The Stranger Gets a Press Release for a Gathering in a Red Tent Honoring Women and Their Menstrual Cycles and Sends Lindy West and Her Womb to Investigate
Here's the Press Release and Here's What Happened
1. On the ferry on the way to Vashon Island, there was a woman with long, frizzy hair and high-waisted jeans. She was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of cats playing jazz instruments, and above the picture it said "JAZZ CATS." There are a lot of different ways to be a woman.
2. One of my college roommates was a hippie but also a secret heiress. Like, the kind of heiress with neighborhoods named after her. Wealthy neighborhoods. The kind of heiress who has an island. She was great. She never wore shoes and she never went shopping and she just wanted to sing bluegrass songs all the time and brush her hair and translate ancient Greek texts, but sometimes we'd come home and she'd say, "I broke a plate, so I decided to buy all new dishes and flatware for the kitchen." And we'd say, "Oh. Okay." I didn't know she was a secret heiress until we'd lived together in our dilapidated house for at least a year. After I found out, it never came up again because it didn't matter. She loved getting her period because she said she liked to feel her body working. Once she told us that her dream was to go off by herself and squat for a week and "bleed into the forest"—that dream came from this book. She's a doctor now.
3. My sister is into this sort of thing. She loves ritual. She's forever collecting shells for her Venus altar, or tying a piece of ribbon to a twig in a secret grove, or collecting magic waters in very small vials to make potions. Being around my sister feels magical. When we traveled through Europe together (following the path of Mary Magdalene, natch), I'm pretty sure we hit every stone circle and magic well in existence. Once, in Cornwall, we looked down into an aquamarine cove—the waters in Cornwall look impossibly tropical—and she said, "Do you see the mermaids? They're sitting on that rock." I said no, and she looked at me like I was stupid. And maybe I was. Clearly, believing in mermaids is way more fun than not believing in them. (Side note: Do mermaids have periods?) When I was driving to the Vashon Red Temple, I texted my sister for advice. "I'm on my way to a new moon celebration at a menses temple," I said. "Liar," she said. "It's true! Any tips?" "Stay open to a new flow and wave goodbye to the blood of old that nurtured you well." I knew she'd know what to do. I love my sister.
4. This is the kind of thing that my mom would call "a crock of shit." To this day, she refuses to tell me what time I was born because she doesn't want my sister to do my astrological chart. My mom is a clinical lady. I love my mom.
5. I almost didn't go in. It was too intimate and foreign, and I am clinical like my mom. But I did, I walked in and joined the circle of women seated on pillows beneath the homemade canopy of red scarves. The women were talking about chocolate, which was such an adorable cliché that I fell in love with them instantly. "There is definitely a goddess of chocolate." "I read somewhere that the molecular makeup of chocolate is so unique that it was probably brought here from another planet." One woman passed a Hershey's bar around the circle. "This chocolate is even better now that it's passed through the hands of so many goddesses," said the woman next to me, appreciatively.
7. There was chanting.
8. See 7.
9. Isla had a large amount of curly hair and a bracing presence. She made fun of how long her own press release was. She told us that she has recently reclaimed her ancestral name, Tula-Celestún. She said that right now there is an astrological configuration—the Cardinal Cross—that has not occurred since Jesus was alive, and that she and the other local angel healers are very busy "holding that energy." She explained that the media tells us that things are terrible and violent, but that this is actually one of the most peaceful times in history. We should not focus on the negative. Later, I asked my sister what an "angel healer" is, and she said, "Well, you know, angels are just the same thing as aliens. They're probably the ones who brought the chocolate." I asked about the Cardinal Cross, and she told me, "If you're going to have a baby, have it like tomorrow. It'll be a superbaby. Dude, remind me to send you a picture of the cosmos right now. It's fucking out of control."
10. I don't know if the tent is big enough.
11. I was wearing my reddest dress. My "menses smock," I silently called it.
12. "You look different today," said one woman to another. "Oh, I know," she replied. "It's because I did the 24-strand DNA activation yesterday. I feel like a completely new person." I asked what that meant. She explained that in addition to our two physical DNA strands, we have 22 spiritual DNA strands, which can be "activated" by a specially trained lady with a crystal wand. The process took 10 hours. "There's also a golden gate that you can walk through," she said, "but that's more for larger groups." Then another woman explained that DNA activation has something to do with the Mayan calendar. I still didn't understand. My sister didn't know anything about DNA activation, but she did tell me a story about the time she went to see a shaman and the shaman had a spirit jaguar eat a ghost off my sister's back.
13. I can't talk about what we talked about in the talking circle. But a lot of it was about mothers. We went around the circle and stated our "intentions" for the coming moon cycle. Most of the women had intentions that I didn't understand, that involved "manifesting" and "balance" and "rhythm." One woman said that her intention was to "end rape." I said I intended to organize my apartment, and I felt mundane. The women totally approved. Total approval is the point of menses tent. I love menses tent.
14. This is one of the greatest sentences ever crafted in English.
15. It's true that I don't believe in most of this stuff—and I suspect that believing is the secret ingredient that makes this stuff work. But it does work for the gracious ladies on the pillows under the red tent, and it was surprisingly nurturing to sit cross-legged in their world for a few hours. And even though I would never phrase it like this, I agree that women don't always get a chance to "fill our own vessels." My dad worked all day. My mom worked all day, then came home and made dinner. Women do a lot. Women are neat.
16. I left before the ritual foot-washing. Next time, menses tent. Maybe.