Some of the oldest shamanic remains ever found were that of a female shaman. She was buried at a site called Dolni Vestonice, in the Czech Republic. This ancient female shaman was found with a flint spearhead, shrouded by mammoth blades, covered in ochre and she was holding a fox.
It is believed that shamanism was originally a female practice linked to the moon and menstrual cults. Some of the earliest artifacts were bone lunar/menstrual calendars, used to calculate menstruation and pregnancy. Woman as shaman is in contrast to the image often conjured in the modern world of an indigenous male shamanic figure.
Ancient shamanism was an art practiced by the entire female community; it was not a solitary practice. The group was biologically rooted in their own blood mysteries such as menstruation and birth.
It makes sense that the first shamans were women. In these pre historic communities (and today) women were often the healers, midwives, spiritual advisors and wortcunners. They held information about the cycles of life and death, birth/rebirth. Many traditions believe that a woman’s first blood is some of the most healing medicine for herself and for the entire community.
Women in early agriculture used their blood, as fertilizer and I know some women today that still use their blood to feed their gardens or houseplants.
A woman’s hormones can play a key role in her shamanic abilities: just before menstruation and during women often experience their strongest healing and psychic powers. I have experienced being 'altered' and outside of time during many of my first days of my moon.
Female shamanism is based in her moon cycle and her natural rhythms of creative and generative forces. The perfect time to perform ritual is during her moon time. “Blood itself is the most magical and extraordinary substance on earth.” Early goddess altars were stained with menstrual blood. According to Durdin Robertson, it is the only ‘blood that is obtained in an ethical way’.
There is no doubt that women have a long and integral relationship with their bodies, cycles and spiritual work. Today, we live in a fast paced world where many aspects of our bodies and healing have become medicalized. Many of us are taught from an early age to distrust our own innate wisdom and to look outside for answers. This crosses over into the way we view birth, our menstrual blood and herbs. We are often taught to disregard our internal cycles of rest and creative generation. We are taught that menstrual blood is ‘dirty’ and are sold products and medications that remove contact with this vital bodily magic.
Each time the womb sheds its lining we are set free. We are released from the past and given the space for new possibilities. We are purified and anointed with our own blood. It is time to focus on the positive aspects of menstruation and to reclaim this time for us, as women.
The early shamanic menstrual cults can be an inspiration to us. We too can view our bodies, our cycles and ourselves as magical. We have the opportunity now to discover what power we hold, what strength we carry and what we can reclaim through the honoring of our menstrual cycles and blood. We can gather with other women, create moon time rituals, learn herbal knowledge, hold ceremonies for our daughters, rest and re learn our ancient, innate moon wisdom.