A Journal of Menstruation and Culture
Judy Grahn Ph.D.
In a series of articles for Metaformia I want to explore what seems to me a pressing question in Women’s Spirituality circles, with implications for women and gender relations overall. That is the two part question of what the relation is between the goddess and menstruation, and why the goddess was or is considered “bloodthirsty.” By “goddess” I mean various female deities in a number of traditions, both historic and contemporary. And by “bloodthirsty” I mean the innumerable accounts from both antiquity and contemporary practices of goddesses in particular needing to be propitiated with blood sacrifice.
This question is avoided, is “the elephant in the middle of the room” for Women’s Spirituality. There is shame, and its sister, fear, attached to the subject. There is a great deal of denial that a female deity could be violent or desire blood. In the women’s movement as in the culture at large there is also a deeply rooted phobia and a contempt toward menstruation, which all of us who research the subject have confronted repeatedly. I can’t help but believe the two shames may be related, and that there is a rich store of information within them.
In my series I will address the subject of menstrual shame, and broader questions of blood sacrifice, animal and human sacrifice, men’s rituals, and a metaformic study of goddesses and their association with menstruation. I begin with an essay on horticulture, menstruation, and blood debt.
Menstruation and (No) Shame
I was visited by two engaged and engaging women, Rachel Fitzgerald and Margaret O’Rourke, who teach women community leaders from all over South America. These women are using literature, psychology and new theories of consciousness to remythologize their minds in order to change the restrictive roles of women in society. They want to do this, one of my visitors said, particularly to address the disillusioned feelings women have, after devoting decades to liberation theology, that women have not progressed — not on the left, not on the right, and not in the once-bright promise of liberation theology. Their school, in Santiago, Chile, is called: Encuentro de Espiritualidad Ecofeminista: Mitos y arquetipos.
As remains true in both the South and North American women’s movement, new theory is needed to revitalize old movements, and in particular many of us agree that both spirituality and women-centeredness have been missing from progressive movements. Metaformic theory posits women-centeredness without kicking men out of the center; the theory is inclusive, yet radically different than other theories of human origins and cultures. And I believe it goes directly to the roots of what has been most sacred for human beings. (see my article “The Emergence of Metaformic Consciousness” in this Journal, and follow the link-the underlined word online on the homepage for the Journal to read the theory in its entirety in Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World.