When I was 14 years old, I did not want to get my period. I considered it to be unclean and felt ashamed when I found the red fluid in my underwear for the first time.
I used tampons and made sure I threw the used ones into the trash bin as fast as I could. Part of me didn’t want to see that I was a woman.
Having a female body felt unsafe to me. My body had been abused in the past. I had never learned how to set healthy boundaries and to feel comfortable with saying “no” to a man. These past experiences kept me from fully embracing my womanhood.
It comes as no surprise that my cycles were always very painful. My breasts would swell and start hurting a week before my menstruation. On the first day of my period, I used to have horrible cramps—the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life.
When I was a teenager, I took painkillers to numb the pain. In recent years, I turned away from Western medicine and tried to embrace the pain to prepare myself for childbirth.
But wow…this pain was so fierce that it was hard for me to surrender to it. It felt like somebody was using a knife on my uterus.
I tried every natural medicine that I could find: herbs, homeopathy, energy healing, and more. Nothing worked.
And deep down I knew why. My subconscious mind was still convinced that being a woman in this world is dangerous.
I found a book called Psychomagic from Alejandro Jodorowsky. The principle of Psychomagic relies on the belief that the unconscious mind takes a symbolic act as a fact. So a symbolic act could accordingly help solve some types of non-rational conflicts.
Jodorowsky suggests a symbolic act for women who have strong pain prior and during their menstruation: “Reclaim your femininity by painting your face with menstrual blood and go out into a crowd to show yourself.” And I did. It took a lot of courage. My heart was beating. I felt strange and alienated but at the same time powerful and brave. People reacted very positively. One friend gave me a kiss on the dried blood on my cheek. I felt relief.
I continued working on changing my negative subconscious core belief and releasing emotions that were stuck in my body from traumatic events of the past. Also, I am slowly learning how to set healthy boundaries.
Friends of mine and I held a moontime ritual to honor my womb and all the wombs of women in this world. Five people gave my womb their presence and attention. That was powerful and healing.
And finally I could feel the result of my inner work. My menstruation stopped being painful. My breasts didn’t swell anymore and my body felt very comfortable during the days of my cycle. After many years of suffering, I finally reclaimed my femininity.
I want to celebrate this reunion of female power through a series of photos in which I show myself raw, vulnerable, and open as a woman. I am not scared of my blood anymore. I found the courage to embrace my womanhood.
Each self-portrait represents an ancient goddess from different mythologies and cultures. These goddesses were revered for their strength, compassion, truth, beauty, and wisdom.
A goddess does not strive for equality in a man’s world. She stands her own ground and is equal in the sense that she is strong in her feminine power, in her creative flow, without anything to hide, anything to prove, or anything to achieve.
She is just pure strength, pure love, pure wisdom. Those who have shed all their fears cannot be controlled, for they cannot be manipulated or threatened by anything, it has no impact on them. This is a true Goddess energy, true Goddess empowerment.
If we reconnect to our inner Goddess energy, we can learn to embrace our femininity again. We can learn to love our bleeding.
I invite you to see the beauty, power, and magic of this life-giving fluid that is full of nutrients. The waxing and waning of the moon are echoed in our cycles. The growing of an egg and the succeeding pregnancy or bleeding reflects the natural process of creation.
Freya is the powerful Norse goddess of love and fertility. She is a practitioner of magic with an aptitude for manipulating reality to suit her desires. She is also associated with the dead, as she presides over Folkvang, the afterlife realm, whose inhabitants she selects from among slain warriors.
Athena is the goddess of wisdom, craft, and war in ancient Greek religion and mythology. A virgin goddess, Athena is poised and courageous but also a lover of arts and literature.
Sun Goddess Orun – “Sun” in Yoruba from the people in southwestern Nigeria and southern Benin of west Africa. Orun rises high above her home each morning and returns there in the evening. The curved plate at the base of her shoulders and collarbone are the depiction of the rising sun at dawn as she ascends to provide the daily lifeblood to her people.
Artemis is the Greek goddess of chastity, virginity, the moon, and the natural environment. She is the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women;
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Because of her beauty, other gods feared that their rivalry for her favours might lead to conflict and war.
Bast is the Egyptian goddess of warfare, depicted in the form of a cat. She is a fierce protector said to possess the Utchat, the all-seeing eye of Horus. She has also been associated with fertility, music and physical pleasure.
Brigid is a Celtic goddess revered for her many talents. She is considered a protector of livestock and the young, and she is a patroness of poetry, metalsmithing, healing and spring.
Kuan Yin is a Buddhist deity who embodies compassion. Her name translates to “perceiving the sounds (or cries) of the world.” She is a goddess of mercy, dedicated to relieving the suffering in the world.
In Hinduism, Shakti is the underlying divine power in the universe — the source from which all existence springs. As such she is akin to the “Mother Earth” of other traditions but is sometimes viewed more as an energetic force than as a divine female being.
Author & Images: Alice Dea Smeets
Editor: Travis May
Appeared in Elephant Journal: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/03/reclaiming-my-femininity/