Women's Blood Mysteries
by Adelheid Ohlig
Excerpt from Luna
In matrifocal cultures, women are honored and seen as the Goddess.
The power of their fertility, both to give birth and to green the Earth,
as evidenced in their ability to menstruate, is respected and held sacred.
Menstrual blood has been used through the ages as an Earth fertilizer
par excellence. During planting season, women would plant the seeds
and then fertilize the ground with their menstrual blood. The menstrual
cycle is seen as creatively powerful, giving birth not only to children
but all nourishment.
During the time of bleeding women's ability to dream, have visions
and attain altered states of consciousness is strong. When moontime
visions are sought, answers come, whether of pottery patterns, or the
location of herds of food animals, or solutions to social problems.
For thousands of years the blood mysteries of women were an important
part of the life of most human societies. The rituals that women create
for their own well-being, to protect and nurture their extreme psychic
sensitivity and power during menstruation and menopause, childbirth
and puberty, serve all of society, not only the individual woman. About
5000 years ago, this changed in many places, most notably Europe. There,
matrifocal wisdom has been repressed, and the special menstrual/menopausal/fertility
rituals that once nourished all have been calcified into rules and taboos
and used to create shame that separates women from their own power and
the power of the blood mysteries.
Today, many doctors and researchers see the menstrual cycle as unnecessary.
Though some scientists theorize that there may be a relationship between
the higher life expectancy of women and our reproductive cycles (because
we constantly renew our organism through menstruation), some view women's
monthly bleeding as decadent.
A naturopath, for instance, states that if women were to eat raw foods
exclusively, they wouldn't need this "purification process,"
and G. Breuer, a medical doctor, asks in a German journal of natural
science (Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau, October, 1981), Is Menstruation
Contrary to Nature? The gynecologist Fritz Beller writes in the German
magazine Die Zeit (issue 6, 1985), "I consider attempts to prevent
menstruation completely as meaningful, because I believe that the monthly
cycle is one of the few errors of nature."
And women, too, come to think of their powerful bleeding time as an
error, if for no other reason than that they are "irregular"-that
is, they don't menstruate every 28 days. But studies done in the United
States, Australia, Great Britain and France show only 18 to 27 percent
of all women of childbearing age having a "regular period"
every 28 days. About three-quarters of all women have their own individual
cycles with varying lengths between periods and fluctuating durations
of the periods. When a standard is applied to something as individual
and personally unique as the menstrual cycle, then women's health suffers,
as in the notion that 75 percent of women menstruate irregularly.
Repression of women's menstrual power literally hurts women. Experts
in women's health care, such as Christiane Northrup, M.D. and Susun
Weed, say that the overwhelming majority of reproductive/menstrual/menopausal
problems are a direct result of patriarchal disempowerment of women's
A study done on the influence of religion on women's menstrual well-being
showed that women who were most likely to suffer from menstrual pain
and problems were the ones whose religion told them they were unclean
or that they had to be submissive to men. (In one religion women are
denied communion when having their period.) Women with the smallest
percentage of menstrual problems belonged to churches where women can
become priests or even bishops.
Then there are the conscious or unconscious messages from our mothers
or other females in our environment. How did we experience our menarche,
the first blood? What examples of the menstrual cycle did we experience
as we were growing up? Were we taught that the fluctuations of our bodies
make us more adaptable and resistant? Or were we told we had the "curse."
No wonder we feel conflict about our cycles and try to deny our very
beingness as women.
Women's menstrual and reproductive problems often begin during periods
of stress. One cause of the stress is the conflict of being female in
a male-oriented, male-dominated society where there are few positive
views of the feminine and little support of the female cycle. In many
cultures women are highly revered, but also avoided because of their
relationship to blood, which is seen as a symbol for life and death.
In the past, blood mysteries were seen as the divine power of women;
they formed the basis of religious rites which we enact even today in
some cultures. The power of woman-say the Native Americans-lies in her
ability to give life and to use this creativity in different ways. Patriarchal
societies, however view women's blood mysteries as a threat to their
power, and have suppressed woman and their knowledge of their menstrual
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