Most of us learned about the science behind our periods during health class. Maybe there was a quick powerpoint with a diagram of a uterus, an awkward teacher passing out pads, or maybe there was no explanation of the cycle at all. So often, menstruation is approached as something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.  

It’s likely you didn’t learn how your body mirrors the sky above you, or how it performs magical feats while you run, eat, sleep, sing, and socialize as normal.

Like the phases of the moon (new moon, waxing, waning, and full) our bodies move through a cycle, and this cycle affects everything from our energy levels to our food cravings. By recognizing the ways our hormones change throughout the month, we can learn to listen to our bodies, rest at proper times, and adjust our social lives as necessary and when possible.

The first days of the menstrual cycle, usually days 1-4, is known as the menstrual phase (when you’re actually getting your period). It’s associated with the Wise Woman, intuition, inward focus, and reflective activities. It’s a good time for rest, staying home with a good book, and journaling or meditating on what you would like to let go of. In this stage, the uterus sheds its lining.

After your period, you enter the follicular phase. The pituitary gland releases a hormone that tells the ovary to produce follicles, each housing an immature egg. This phase is associated with the Maiden. This time of the month is perfect for starting new projects, as you may feel more creative and focused.

During ovulation, a mature egg releases from the surface of the ovary, usually around 2 weeks after the start of your period. This is also known as the “fertile window” of your cycle, and is associated with the Mother. It is the best time for communication, socializing, and active activity.

The last phase before menstruation, the luteal phase, is connected to the Wild Woman archetype. The egg is released from the follicle, releasing progesterone. If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone level drops, causing the lining of the uterus to fall away (menstruation). It can be a creative, active time, good for meditating and paying attention to the subconscious (an especially good time for dreamwork).

According to Miranda Grey, author of Red Moon— Understanding and Using the Creative, Sexual, and Spiritual Gifts of the Menstrual Cycle, there are two ancient ways of syncing with the moon. The first, “White Moon” bleeding, is when you bleed with the new moon. This is linked to fertility and motherhood— if this the case, it is likely you’ll want to draw inward when menstruating.

“Red Moon” bleeding means you have your period during the full moon. Traditionally, those who bled at this time were associated with shamanism and the high priestess archetype. If you bleed at this time, you might focus your energies outward in the form of mentorship or teaching.

Like the moon, all times of the menstrual cycle (and the month) are different. Learning to respect and honor each phase means we can also find respect for the many aspects of ourselves: drawing inward is just as important as being out in the world, rest is just as important as intense activity. This month, start to pay attention to what phase you are in and how you feel (maybe you are more energized or tired during a different phase than you expected). What phase of the moon do you sync up with?

In a world that tells us we could always do more, honoring the different stages of our cycles & listening to our internal rhythms is a way of reclaiming our bodies. By doing so, we are also honoring the cycles of the world around us. After all, nothing in nature blooms all year round.

Raisa Tolchinsky

Raisa Tolchinsky hails from Chicago, received a B.A. from Bowdoin College, and is currently a candidate for an M.F.A in poetry at the University of Virginia. A 2019 Brooklyn Poets Fellow, she has read and edited for Tin House Books and Tricycle Magazine, and is founding editor of SIREN. Her poems, essays, stories, and interviews have appeared in Muzzle Magazine, Tricycle, Blood Orange Review, and KR Online. When she’s not writing, she’s boxing or dancing like a weirdo on her roof. Learn more about Raisa and her work on Instagram @raisatolchinsky and on Twitter at @raisaimogen.

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