The Blood Knows

I know because the blood told me.

More precisely, spending time with the waters showed me.

In truth, being cooked in a cauldron of moon time, waters, and dreams is how I came to know. The stew simmered in this otherworldly pot, blackened with the soot of open fires, chipped and dented with age, indispensable to the family cooks, became my best teacher.


She begins the lessons with sparse words: “No human being will teach you what you need to know.” Instead of employing lectures, reading guides, and webinars, she steers me by the heartstrings, month after month, to a flat, red, sandstone surface hidden by trees and grasses along the side of the creek. She guides me to lie down, with my aching belly upon the cool rock. The pulse and flow of the blood excitedly chatters with the creek’s rushing water in an ancient tongue my mind cannot grasp. When I’m lucky, though, I eavesdrop on bits of their conversation through the ear of my heart.

The class inevitably begins with tears. Its curriculum is based on detoxification: thus, sobbing is a prerequisite. It doesn’t matter which topic opens the doorway to tears—it could be stolen children, mass extinction, climate change, white supremacy, historic and current massacres, the trash floating downstream, or even just the cognitive dissonance that’s part of mothering two children in times such as these. I sob, face down, spilling tears onto the rock—tears that first come cloudy, polluted, and toxic.

These tears conduct energy between the sandstone and me. When I visit this place in this state of being, I am received with timeless, unconditional love. Over time, this place and I have come to a mutually beneficial understanding: I come with offerings in hand, willing to cry with her and listen to her. Overwhelm, poison, rage, and grief, all symptoms of daily life in the Anthropocene, are gradually absorbed into the depths of Earth. Somehow, in a way I know but don’t yet understand, Earth combines these emotions with moon time to make compost that nourishes new seeds being carefully planted in the Dreamtime.

The sandstone being now sighs and shifts her weight underneath me. Earth’s human children are malnourished these days. They hardly ever listen anymore, and they usually come as orphans: hungry, lost, empty-handed, and demanding. Yet, as it is in her nature to be generous, she begins sending nourishment back to the human who has come here to do her work. Warm, pulsing, ancient stone-knowledge emanates from her, and watery music cleanses the residual static. As though waking from a dream, I re-member, again, what it is to be connected.

With the detoxification well underway, I am drawn to sit upon a round, gray stone planted solidly in the middle of the creek, surrounded by rushing water on all sides. Now is the time for listening. What is needed, I ask? Without fail, the answer comes:

Look around you, child. Here are my red dragonflies, my golden monarch butterflies. Listen to my abundant, sparkling waters flowing from snow at the mountain’s peak to the North. Look at the green leaves all around you, digesting the light of this great star, the Sun. Look up! See how the waters find their way out of the cracks and crevices of the red rock walls towering over your head. My waters know how to travel. My waters have been in relationship with all of your people throughout time and space. My waters are your body, your ancestors, and your blood. Your blood holds the memory of these waters, since the beginning of time.

My heart blossoms; a song asks to be sung. Sometimes the songs are carried wordlessly on the wind; other times they are made of primordial human languages I barely understand but know, nonetheless. When the songs come, I no longer have to strain to overhear the ancient language of the blood and the waters. We become one language. Tears flow again, and this time they run clear. They fall into the surrounding waters, mingling with mossy stones and tiny fish. Longing becomes the medicine for restoring memory.


I enrolled in the School of Blood and Waters as a spiritual, cultural, and linguistic orphan. My ancestors came to this land as refugees and migrants from Scotland, Ireland, England, and Germany beginning nine generations ago. Among them were grandmothers, bakers, artists, railroad workers, linen factory workers, shopkeepers, teachers, and farmers. Among them were men who received grants of land stolen from the land’s original peoples; men who fought wars in allegiance with both England and the Republic, Union and Confederacy; men who enslaved human beings as a form of livelihood. I was raised in a ninth-generation fog of amnesia, for our languages, our land, our cultures, our waters, and nearly all of our people were forgotten to prioritize our assimilation and survival in the new American empire.

Our women’s blood had been forcibly forgotten long before their migrations took place. According to the Project of Vast European Amnesia that devastated Indigenous Europe over many centuries of the Roman Expansion, Burning Times, Inquisition, and the institutional spread of Christianity, I am not supposed to remember the significance of this blood today. I am not supposed to talk, think or write about it. I am not supposed to sit in its ceremony or know its magic. I am meant to stay too busy and compartmentalize it as an unfortunate fact of female biology—something to be managed with hygiene products and drugs. In the year 1178, when an Icelandic bishop outlawed the practice of European women sitting alone on the land to communicate with the elements and receive instructions,1 it became official: mixing womanhood and nature adds up to dangerous business.

These many centuries later, the orphanhood and amnesia of the European diaspora have had dire consequences for all of Life. Throughout the world, humans are seeking answers, grieving, and struggling to find paths forward. Delusions of commodification have distorted our relationships with water, and many (but not all) of us have forgotten.

Our blood calls us back to knowledge that is much, much older than time. Our blood is the memory of countless generations, all the way back to our common grandmothers of long ago. Our blood carries instructions for eggs to develop inside the bellies of baby girls, even as they swim in the waters of their mothers’ wombs. Like Russian nesting dolls, our blood allows us to birth successions of future generations who carry ancestral blueprints encoded into their DNA. Our blood is made of our peoples’ resiliency over time, in relationship with Earth herself.

Our blood speaks our kinship with Grandmother Moon. As she waxes and wanes with each passing month, so do/did we. As she cycles thirteen times every year, so do/did we. Grandmother Moon, Queen of ocean tides, mentors our communication with the waters of Earth. Those who have completed their bleeding years nestle the wisdom of all the moons they have lived. The waters, the blood, and the moon have been singing us back to re-membrance of who we are and who we are becoming for a long time.

The blood is calling me out of orphanhood, back into belonging. Back to reweaving, re-membering. Back to the cauldron, to cook something new, using the well-worn, beloved recipe of original instructions.

About the Author

Hilary Giovale is a ninth generation American settler of European descent who lives near a mountain sacred to thirteen Nations in a place now called Flagstaff, Arizona. Hilary is a mother, dancer, and filmmaker who has been teaching women’s dance and embodiment since 2007. Influenced by her relationships with Indigenous peoples, worldviews, movements, and places, she is the author of a forthcoming ethnoautobiography about her process of decolonization. She has been a contributor to Yes! Magazine. See her website, for more information.

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