I attended my first Cree tea ceremony yesterday. I didn't know that Native cultures have tea ceremonies, but it seems that they do, and they are quite old and quite important for building social ties within the community.
The purpose of yesterday's ceremony was to celebrate our grandmothers and all the women in our lives who shaped us. First, you get to purify yourself with the smoke of sage leaves. As the tea concotion is being prepared and poured into cups, the mistress of ceremony sings some simple songs, repetitive and short like mantras. We thought of our ancestors as we held hands, in a circle. Then we sipped the tea, which bound us together.
But the interesting stuff was - as always - the talk. The mistress of ceremony told us about the power of women in moon time - or menstruation. The name itself is touching - 'moon time'. I had to remind myself that night is not perceived everywhere as the time of sin and fault. In a dark night, the moon is seen as the source of light. The night doesn't have to be scary, it can equally be protective. In the end, it all comes down to the social stock of knowledge (as Alfred Schutz called it), those commonly held interpretations and explanations which a group holds: you interpret what you see according to the ways in which you are taught to.
And this gets us back to moon time: a time to celebrate the power of being a woman. How far away from Western Christian interpretive framework, in which menstruation is a constant reminder of impurity, of sin. "Women in moon time are the most powerful", said the mistress of ceremony. "Don't let anyone make fun of your moon time." That's when women are most intuitive and sensitive, that's when they are in touch with their body, that's when they release all the negativity and are re-born in love.
I think I like this social stock of knowledge better!
Photo credits: www.teamuseum.org/tea.php