“When girls are given the right tools to succeed, they create incredible futures, not only for themselves but also for those around them.”
- Meghan Markle
Recently, I came across a video created by one of my favourite pages on Instagram. It’s one of my favourites because I find its content so grounding and calming, as it allows me to reconnect with my spiritual side and ancestral roots. The page is called @linda_louchi, and is run by Linda Louchi, a proud Amazigh woman from Algeria, who shares spiritual guidance and traditional knowledge from the Amazigh culture. The video was a TikTok of a women’s circle and explained the importance of these feminine spaces in North African culture.
What exactly is a women’s circle?
The gathering of women and girls in female-only spaces is ancient and stems from African roots. In the past, living in close proximity to one another meant that it wouldn’t have been unusual for female inhabitants of an entire village to be menstruating at the same time. So, the concept of the women’s circle was originally created as a refuge for women to retreat and reconnect during a period that was known to be the most potently feminine time for a woman.
All over the world, women have gathered in ceremonious circles based on the phases of the moon and the cycles of their own menstruation throughout history. There is evidence of these safe spaces in First Nation communities, Native American tribes, Jewish communities, and Pagan communities. These circles are a ritual to connect with the natural world and each other to celebrate the feminine. They offer women space for rest and self-reflection outside of the more masculine world.
During the meetings, there are often calming rituals, like the burning of cleansing herbs, meditation, or intention-setting, however not all women’s circles take on such a spiritual and holistic approach. Overall, these gatherings encourage all those involved to reconnect with their feminine energy while sharing wisdom and experiences across generations as well as cultures.
Women’s circles in North Africa
Before Western and Middle Eastern patriarchal ideologies infiltrated North Africa, an emphasis on the matriarch was intrinsic to Amazigh culture. In Amazigh society, many women are considered as one of the most important members and are seen as equal to their male counterparts. For thousands of years, women have occupied leadership roles, such as military leaders, spiritual mothers, and even more significantly as Amazigh deities. Women’s circles emotionally, physically, and spiritually strengthen Amazigh communities as a whole.
My experience of women’s circles
During my year abroad in Morocco, I was lucky enough to integrate into a women’s circle deep in the heart of Fez medina (the old part of the city). I interacted with women of all ages, from all over the globe, doing all sorts of professions. The woman who would typically open the gatherings was called Miriam, a British woman who had dropped everything in the UK to marry the love of her life and start her dream job as a traditional distiller in Fez. Everyone in this circle was truly an inspiration, and being a serious introvert, I never thought that I could connect so deeply with individuals I had never met before.
Women’s groups tend to have a natural intimacy, a quality which made these monthly meetings flow quite well. Miriam would lead creative projects such as painting or creative writing tasks, cooking classes, and even live music sessions with traditional instruments. She would also read meditations and visualisations from Amy Bammel Wilding’s Wild & Wise: Sacred Feminine Meditations for Women’s Circles & Personal Awakening. Miriam’s soothing voice entranced everyone in the circle as she led us deep into our mind’s eye.
It was during a meditation called All of You that I truly got lost in a visualisation for the first time. The aim of the mediation was to imagine different aspects of you and make them meet each other. Having to imagine the multiple characters I have embodied throughout my life as whole individuals in my mind was enlightening. My entire body vibrated with a glowing love for myself and life itself. I even felt the presence of some ancestors, which made the entire experience that much more ethereal. Despite all these images only coming alive in my head, it was the deepest meditative state I had ever experienced, and the most energetically powerful I had ever felt.
The importance of such safe havens
Together, women can cultivate an incredibly safe, empowering, and healing space, which we can then distribute to the rest of the outside world. This strongly resonates with bell hook’s view of the necessity of female consciousness in order to tackle the problematic relations between women in a society that has found ways to break apart the sacred bonds between us. Women’s circles remind us to honour our femininity, nurture self-love, and encourage sisters to treat each other as allies, rather than competition.
“The one person who will never leave us, whom we will never lose, is ourself. Learning to love our female selves is where our search for love must begin."
- bell hooks (Communion: The Search for Female Love, 2002)
The power of intersectional safe havens for everyone
While the focus of this article is on women’s circles, I want to stress that the power of communal healing can be impactful for everyone, irrespective of gender identity. The key is intersectionality in these safe spaces. Alongside women’s circles, there should be men’s circles, non-binary circles, LGBTQ+ circles, etc., for everyone to feel safe, feel seen, to be heard, and to heal as a community.
In general, the work towards women’s rights, and human rights in general MUST be intersectional – any feminism that purely represents the experiences of white, middle class, able-bodied, heterosexual women will fail to achieve equality for all.
The power of women’s circles shows us the importance of communal safe havens to recharge and reflect on ourselves and our place in the world. Such circles can even build solidarity among men, who are also victims of a repressive patriarchal system. The same way solidarity is cultivated among women, is the same way that it is created with men towards an equal future.
I believe International Women’s Day should be dedicated to the feminine energy inside us all. In a world that favours ultra 'masculine' attributes, making a connection to one’s ‘feminine self’, on both an individual and community level is, as Professor Longman at Ghent University argues, the affirmative key to personal but ultimately, also, societal change.
It is crucial to balance the masculine and feminine energy inside ourselves in order to bring balance to the world in which we live, and communal healing may be the best way to do so. Together, through the sharing of strengths, weaknesses, and experience, we can empower each other to participate meaningfully in society and pave the way for future generations.
So, Happy International Women’s Day, and do something today to nurture your community and celebrate your feminine side!
“The truth is, no one of us can be free until everybody is free.”
- Maya Angelou
Cover picture credits: Glamour Magazine
Dénia is our Lifestyle & Travel Editor and a recent graduate from the University of Leeds. She is pursuing a career in international relations and diplomacy and is planning on studying a Masters in these subjects in September. Dénia is also interested in foreign languages and cultures and film-making. Her Instagram handle is @denia_beidaoui.