BLOOD ON OUR HANDS: A Witch’s Journey Through the Red Tent

    by Ilyssa Silfen

    As I sit in my Red Tent ritual circle, with the incense sweetening the air around me and the candles glowing and flickering carelessly in the breeze whispering through my window, I find myself contemplating the importance of the Red Tent.

    For many women (cis, trans, and everything in between), the Red Tent is our sanctuary. It is where we go to heal, to be replenished and rejuvenated, to be respected, to make magick, to rest.

    Women, by our very nature, are cyclical.

    Our bodies and blood reflect the seasons and the tides of the moon in our waxing and waning physical and magickal energy.

    Whether we are on a White Moon cycle (ovulating at Full Moon and bleeding at Dark/New Moon) or a Red Moon cycle (ovulating at Dark/New Moon and bleeding at Full Moon), whether we are somewhere in between, whether we are no longer bleeding or never bled to begin with, the currents of our bodies absorb and reflect the natural energies all around us.

    Paradoxically, while most of us are more tired physically when we bleed (or when we enter the period of time when we would have bled) we become more powerful magickally.

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    Women’s deep interconnectedness with magick, blood, and nature scares the patriarchy.

    It scares it because the patriarchy depends on women being meek, demure, polite, tidy, passive. It depends on women not knowing, understanding, or cultivating our connection with the wild.

    If we are unaware of our connection with the wild, we cannot act upon it—the patriarchy counts on this.

    So, when we drench our hands in our blood, when we use our blood to call up the magick within us (through rest or ritual or both), when we dance naked under a moonlit canopy of trees, blood cascading freely down our thighs, we are declaring our freedom from a system that diminishes our power and our worth.

    We are declaring that we have power unto ourselves. We call it liberation—the patriarchy calls it a threat.

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    That is why, now more than ever, we are being called to the Red Tent—our attendance is an act of resistance.

    Our patriarchal society continually and systematically devalues women and forces us to feel guilty for needing and demanding time to ourselves, particularly when we are bleeding.

    That can, and does, make it difficult for women to engage fully, if at all, with the Red Tent. Well, if you are reading this, consider this your permission, if you need it. It is time.

    Go to the Red Tent, anoint yourself with your blood, and howl at the moon like the wild woman you are. If you do not bleed or no longer bleed for whatever reason, go to the Red Tent at the Dark Moon or the Full Moon (whichever calls to you loudest), anoint yourself with sacred oils, and howl at the moon like the wild woman you are.

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    Taste the rich, ruby red wine of creation. Inhale the scent of incense and herbs of healing and wholeness. Watch the candles burn upon the altar and smile.

    Know that you are magick embodied. Know that you are the Divine Feminine embodied. Know that you are creation and destruction and resurrection embodied.

    Know that you are powerful. Know that you have worth. Know that you are.


    About the Author:

    Ilyssa Silfen is an openly Pagan administrative assistant at the College of Staten Island. She earned her Master’s degree in Liberal Studies, with a concentration in Gender and Sexuality Studies, at the CUNY Graduate Center in October 2014. She has been a practicing Pagan for the last fifteen years and has been a devotee of Sekhmet for eight. She enjoys spending her free time ranting on her blog “What the Feminist,” located at


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