Vital Fertility and Sexuality

by Adelheid Ohlig
Published by Ash Tree Publishing

Ash Tree Publishing herbal medicine and spirit healing books for women

Women's Blood Mysteries
by Adelheid Ohlig

Excerpt from Luna Yoga

continued from page one

In modern civilization the discrimination against women and their cycles manifest in many different ways. In the United States, for example, there are very few companies that offer fully paid maternity leave (sometimes classified as "disability leave"), and no workplaces that give time off for the menstrual cycle. The message we are given via the media and in the workplace is that we are to keep our cycles hidden (as in the tampon commercials) so we can be like men (who don't bleed). Of course our bodies express such conflict and this disturbed relationship manifests in disharmonies of our uterus, ovaries, menses, fertility.

Modern advertising, with its arsenal of youth, beauty, and money, dictates that menstruation should not be seen or heard, felt or smelled. Women should perceive or display nothing of their physical changes. The days of the period should be like any other day. Tampons have applicators so women don't have to touch or contaminate themselves "down there." Nobody should notice that women have cycles. Everything should run smoothly. When it doesn't, take painkillers, use suppositories. Science, too, is used to promoting the latest in menstrual aversion, whether it's in helping women hide those "unpleasant facts of life"-like hot flashes and premenstrual tension-or in telling us that careers cause infertility.

Can we change? During the 1970s many of the newly founded women's collectives in Europe included in their bylaws a provision for each woman to take off one day a month for menstruation. Only a few women claimed this benefit. Some considered the free menstrual day as uneconomical. Others viewed it as a reduction of their femininity. Twenty years later, women's collectives in Europe consider this day-once celebrated as revolutionary-as a mere historical curiosity.

The power of menstruation is still honored in many cultures, in ways wondrous, amazing, and inspiring. There are many Native American nations where the women's cycles are considered a source of power for the woman; where women are revered for their ability to bleed and to give birth; where they are honored for their ability to give life, but also allowed to refuse this role. Women past menopause are the guardians of tradition, and wisdom is attributed to them. (According to many ethnologists, rites of circumcision for men in different cultures are an imitation of the female cycle.)

In Sri Lankra, the entire family celebrates with a huge feast when a girl has her first blood. She wears red clothing, which symbolizes joy.

Many rules and taboos about menstruation, that today appear discriminating, were originally rituals created by women for their own well-being.

In ancient Japan, menstrual huts for women were situated in the most beautiful places: along the seashore, often on top of a hill. There the women could withdraw to spend time in solitude, or retreat with others.

In most rural communities a woman's menstrual blood is known to be a powerful fertilizer. At special times women give their blood to the earth to insure the fertility of the fields and an abundant harvest.

In Southeastern India, among still-existent matriarchal tribes, women move to the ocean to meditate during their menses. Their retreat, their time of self communion, is honored as a service to the community. Their clothes are washed and all their chores are done by the male members of the tribe while they menstruate. When, after a few days, the women return to the village, they are full of inner strength. They are welcomed back by their men and pampered with their favorite foods.

Among the Shasta Indians of northern California, a girl at her menarche goes into a special menstrual hut that has been prepared for her and remains there for about ten days. She is accompanied by her mother or an older woman who takes care of her, bathing her, caring for her, feeding her. Everything she dreams while she is here will come true.

Can we change? Can we redream the blood mysteries? Yes! I've done it. So have other women. We do LUNA YOGA to begin sensing into our bellies. As our memories surface, we acknowledge our menstrual experiences. If there is anger at what we experienced menstrually, we give that rage its voice, then agree to let it go. Once we do that, we begin to create our menstrual experience as nurturing, joyful, supportive, whatever we need it to be for ourselves. We can let it connect us with the Grandmothers, with Earth Mother, with the Moon, with the Goddess and with our Feminine Self. We become one with the great spiral of all women and we become whole/healthy.

Blood Mysteries is an excerpt from LUNA YOGA

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