Islamic geometry based period tracking + moon phase calendar 🌒🩸
Shocked by the recent overturning of the Roe v. Wade legislation in the USA (June 24, 2022), people who menstruate around the world were advised in a hurry to back up, delete, and hide their period data from apps, doctors, and even their partners. And just like that, we travelled back a hundred years, developing profound fears of patriarchal state control over female bodies. Menstrual rhythms, which are as mundane and beautiful as observing the moon as it cycles through its phases, have once again become a thing to be suppressed, to go unmarked, and not to exist unless it serves a reproductive purpose.
I could no longer let the stifling narratives -- about periods, fertility, access, choice and its surrounding analytical and predictive data practices -- define how I visualise and perceive my body’s rhythms. So, I decided to make a moon phase and period tracking data viz. monthly calendar based on Islamic geometry patterns. Playing with Islamic geometry’s cyclical and geometric elements has made it a joy to speculate on my body's rhythms and the moon’s cycles through making and coding.
The printed circuit board is made by the founder of Solder Party, @arturo182, and it uses the 2040 Stamp Round Carrier board with CircuitPython to program the LEDs in delectable twilight colours (330019 - period, 190033 - moon). Each circular unit of 10 LEDs is programmed as a single unit. There are 30 units in total (6x5 grid) for 30 days in a month (lunar months always alternate between 29-30 days).
Seeing my period days overlap with the moon phases on a visual display matrix gives me a sense for when my next cycle will arrive. A code snippet for a single month’s tracking looks like this:
In the image above, my period coincides with the third quarter of the moon, so I predict my future cycle happening a row above it, approximating to the next full moon. In this way, I use my self-knowledge to reprogram the calendar and prepare for the following months’ cycles. Accuracy is not crucial as I’m the only person programming and using the device in the privacy of my home.
The Islamic pattern on the circuit board is based on a ten-pointed star grid (one LED for each star) made with a purple solder mask, white silkscreen, and gold for decorative illumination.
The 10-pointed star pattern is from a book I found in my late grandfather’s dusty old library when I last visited my parents in India. The book is called “Islamic Designs for Artists and Craftspeople” by Eva Wilson (Dover Publications).
I designed this device for myself but I understand that different bodies have unique needs and that it may not work for everyone. At the same time, there are tradeoffs between privacy and safety. On the one hand, the device is stand-alone and private, meaning that you can use it in the comfort of your home without requiring an Internet connection. On the other hand, the overt visual display means that other home inhabitants can see where you are in your cycle. Some may not feel safe displaying their cycle to family members or housemates. I finally want to clarify that by making this project, I'm not pursuing any pseudo theory that syncs moon phases with menstrual cycles. It's simply interesting to put the cycles next to each other and marvel at them individually and together!