Blood of the Moon

By Richards, Beth | Herizons, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview

Blood of the Moon


Richards, Beth, Herizons


BLOOD OF THE MOON.

In ancient cultures women were believed to be at the heights of their power when they menstruated. University menstruation marked the start of womanhood and was accompanied by rituals and celebration. Words in several languages that relate to notions of sacredness, magic and mystery were used to describe it.

Menstruation was a young woman's parallel to a young man's initiation into manhood and it was treated with at least as much reverence and respect. Womanhood represented birth, fertility, even life itself. In many cultures, the menstrual cycle was linked directly to the cycles of the moon.

Hysteria means womb consciousness but its original meaning has been distorted and the power available to women when they menstruate is far from being revered or honoured today. As late s the 19th century, it was believed that hysteria was a state of emotional or mental disturbance caused by a moveable womb. Medical journals published in the 18th century pictured wombs jumping up into various regions of women's bodies. When a woman complained of tightness in her throat, which was most likely triggered by depression or anxiety, it was assumed she was choking on her uterus. And when she was hysterical, it was because her womb had taken possession of her heart.

What all of this points to is the notion of mixed fear and respect of menstrual blood. Originally it was believed that babies were formed by the coagulated blood of their mothers. Later it was believed that menstrual blood was inferior male semen. If the menstrual blood overpowered the male semen, the result was a baby girl. From the time of Aristotle onwards, the general opinion was that women were psysiologically poor imitations of men. Their reproductive organs were male organs, `out-side in'. The only snag in this theory was the clitoris. Medical experts argued about its purpose. For one thing, men didn't have one. It was apparently inconceivable that an organ existed for the sole purpose of providing pleasure to a woman. Modern Menstrual Mythology

Looking at it historically, PMS is just one step removed from the moveable-womb-syndrome. This does not render it pure fantasy, but it too has been twisted and distorted, much like the taboos that exist in other regions of the world. According to the Wall Street Journal, PMS, costs the U.S. economy an estimated eight percent of its total wage bill. And it earns the manufacturers of hormones, anti-depressants, vitamins, pills and other concoctions said to take the edge off PMS, millions of dollars each year.

What the hullabaloo about PMS really does, however, is to take the edge off women's self-respect. Dr. Jerilyn Prior, a specialist on ovulation and menstruation at the University of British Columbia, states that women have been convinced that their bodies are inherently diseased and that "cures" for PMS are necessary.

Let it be known: it is healthy to experience sore breasts, water retention, craving, and moderate mood swings. "Attempting to deny our bodily changes," says prior, "buys into the notion that it's somehow not."

It is worth noting that women in industrial societies suffer more from a variety of menstrual conditions than do women living in so called `primitive' conditions. These include amenhorrea (the cessation of periods), dysemenhorrea (painful periods), as well as endometriosis and cervical dysplasia ( a pre-cancerous condition). Environmental and stress factors most definitely play a role but these conditions are, without doubt, exacerbated when women work against their own bodily rhythms.

Prior encourages women to treat themselves with kindness. She suggests ways women can adjust to their cycles and be kinder to their bodies when they demand more rest, more food, sex or whatever the case may be.

"There is no recipe for living in a female body," advises Prior, "but the first step is to like living in it."

It is possible that women with severe PMS can help to reduce their symptoms by sleeping more - dreaming more - just prior to menstruation. …

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