The Forgotten History of Women Circles and Why We Need Them Today
Women and men have been gathering in circles since the time humans could walk and communicate. Women in particular would come together for support at different times of the lunar and menstrual cycles. Women circles are an ancient practice that the Western world forgotten—until now. Other cultures like communities in Kenya and Native Americans’ tribes held the tradition all this time and today it is coming back to the rest of the world.
Historical Records Show Ancient Circle Gatherings
Historically, there is a lot of proof that gathering in circles was natural for communities. Cave drawings from 30,000 years before our era show that people all across the world came together in circles for many purposes, in many cases spiritual ones. Further evidence suggests that this started even earlier, as early as 300,000 years ago. At the time, the divinity that was honored at the center of these gatherings was feminine. Children are born from a woman, and just like in humans, the children of the universe, came from a female divinity. That was the ancient belief that many cultures and communities followed.
The shift away from circle started happening around 6,000 to 4,000 years ago when there was a push for logical and linear thinking. Instead of sharing wisdom in a circle, information started being passed down from one person to another in linear fashion as we see today with the leadership ladder. This made us lose authentic connection and community.
Women and the Red Tent
For women specifically, many circle gatherings were linked to the lunar cycle and menstruation. Some cultures adopted a negative connotation for this, because women were cast out from the community when they were bleeding. But that is not how it originated. It used to be a symbol of empowerment to hold space for your sisters and bleed together.
Physiologically, many women who live in close proximity to each other will synchronize their cycles. This happens in nature because it is safer to give birth around the same time as others. This way if one mother could not produce enough milk, other new mothers can help. If a mother were to die in childbirth, there would also be other breastfeeding women ready to take care of the newborn.
The name red tent was created to describe a safe place where women would go to bleed together and support each other, both spiritual and in feeling sexually empowered with their own divinity.
The Dark Side of the Women’s Circles History
Tragically, just like women had their share of oppression and losing their rights on many fronts in the past, this dark side of history got its hand on the circle gatherings as well.
Women were persecuted for gathering together in groups before because that was considered a witch-like behavior. (By the way, there is nothing wrong with being a witch! It just means a healer in its own way; no black magic needed!)
In 1484 in Germany two monks tortured and murdered female spiritual leaders to intentionally destroy the female spirituality movement. This oppression went on for 500 years, and circles kept breaking apart and disappearing even after.
It did not make women avoid each other’s company altogether but for a while they switched to what was acceptable by society such as knitting clubs and tea parties.
Women Circles Today
Today, many women leaders are bringing the circle back. The 60’s and 70’s revived the circle through drug-triggered spiritual awakenings. Then in the 80’s and 90’s circles kept popping up but they were still considered something “new age”, and looked down upon by the mainstream media.
The Western World is going back to the roots and accepting and starting to welcome women gatherings. Men have gatherings too, and inclusive human gathers where men and women come together in a circle are happening as well.
The circles today are needed more than ever as women are stepping back into their powerful role in society and in the world as a whole. Taking back this power of the divine feminine is easier with the right support, which circles can provide. The modern circle can fit the needs of any woman. It is no longer a strictly “spiritual” or a “new age” experience, any woman can enjoy, grow, and learn through the circle.