What are Women’s Circles?
Women’s circles go by many names but essentially most have their roots in the Red tents of ancient times. These were sacred spaces that women stayed in at the time of menstruation, where they shared stories, used their intuitive skills and loved and supported each other. Modern gatherings tend to continue with this theme and have monthly meet ups where women have space to be. Some people think it terrible that women used to be segregated at this time but after facilitating a circle for just over a year I would happily skip off to a tent for a few days with my female family and neighbours each month.
The circle that I facilitate meets around the time of the new moon, the time when most women menstruate and we are all focusing inwards, our intuition is heightened and we are setting intentions for the next moon cycle. We meet in someone’s house or, weather permitting, outside. Each circle is opened with a poem, prayer or meditation, then we’ll discuss the theme of that month’s gathering before we take turns to share (if we wish to) anything that comes up. This can be how we are feeling, something troubling we need support with, good news, the intentions we have set etc. and there is always time for tea and sharing food, cake is almost always present!
Not everyone wants to talk in circle which is fine, the important thing is that everyone feels safe and comfortable to do so if and when they are ready. The theme of a circle is usually related to womanhood, the season or sometimes someone will suggest an activity. We have covered topics such as our ancestral maternal line, motherhood and what it means to us to be a woman, we have had reflexology and creative kinesiology workshops, celebrated the summer solstice with a bonfire on the beach and Halloween celebrating and connecting with our ancestors. We have recently returned from our first weekend retreat as a group in Cornwall, an incredible weekend with much love and laughter cementing the already strong bonds that a group of women who didn’t know each other a few months ago have formed. It truly is a beautiful thing!
Starting a Circle
Before I started this circle, red tents kept popping up in the books I was reading, my social media feeds and when I was researching other things on the internet. I felt that this was something I would like to set up and wondered whether there would be much interest. I didn’t think that I was qualified or experienced enough to hold space for a group of women so I thought I would do some of the online courses first (some of which are prohibitively expensive) and then I would be ready to start a circle. At the time I couldn’t afford the training but the calling to form a circle persisted, I couldn’t ignore it, so I decided to take the plunge in June 2018. The first circle was just me and three friends, none of whom had even heard of a circle and had no idea what to expect but wanted to support me, the following month there were five women and two months later there were twelve women enjoying a gong bath in my house. We now have between four and ten at each circle and over fifty members in our private facebook group; some of these will join us in person when the time is right for them. The great thing is that people dip in and out, they come when they want or need to and so there is always a different mix of women, only recently we had two women join us who were visiting the area on holiday.
Being a Reiki practitioner, Reiki is a big part of our circle. I use Reiki, to prepare the space before we start, in the guided meditations we occasionally do and to guide and support me with my role within the group. I learned that to have a couple of other circle members that feel comfortable facilitating the circle is very important, they are there to support me if difficult issues arise, to step in if I cannot be there and help with discussions and themes.
Benefits of a Women’s Circle
I find facilitating circle incredibly rewarding, watching women who are nervous at attending their first gathering blossom over time when surrounded by the love of their circle sisters brings so much joy. Seeing bonds develop and strengthen, witnessing women feel safe enough to reach out for help and support, and how the circle rallies round in times of need fills me with love.
It’s important to me that all women have a space like this and I know there are many women out there that like me, would like guidance and support in starting their own group. This is why I am in the process of setting some dates for one day facilitator training workshops in 2020, to support other women to take the first step to opening circle to their communities.
About the Author
Author: Sarah-Jayne Ward
Sarah-Jayne Ward is a Holyfire III Reiki master from North Devon. A UK Reiki Federation member, women’s wellness advocate, workshop leader and wellness retreat facilitator, she also offers treatments and co facilitates at The Fibro Clinic South West in Barnstaple. Sarah is looking to continue her personal and professional development concentrating on healing modalities for the wellbeing of women.