I found it unsettling when I stopped menstruating for about 3 months this spring. It was one of those things that I tried not to be overly mindful of, surprising perhaps considering my preoccupation with bloodwork. But with all the novelty, fear and excitement the unfolding pandemic brought in equal measure (said from the perspective of someone with the privilege to self isolate in safety), I found it fairly easy to squeeze hormone health into a small recess of my conscious awareness – at least to begin with.
In the haphazard digital coven that I set up in April, others had declared delays to their bleed come June time, by which point I was already overdue by a full cycle at least. Hearing that I wasn’t alone in my experience was somewhat of a relief, although my situation seemed more extreme than those of my fellow witches – but consulting reports from the same time period indicates that the disruption spanned much further afield than our little web: with a poll of 5,677 people conducted by gynaecologist Dr. Anita Mitra reflecting a change in the menstrual cycle or hormonal symptoms of 65% of respondents during the first lockdown.
Stress seems an obvious culprit for the shift many experienced, what with its impact on our sleep patterns and quality. This, along with the dramatic adjustment many people have been making to their diet and exercise regimes since Covid hit, is understood to influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis – responsible for the production of hormones like those for reproduction in AFAB bodies.
There were all sorts of chaos attested to by those who piped up about the changes: from shorter, longer, later or premature cycles in previously regular bleeders; to cripplingly painful cramps and overwhelmingly heavy flow; to intergenerational synchrony or barely a drop when it showed. This wasn’t the full picture though: as in the case of an Emily Barclay, whose menstrual cycle actually became regular during the lockdown for the first time since she became perimenopausal – which she has pointedly chalked down to slowing her pace of life and sleeping longer and richer than usual.
Just as the pandemic has been fiendishly exaggerating and exposing existing inequalities in our globalised society, many people have experienced their moon cycle this year as a kind of accelerated litmus test for the prevailing misattunements and imbalances in their body//life constellation.
Other than the obvious medical implications, there is a kind of mystical component that seems to emerge. I find myself wondering about the mother and daughter dyad who began to synchronise their cycles – what moments of intimacy did such a coalescence facilitate? What traumatic memories did the sudden return of dysmenorrhea reactivate for that other poor soul – and how deep did the shadow work which that presented go? Not forgetting what all of this brings to light about our diseased relationship to neoliberalism and being constantly on the clock.
In my case, I’d begun a regime of intermittent fasting in January which had turned into a pretty extreme, ascetic lifestyle decision by April 2020 – and I only moderated its intensity when my menstrual drought entered its third month. Looking back, it was a wellness decision that had morphed into a health philosophy cum coping mechanism once I was in quarantine, and was maybe even colluding in some sort of spiritual bypass in my siege mentality state. Relaxing those practises seemed to correlate with my bleeding again and I haven’t reverted back to that diet since.
…All of which is to say, to those of you affected by lockdown 2.0: I’ve got you, comrade.
Perhaps it feels like groundhog day by this point and the unprecedented uncertainty of 2020 has actually become terribly predictable and mundane. Perhaps the financial and psychological toll of yet another round of social isolation is worse than ever now that we’re at December’s door. My solidarity goes out to those who have suffered, lost loved ones and livelihoods; to those working hard on frontlines, whether or not it’s to get that bread. My prayers go out to all.
More specifically, I’d like to put out a potency ritual for anyone struggling with blood entropy and/or stress-based hormonal imbalances as a result of this. I hope it will clear your mind and heart for long enough to listen deeply to your womb(space) and figure out what its paranormal activity is trying to communicate. There is always a message, no matter how obscure.
Finding Your Potency: A Spell
Allow around 45 min – an hour. You will need a quiet, undisturbed space to sit and move around in; a piece of juicy red fruit (ideally a pomegranate and knife to cut it with) on a plate; a device that can play music and an alarm or timer that can run simultaneously.
Have a mid-tempo playlist ready on your music playing device with enough material to last for at least 23 minutes. Set 22 minutes and 22 seconds on your timer without letting it run.
Sit as close to the floor as possible, in a comfortable position, with your hands on your gut or your womb. Sit the red fruit on a plate in front of you.
Breathe deeply so that your stomach expands, in and out, and drop your awareness down into the area cupped by your palms and fingers.
Read – or better yet – sing the following passage aloud to yourself and sit with whatever feelings come up in your gut/womb. Feel the blood pumping through that part of your abdomen; nourishing it, as you recite:
I open up to myself, as first brain
Because there is deep wisdom within me
Lend me the subtlety to hear myself
Me and my sanguine whispers
Now cut open (or into pieces) the red fruit and witness any juices that flow.
Consume as many of the seeds or pieces, one by one, as you please. Pay attention to the taste, smell, texture, temperature and physical sensation as it is obliterated between your teeth; squeezed from your mouth to your gullet.
Be with it as it travels down into your belly and visualise it activating your womb(space) below. Listen deeply to how it is received and hold onto the first image that takes shape within.
Clear away your plate so you’re in an open space now. Press play on your music playlist and then hit ‘go’ on the timer.
Stay with the image your womb(space) brought up. Close your eyes (if you wish) and let your body guide you through freeform movements to the music, taking note of how this affects the inner vision. If it feels comfortable to do so, try to trace a lemniscate (figure of eight) at certain moments with your hips.
Move with the music at whatever pace and intensity you wish. Come to a rest once the alarm has sounded and be with your body, hands back around your gut or womb, for five minutes or as long as you need.
Make a note of the images and sensations the exercise has brought up for you and return to them whenever you feel called to do so, maybe even as a regular daily or weekly practise.
Until next moon.
P.S.: For those who would like to hear more about my process of devising ritual for LUNARCHY 2.0, as well as taking part in an online Ritual for the Anthropocene I’ll be jointly holding with other practitioners for Lost Species Day 2020 on Gemini Full Moon – have a look at this event description.
P.P.S.: Congratulations to the Scots who are miles ahead of the rest of us ☽