RED TENT TIMELINE
1960s: DeAnna L’Am was born in Romania.
1960s (Late): L’Am immigrated to Israel with her parents.
1980s: L’Am travelled to London where she met and married her husband, Julian.
1992: L’Am moved to California (U.S.) with her husband.
1992: L’Am started to “reverse the curse.”
1994: L’Am launched her first Menstrual Empowerment Circle of women in San Diego, California.
1994: L’Am founded the “Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women and Girls” in California.
1995: L’Am created the term “Inner Maiden.”
1999: L’Am travelled to Israel/Palestine, her country of origin.
2000: L’Am gave birth to her first daughter, Ellah.
2006: L’Am published her first book, Becoming Peers: Mentoring Girls into Womanhood.
2010: L’Am launched the “Red Tents in Every Neighbourhood – Global Network” project.
2011: L’Am wrote her second book entitled “A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period.”
2013 (Summer): L’Am travelled to Tuscany, Italy, for the first time.
2015 (October): An article was published by Annalisa De Luca titled “Tende Rosse: riscoprire la sacralità del corpo femminile.”
2015 (November 8): L’Am established the “Red Tent international Day”.
2015 (November/December): A blog, “Rete Tende Rosse,” was launched for the Italian network of Red Tents in Every Neighborhood project.
2017 (May 26-28): In Saviore dell’Adamello, the first national meeting of Italian Red Tents took place.
2017 (August): L’Am nominated seven women to teach the Red Tent Activation method.
DeAnna L’Am was born in Romania around 1960. At the age of three, she relocated to Israel with her parents. Just before her thirtieth birthday, L’Am traveled to London where she met and married her husband Julian. They had daughter, Ellah, in 2000.
During her time in the U.K., L’Am [Image at right] started to actively participate in many sacred circles of women, but she soon discovered that none of these groups discussed menstrual blood. In 1992, L’Am relocated to California where she experienced another way to living with her menstrual period for the first time in her life. In fact, L’Am has described American society as more open and free towards menstruation compared to her life in the U.K. From this moment onward, L’Am started to release herself from shame about menstruation, and after she “reversed the curse,” she turned menstruation from an embarrassment into a basis of empowerment.
Following this period of discovery, L’Am created sacred circles to help other women feel liberated and empowered about menstruation rather than feeling ashamed about their monthly cycles. She created her first Menstrual Empowerment circle of women in San Diego in 1994 and in the same year, she founded the California based Red Moon School of Empowerment for Women and Girls through which she organizes specific courses, like the “The Red Tent Activation Workshops.” These workshops were designed to help women all over the world to reclaim their menstruation.
In 2006, L’Am published her first book, Becoming Peers: Mentoring Girls Into Womanhood. The book’s objective is to provide support to women (mothers, grandmothers, aunts, mentors) who have a passion to lead young girls (daughters, grandchildren, nieces) into womanhood. A good example of this was the way and mannerisms were used to create a sacred space in which celebrate their own menarche. In 2011, L’Am published a second book, A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period. This book is designed for girls going through puberty. L’Am wanted to prepare young girls for what it is like to experience a menstrual period, by explaining what menstruation is and presenting related material on topics such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and sexual relationships.
After working in California with women through circles called “Red Moon,” L’Am decided to return in her country of origin (Israel/Palestine) to work with Jewish and Muslim women and help them to overcome political, religious and ethnic differences. She did this by launching “tied by a red thread,” which explains the impact of menstrual blood. The success of this project led L’Am to develop a course on sisterhood to spread her message about this female bond.
In 2010, L’Am decided to create a project entitled The Red Tent in Every Neighborhood – Global Network Project, which consists of a global list of existing red tents available on L’Am’s website (Deanna L’Am website 2018). The idea to call these sacred spaces “Red Tent” came to L’Am after reading an American novel, The Red Tent, authored by Anita Diamant. In that book Diamant describes the activities of several female biblical/mythological characters who spend their time in sacred spaces called “Red Tents.” L’Am, fascinated by this mythological history, decided to give this name to her sacred circles, with the aim of recalling in the women’s hearts, the need to be sisters in blood and to separate themselves from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
During the summer of 2013, L’Am traveled to Tuscany, Italy for the first time where she organized a workshop for the Red Tent Activation. During this period, L’Am trained the first Italian women to legitimately run female spiritual circles in a Red Tent based on her method. L’Am traveled to Italy every summer in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to conduct her workshops concerning her Red Tent Project. In 2013 an Italian woman created the Italian Facebook’s page of the global network called “Tende Rosse in ogni quartiere – Rete Globale.” As of the time of this writing, It was now followed by more than 2,000 people and raised awareness of the Movement in Italy.
