It’s that time of the month again! No, I’m not talking about getting your period! It is the time to learn about what our ancestors thought about periods.
Menstruation was actually considered sacred in ancient times. Good times, eh? It was believed that the blood that was fundamental to create new life in the womb, had the powers to increase fertility of agricultural land as well. Ancient Greeks mixed corn with menstrual blood for higher yield of crops.
Ancient Egyptians and Taoist believed that drinking menstrual blood inflated spiritual power (Cheers!). The Africans used menstrual blood to perform the most powerful magic charms because the blood was thought to be pure but strong enough to destroy. The Cherokee also presumed that period blood was source of feminine strength and had the power to defeat the enemies.
Some ancient tribes held the belief that during menstruation, a women was at the peak of her powers, a time when the tribe could benefit from her wisdom. In ancient Mesopotamia, they believed the Great Goddess Ninhursag made mankind out of clay and infused them with her menstrual blood calling it ‘the blood of life’.
The human civilization took a complete U-turn some 5000 years ago and began labeling menstruation as ritually unclean. What even? Menstruating women were outcasted during their period. Their wisdom was belittled by the patriarchal society and they were bestowed the secondary roles in the household. They were banned from religious ceremonies and doing household works like cooking.
Here are some other theories to why menstruation became a taboo:
1. In 2000, Historian Robert S. McElvaine coined the term non-menstrual syndrome(NMS) that suggests : males stigmatized menstruation because of reproductive envy and suppressing them during menstruation was “psychological compensation for what men cannot do biologically”.
2. Some historians believed that it was our fear of blood.
3. In 1972, anthropologist Shirley Lindenbaum theorized that taboo was a form of natural population control because sexual contact was limited using the pollution stigma.
4. Anthropologist Chris Knight believes that women created the taboo themselves to deem them ‘untouchables’ for few days a month, during female-led periods of time. However, their actions backfires and rather diminished female autonomy.
It is hard to resuscitate the old beliefs of menstruation being sacred. We can, however, debar its status as a taboo. It’s the 21st century, dude, woman up!