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The Red Tent has a history,
but what is it?
It is important to define what the Red Tent is. First and foremost, The Red Tent (1997) is a novel by Anita Diamant that retells the biblical rape story of Dinah. “The Rape of Dinah” (Genesis, chapter 34) was recounted not by Dinah, but by her brothers. Diamant provided a fictional feminist retelling of the tale, giving Dinah her own voice. She also gave the women a menstrual hut, a form of women’s community. The book is presented through Dinah’s eyes and those of the women around her. The Red Tent is rooted in its feminist retelling of this ancient biblical story, in which the idea of a menstrual hut has struck a cord with modern women.
The Red Tent novel originally did not have a great impact on women’s lives. This began to change when the author herself initiated a word-of-mouth campaign by giving copies away to Rabbis, female Christian leaders, and independent booksellers. This approach proved successful, and by 2002 The Red Tent had become a New York Times bestseller and a publishing phenomenon. The book has since been published in twenty-five countries and translated into twenty languages.
What is a "Red Tent" movement?
The “Red Tent” is many things to many people. It is a womb-like red fabric space, it is a place where women gather, it is an icon, and it is a state of mind—all concepts inspired by Diamant's book. Some women create red fabric spaces specifically to honor their menstruation. Others create spaces where they can take care of themselves, promote women’s conversations, and/or hold workshops and other events for women.
There were several women's groups worldwide that started hosting Red Tents in their communities as early as 1997, but most accounts that I have found date to around 2002, after Diamant's book become popular. There is no official founder of the Red Tent Movement. The “Red Tent Temple” is both a place and a grassroots movement founded by ALisa Starkweather in November 2006 and officially launched in April 2007. ALisa wanted the Red Tent Temple to be a place where women gather to honor all stages of womanhood. These spaces are technically Red Tent Temples, but they share many similar functions with other Red Tents. Many participants use the terms Red Tent and Red Tent Temple interchangeably. DeAnna L'am is another contributor to the Red Tent movement. She founded "Red Tents in Every Neighborhood." The first public Red Tent hosted by DeAnna L'am was in 2008. Although she hosted several private Red Tents at her home since April 2007.
For many women the Red Tent is a sacred space, but it does not proclaim any one spiritual or religious practice. It is important to note, however, Starkweather’s Red Tent Temple Movement was established within the Women’s Spirituality movement, so many women who have created Red Tent Temples in their communities have incorporated elements of their goddess or pagan spiritual practices. A sacred space can be defined as a natural or human-made environment where religious or spiritual experiences take place and where rituals are performed. They are also places where one can go to meditate or pray and they may be considered personally special or profound. Susan Hale (Sacred Space, Sacred Sound, 2007) said, “a sacred space is temenos, a Greek word meaning an enclosure that makes it possible to enter into a relationship with a greater reality. Entering into sacred space, one crosses a threshold and moves from chronos, human time and space, into kairos, eternal time.” Through my own observations of Red Tents, it is apparent to me that when women enter, they enter sacred space.
While the original function of the biblical Red Tent in Diamant’s book had to do with women gathering following pregnancy and during menstruation, the contemporary practice of creating a separate space is not about ostracism. It is a spiritual practice, a sacred woman’s place, an enjoyable and non-judgmental space, and part of a women’s movement. The book was a tool that helped women reshape their relationships with each other and gave them a specific vehicle for coming together.
Learn the surprising history of
the Red Tent
Have you ever wondered...
What if you could have your own Red Tent of women in your community?
What if our daughters were brought up to expect some kind of honoring when they had their first period?
What happens in our modern culture when we hold Red Tents for women?
Was there a Red Tent in history?
Where did this tradition comes from?
Are you curious to know.....?
The Red Tent Movement: A Historical Perspective by Isadora Leidenfrost, PhD and ALisa Starkweather
The Red Tent has a history, but what is it? There are thousands of women across the globe who are bringing forth their gifts as Red Tent leaders in their communities, but where did this tradition come from? “The Red Tent” was novel by Anita Diamant, published in 1997 that gave us a story of women who come together in a menstrual hut, known as the Red Tent. The Red Tent movement has a seventeen-year history, but connects to thousands of years of tradition of women honoring women and creating a world that embraces honesty, and respects for others, our daughters, and ourselves. We are in a new era of history. The healing of our planet is the priority of many committed visionaries. We understand that we are on a precipice and by building a woman-honoring culture we can create a huge paradigm shift one Red Tent at a time.
About the Authors
Some of the material in 'The Red Tent Movement" was originally featured in the essay entitled “The Red Tent: Creating a Woman Honoring Culture” by Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost, PhD and ALisa Starkweather. It was featured in the book Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to Re-Shape Our World edited by Rev. Dr. Karen Tate. Published by Change Makers Books, 2014.
A very special thank you to Meg Harkins for directing the Audiobook recording of "The Red Tent Movement."
The song featured in 'The Red Tent Movement" Audiobook is titled "Red Tent Temple" written by Marsia Shuron Harris. Performed by Mother Turtle. Produced and arranged by Adrienne Zolondick. Produced by Marsia Shuron Harris. For more info visit: http://www.motherturtle.com/