Red Hearth Herstory

The Red Hearth House, Stroud

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My journey of the Red Hearth House began more than twenty years ago when I realised the relationship between the moon’s transit of 28 days through the monthly menstrual cycle. I can’t remember a particular moment when I awoke to this information, however I knew a truth deep in my body that was old, wise and knowing.

I began charting and journalling my moontime, helped by the Wemoon diary. I felt so passionate, this new and exciting way to understand myself as a rhythmical woman. I was learning to honour my different aspects, the quiet reflective me at my bleeding times and the energetic out there Kesty at my full moon. Discovering organisations like the Women’s Environmental Network  which provide information about alternative menstrual wear, cloth pads and moon cups was a total inspiration and comfort to me.

I feel so blessed to have had this connection to my moon cycle for so many years, helping me to feel resourced as a woman spiralling in and out, bringing me balance to develop a rich and creative relationship with myself, others and the earth.

It was at this time I came across a booklet written by Anke Mai for her daughters called  First Moon. It is a guide honouring a girl’s first blood, the Menarche. It is full of information and stories from around the world about how different cultures celebrated this time in a young woman’s life.

Many years later, as I watched my own daughter growing up I dreamed of gifting her the opportunity to really celebrate this significant rite of passage. An experience I never had as an adolescent, periods were seen as a nuisance each month rather than a gift and source of wisdom.

I knew that my bleeding years would be coming to an end soon, I so treasured this monthly ritual of gifting my blood to the earth. I longed for my daughter, and other women and girls to feel this same connection to their menstrual cycle.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – is a novel which also inspired me, which was also performed as a play in Stroud some years a go.  It’s a richly imagined expansion on the Old Testament story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, taking the brief narrative and focussing on the women of the family – wives, concubines, daughters – and their relationships. The Red Tent itself is the separated out, sacred, space which the women retire to when they menstruate, to be looked after by the young girls and the older women: a refuge and a symbol of what they share.

For a long time I had heard of a Menarche Ceremony taking place at an annual camp. In 2009 I finally went to the Sacred Arts Camp and took part with other women to witness young women being initiated in a beautiful and honouring way.

Early in 2010 Alexandra Pope came to Stroud promoting the benefits of understanding yourself through the menstrual cycle and showed the film ‘The Moon Inside You’.

A deep yearning came to me, to be part of a new wave of awareness about the wisdom of the menstrual cycle. I wanted to be part of it, I knew I had something to offer.T

One morning early in June after a night sleeping on our treehouse, at full moon, a vision came, to create a sacred space for bleeding women in our community on our land. A few days later I was gifted a book called Sacred House by Carolyn Hillyer, a deep mythology for women in relationship to the earth and sisterhood, which further affirmed this dream.

Our roundhouse would be dedicated at the next new moon to women. I was truly blessed, I had the company of another sister who was also bleeding at the time, and a small group of women gathered, including some elders, who welcomed us, with songs and beautiful words into the Red Hearth House. It was the Menarche Ceremony I had never had.

So began the Red Hearth House. Since then each summer, women and girls of all ages, elders, menopausal women and menstruating women have been welcomed to The Red Hearth House, a sanctuary honouring all women and girls, across time and space.

The Red Hearth House is situated in woodland on the outskirts of Stroud. During the month of opening (usually June) women can visit this peaceful retreat for as little or as much time as they can, to spend time in solitude or share the space with friends and family. I just ask for a donation for each visit.  There is an option to camp on the land overnight too.
 

A group of women meet regularly around the year, to support me and take on the
holding of the Red Hearth House, in terms of thinking, visioning and planning, and
coordinating practicalities like programme, website, mailing list and so on. These
women are: Kesty, Annabel, Frances, Neesa, Jo, Jenny, Jaine, Kate, Carol, Emily and
Susan.

For the last five years local women have visited the Red Hearth House and taken part in the workshops and ceremonies when it opens each summer. (see previous newsletters).  Click here for some feedback. There have been some women who have visited from further afield, like London. I have had some great encouragement from other countries like New Zealand and the Red Hearth has featured in a magazine in Poland.

Listed in the Red Tent directory the Red Hearth House is part of a global grassroots network of Red Tents popping up all over the world. In October 2014 during the Womb Wisdom exhibition the community of Red Hearth women set up a Pop Up Red Tent in Stroud town centre.

In many parts of the world, different cultures honour and recognise the significance of the menstrual cycle on women’s health, spirituality and sexuality. I am so grateful to all the women who have visited and been part of the Red Hearth House vision too here in Stroud. I am so delighted to see so many girls coming to visit and take part in circles and events there.

I thank you for all your networking and forwarding of the information to your friends.

Kesty Jakes

4 October 2014

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