“Did you know that recently they’ve shown that menstrual blood,
under Kirlian photography, gives off pure white light? It’s perhaps
the most sacred substance on the planet.” —Vicki Noble
By Cat Saunders
Vicki Noble is one of the forerunners of reawakening feminine consciousness. She has been involved in shamanic practices and women’s healing work since the early 1970s. Noble is perhaps best known for her woman-centered Motherpeace Tarot Cards, co-created in the late 1970s with Karen Vogel.
In her book, Shakti Woman: Feeling Our Fire, Healing Our World: The New Female Shamanism, Noble writes convincingly about the need for all people to honor the powerful “survival thrust” that is occurring now. According to Noble, this shift is calling people to return to ancient ways of living. This means listening to the body, living from the heart, and cultivating community through sacred ritual and group healing practices.
Noble believes that women are particularly called to embody this shift because of our biological and cyclic connection to the earth, the moon, and the tides. Her book, Shakti Woman, rides the crest of this transition out of patriarchy back to wholeness. The book offers extensive research, practical information, and personal encouragement to help people work more effectively as change-agents in the world.
Cat: Would you talk about the ancient significance of menstrual blood in the Goddess religion?
Vicki: In the beginning, the religious sacrifice that was made at the altar was menstrual blood. The priestesses gave their blood back to the earth and I think they did that in very communal ways. Women bled together and considered their moontime as a sacred biological event that happened every month. It wasn’t split the way it is now—isolated and hidden and insulated.
Did you know that recently they’ve shown that menstrual blood, under Kirlian photography, gives off pure white light? It’s perhaps the most sacred substance on the planet. And if you take a Kirlian photograph of a menstruating woman, she will also be emanating that same white light. This really brings into question all the practices of keeping women out of religious ceremonies during their moontime.
Cat: That was done out of fear of women’s power. They should have used our power instead.
Vicki: Yes. Real, authentic, sacred authority. In ancient times, they did honor the power of bleeding women in religious ceremonies. That was the basis of the religion. During the blood flow was the time when women were the most sacred, the most numinous. It’s when policy got made, visions were brought through, and the seed was planted every month on behalf of the community.
Women also invented agriculture. In agriculture, menstrual blood was used to fertilize—both literally and magically. From the most ancient times, women’s cultivation and the beginnings of civilization came out of this connection of the bleeding woman to the earth.
At some point in the patriarchal takeover that began five thousand years ago, women’s blood lost its place of honor in ceremonies. This was because women were no longer the priestesses. They were replaced by male priests who actually put on fake breasts, robes, and feminine accoutrements so they could bring forth the sacred energy.
Since they needed blood for the rituals, blood sacrifices started happening everywhere. Animals began to be sacrificed for their blood, a practice which still continues in many places. Human sacrifice also started at that time. Some people mistakenly relate human sacrifice to Goddess religion, but it started much later and had to do with the transition to patriarchy.
The blood mystery was the central focal point of the religious experience of Goddess worship. So the taboo of blood became the central focus in patriarchal culture. It was the demonization of what was most sacred. This demonization of the female and her blood was brought down through five thousand years. More taboos accumulated along the way, as in the Middle Ages when women couldn’t go to church if they were bleeding.
Cat: How does all this relate to your theory of PMS?
Vicki: PMS is the obvious physical expression of the horrible cost of these taboos on women’s natural cycles. The time just before and during the time we bleed is our most sacred time. It’s the time that we most need to be female-centered. Everybody around us should be aligning with us in this sacred space. But instead, we’re asked to go out and align with the male world. It’s hormonally catastrophic. Of course we can’t do it!
Cat: I think PMS should mean, “Put Men Second.”
Vicki: Yes, exactly! Then we would do fine. I think PMS is the result of not honoring what we need at all the times in our cycle. Eighty to 90 percent of us have premenstrual moodiness or discomfort. And then when we bleed, we have terrible cramping and other symptoms. I also think that all the breast and womb cancer, endometriosis, fibroid tumors and other so-called “female problems” are the result of dishonoring our sacredness as women
So many women have had hysterectomies or have had incredible problems with their reproductive systems—abortions and miscarriages and infertility or too much fertility—that it’s very painful to come back into consciousness about this issue. It probably can’t be done without some really serious confrontation with our own oppression and victimization in the culture.
