“When women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.” -Phylicia Rashad
A sacred, ancient practice is coming back to life within the walls of yoga studios, living rooms and community spaces. Known as Womens’ Circles, Moon Circles, Red Tent Circles, among other names, these practices center around a common theme: a safe, collective, intimate experience for women and female-identifying people to connect to each other and themselves.
The Womens’ Circle does not originate in one specific culture; rather, almost all land-based heritages practice this beautiful ritual in some form or another. Some womens’ circles were created in the form of menstruation huts: a place for women to gather, rest, and support one another through their time of the month. The Red Tent story is a beautiful example of this, a biblically inspired story by Anita Diamant which details the intimacy between women every month in a space dedicated to just that.
Other circles honor the connection between the lunar cycle and the female cycle: Rosh Chodesh, literally meaning “head of the month”, has historically been a sacred time for women in Judaism. Women gather during this time, and participate in learning, rest and vulnerable connection with one another.
This sacred pattern of women meeting monthly has been identified across ancient Pagan, Christian and Eastern cultures as well. Perhaps this universality and common history is what draws so many women to the practice today, which was made almost obsolete in the 15th century and beyond with the patriarchal rise in witch hysteria and distrust of women gathering together.
Why, all of a sudden, are these rituals making a comeback into the mainstream? For one, in today’s modern times, community is no longer a given. Add the pandemic to the mix, and loneliness, isolation and high stress have become an unfortunate reality for so many people. Additionally, fourth-wave feminism, started around 2012, embraces femininity and addresses the unique experience of being woman in today’s world. Womens’ Circles allow a place for community, safety, vulnerability and powerful discussions that can transform the lives of its participants. When women come together, masks off, to the ritual space, “there’s a hormonal response that we’re safe. [And that allows us to] look each other in the eye and talk about real [things] going on in our lives”, says Sarah Waxman, founder of At the Well, a network of women’s circles centered around Rosh Chodesh. That authenticity allows for the magic to happen. Paula Mallis, head facilitator and founder of WMN Circles in California, notes that she has seen professional, relational creative and personal breakthroughs come out of her womens’ circles.
So, with so many variations, what can one expect from a typical womens’ circle? The following components are common across many circles seen today:
Some kind of ceremonial practice to acknowledge the commencement of the circle: candle lighting, incense burning, meditation and more
A theme to carry and guide the content of the circle (think: release, gratitude, growth, connection and more)
Time for personal reflection that may include journaling
Time for uninterrupted sharing for each participant
A ritualistic closing, to mark the end of the circle
With tonights full moon (January 17) and the next new moon January 31, it’s a wonderful time to begin practicing this ritual. Gather your tribe and tune into our some of offerings on Practice Shraddha that our perfect for the full moon: