A Journal of Menstruation and Culture
Dear Colleagues, Students, and Friends,
After an intense nine day trip to visit South American activists, Annie Lapham and I returned Monday, January 29, from Santiago, Chile. Surrounded by ripe apricot and plum trees, we had a glorious time, and found the South American women were eager to hear new theory, and in particular they are very excited about Metaformic Theory (Teoria Metaformica). Several took my powerpoint back to their countries, which were Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil and of course Chile.
I was invited to Santiago by women from varied backgrounds and religions, a group called Conspirando, who have been engaged with Liberation Theology and popular education for years, and who have decided to "re-mythologize" the world for themselves in order to fully include women and women’s issues. Their center is called "Tremonhue, Centro de Espiritualidad y Salud Integral", which is run by Capacitar-Chile. Every year, a group from all over South America meets for a week in order to do ritual, share stories, laughter and tears, and learn new theory. They have been studying Jungian archetypes and the work of Toni Wolf, Jung’s soulmate mistress, taught by Rachel Fitzgerald, psychotherapist and neoshaman educator working in the Bay Area and Sacramento.
Women attending are leaders in various fields: South American Anthropologists, Feminist Theologians, Eco-feminists, Therapists, Midwives, Writers, Dancers, Gender Studies professors, Publishers, Scientists, Social activists, and so on. A Brazilian whose books are in English (so let's read them) is Ivone Gebara, one of Latin America’s leading theologians and ecofeminists; she assisted with the multiple translations needed for this varied group, English to Spanish, Spanish to Portuguese.
The organizers, including Rachel, Judy Ress, Margaret O'Rourke, and Maruja Gonzales, invited me to bring Metaformic Theory to their gathering this year after reading my 1993 book Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World, (Beacon Press) which as most of you know, outlines the ideas for a fresh new origin story, one which encompasses Genesis, Darwinian Evolutionary Theory, and more. In addition to presenting at the Encuentro (meeting) in the beautiful Andes mountains, the organizers also put together an evening "Conference" for me in the cosmopolitan city of Santiago, attended by about forty women professionals. This audience also was very responsive, holding a lively discussion for about an hour, and would have gone longer except we had to leave the building.
My first talk was formally responded to by a young anthropologist, Michelle Sadler, who holds a Master’s degree in Medical anthropology from Oxford; she is the Sub-Director at the Interdisciplinary Center for Gender Studies (CIEG) at the University of Chile in Santiago, and also faculty in the Anthropology Department. She too was enthusiastic about Metaformic Theory, seeing its ideas connected to her own concerns in the field of women’s health. She particularly connected it to the alarming rate of Caesarian Section births in Chile, ranging from 30 percent in public hospitals to a horrendous figure of 90 percent in privately funded hospitals. In other words unnecessary operations on the womb are subsidized by insurance. She offered such lively examples of menstrual culture in myths and practices in Chile that she enabled the audience to immediately contextualize Metaformic Theory.
We took my newest powerpoint, rich with vivid illustrations I've collected for several years, made beautiful by Dianne Jenett, and thanks to Annie, and with the help of several South American women, the text was translated into Spanish, much appreciated by the viewers.
We felt at home in the Women’s Spirituality container they created, and we hope for cross connections between our programs, and so do they. We will be in discussion with Con-spirando about this. I had two and a half hours to present at the Encuentro in the Andes near the fast-flowing Maipo river, to gratifyingly enthusiastic response. One woman said this was a historic moment because not only is Metaformic Theory important to know, I am also showing that women do not have to remain dependent on men for theory: "We can do our own theory," and she looked around the room at each woman, "we can all be theorists." I couldn’t agree more! Also, four Aymaran women attended, two from Peru and two from the highlands of Bolivia. These indigenous Andean people are weavers and probably the original growers of potatoes; I have written briefly about them in my article, "Goddess of the Blood of Life, Part One," online at Metaformia.org. Their journey to the meeting took three and a half days by bus, carrying on their backs woven goods they sell. All four had particularly strong responses to Metaformic Theory, wanting to use it to help restore Aymaran rituals that are rapidly being lost. Annie and I, and our faculty, are invited to visit them, and want to make strong connections between them and Women's Spirituality programs.
Women already knew of Vicki Noble's Motherpeace cards and were using them at the Encuentro. Several women specifically asked me to extend their greetings to Vicki and were thrilled to hear she is working in our program. In the past, Vicki has both taught and taken women on tours to sacred sites in Peru, and Luisah Teish has had her work taught at a university in Brazil, and I have had poetry translated and published in Venezuela, So our faculty has already begun some South American connections, and we are very much looking forward to deepening our relationships with our South American compañeras.
Their WEB site link and email contact information: www.conspirando.cl and email@example.com.
Blessings and thanks for all your thoughts, prayers, good energy to us. A million thanks to Dianne Jenett, Ed May, and Kris Brandenburger for invaluable assistance getting us off—an adventure in itself—and to Brian McDonald for coming up with an LCD projector. Special thanks to Annie Lapham for being such a valuable assistant, translator, and good traveling companion.
We brought back video and plan a presentation—we will let you know where and when.
Judy Grahn, Ph.D.
Co-director, Women's Spirituality M.A. Program
New College of California