In addition to awareness created by Facebook, Italian journalist, Annalisa De Luca, wrote an article in 2015 entitled, “Tende Rosse: riscoprire la sacralità del corpo femminile.” In this article, Annalisa explained the Red Tent tradition, including: what happens inside these spaces and the reasons that led women to congregate within the sacred circles. Moreover, she provided a list of active Red Tents communities within Italy. In this way, the women who were interested to participate in a Red Tent could find a community close to their home. Annalisa’s article also announced another project created by L’Am: “The International Red Tent Day.” In fact, in 2015, L’Am established the International Red Tent Day, specifically on November 8, with the aim of celebrating the Red Tent movement globally.
With the success of International Red Tent Day in late 2015, several Italian women created a blog called “Rete Tende Rosse” for the Italian network of Red Tents, with the aim of connecting all Italian women who were interested to create or participate in a Red Tent space. The blog contains a list of Italian Red Tents divided between regions and based on L’Am’s method. Currently there are sixty-three registered Red Tents on the blog’s list. Further, the blog and Facebook page publicised the first Italian Red Tents meeting, which took place in Saviore dell’Adamello from May 26–28, 2017. Women participated from all over Italy.
In August of 2017, L’Am nominated seven women around the world, two of whom are Italians, to teach her method. These seven women have acquired the name of “Red Tent Activation Trainer” and they are certified to teach the L’Am’s method within their own countries.
In L’Am’s view, the shame of speaking about menstrual blood promotes the menstrual taboo. This results in the spiritual and psychological wounds often seen in women in modern society. The purpose of L’Am and her Red Tent in Every Neighborhood Project, is to help women to overcome the negative feelings associated with menstruation (shame, unsuitability, curse, embarrassment) and, instead, experience a journey of spirituality and empowerment. There is a belief within modern societies that a female’s reproductive life (e.g. cyclicity, menstruation, motherhood) are suffocated by the frenetic pace of modern life. This belief is widespread across the movement. However, in a pre-Catholic past, women were the carriers of religious life, in which they played the roles of priestesses or worshiped like a Goddess. The desire to recover this “female” past is intertwined with the belief to enhance the female qualities and collectively treat any female wounds. This has resulted in the movement promoting the importance of sisterhood (metaphorically expressed by the image of red thread, that is the menstrual blood) and working together. There are many images, icons and symbols among the Red Tent Movement that are important for the adherents. Some of these are the moon (because it is cyclical like the woman that monthly bleeds), the figure of the Goddess (that it is often celebrated), the wheel of the year with her four seasons, and some archetypal figures like the Maiden or the Witch. Some of these images and symbols (like the moon and the archetypes of the Witch and Maiden) derive from the Womb Blessing’s tradition: another female spiritual current envisioned by an English healer named Miranda Gray, which is widespread among the Red Tents.
One of the most important courses offered by l’Am in her school is the “Exploration of the Inner Maiden.” She coined this technique in 1995 and that was the first step in beginning a journey of existential and spiritual renewal related to female cyclicity. L’Am created this technique after realizing that, to treat female wounds, it was necessary to promote the voice of the inner maiden present in every woman. For members, this means to relive the menarche event with a ritual, that consists of a meditation technique aimed at reaching their inner maidens. Members believe that only if they listen to the messages brought by their maidens (fears, shame, silence about menstruation) and only if they celebrate the maiden’s rebirth can they start living with joy.
In the Red Tents there are other rituals that are celebrated. One of the most widely performed is the Womb Blessing technique, created by Miranda Gray, an English healer. The celebration of Womb Blessing consists of a meditation with the aim to connecting with one’s womb through the image of the Womb Tree. [Image at right]
According to Miranda Gray, this meditation helps women to achieve energy balance at some levels (psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual). During our fieldwork, we noted that the Womb Blessing is used in many Italian Red Tents and is spreading across Wicca. This is mainly attributed to the fact that both the Wicca religion and Red Tent movement are female spiritual groups. Other practices that we observed inside Red Tent groups are shamanic techniques connected with female currents, such as the Sud-American tradition of Munay-ki. The use of South American dances and songs, playing shamanic drums or consulting Native-American cards, occurs frequently inside the groups that we observed and in those with whom we had made contact. [Image at right] In this way, empirically, the Red Tent Movement takes an eclectic and heterogeneous, considering the intertwining of various spiritual traditions.
The question about the leadership is one of the most discussed among the adherents in the Red Tent Movement, especially by the facilitators. There are two leadership styles. As a result of these two divergent styles, diatribes and conflicts emerge, especially concerning the payment to participate in these female circles.
On the one hand, some facilitators told us that in their Red Tents they simply have a reverent role for other women who participate in a Red Tent group. According to these facilitators, the Red Tent must be a space where there no inequality among the participants; therefore, every woman has the same role in the circle: an equal space in which every person is at the same level without leaders and clients.
