Both courses are programs that take you through a comprehensive initiatory process of personal development and professional training. The Practical Priestessing program is an intensive six month program that is unique in its dedicated focus on vocational priestessing (access complete draft program syllabus here). The Red Tent course is ten weeks long and is is unique in its focus on guiding you through a series of personal initiations and explorations, while simultaneously preparing you with rich resources for facilitating Red Tents of your own.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the difference between a Red Tent Circle and a Women’s Circle?
Women’s Circles are:
- Not specifically menstrually related (though menstruation is not a taboo subject).
- Open to the full range of ages and stages in a woman’s life.
- Are often closed groups (i.e. not publicly available, but rather open only to a selected group of women)
- Have an assumption of an openness or relationship to goddess spirituality or women’s/feminist spirituality
Women’s Circles may take shape in a range of formats and services
- Moon circles
- Seasonal rituals
- Life cycle/rites of passage ceremonies
- Monthly circles
- A closed group that involves the same group of women meeting regularly for a long period of time, which allows for deep personal relationships and work to emerge
Red Tents are:
- Offered monthly, usually near the new moon
- Involve red fabric space of some kind—ranging from red blankets on the floor and red drapes on the wall, to completely encompassed red fabric meeting environments (yurts, actual tents, etc.)
- Are thematically connected to the “Red Tent” concept hypothesized in ancient cultures—a woman-only space set aside for menstruating women
- Usually offered in an evening, 2-3 hour format
- Usually involve the same ritual “container,” each month though the specific activities and discussions vary depending on who attends.
- Open to any interested woman
- Have a “rolling” membership—the women who show up each month may be different and the shape and texture and atmosphere of your group may change regularly based on the unique dynamic created by each group
- Connected to the broader Red Tent Movement, which cuts across cultural, geographic, religious, and political boundaries and stretches around the world in many individual iterations and expressions.
- Includes some element of menstrual empowerment/body empowerment
- Not specific to any religion
- Appeal to women from diverse backgrounds, from mainstream to alternative
In addition to the most common, monthly format, there are many different possible formats for Red Tents, including special event Red Tents, perpetual (or permanent) Red Tents (open to the community on a regular basis), festival or conference Red Tents, and Red Tents that are last for a weekend or an entire day in a retreat type of style. Red Tents may have a fee, be donation based, or free. They may spontaneous or organized and facilitated. They are always collaborative to some degree, because the process of group or circle involvement is at its heart and soul a co-creative endeavor.
I find that Red Tents have a really broad appeal and a sort of general public awareness and following. Women from lots of different backgrounds have an instant connection to the phrase “Red Tent,” whereas women’s circles might almost seem scary or intimidating somehow. In my priestess work with women’s spirituality retreats, I also include lots more Goddess-oriented work, whereas in the Red Tent I leave the spiritual aspect extremely generic and we don’t usually sing goddess chants, for example, but rather chants that focus on women and connection (like “Dance in a Circle of Women” or “The River is Flowing”). I love both types of work and both types of ritual and they are extremely similar, there are just a few little “twists” that create a Red Tent feel or a Women’s Circle feel. Those twists are why I decided to offer two sister courses.
Which of your programs should I choose?
The two Initiatory courses are sister courses. Either one prepares you for both types of work and settings: Red Tent Circles or Women’s Ceremonies/Circles/Rituals. The main difference is that the Practical Priestessing course is longer, more in-depth, includes an optional face-to-face component, involves a self-designed practicum experience, and has an emphasis on vocational priestessing–i.e. priestessing as a dedicated, professional job. The Practical Priestessing focuses on creating women’s circles, retreats, and ceremonies as well as multi-age, multi-gender rituals and community events. It has content about seasonal celebrations and extensive content about priestess work, ethics and professional practice, and the priestess role specifically (the Red Tent training stays more in “facilitator” language than priestess language). While either training is fine for facilitating either type of experience–i.e. the Red Tent class information is applicable to any women’s circle and vice versa–the Red Tent class focuses on creating “generic,” interfaith, open women’s circle experiences that are open to women from many backgrounds, but share a common interest in connecting in a deeper and sacred way. The Practical Priestessing class focuses more on women’s rituals and ceremonies with an ongoing group of women that are open to goddess-oriented, feminist spirituality and on self-defining your own vocational priestess path.
Which training is best for me?
I find that Red Tents are a “safer” concept for many women and so depending on their geographic region, women may want that training over a priestess training because, to be perfectly honest, the Red Tent doesn’t raise the specter of the “witch” so intensely. Depending on location and cultural atmosphere, women may feel like they can get a Red Tent going safely in their area, but that a women’s circle would be “too much.” Individual women who consider themselves on a goddess path, but who want to be as open as they can be to other women and their comfort levels, may also choose the Red Tent road.
Women who are called to a priestess path, particularly a vocational priestess path, and who feel ready to step into a public role as an initiated priestess may find the Practical Priestessing course most affirming and life-changing for them.
When you are deciding between the two paths, ask yourself these questions as you determine which program is a better fit for you:
- What do the people in your community need?
- What do you envision yourself doing or offering?
The two put together = your choice.
- Facilitating rites of passage ceremonies
- Holding spiritual retreats for women
- Holding full moon circles
- Creating ceremonies for families
- Priestessing an ongoing women’s circle
- Exploring goddess spirituality with a sacred circle of sisters
- Stepping into the recognized capacity and initiation as a Priestess in a vocational capacity
- Working publicly as a priestess
The Practical Priestessing will guide you to where you want to be.
