Funeral and Birth
By Mary Pagendam-Turner
A few weeks ago, I began longing for the Goddess Menses to return to me. Menses – the red Goddess of the moon and the earth. I longed to feel her cycle in my body again and tune into its beautiful feminine rhythms of creativity and cleansing, so when my moon blood began to flow last night, I proudly told my husband that it was time to celebrate.
The few days leading up to this had been a time of profound spiritual insight for me, as well as a time when I felt the need to rest as much as I could, so when Menses arrived, I realised that I had already, unknowingly, been responding to her wisdom. During this time, I had come across Cora’s birth treasures, her baby name bracelets from the hospital, the mother and child pendant I have worn in my last weeks of pregnancy, a Lourdes medal that had belonged to my mother’s mother and my breastfeeding ring. I had wondered then, when the right time would be to give her these things, and had decided to do so on the day she begins to bleed. When that happens, I intend to welcome her into the red tent with much joy and honouring.
I had been keeping Cora’s placenta in the freezer for the seven and a half months since her birth, waiting for the right time to bury it. My midwife had told me that I would know when the time was right. When I began to bleed, I knew. So, this morning , I went to the nursery to find a tree. Greg guarded the beautiful sleeping Cora while I made this solitary pilgrimage. I chose an Orange Jessamine – beautiful, like my baby.
This evening, I began my ritual. I ran a bath and poured salt into the water. I lit a candle with two wicks – myself and Cora. I filled the room with incense. In the bath I pondered what this meant to me. At first, thoughts of the everyday chattered distractingly behind my eyes, until I realised that I had begun to swirl the water around my womb with my hands, deosil, the direction that raises power. I felt the building energy in my belly and saw in my minds eye a ball of bright golden light, the size of a newborns’ head crowing at my yoni.
I moved my hands to it, and drew it out of myself. I lifted it from the water and felt its weight as it grew larger in my hands. I spread my fingers and it spread like a covering over my body. Then I pushed it back into me and it melting into my whole body.
This was the birth of new creativity. I gave birth to it and gave it back to myself. What had once come only from my womb was now present in my whole self.
I lay relaxed, then, bathing in the life waters of the Goddess – salt water and mother blood.
Soon I was ready to rise from my bath. I dried and put on the cool loose dress that I wore for much of my pregnancy. It was pink, for love, and during those agonizing postnatal weeks it had soaked up my lochia when it was all I could stand to have against my swollen skin. Now I allowed my moon blood to flow down my thighs onto its fabric.
I took incense, my double candle, my placenta and the first of my moon blood, which I had collected, onto the back deck. There I found a pot of old earth, left undisturbed since Cora was conceived. I dug it, broke it up, tilled it and scooped it out. I was surprised to find how beautifully rich and black it was, after all this time.
When the earth was prepared I open the tin containing my placenta. At first I was afraid that I would be disgusted by it or overwhelmed by the smell. I was surprised that there was a lot of blood in with it. I poured it into the pot and then, slowly, the placenta slid out. It was only partly thawed, so I couldn’t spread it out to examine it fully, but I turned it over in my hands, feeling its textures. I played with the membrane covering it on one side and it bubbled and rippled under my finders. I felt the rough parts where it had been connected to me. I found a thawed loop of umbilical cord and twisted it around my finger. That was the most beautiful part. I wished that I could wait to unfold it and find the tree root design that other mothers talk about, but I know it wasn’t right. It was time to let go.
I placed it in the earth in the pot. I didn’t know what to do about the blood covering my hands so I picked up a handful of the earth I had scooped out and washed my hands in it, letting it fall over the placenta.
Suddenly and most unexpectedly I began to cry. I cried because I could not hold my Cora in my womb forever. In the dark of the moon, I cried because I was buying my womb’s connection to her – I was burying my pregnancy. I cried for the birth I had longed for and lost. I cried and cried and my tears fell into the earth where I was burying my ability to completely insulate and protect my daughter. I reached my hand down to touch that earthy birthy, half frozen lotus one last time and found that it was completely covered with earth. Then my tears consumed me. I bent double in grief and let my tears fall into the pot.
My tears fell with ferocious freedom. They fell and fell as I bled and bled. They fell and I thought the pain would break my heart. In sacred sadness they flowed down and down. They fell from a place I hadn’t even know was in me. They fell from my womb and my heart and my ego. They fell from my misguided good intentions and my frustrated mother-tigress self. They fell and I hated that they had to fall at all. The y fell and something quickened inside me. They fell and I loved them.
I arose from my tears. I arose to enter a time of new creativity. I arose to love my daughter as a separate person. I arose to give myself time and respect and nurturance. I arose covered in birth blood and moon blood and dirt. I gave birth to myself. I planted Cora’s tree over our placenta. I watered it with my moon blood. The funeral was complete.
I cam inside and turned on the shower. I washed away the blood and dirt. I meticulously scrubbed my fingernails until every speck of dirt was gone. I washed my hair and emerged clean and new and full of tremendous joy. I knew then that this story was to be shared.
I opened a bottle of sweet red wine I had been saving since my engagement – for what I had not known, and told my husband this story. And now I tell it to you.