The Earliest Rituals were Connected to a Woman's Monthly Bleeding

Thu, 12/29/2016 - 09:49
Submitted by Carlin Ross

I love Chanel Baran's photography because she captures the sacred and reminds us that our bodies are purposeful and divine. 

Menstruation is a powerful moment and I missed bleeding for two years while I was pregnant then nursing a newborn.  When I finally got my period again, I felt more powerful.  This is one of my favorite images from her series on menses.

"The word ‘ritual’ comes from ‘rtu,’ sanskrit for menses. The earliest rituals were connected to the woman’s monthly bleeding. The blood from the womb that nourished the unborn child was believed to have mana, magical power. Women’s periodic bleeding was a cosmic event, like the cycles of the moon and the waxing and waning of the tides. We have forgotten that women were the conduit to the sacred mystery of life and death."

— Elinor Gadon

Editor in Chief & Keeper of All Things Betty Dodson

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Menses, Death and Disaster

Thu, 12/29/2016 - 12:12

It's a matter of personal taste but the photographs were too prettified for my taste, too mannered to really speak to power. Beautiful red flowers don't really speak to the blood and guts of either my daughters heavy period or peri-menopausal flooding.

Sometimes I wonder whether we find it too easy to speak about the positive aspects of female reproduction, the life generating, the babies, and omit the death and disaster, especially in a developing world culture where most women will have died in childbirth and a reasonable number of babies also.

If we believe that menses rituals were central to the community, one would have to recognise the desire to stave off or avoid death during childbirth as a major factor. As well as a number of shaming isolation rituals of young girls that still take place today.

Obviously we can take the idea of female power forward, reinterpret the rituals but without the destruction, it loses a lot of it's power, a Christianity with Christmas but no Easter.

The earliest rituals were connected to the woman’s monthly bleed

Fri, 12/30/2016 - 12:13
DamjanB52 (not verified)

This might even have been true if all bleeding females in the community had synchronized periods. Seeing a pattern of patterns is harder than seeing a pattern, and takes time and mathematical ability. The earliest rituals were more likely connected with more obvious patterns, such as phases of the moon.

when women live together,

Sun, 01/01/2017 - 10:02
Carlin Ross

when women live together, they menstruate at the same time - their cycles synchronize - so that probably happened when we were foraging groups and cave dwellers.

It happened to me when I lived with 3 other women

Betty Dodson's picture
Sun, 01/01/2017 - 15:17
Betty Dodson

At the tiime I was an art student and we shared a large apartment on West 55th Street  It's where I had my first abortion as I knew I did NOT want to have childrem. Mlargeret Meade coined the term Post Menapausal Zest, when a woman is in her full power. I thought I should miss menstuation but I did not. I was very happy to become one of those women with post menapausal zest who was still sexually active with no need for birth control. What a joy.

I agree NLH that the art is too pretty to represent Women's Power! Watching Carlin at close range go through pregnancy, birth and then dealing with a boy toddler has been witnessing a monumental effort and committment. Mothers are the bravest warriors of all. Being an artist is a piece of cake.
I'll have cake please!

Myth - women don't cycle with one another

Sun, 01/01/2017 - 23:24
HealersHeart (not verified)

“Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.”

Actually menstrual syncronity is a myth but one most people still seem to believe- Ask any mother and daughter or sisters what tends to happen though in primative cultures is that a woman' cycle follows the moon (both 28 days).. In fact some women who live in cities can use a night light to mimic the natural moon light to and  try reset their cycles.

Here is a link to an article on it

Indeed Betty.

Mon, 01/02/2017 - 22:15
Mrs. Magenta (not verified)

Indeed Betty Anne,

I find nothing positive in having been uselessly menstruating for 37 years. I did not ever wanted to follow a DNA urge, and in order to fit in with what almost everbody is doing: procreating (and marriage).  

Every month, since 21 there was the excruciating and inescapable belly pain, there were the depressive emotions, moods, the stress if it would disturb for eight years my academic exams on the day itself and the preparation for them, the danger of leaking through my cloths and been seen, the awful smell, the same stench I am still confronted with of women who do not take hygenic care of changing pads on time, the paleness in my face, the energy sucked out of me, no sports, the cancellations with an excuse, never knowing when it would began, taking precautions in case of everywhere I went, the costs, the holistic and regular medicines which did nothing, and the cultural shame I took over.

In short, it limited me.
Free at last being post-menstruating. It is not negative at all as we are told here in prosperous, modern Western Europe. I consciously transformed myself, which needs adjustments and courage, having exciting and new experiences and insights, into the individual I was meant to be.  

As we have seen...

Fri, 01/06/2017 - 11:08
little r (not verified)

publicly at Standing Rock, most North American Indigenous cultures are deeply rooted in following the rhythms of Mother Earth, one of them being that as women are experiencing their moon, they are literally emoting spiritual power.  For this reason if a woman is on her moon the changes their bodies feel when in the company of other women during their moon are such that it is felt by them to refrain from being near certain Aboriginal rituals or ceremonies at the time of their moon.  This is an ancestral practice, fairly universal among contemporary Native traditionals today.