred gatherings especially for women. She offers a safe non-judgmental space to heal, find self-acceptance and courage. The circles offers support to overcome fears, insecurities and the sense of unworthiness through knowledge-sharing and devotional practices.
The Be Woman Project is her vision to inspire as many women as possible to rediscover the value of being a woman. Through sacred collaborations and heart-sharing, we find healing, nourishment, strength, support and everything we need in order to mature and embody the love we essentially are.
Within the three training sessions centered on three Hindu Goddesses — Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and creativity, Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance and self-worth, and Durga, the goddess of leadership and courage — women are taught that they already embody the goddess, they are shown the power of sharing circles and how to facilitate them, the magic of mantra and puja offerings to the goddess, and how to lead ceremony.
They also experience workshops centered on women’s well-being, such as womb yoga, Ayurveda for women’s health, dancing, singing, meditations and much more.
The Be Woman Project really has been a womb space that has cradled me. I enjoyed my first training in Ibiza so much that I attended a second training in Ubud, Bali just before my yoga teacher training was to begin in Canggu.
Being a part of this incredible project felt like coming home, coming home to sisters and mothers I may have once known in another life, in a temple someplace else in time, and it felt like coming home to my truth, my sacred beauty and to my own self-love.
The Empowering Benefits of Sharing Circles
The challenges women face emotionally and psychologically on a daily basis are never-ending.
Not only are we always in survival mode, living in fear and worry that a mere smile at a man might encourage a dangerous situation, or at least an awkward one, we also exhaust ourselves with worry of taking up space, speaking up for ourselves, feeling guilty for enjoying pleasure, body shame, the belief we need a man (or romantic relationship) to complete us, family pestering us about having children, believing we are not good enough for that promotion, pay rise or new job, to be the good girl, the good wife, to juggle everything whilst the husband comes home and puts his feet up and so on.
It is a constant battleground, being a woman in modern society.
When a woman has a sisterhood, a strong group of women standing by her, she feels like a goddess. She feels like Durga riding into battle on a tiger and therefore can face difficulties with courage, she feels like Lakshmi with bundles of self-worth, and Saraswati overflowing with intelligence, wit and creative energy.
A Women’s circle allows for courageous vulnerability because you feel held and validated by so many women, you feel heard. The circle as a symbol represents equality and strength as well as the circular curves of a woman’s body.
As Black Elk once said, “Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”
Women’s Circles are powerful, and they teach women of all ages that they are powerful. And that not only do they belong to a group that cherishes and supports them, but also celebrates each woman’s individual gifts. That all women are a representative of the great goddess, we are all devis, shining lights to each other, the world and ourselves.
Female Empowerment and Women’s Circles Today
Today’s modern women are bringing back female empowerment. It started with the suffragettes, feminism and even the #MeToo Movement, these are all very political examples, however there are quieter grassroots developments also taking place within the bohemian and alternative well-being communities.
Goddess rising retreats, Priestess initiation ceremonies, Wild Women workshops and Divine Feminine temples are popping up like wildflowers all over the world. And I am proud to say I am part of this.
As a qualified women’s circle facilitator with the Be Woman Project and my extensive training and knowledge in yoga, goddess archetypes, psychospirituality, women’s health and mental health, I am part of this giant operation that is resurrecting the Sacred Feminine and healing the wounds of the womb and the yoni.
I believe the Feminine Rising is an opportunity for tremendous shifts in consciousness and on our planet. And though we still have work to do, those women who have come before us have paved the way, creating space for this pivotal time where we are shifting, changing and transforming.
There are women’s groups specific to healing mental health or supporting women healing from domestic abuse, and reports are showing that it is working! Doctors are prescribing women’s circles to their patients in the same way that they now do with meditation or massage, specifically when it comes to treating mental health issues.
We know many women are suffering from depression, anxiety and isolation, and this is a ritual that is literally designed to combat that, because these women are receiving the love they need.
There are women’s circles in the corporate world, encouraging female empowerment and equality in the workplace.
Female herbalists, gardeners, permaculturists and environmentalists are also facilitating women’s circles, not only to support each other and learn from each other but to work together to heal Mother Earth and to be involved in global campaigns that fight climate change or to save our oceans.
One women’s circle inspires another and another and another. And so it grows to form one giant collective circle or hoop for change.
If you are interested in a woman’s circle facilitator training or being a part of a women’s group, I highly recommend the Be Woman Project. Just click on the links below or research on the internet to find a circle local to you.
Lastly, as a side note, men, we love you too! There is a place for women’s circles, men’s circles, co-ed circles, and even children’s circles! A different conversation happens in each, and all are needed and have their place. We need to allow men in our lives have their time as well. Here are just a few projects I have found that include Men’s Circles, I’m sure you can google more or start one of your own!
http://jerichocircle.org/: These circles help incarcerated men develop tools to come to terms with their inner struggles and bring down the walls that separate them from their loved ones, communities and themselves.
https://mkpusa.org/about-mkp-usa/ (The ManKind Project USA): Supports a global network of over 1,000 peer-facilitated men’s groups serving close to 10,000 men each week. In an MKP men’s group, men mentor men through the passages of their lives. Their vision is a safe world where all men are brothers, in relationship with one another. A world where conflicts are resolved peacefully, where torture, genocide, domestic violence and senseless war are only entries in history books.
http://www.malejourney.org.uk/local-men-s-groups: A list of local men’s circles or groups in the UK. They are the heart of the network of Men’s spirituality. They provide a place to meet together at a deep level with other men.
Katie Ness is an Ayurvedic Yoga teacher for all ages, Reiki teacher, Women’s Circle facilitator, belly dancer and artist from the UK. As a traveling yogini, she has visited over 20 countries and hopes to facilitate international Yoga and Sacred Feminine retreats in the near future. She spends her free time illustrating in her nature journal, reading an absurd amount of books, playing with her tarot cards, or crafting dream-catchers. At present, she is studying herbalism, floral design and botanical illustration. She can be found practicing yoga and writing poetry in woodlands and by the sea. You could contact Katie via Instagram.