If you’re like me, you’ve probably pondered how other societies have dealt with menstruation (especially ancient ones that didn’t have pills to stop periods altogether and super absorbent feminine hygiene products with convenient plastic applicators). Pre-modern science, the way mankind (and, mostly the “man” half of that equation) viewed women getting their periods was grounded in mysticism and skepticism.
And, when you take science out of it, can you really blame them? I mean, we women tend to sync up to each other and to the moon with our mensing… That’s something that still freaks a lot of guys out, and the ancient Greeks, Hindus, Romans, Celts, Egyptians, Arabs, Chinese, and native Australians and Americans all had their theories as to why.
For example, seeing as the moon did seem to bring periods, many ancient cultures called it their “moon time.” I might start calling it my moon time. It has a nicer ring to it than my “monthly gift.” The actual word “menstruation” comes from the Greek root word “men,” which means month, and “menus,” which means both moon and power. That moon and power stood for the same thing is also pretty revealing.
Warning: If you don’t want to be grossed out, skip this paragraph. It turns out that many ancient cultures like the Egyptians, and even the Greeks, would use menstrual blood in rituals. The pharaohs actually instructed their priests and priestesses to ingest the stuff in order to enhance their connection to the spirits. The Greeks were a little less icky about it, using the blood to fertilize their crops.
Other cultures, most notably Native American tribes, approached the menstrual period as a sort of rite of relaxation for their women. Imagine if your boss actually let you take a few days off to relax, meditate, and pursue your creativity in a tent? There was even a sort of reverence given to women during menstruation by native peoples. Again, not too shocking a logical leap when you consider the fact that their women would bleed for days without dying. Heck, some tribes even approached women during their periods for spiritual guidance or with special requests or prayers. Doesn’t sound too horrible if you ask me.
Of course, everything began to change with the decline of Goddess cultures and the rise of patriarchal societies across the globe. While a lot of these rites and rituals continued, the men of the households became less and less involved. Not surprisingly, today the period is something that many men turn a blind eye to, while women are much more open to discuss amongst themselves – just as we are right here on this blog.