The Red Tent movement is taking wings, bringing women together in sacred space. How often do we move and speak with total freedom? How often do we let our inner wild woman howl and sob and cackle with bawdy laughter? Last autumn I went went on a Wild Woman retreat run by legendary healer and psychotherapist Fiona Arrigo . I first met Fiona way back in 1990 when she launched the great-great grandma of all transformational retreats, Stop the World. She now runs bespoke retreats in Somerset and group retreats in the most stunning locations.
Fiona is an incredible woman – she wears her years of experience and wisdom lightly, offering life lessons served up with raw power, deep compassion and a gutsy sense of grounded humour.
In the mountain heart of Andalusia, we delved deep into the wild feminine. There were many transcendent moments (greeting the sunrise; the most blissful cacao ceremony; wild swimming in pristine mountain streams) but the one that resonated the deepest was our Red Tent evening.
‘Come in your pyjamas,’ Fiona invited. ‘Come in whatever makes you feel supremely comfortable.’ So we pitched up, swathed in blankets, and lolled on floor cushions. The room was lit by sweet-scented candles; plates of delicious nibbles sat in the middle of our circle.
Fiona explained that there has been a tradition of women coming together in sacred space that stretches over millennia. It’s a place to share stories, to be open and vulnerable, to be heard, to listen, to support one another. She read from Women who Run with the Wolves, the seminal book by Clarissa Pinkola Estés (Rider), sharing a story of Baubo, the ancient Greek goddess of bawdiness and mirth, who is usually depicted with her vulva merrily exposed to the four winds. I giggled, then snorted, then dissolved into belly-aching laughter. When the story ended and the ice had been well and truly broken, we shared our own stories. Some were side-splittingly funny; some achingly sad – but everyone talked with searing candour. I found my emotions rocked like a boat on a turbulent sea as I veered from weeping with laughter to weeping with empathic sorrow. It was tender and oh so beautiful. It also made me wonder – how often do we really gather together and talk from the heart? How often do we talk across generations? Our little gathering ranged from young women in their twenties to us cackling crones in our fifties and sixties.
The modern Red Tent movement took wings and flew after the publication of the wonderful novel, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (Pan). Women all over the world set up local groups, usually meeting once a month, to share their stories and to gain comfort and strength from one another. If this appeals, you don’t have to go to one of Fiona’s retreats (fabulous though they are). There are Red Tents all over the world. You could also set up your own group if there isn’t one in your area.