Over the past few thousand years, women’s ceremonial dances and rituals have been oppressed worldwide. Different cultures have found ways to keep their traditions alive, such as the circle dances adopted by the orthodox church or the varied temple dances of Asia.
One of the best examples is now known as belly dance. When Christianity and Islam conquered the goddess-worshipping lands of the Mediterranean, Levant and North Africa, women’s spiritual dancing was transformed. From the homes of midwives, to Hebrew menstrual tents, to Muslim harems, women found creative ways to hide their ancient rituals from their oppressors. Just like the Egyptian dancers shown above, women danced for each other, in safe and private places where men would not discover them. These secret traditions included music, movement, goddess worship, medicinal plants and community healing.