Menstruation and Ayahuasca: Let’s Celebrate the Moon

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By and large, I hold a very traditional and old school perspective when it comes to working with Ayahuasca. I’m trained in the Shipibo-Conibo and Quechua-Lamista lineages, and I deeply revere the ancient methods by which this medicine is cultivated and administered.

But I refuse to blindly follow any element of my beloved lineage. And some perspectives I advocate an outright rejection.

It is typically held that most Ayahuasca methodologies have some existing rule set around working with menstruating women. Some tribal lineages, like most Colombian traditions, outright forbid any mooning female from stepping a toe into the ceremonial maloka if they are releasing even a drop of blood.

During my time at Rythmia, this was so deeply adhered to for the Colombian tradition ceremonies that during their Thursday night 12 hour celestial soiree, if a woman began her moon during ceremony she was placed outside on the adjacent yoga deck so as not to disrupt the shamans and their blessings. They would emphasize this was for the safety of the woman, but I call poppycock on that BS. That’s not at all what was discussed when participants weren’t around. That’s what we were instructed to espouse, but it wasn’t their core beliefs.

 Monsoon Season by Roz Cambpell

Monsoon Season by Roz Cambpell

Now, bear in mind that I am a woman who joyfully menstruates monthly; a woman who has always, always adored the process of allowing my body to cry her red tears of release and renewal. So it may not surprise you I find these moon-time restrictions to be archaic and chauvinistic.

But before I get all headstrong and blood thirsty, let’s do an exploration of why so many mystical and religious traditions have strict rules and superstitions around this sacred monthly feminine cycle. Then we can do an honest determination of whether or not menstruation and Ayahuasca can be safely intertwined.

Why Religious Circles Often Deem Menstruation as Impure

Nearly all major religions have some level of restriction around vaginal bleeding. Judaism is one of the most extreme, as they mark the moment  a woman starts menstruating all the way through the week after the bleeding stops as a period (pun intended) of impurity. Christianity has varying degrees of restrictions; the most hardcore is the Eastern Orthodox sect. They forbid a bleeding woman to receive communion, and some even cast the ladies off to a “menstruation hut.”

There’s a lonnnnggggg list of rules and regulations for women bleeding from their girl parts in just about every single religion. Since these rules and regulations are almost always created by men, it makes sense, as at the very least, there’s a deep lack of understanding. But there are so many more layers to the resistance and disgust.

 Art by Jess Cummin

Art by Jess Cummin

These fears and protocols are not limited to religions. A menstruating woman isn’t allowed to participate in most spiritual rituals from the majority of Native American tribes either. And, of course, it permeates shamanic traditions as well.

But the million dollar question is: Why? Why does bleeding imbibe such erratic and forceful reactions?

I like to summarize it this way: Whenever I’m bleeding, I have a standard joke –

Don’t mind me. I’m just recreating the universe over here.”

To quote Homer Simpson, it’s funny cuz it’s true.

The insecure patriarchy has always shunned women for the process of menstruation because it’s literally the life force that allows us all to propagate as a species. It’s a time of immense energetic power. And there’s not a damn thing the boys can do but create a stigma around it.

It doesn’t take a genius to surmise that we still live in a stigmatized view of periods precisely because it dehumanizes women and strips them of power and dignity. Sure, the last century has propelled us light years into a more progressive state, but women still get all blushy if a tampon hurls out of their purse, and men still abruptly change the topic if we utter such phrases as “period sex” or “reusable cups.”

Enter Ayahuasca. She’s the Mother of all Medicines, so wouldn’t she welcome a bleeding woman into her arms?

Of course she would. But it takes a lot of awareness and strength to hold that energy.

Let’s discuss.

Can Menstruating Women Drink Ayahuasca?

The short answer is: Yes.

The long answer is: It’s complicated.

And I don’t just mean the complications of a biased and manipulative patriarchy. That’s cultural and it’s shifting, so let’s just focus on the medicine and the actual experience itself.

Ayahuasca once compared herself to a hot stove to me. You can’t ask a hot stove to not burn you. And you can’t ask a powerful psychotropic medicine to not be balls-to-the-wall intense. Yes, she knows how to be subtle, but only when required. Mostly, her magic is in the intensity, the ability to pull us out of our regular state of consciousness and thrust us into the uncomfortable energies of the unknown.

And that right there can be hard on a body that’s already busting her ass to release the potentiality of new life, in order to make space once again for possibilities.

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Every woman knows when the flood gates open, it’s an intense time. Sometimes that comes with physical pain, emotional fluctuations, and all kinds of energetic shifts. We downplay it and outright shame it in our culture, but menstruation is a Very Big Deal. Add in a big ole dose of Ayahuasca, and it can be one hell of a crazy ride.

That said, periods are magical. They are portals into a different state of consciousness, and they open up our sensitives and our intuitions to epic levels. They connect us with the very essence of life force, and they allow us women to revel in the miracle of what our bodies are capable of.

I am in awe of my womb every month as she releases her sadness of unfulfilled life and gets all spiffied up for the next opportunity. She hurts, she cries, then she dusts herself off and shows up once more.

Sharing that vulnerability and feminine beauty with Ayahuasca is really quite special. But it also requires more protection, awareness and stamina.

Recommendations to Women on Their Periods who Drink Ayahuasca

If you do happen to find a circle progressive enough to let you sit during your cycle, there’s a few simple things to be aware of that I recommend. They are, in no particular order: 

·      Bring some Sage. She’s such a powerhouse of protection, and she’s unbelievably feminine. Sprinkle some dried leaves around your space in circle, and even tuck a few under your pad so she can create a wall of energy between you and the room.

·      Tuck a tiny tuft of loose tobacco in your naval; he, too, is a protective powerhouse, and can absorb and deflect any negative energies spiraling towards your vulnerable womb.

·      Don’t wear a tampon; use a pad or cup instead. Tampons literally plug the energies and since your body might expand and contract, even subtly, under the medicine, it can cause pain and discomfort. Plus, call me crazy on this one, but I’m pretty sure Aya is not a fan of us sticking toxic cotton up our vaginas. Reusable, Earth-friendly cups are welcome. Bleached fabric sticks are not.

·      Make sure the facilitator knows. I completely welcome women on their moons, but I love to know so I can also work in partnership with the medicine to create extra safety. My teacher used to sing to the cup of any participant who was menstruating – he was calling in a favor with the medicine to go gentle. I normally pour a little less depending on the heaviness of the cycle too. It takes less medicine, as a rule, to create a deep experience, as we’re already so cracked open and sensitive. So it’s good that the person pouring know what’s happening with your body so he/she can factor that in.

·      Finally, give your body the love and care she deserves. I love drinking Aya when I’m on my moon, as it allows me to tune deeply in to the energies of my body. We bond like crazy during these times, and I honor her for all her impeccable work. She loves that. As does Aya. It’s a beautiful feminine par-tay.

Most of all, don’t fret. If you’ve found facilitators that welcome you and you feel all safe and cozy, you are. Safety is a state of consciousness, not any one thing we do, and we can be just as safe and grounded while mooning up a storm as we can during all parts of our cycle.

Go forth. Menstruate. Drink medicine. Heal. And love your body to bits.

Need help maneuvering the medicine during moon time? Reach out. I’d love to quell your fears.

 About the Author

Tina “Kat” Courtney, The AfterLife Coach, is a traditionally trained Ayahuasquera and a vocal advocate for all sacred psychedelic spaces. Kat works as a coach and mentor to people navigating their shadows and altered states of consciousness. She lives part time in Berlin, makes a mean ketogenic cupcake, and she really loves her cat.