I sort of attended a women's drum circle and sweat lodge today. I say "sort of attended" because even though I got to go and hang out, I didn't participate in either of those activities. I did participate in the pot luck though! Yum.
The reason I didn't participate is because I'm in my period. And no, it's not because my period was considered to be gross and unclean. Quite the opposite.
Two different women told me today that the time when a woman bleeds is a very sacred time, and that it is in fact the most sacred ceremony. After all, the bleeding is what allows us women to create new life. It's a very special time, and when I am in my moon (I think I like that phrase -- "in my moon") I need to be focusing on myself, which means not participating in other ceremonies such as the drum circle and the sweat lodge. I also didn't have to set out the food I had brought for the potluck part of things.
I was also told that ceremonies don't get mixed together. And since my period is a ceremony, I definitely may not participate in other (Lakota) ceremonies while I am in my moon time.
Consequently I spent about six hours all by myself today, which was how much time the other women spent in the sweat lodge. And yes, that was a rather long time for them to be in the sweat lodge. They were actually shocked to find out what the time was when they finally wrapped things up.
It was nice to have six hours all to myself. And no, I didn't get bored. I did a few things, such as napping, reading Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (which happens to be homework that I was enthused about), and writing some poetry.
It was really a great experience.
This was all done according to the Lakota tradition, by the way, and I went with a friend.
I do want to say that recently I've been thinking about how in some cultures it was normal for women to separate themselves from the men, not do certain things like cooking, and just focus on themselves during their moon time. One literary example that came to mind today was Anita Diamant's The Red Tent. It was quite interesting to experience that for myself in some small way.