On the other hand, other facilitators defend another kind of management of Red Tent groups, claiming that some experience to conduct a female circle is necessary. These facilitators act as “leaders” who totally organize the meetings. They decide the argument, the dress-code, and the time of gatherings. They also ask for a financial contribution.
On the other hand, we have the official structure of the Movement. This is the one declared by DeAnna L’Am. It presents a pyramidal structure, because in fact L’Am, through her school, offers certified courses that enable other women to officially create and conduct a Red Tent. So, we have some Red Tents that are conducted by certified women who attended L’Am’s courses and others that are conducted by women without any official certification. In addition to those certified to teach courses, in August 2017 L’Am nominated seven women around the world who are authorized to teach other women the Red Tent activation techniques necessary to create a Red Tent using DeAnna’s method. So, the structure is composed of four levels: at the base there are women interested in participating in a Red Tent group; above them are the facilitators (certified by L’Am); the next level is the Red Tent’s activation trainers (the seven women); finally, at the top level is DeAnna L’Am, the founder of the movement.
In the Italian form of the Red Tent Movement there are three main issues: interconnections between the Red Tent and Womb Blessing traditions, leadership structure, and the relationship between female spirituality and organized religion.
The first concerns the intertwined connections that the movement has with the Womb Blessing’s tradition. The two traditions (that of De Anna L’Am and that of Miranda Gray) are distinct (each has its own founder, practices, methods, organizational structures, school and teachings, symbols), but they are empirically woven together. There are many facilitators of Red Tents who at the same time are Moon Mothers (Miranda’s initiates) and they offer the Womb Blessing’s ritual in their female circles. According to our research across Italy there are sixty-three official Red Tents, and in forty-three of these the facilitators offer the Womb Blessing to their followers. This can be an issue because some Red Tent’s facilitators and leaders do not agree with practicing the Womb Blessing inside a Red Tent because, in their opinion, there are other kinds of energies that occur and that are not in line with the L’Am’s method.
The second issue is leadership style. It has already been noted that for some leaders in a red tent there must not be clients and leaders. These women defend the idea of the leadership rotation, this means that in a Red Tent the participants, in rotation, assume the management of the meeting and lead other members in ceremonies and discussions. In this way, according to these facilitators, every woman is at the same level in the sacred circle. On the other side of the debate are those leaders that defend the position of “single leadership” by arguing that professionalism is necessary to lead a spiritual-female group. In their opinion, the leader must have proven experience in conducting a female group that is certified by the participation at schools and courses (like the Red Tent Activation workshop or the Moon Mother initiation).
The last issue concerns the relation that these contemporary forms of female spirituality have with religion, in this case Catholicism. During the interviews we investigated the relation that these women have with Catholicism, asking them what they think about religion in general, about Catholicism and about spirituality. What has emerged is that for most women the religions (and also Catholicism) are the various forms that spirituality can take. The interviewed conceive spirituality as a universal substrate that is present in every human religion across various cultures, and for this reason every religion has its own raison d’être. However, they also think that in Catholicism the woman and some of her qualities (like menstruation, corporeity, sexuality) are suffocated by the church and clergy. They conceive of Catholicism as a sexist religion, especially in its institutional form, and they tend to reject the dogmas, the rules imposed by the Church even if they do not reject some of its values and beliefs. In fact, some women, in their spiritual path, have referred to various figures of Catholicism, such as San Francesco of Assisi, the angels, Jesus Christ, and also read the Bible.
Image #1: Photograph of DeAnna L’Am.
Image #2: Image of the womb tree painted by Miranda Gray. Accessed from http://www.wombblessing.com/ on 24 May 2018.
Image #3: Photograph of DeAnna L’Am playing a Shamanic Drum painted with menstrual blood. Accessed from http://www.deannalam.com/red-tent/ on 24 May 2018.
**Unless otherwise noted, this profile draws on fieldwork by the authors and on Micheli, 2016-2017.
De Luca, Annalisa. 2015. “Tende Rosse: riscoprire la sacralità del corpo femminile.” Terra Nuova 309:65-69.
Diamant, Anita. 2014. The Red Tent. USA: St. Martins.
L’am, DeAnna. 2013. Da fanciulla a donna. Una guida per vivere i tuoi primi cicli con goia. Anguana Edizioni.
L’am, DeAnna. 2015. Diventare compagne. Accompagnare le ragazze alla femminilità. Anguana Edizioni. Accessed from http://www.eticamente.net/49705/tende-rosse-delle-donne-cosa-sono-e-perche-farne-parte-e-importante.html?refresh_ce on 21 February 2018.
Micheli, Sharon Emilia Francesca. 2016-2017. Rivoluzione spirituale? Uno studio sulla spiritualità femmile.” Masters Thesis, Università di Torino.
26 December 2018