The key is to come back into consciousness about the sacredness and centrality of the blood in our lives. If you’re menopausal, it’s just as important to come back to this centrality, though in a different way. The fact that you don’t bleed anymore is what makes you an elder. You retain the wisdom all the month around.
Cat: I appreciated your story about setting boundaries with your daughters around your need for uninterrupted dream time in the morning. If you would say something about motherhood versus martyrdom, that would be great.
Vicki: Motherhood is a central place where many of us women get a chance to work on the process of taking back our inner self, our inner point of reference. We’re taught to be completely responsible for our children and to do everything for them. This has generally meant that we are focused outside of ourselves—on them. We’re not taught to mother our instincts. We’re supposed to “listen to the experts.”
Birthing is the most graphic demonstration of what I’m talking about. The fact that we go lie down on our backs, put our feet up in metal stirrups, get all covered up, and have a male technician cut us open and pull a baby out of our bodies. That is the ultimate in passivity! That’s the ultimate in giving it over and being outside of ourselves.
We’re in this double-bind of being constantly asked to be outside of ourselves in order to take care of the beings who came from inside of us! We need to move back inside of ourselves and get anchored in the belly, which is the place of desire and of knowing what we really need. If we can do this, then we can come from a place of wholeness in our mothering.
If you know where you stand, it gives your children an opportunity to develop a standpoint because you’re modeling it as a demonstration. It’s not abstract. If there is somewhere that you are, then your child can find you there and be met. But if you’re not there, the child has the incredibly painful and chaotic experience of the mother not being there, of there being no ground.
It’s the job of the mother, biologically, to be the ground out of which we grow as children. When our mothers don’t have any identity, it’s terrible for us. We never feel safe. We can’t experience safety in our bodies in a primal way, because we don’t have the experience of being in relationship with someone who’s there.
Once you begin to come from a place inside yourself, it entirely changes your mothering because you no longer do it by the book. You start doing it by your wits and your instincts. You become an actual mother—like a mother animal—and you start relating to your children as your cubs.
When they need protection, they get protection from you. When they need to be kicked out of the nest, they get that—and they get it in a loving way. It’s totally instinctual so there is no need for all the guilt most mothers dump on their children.
In the book, I wrote about the time when I was 29 or 30 and my daughters were just approaching puberty. At that time, I saw myself as making a beam of light so strong that my daughters could walk on it through their adolescence and get to the other side.
I knew adolescence was the fatal time, the time when I died as a young person, when my soul went underground and I became sex-role conditioned so that I went into the culture in a blind, accommodating way. A lot of my own work has been to try to come back to my original state of knowing where and who I was in my own right.
Because of when I started doing this work, my children and I ended up doing the work together. We grew up together because there was no other choice. And it was wonderful that we did. They’re very healthy people and I feel great about them. It’s not that I wasn’t neurotic with them. I was! But I just decided that I was going to be myself no matter what and that I was going to love them from that standpoint. It worked!
Cat: If you decide to give women a place to begin this shift to mothering from an internal standpoint, what would you say?
Vicki: We literally have to come back to the belly. We have to come back to the womb. It’s really physical. It’s so basic. We have to feel ourselves. We need to breathe in the belly. If you can’t take a breath into your own belly, then that’s where you need to start working. Once you can breathe in the belly, then you can start to feel whether or not something is right for you.
As you gradually get more strength in your own knowing, you will be able to provide a stronger ground of support for your children. And best of all, you will be modeling for them to trust their own instincts and to ask inside to know what’s right for them.
This interview was originally published in The New Times (December 1991) and updated in May 2017.
For more information about Vicki Noble and her work, please visit www.motherpeace.com.
Cat Saunders, Ph.D., is a counselor in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is also the author of Dr. Cat’s Helping Handbook: A Compassionate Guide for Being Human (available through Amazon). Contact Cat by emailing her or by calling 206-329-0125 (24-hour voicemail).