Sisterhood and shadows

Hands holding one another

It’s the first night of our summer festival and 70 women have gathered in a stone circle in the forest at the edge of our community. More and more are drifting in. It’s a women’s evening led by myself and the other woman who guardians the black tent a few meters away with me: our moon temple.

Setting the space

We set the frame for the evening, introduce ourselves, and start with a round of names and ancestors. Each woman names the women of her maternal lineage. We reflect briefly on appreciating our mother lines and move on to a ritual to reject the conditioning, patterns and qualities that we don’t want in the space.

woman running outside

Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash

Women call out envy, competition, the hatred of men, spite, self-hate, judgement, disrespect, body hatred… and then we call in the principles and qualities upon which we want to hold our meeting: sisterhood, empathy, clarity, authenticity, care, inner beauty, love of men, love of women, love of all genders, self-love, compassion, cellulite, saggy breasts…

The space is set. The women glow at each other. The trees ring with the echoes of our laughter and open-hearted chatter as we move on to some encountering exercises; It’s about meeting one another, seeing the being in the other, stepping out of the roles of our culture: mother, whore, caretaker, girlfriend, feminist, careerist, and of course, woman… to be who we are, as we are, accepting ourselves and the other with whatever expression of life, love or spirit wants to be in the space.

Everything ok?

There’s a beautiful energy of connection and devotion to one another as we come into movement, humming and stamping our feet. It’s late now, the almost full moon is high between the trees as we dance, and a few women have taken their leave to put children to bed, get an early night, or have time alone, but as we are pulsing in this circle, a woman leaving catches my eye. Something about her movements or the hunch of her shoulders sets off an alarm bell tinkling inside me, and with a quick glance and nod to my co-leader I slip away after her…

„Hey, everything ok?“
„oh yes thank you, sorry I’m just so tired“
„hey no problem, I just got the feeling something’s up…“
„oh well I just… this woman… well it’s silly really“
„Well she was a bit blunt with me earlier in the circle because she didn’t want me sitting on her mat, and it was crowded and I felt a bit upset by her selfishness, and then just now in the dance she kinda pushed me into the middle and I was already feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable and it’s just all too much…“

Tears well in her eyes. She’s at least ten years older than me and this miscommunication with another woman has shaken her into the emotions of a young child.

flowers in ice

„The space beyond the stories of what women should be, is the same space beyond the stories of what men should be“

Sisterhood and society

Often women come to me after these circles and say things like „I’d never been able to imagine real sisterhood until tonight“ or „I came here with my partner’s lover and it’s the first time we could be in a space together without a conflict“ or „I wish I’d had spaces like this growing up to learn to love and ally with other women instead of competing“. And I believe them.

In our individualistic capitalist patriarchal society, spaces like this offer a dream of connectivity, the beautiful possibilities our hearts long for – of loving connection being-to-being, dropping the stories, resentments and dramas and recognising one another as souls living a human experience. These women’s circles can be a glimpse into a possible culture. Even more beautiful is the reminder that the space beyond the stories of what women should be, is the same space beyond the stories of what men are or should be: A space where we can find this harmony, acceptance and love with all genders together. And the thing is, that what’s keeping us from these spaces is not the presence of the other gender(s) but our own inner limitations, fears and lack of commitment to live the qualities we wish to.

It’s all well and good to talk the talk, but when it comes to our own inner scarcity, these moments where we feel trapped, emotional, insecure, and where we tap into our habitual patterns to maintain a sense of wellness; strategies of holding others away; are we really willing to take the step out of our comfort zones? Do we shut the other out, and conceal our pain, or do we welcome them into our experience, trusting that we can be authentic and allow ourselves to be loved with what is moving us? And can we accept the boundaries of the other and take responsibility to meet our own needs when they can’t be there for us?

woman in shadows of nature

For me it’s a question of how I can hold space for this. It seems like these two women might  actually have needed each other that evening, even have been the perfect match. If they had been able to open to one another, to share their mutual insecurities, needs for space or affection, perhaps this moment would have been one of true cooperation and sisterhood, truly seeing one another with where we are, insecurity, saggy breasts and all. Or maybe a loving boundary could be seen and received with love; a „I see you in your pain, and hold space for your boundary.“

The call

For me it was a wake up call to hold more active space for the dark as much as the light. For the sadness, insecurity, fear of overwhelm. To accept and love these parts in ourselves and one another, and to put them in their place without denying their existence. It’s time that our circles walk the walk as much as talking the talk. That we see that it’s not all yummy harmony, but that we are all holding our pain and can be authentic in that. We can learn to set boundaries to the shadows so that they don’t lead our spaces, at the same time as accepting that they are
there. And we can commit to continue to love and call out the light beings in every person even as we see that they are acting out of pain.

It’s time that our circles walk the walk as much as talking the talk.

It’s the difference between „calling out“ pushing the dark away, and „calling in“ inviting the radiant warrioress, leuchtende Kriegerin, to take the reins and navigate through the shadows with our love and support to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in the now. In cooperation. In sisterhood.

A warrior of the light, leuchtende Kriegerin, has her sword at the ready, her shadow on a leash and stands shoulder to shoulder with her sisters, brothers and others, together against the shadows for the light.

With love,



Title photo by Joey Yu on Unsplash

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