If you are interested in:
- Holding an ongoing monthly Red Tent Circle that is open to any interested woman in your community
The Red Tent Initiation program is your match!
Is a Red Tent only for menstruating women?
No! A Red Tent holds the space for the full spectrum of women’s experiences, from menarche to menopause. The Red Tent upholds a woman’s right to define her own experience as well as the full evolution and process of her life’s journey.
Is a Red Tent religious?
Red Tents are safe spaces for all women that transcend religious/cultural/political barriers and are all about coming together in sacred space as women. Red Tents honor and celebrate the “womanspirit” present within all of us. To paraphrase, Deanna L’am, a Red Tent is a time and space devoting to connecting with each other as cyclical beings and speaking and listening from the heart about being a woman. It is about witnessing, supporting, and holding space for one another. For deepening relationships and conversation, for exploring new ideas, ourselves, and each other.
A core feature of my Red Tent work is purely about celebration, celebrating the experience of being women together in this time and in this place.
Is a Red Tent only for women who have had children?
Within the safety and sacredness of the Red Tent, women’s experiences across the reproductive spectrum are “held” and acknowledged, whatever those experiences might be. (Including pregnancy, menopause, hysterectomy, menstruation, assault, grief, pregnancy loss, etc.—it definitely isn’t just menstruation, pregnancy, or motherhood related!)
What about women who don’t menstruate?
They are absolutely welcome! While Red Tent always acknowledge the role and impact of menstruation on a woman’s life walk, we also are broad enough, deep enough, and embracing enough to hold space for a huge variety of experiences within the core principle of a woman’s right to define her own experiences and her own life. This might mean making room for paradox: i.e. is it possible for me to both acknowledge my own truth that giving birth to my children was one of the most profound and transformative events of my life and recognize and “hold” another woman’s experience of complete disinterest in bearing or raising children. YES! Absolutely. When we return to the core: “defining her own experience,” all possibilities, experiences, and emotions become welcome and acknowledged. The atmosphere is fundamentally one of respect and honor.
What makes your training different than other Priestess or Red Tent trainings?
My graduate degree is in clinical social work and I taught college courses in group dynamics for more than seven years. My own method of women’s circle work is a combination of my skill with small group work in general (from a psychoeducational and therapeutic context) and women’s magic, spirituality, ritual, and ceremony. This means each woman’s voice is heard, story is honored, experience is welcome, effort is included, and this happens in the context of a sacred space that honors female bodies, female divinity, women’s mysteries, and physical experiences.
Red Tents and Women’s Circles are not therapy and my programs do not qualify you to offer psychotherapeutic services, but Circles can become richer and deeper and safer when informed by sound principles of group process and facilitation. This combination forms my own unique offering and recipe for a powerful Circle experience: a heart-centered brew of group counseling, teaching, and goddess magic, + priestess-as-ritualist skills.
Additionally, I’d like to mention what I see as the difference between a ritual and a women’s circle, since I often use the terms somewhat interchangeably and the Priestessing class is designed to prepare you to facilitate women’s circles, rituals, ceremonies, retreats, or rites of passage. Women’s circles are co-creative and participatory. Some larger, public, open rituals that you may have seen or experienced are considered “ritual theater”—meaning several priestesses or organizers organize, lead, and prepare the ritual and everyone else gathers to watch. Participation is varied—skilled facilitators will involve everyone in the ritual in some ways, others don’t involve participant energy and are more of spectator events. A Women’s Circle is at its heart and soul, a participatory endeavor. Each woman is part of the circle. There is no “watching the show,” we are all a part of what unfolds. And, this is why it can be tricky or difficult to have a “perfect” ritual in a small group context or to feel like you’ve done everything right, because we are all responsible for how it unfolds, and people are unpredictable. The Practical Priestessing program helps prepare you for this, specific, niche of work.
I’m not sure I want to facilitate a circle, will I still get anything out of this program?
The Red Tent class in particular is both a personal journey of self-discovery and insight + personal ceremony creation + practical “nuts and bolts.” The Practical Priestessing class is focused on practical, professional, and vocational elements of priestessing, but it is requires a deep personal journey as well.
If you have no immediate plans to start your own circle, the Red Tent Initiation process would be personally rewarding and still build your toolbox for a potential future group. The Practical Priestessing course assumes that you’re going to start a circle soon or already have one. I developed it because I had so many people who were interested in an initiatory sort of women’s circle “how to” training, but who didn’t specifically want to lead Red Tents (feeling like they didn’t want to focus on or weren’t particularly interested in the menstrual phase of life–which, I do cover in the class, is not what a Red Tent circle has to be about at all!)
Do I need a training like this?
Only you know the answer, but I would suggest that if you are feeling the call, the bone-deep hum of resonance, the fire kindling within you that says, “this is who I am. I think I can do this!” If you feel the hum of recognition within you when you hear the word priestess, I suggest your answer is yes. These courses are not only based in years of experience, training, and practical exploration, but also in the opportunity to co-create a living, vibrant, circle of women as you journey through the training together, practicing, modeling, and experiencing the processes of this work as it unfolds from your vulnerability in opening your hearts to it together.
Welcome to your sacred path!
Molly has been gathering the women to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri. She is an ordained priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and she wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly’s roots are in birth work and in domestic violence activism. She has worked with groups of women since 1996 and taught college courses in group dynamics and human services from 2009-2016.
Molly is the author of Womanrunes, Earthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit, as well as three social service oriented booklets and a miscarriage memoir. Molly and her husband Mark co-create original Story Goddess sculptures, mini goddesses, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove and Molly writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing at the Brigid’s Grove blog.