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Ancient wisdom coming to the rescue!

A broken arm, a surgery to add a plate and screws to my already metal-filled body, and much pain later, I find myself reflecting on the past several weeks. To lose use of my dominant, right hand was extremely difficult and threw me into almost total dependence. I’m used to doing things myself, so this was a steep learning curve. Plus, all the discomfort and pain didn’t help.

So I called for the troops and set up a fabulous help team who came every day to see what I needed; sometimes very little things – chopping vegetables, or lifting something heavy, or unscrewing a lid, or helping me find clothes to fit over the splint, etc.

As I think back on it all, I’m moved by how ancient this tradition is – women helping women. Women for ages have come together to celebrate, support, honor and recognize each other in both happy and difficult times. My mother looked forward to her coffee-klatches as a relief from 1950s housewifery. And my grandmother sat in sewing circles to quilt and stitch. Cooking is such fun with other women at Thanksgiving. Drawing support from women can harness a collective energy of peers and help us all feel less alone, it’s rough out there!

These women came and tended me in so many ways. One came to bathe me and rub oil on my back, almost like anointing me into this circle of care. One came to tend my wounds. One brought me healing medicines. Others took me to and from appointments and shopping. Many brought food and treats. Others just came to help me laugh.

I must say here, there was a man involved in this tribe also. He baked for me, and fed me with inspiring conversation, extremely important when one is suffering. Men don’t get enough credit for their sometimes very nurturing hearts.

Women have gathered for centuries, usually for coming-of-age ceremonies for girls beginning their menses, and for women ending their fertile time. I remember reading “The Red Tent” in the 1990s. According to ancient law, the women in the Bible had to take refuge in the tent while menstruating or giving birth, and there they found mutual support and encouragement from their mothers, sisters and aunts.

Indigenous women in the United States are working to reclaim tribal menstruation ceremonies and practices as a means to revitalize and empower Native women. It is an opportunity to gather with female elders and learn the teachings that once guided and supported them, to visit together, to eat together and check on each other.

These times together for centuries have been occasions of rest, regeneration and recognition of women’s important roles as life givers and community leaders. They help us feel pride in who we are as women. Going through motherhood and menopause are the most primal connections humans have to all who came before us and will come after us.

The sacred feminine and the sacred masculine are both important, and bring significant wisdom and abilities to the community as a whole. Somehow, we’ve gotten lost with such a masculine imbalance creating polarity and disparity.

I certainly felt honored and nurtured with this experience. To have participated in this primordial practice on some level feels sacred. It was just a broken arm, yet so unsettling. The circle of giving and receiving is beautiful, and beneficial for all. And caring for each other through sorrow and suffering, and joy touches into the holy. Perhaps we rediscovered a connection with our hearts and our primitive instincts. Blessings to all who played a part in this ancient tribal practice.

Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at mmm@bresnan.net.