Photo Essay

Returning to the Circle

by Carolina Bello May
After experiencing her first circle of women, Carolina explores the ancestral memory of the feminine and its potential to give rise to a paradigm of reciprocity with the rest of the living world.
Regresar al Círculo

I close my eyes. I breathe. 

Air traverses my body
after traversing the bodies of the plants,
of the birds and of the bodies of the women around me.  
My heart opens with the scent of cacao mixed with that of roses. I feel the vibration of the others beside me breathing in silence, 
while I listen to the bamboo rustle with the wind. 
A lotus flower opens in our wombs, its long roots meet below, at the center of the Earth. 
Together, united by a millenarian bond, 
we begin to remember.

That day when I sat for the first time in that circle my heart felt I had been there before. With each breath, I remembered. But for my mind everything in that experience was new. It was as if my body had a memory of its own, a memory older than my own existence.

Remembering is also a sensorial experience. Through all the senses, our impressive human body allows us to access memories that aren’t necessarily processed by our brain. In fact, in ancient times, several cultures, among them the Romans, believed that memory was seated in the heart, hence the word in spanish remembering, which comes from latin recordari, composed of the prefix re— (‘again’) and cordari (‘corazón’).  

Recordar —To remember—is to return to the heart.

regresar-circulo-02-carolina-bello

This remembering I’m speaking of is recognized among women circles as the reconnection to the Sacred Femenine (1), a kind of consciousness, of intuition, of ancestral memory that has survived the passage of time, that carries forgotten knowledge and past wounds, and that we remember through the body and the heart. It is a memory that allows us to reconnect with other ways of perceiving ourselves and of relating with other humans and with the rest of the living world.

This Sacred Femenine is perhaps that meeting point where the roots of those lotus flowers that rested in our wombs while we meditated collectively joined together. From there, flawless and beautiful flowers emerged from deep, dark waters.

Regresar al Círculo

Women who are complete strangers surround me 
but when they speak, I hear myself. 
Could it be that our afflictions come from the same place?

I recognized myself in others’ stories and in doing so something was released in my body. Because words can also be medicine. Even if nothing I write makes sense, when I write in my journal something is released by the mere bodily act of taking the pencil and tracing the words that come from my head and my heart. Perhaps it is that memory that desperately wants to come out, especially in times where there are very few spaces to listen (and listen to ourselves) and when the pace of life is incompatible with creating profound and attentive relationships: "In the time measured with a stopwatch there are no bonds neither with ourselves nor with others” (2)

Disconnected, we are more vulnerable. The patriarchal and capitalist system under which our civilization lives knows that. Together we can become a great threat for that system: together we are powerful, because when we connect we don’t only do it with each other, but also with our ancestors, united by that memory that has always insisted on uniting us and that urges us to connect with the rest of the living world. Isn't the rupture of these bonds the true origin of the crisis we face today as civilization? We often forget that we depend on our relationships with other human beings, that we depend on the life fabric that allows us to breathe.

Let us return to the circle.

In the center, an altar of roses, an immense bonfire, 
una imponente catarata o la luz de la luna llena. 
And we, our bodies, with movements, songs and prayers, 
let ourselves be carried away by that feeling that unites us, 
without judging each other. Together, we remember.

The center is the origin of the circle. What gives it balance and sense. No circle is possible without a center from which all its points are equidistant. In this case, in the center was nature and that feminine wisdom that had resurfaced from the center of the Earth. We were the circumference that contained her, while at the same time, she contained us. Isn’t this how we ought to relate to life? Placing at the center what allows us to exist and organizing ourselves in an eternal cycle, without hierarchies, in equality, working with one common intention: to sustain that center and for it to sustain us.

From a political perspective, these kinds of spiritual experiences give us access to other possibilities to rethink the way we organize and coexist. Not just among women but as human beings. Recognizing and recconecting with that feminine energy and with the wisdom of Earth is a feminist act that is both radical and subtle.“A feminist is any woman that tells the truth about her life" (3) said Virginia Woolf, and there are so many ways to express that truth…

n a society where women and nature are oppressed and violated in ways that are ultimately similar, these experiences to listen to ourselves and rememberingand to remember are urgent. That is why some currents of ecofeminism (4) insist that, in order to heal Mother Earth and bring her magic back to the world, it is necessary to stop denying the sacred dimension of nature and return to an ethic of care and to the search for a new, non-patriarchal spirituality. Feminine intelligence could guide us towards this paradigm shift. 

Returning to the heart. Restoring the attention. Returning to that original feeling that unites us is perhaps the most powerful path to reclaim that time without a stopwatch; to heal ancestral wounds that we carry—and will continue to carry—if we do not pause. Pausing to remembering  is to recognize that the sacred is down here, at the center of the circle that is life itself.

I breathe and open my eyes.

The sound of the birds brings me back to the present.
Suddenly, everything is light.
The faces that surround me are no longer strangers,
as we look at each other, we all smile. 
I realize that after this journey to the center of the Earth
I will never be alone again.

"As we awaken from the repressions of the patriarchy we need to reclaim the sacred feminine both for our individual spirituality and for the well being of the planet. Our ecological devastation points to a culture that has forgotten the sacredness of the earth and the divine mother, as well as denied the feminine's deep understanding of the wholeness and interconnectedness of all of life. And our individual life, so often caught in addictions and starved of real meaning, has a hunger to reconnect with the soul, which has always had a feminine quality. And linking our own journey and that of the world is the ancient feminine figure of the World Soul, the Anima Mundi, the spiritual presence within creation.”

-Llewellyn Vaughn Lee- (5)

References

(1) Navarro Casillas, Ana. M. (2016): Análisis de la reflexividad de las comunidades ecosociales de mujeres como agentes de cambio cultural Tesis Doctoral, Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes.
(2) Segato, Rita. (2020) Sobre el tiempo y la presencia. Entrevista. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAAz-CVL3I8.
(3) Citado en Rosalie D. Clarke (2017) Being an early career feminist academic: global perspectives, experiences, and challenges. International Feminist Journal of Politics.
(4) Fernández, O. (2010). Cuerpo, espacio y libertad en el ecofeminismo. Nómadas. Revista Crítica de Ciencias Sociales y Jurídicas. 
(5) Vaughn Lee, Llewellyn. The Sacred Feminine Today https://www.huffpost.com/entry/international-womens-day_b_1327637

CREDITS

Photography & Text 
Carolina Bello May

Special thanks to
Elaine Siman - Nemini

2022. Costa Rica 

Published in May, 2022 

Volumen 5, Número 8

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