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Menstrual Blood Art

Trigger warning: blog post discusses menstrual blood. A lot.

I have recently (in the past five years) become very interested in the menstrual cycle. My interest was piqued when I first heard about “cycle syncing” and how in 2019 the national US women’s soccer players tracked their menstrual cycles in order to “help them win the world cup,” by creating more ease in their lives by planning everyday activities around their cycles. For example, planning to have an evening of downtime to conserve energy, or planning their hardest workouts when they know they have the most energy. 

After learning about cycle synching, I quickly began to manually track my own menstrual cycle - every part of it, follicular, ovulation, luteal and menstruation. I was looking at physical symptoms during each stage, how many days apart my bleeds were (I used to think I had an exact 28 day cycle, but it turns out I’m more of a 30 day cycle), emotional symptoms, and any other things of note. I think I initially decided to track my menstrual cycle so that I could sync up my own workouts for better endurance and effectiveness, but I ended up becoming invested in tracking my cycle because of the stronger connection I was developing to my own body. It was so cool to start to notice patterns within my own cycles! 

Tracking my own menstrual cycle, or moon cycle as I like to call it because the moon and uterus-havers both operate on a monthly cycle and I enjoy feeling connected to nature, allowed me to guide myself in learning more about the endocrine system and what happens throughout the month in my own body that causes me to have a period. I learned a surface level version of this in school but I swear we only learned a very basic level of understanding the menstrual cycle. We definitely did not talk about how much a uterus person can learn about their health based on what their moon cycle is doing/what phase they are in, etc. It’s truly magical in my opinion!! 

For example, during the latter part of my luteal phase, I start to become very hungry and I feel more tired throughout the day. During ovulation, I often begin to crave pickles and vinegary snacks. In my follicular phase I typically feel perfectly fine throughout the week. When I start to notice these changes throughout the month, I am able to more accurately guess where I am at in my moon cycle and therefor am able to better care for my body during those times. Taking better care of my body might look like feeding myself warm and nourishing meals to fill my bottomless late luteal appetite; indulging in pickles and maybe a dirty martini here or there during the few hours I’m ovulating; and doing as much as I can when I feel perfectly fine. 

Not only have I been learning about the menstrual cycle on a biological level, but I have also been learning more about the energetics of the menstrual cycle in regards to feminine energy. This can be a harder concept to fully grasp and I myself am still learning about it. Some people don’t believe in the energies of things, but I do, so this has been really interesting to learn about. The female energy is all about creating, and so it’s important to know when you must rest in order for your creation to be its’ best. 

Somewhere along the way of all this self-teaching and re-learning about the uterus-having body, I got curious about using my own menstrual blood to make art. Despite the fact that my mother was appalled at the idea of using menstrual blood as an art medium when I told her about it, this is not unheard of. I am definitely not the first person to make art from their menstrual blood. In fact, I’ve heard of people using their menstrual blood for all kinds of things-  face masks, soil fertilizer, paint material, poetic inspiration, and more. During this time, I had also been learning more about the concept of “free bleeding,” when a uterus-owner bleeds freely during their bleed week without any sort of “unnatural material” coming into contact with the vagina (i.e. pads, tampons, menstrual cups, etc.). When people told me free bleeding softens your period cramps I decided to test it out myself and free bleed onto a canvas to make some art.

The Art Process 

The first day of my February bleed, I set up the big sheet of paper on my bathroom floor. I crowded my bathroom floor with necessities because I didn’t know how long I might be in there; chocolate, water, heating pad, a stool to sit on, my phone and my laptop. I stood on the paper, naked from the waist down, and waited. I was surprised by how long it took to actually get blood on the paper. It seemed like my body felt scared to let anything go. I made myself comfortable and waited it out. I listened to 528 hertz music, put my phone on do not disturb, watched TikToks and just sat.

I finally was able to get something onto the paper, but I wanted more! I had originally thought I would use a paintbrush to make a painting with my blood, but at the rate the blood was coming out of me and considering the less-than-I-had-imagined amount, I didn’t think I would have enough to really warrant much use of a brush. So I used my finger and swirled designs onto the paper like finger paint. It was the most intimate thing I’ve ever done with myself. In my experience, it took much longer than anticipated to get a satisfactory amount of blood onto the paper. It took about five hours of kneeling, and squatting, and standing and laying, and shaking and repeating. I had such a positive experience creating this way that I decided to add to the same canvas during the first day of my bleed the following month. It was nice to incorporate an intimate form of creation into my moon cycle ritual.

The Ritual of the Moon Cycle

This year I am creating more rituals for myself as part of my new year’s resolutions. For me personally, I define rituals as a way to make a consistent practice more spiritual, give it more intention, time and care. I allow myself to make rituals out of anything I feel called to, big or small. When I cook dinner, I turn on a specific lamp to set a warm glow and put on good music and usually sing along or talk to loved ones. This allows me to take a break from my day and enjoy creating in the kitchen and invite mindfulness and joy into an everyday part of my day. It seems like a fairly mundane thing - talking on the phone or playing music while you cook - but that’s what rituals are to me, celebrating the mundane in human life and allowing time for more gratitude for those small moments that make up your existence. 

As someone who bleeds monthly, I wanted to make a ritual for my moon time. The week leading up to my bleed, I try as much as possible to take it as easy as life allows. I say no to more plans, I don’t work out as much, I sleep in. I eat a lot (because I’m usually very hungry during this time) and I spend more time in silence just listening to my body and responding to what it needs. The night before I am supposed to get my period, I turn all the lights in my room off and light some candles. When I’m by myself I like to journal, but when I’m with my partner we lay in bed talking quietly. It has been really nice to add menstrual blood painting as a part of my moon cycle ritual the past two months. I probably won't do it every month (because it does take a considerable amount of time and it's not the most comfortable to be squatting in your bathroom for hours on end over a sheet of paper) (perhaps if I could somehow do this privately outside when it's warm and I could sit comfortably not in a cramped bathroom, I would incorporate it every month), but it will stay with me as a tool to utilize when I want to. Not to mention that perhaps it could be cool to hold my blood in a way that it could be used with a paint brush.

The Big "AHAH!" Moment

The most magical realization of all that I had during this experience was how much LIFE I put into my art. It wasn’t until I started bleeding onto paper, and saw my literal life force going from me and my body into my artwork, that I realized how powerful art really is. Artists really do put their hearts and souls into their creations and I got to witness that myself during the making of this piece. I create this powerful type of energy exchange whenever I create, whether I’m bleeding onto paper or simply putting paint to canvas, fingers to keyboards. Art transmutes energy! Art is magic and so are we, as the creators!

Trigger warning: if you don't like blood you shouldn't look at these pictures


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