An ex once jokingly posted this cartoon to my Facebook timeline. He was referring to my tendency to get rather snippy and irritated around the full moon, but he was more accurate than I think he really understood.
For a long time, I struggled with guilt about my inability to just “be happy” all the time. I couldn’t seem to ever stick to anything, whether it be a mindset, a routine, a project, or even a location. There’s something wrong with me, I often told myself, convinced that my nonlinear temperament was the cause. I searched for answers, but at the same time only searched for them in places that exacerbated my already-low self esteem–toxic relationships, superficial New Age spiritual paths of the “just think positive and everything will fix itself” variety, a “houseless” lifestyle that was really just a hippie-soaked veneer for homelessness (that’s a story for another day, though) and in half-hearted entrepreneurial attempts that never worked out.
However, time and time again, I instinctively come back to Witchcraft as the core of my spiritual practice, no matter what other paths I explored. Specifically, Goddess-based, nature-oriented Witchcraft. It is the one path I have found in which I feel that I entirely fit. It does not assign blame. Rather, it affirms the power of the cycles.
At the time that I first began learning about Wicca/Witchcraft/Nature-Based Paganism, almost 12 years ago, I was more interested in the romantic and theatrical aspects–spellcraft, elaborate ritual, the costumes and the tools. I studied the cycles, the directions, and the elements, but didn’t really understand them. I didn’t understand them because I didn’t understand myself. For years, I was disconnected from my body and its cycles. My emotions and my life pushed and pulled, and I felt lost and confused. I didn’t know that it is in the embracing of the ebb and flow of my inner tides that I would find meaning, direction, and power. How much more different would my life have been, I wonder, had I been fully aware of and connected to my inner power?
It wasn’t until the last several years, since I became pregnant, that I began noticing those inner cycles.
Through journaling, through being part of a coven, and through a women’s retreat, I began seeing my cycles for what they were.
Began seeing the way I opened up, grew, danced, bloomed as the moon waxed from New to Full.
Began seeing the way I became warrior-like at the Full Moon, ever more sensitive to stimuli, more easily overstimulated by touch, sound, busyness.
As the moon waned, I saw myself draw inward, seek rest and rejuvenation, put my energy into writing and drawing rather than into more social activity.
I saw the way I craved sensual touch and passionate movement at the Dark Moon and Waxing Crescent.
At the full moon, I saw the way I became repulsed by the same touch I craved just two weeks prior. Observing the way I loved the male-bodied presence at the growing moon, and loved only the female-bodied presence at the fading moon, I became aware that cycles are so much more than the visual representations of it in the seasons, the moon, and the sun: those are outer manifestations of inner truths, and vice versa.
On one hand, my cycles were purely physical, sexual: I ovulated at the new/waxing moon and thus craved sex, and I moved into menstruation at the full/waning moon and was repulsed by any kind of sexual touch from the male-bodied person, even kisses.
On the other hand, my cycles governed my energetic and spiritual interactions with the world.
It dawned on me, not suddenly but over time, that I could either abhor my inability to be linear, and be consumed by misery, guilt, and shame–or I could embrace it, weave my life with it, and find in it a vast power and purpose.
I’m not linear
and I don’t need to be
I’m like the moon
and the tidal seas
It has only been in the last few months that I have begun completely embracing my cyclical nature. That is a blessing that being single has brought me: even though I am busy with college and work, the second half of every week, when my daughter is with her father, I have the mental and emotional space to explore my nature, to honor it and embrace it the way I wished I knew how to do pre-Motherhood.
It’s not always easy. Often, I fall short of totally embodying my power as a cyclical person and wombyn. But it is a far cry from the ignorance I embodied as an adolescent, or the frustrated half-knowing I dwelled in during the events of the first four years of my 20’s.
I have found power, finally, after years of dreaming of it, wondering about it, finding clues in the nooks and crannies of my life.
“If that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.” -excerpt from Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente, adapted by Starhawk
Power does not lie in relentless forward movement. It does not lie in endless output of energy, endless seeking, endless searching, always ignoring the need for rest, for rejuvenation, for silence and stillness. It lies in the flux and the flow of our lives, of our bodies. It lies in the twisting, turning, inward-and-outward path of the labyrinth. It is in the spiraling path, around and around, never returning to quite the same place but always repeating the cycle.
It lies in the seed, the sprout, the bloom, the fruit, the decay, the death, the compost, the seed.
It lies in the egg releasing from the ovary, in the thickening of the uterine lining, in the failed fertilization, in the casting away of the blood. (I don’t know much about the male body, but I’m sure it has similar hormonal cycles.)
It lies in the waxing sickle of moon, its plump pregnant full phase, its waning mystery, and its dark invisibility.
It lies in the East, the land of the rising sun, where incense curls and the spark of a inspiration and hope lights our beings and drives us into wild creation.
It lies in the playful excitement of high noon, the sensual peach-slurping sticky grinning giggling skin-stroking energy of the South.
It lies in the questioning, the curiosity, the yearning, the descent into darkness, the struggle, the discovery of wisdom and the strength-building of making order out of chaos in the West.
It lies in the order of the North, the love-filled give-and-take of community, the responsibility we have to the wisdom and experiences we have had, the utilizing of our knowledge in the service of others, the world, and our souls.
It lies in the return to the East, when the dawn spurs yet more growth, more inspiration.
Denying the cycles is denying power. Accepting, embracing, and integrating the cycles is wielding power.
I choose to wield power.
Do you know your cycles? If not, try keeping a daily journal for several months, jotting down your moods, the moon phases, and whatever else you think may affect your moods. Try to see if you can find a pattern. I found that, once I was aware of my cycles, I could use them to enhance my life instead of drag it around. I know at the full moon, I tend to get easily overstimulated and, if I don’t make sure I’m aware of that fact, it can lead to me getting easily angered or irritated. When I pay attention to the moon phase and to my mood, I can predict that stimuli-sensitivity, and be extra gentle with myself during that time, as well as state frankly and kindly to the people I interact with daily that, at that time of the month, I’m more sensitive.