PERIOD is hosting our #PERIODWEEK: a week to celebrate and openly discuss menstruation. This series will feature 5 articles all relating to different aspects of periods. This article highlights menstruation’s place in folklore and myths from a variety of cultures. We are hosting this in partnership with Confi.
BY MARJORIE SHEIMAN
Every culture has different stories and myths they pass down through time. Menstruation has been part of human nature since the beginning and so it only makes sense that it would also be a part of our cultures. Here are some interesting myths centered around menstruation.
From Greek Mythology:
On the day of the new moon, women of the city walked together to the river Eleutherion (ελευθεριον - freedom) - the Water of Freedom. They bathed and then gathered branches from the lygos bushes, which they laid in a circle. With the blessing of Hera, the lygos encouraged the flow of their menstrual blood that would complete the cleansing. As evening approached, they called upon the Goddess in Her appearance as the Moon. Or as Carl Kerényi has called Her "the spellbinding moonlight of Greece", the "origin of all things". Gradually Hera drew forth the blood of purification and renewed fertility.
Additionally, in Olympia, the life of the Gods depended on ambrosia: the mixture of the Goddess Hera’s menstrual blood and honey ensuring their immortality.
From Cherokee Mythology:
Blood is an important part of the traditional Cherokee belief system, symbolizing life. Beliefs about procreation assert that a baby’s flesh and blood are contributed by the mother, while the father’s sperm becomes the basis of the skeleton. Menstrual blood was considered particularly powerful, symbolic of female strength, and could be channeled against an enemy in sorcery, warfare, and ball-game rituals.
A Cherokee legend tells of a cannibalistic monster named Nun’yunu’wi, or Stoneclad. He was virtually invulnerable to attack due to his stone-like skin, and no warrior could ever hope to defeat him. He would lurk in the mountains, with a magical stick guiding him like a dog, where he would track, kill, and eat hapless hunters whom he stumbled across. His one weakness was that he could not bear to look at a menstruating woman. Though no Cherokee warrior could defeat him, he was destroyed in an encounter with seven menstruating virgins. One by one, they stood in his path and sapped his strength, and he crumbled into dust.
From Hindu Mythology:
As the Great Mother creates, her substances, often thought of as menstrual blood, become thickened and forms a curd or clot. This was the way she gave birth to the cosmos, and women employ the same method on a smaller scale.
From Aboriginal Mythology:
The supernatural being known as the 'Rainbow Snake' has been interpreted as, among other things, an indigenous way of conceptualizing the idea of synchronized tidal, lunar, menstrual and seasonal periodicities whose overall harmony (it is believed) confers spiritual power and fertility.
“String was first made by the two Wawalik Sisters at Mudawa, near Buckingham Bay... The sisters sat down, looking at each other, with their feet out and legs apart, and both menstruated… Each one made a loop of the other one’s menstrual blood, after which they put the string loops around their necks”.
Although thousands of years and miles have separated these cultures, they all have different views and mythology about menstruation and the importance of menstrual blood. But what we can grasp from these stories is that