Put simply it is a gathering of women in support of one another.
Women have been doing this since the beginning of time. The circle is the oldest form of social interaction. Men and women gathered around the fire to cook and eat their food, to tell stories of traditions and share wisdom that essentially kept the early people alive, connected and belonging. Women come together to collaborate and share the many and varied experiences of their lives in their efforts to care for children, to worship deities, to provide comfort to the sick and dying and to shape visions that have changed the path of history.
Primitive women came together in caves to paint their stories. They gathered in tents at the dawn of Christianity to sing the praises of their God. During the Middle Ages they withdrew behind stonewalls of monasteries to study, pray and minister to the sick. Religion was a focal point for the oldest women’s circles. The Wiccans and Celtic Christians of the 5th and 6th C and the little known Jewish tradition of Rosh Chodesh provided a space for women to draw on each other’s strengths and support while providing opportunities for them to care for others in their communities.
Women gathered together for healing ceremonies on the Full and New Moon. Long before the suppression of women these traditions honoured the feminine, the earth and celebrated fertility. In temples across ancient Europe, Rome and Greece women were learning from one another how to develop powers of intuition and perception. They were taught how to nurture and embrace their inherently feminine gifts.
In a heartbreaking turn of events for the powerful healing forces of the sisterhood, relatively egalitarian societies developed into patriarchal social systems allowing the male impetus to become the dominant paradigm. This change began some 4000 years ago. There was an emphasis on cognitive learning and a suppression of the feminine force. With the dramatic advancements of today, women are still perceived as secondary influences in decision-making and access to authority. What lies beneath this seemingly negative circumstance is the undeniable fact that women have the power to generate new life. Women have the knowledge and intuitive abilities to offer solace; to heal and create harmony all drawn from the strength of many gathered as one.
However, the strength and tenacity of women could not be extinguished and like-minded sisters have gathered in coffee shops, quilting circles, church basements, mothers’ groups and even the humble Tupperware party. Women still had the call to gather but neglected to delve into that energy that would offend the masculine or diminish that power.
In The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, Rush observes, “the rituals being created today by various women are part of the renaissance of women’s spirituality, that is, of the ultimate holiness or life-sacredness of women and the female creative process. Within a world which for centuries has tried to brand women as ‘unclean,’ as ‘devils,’ or as ‘immoral corruptor of man,’ this healing process is a vital one.” “Women need to once again create new theory and practices for ourselves in order to reunite the spiritual element with the social-political.”
The women’s circle of today is vastly different from gossiping at a hen’s night. The purpose of a circle is to assist every woman to receive support and empowerment to live her own unique life to the fullest. Many women suffer in silence from depression, loneliness and anxiety and science tells us that strong social connections have positive health protective effects. There are many kinds of circles that are born from the needs of the women. Support circles; healing and wellness circles; community action circles; spiritual/religious circles. Effects of women’s circles can be profound. For this reason women return again and again.
When women come together in a circle they join together to embrace all in sacred space and intention. The women’s circles of ancient times reflect the purpose of the modern circle and connect those present in a singular purpose. Women share stories and work towards a deeper understanding of their own identity and that of the group. Sharing joy, working on projects or participating in sacred rituals all allow women purpose.
Think on the power of a women’s circle to bring together women who share a dream. A dream that has the power to change the world.
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