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"From Sacred Blood to the Curse and Beyond"
by Judy Grahn

From The Politics of Women's Spirituality, edited by Charlene Spretnak, New York: Anchor Press, 1982.

Background on the context in which this essay was written.

Date Reading Was Discussed: May 4, 1992
Present: Colleen M., Robin Z., Stephanie R., Catherine C., Lisa B., Cathleen M., and Jane S.

Judy Grahn's essay on menstrual culture was written almost ten years ago, and yet such information continues to occupy the realm of obscurity. Even the women present at this session who regularly participate in Selene Circle [EVE's monthly gathering at the time to explore and celebrate women's bleeding] were fascinated by Grahn's essay, one rich in menstrual facts and lore.

It was pointed out that long before men's role in the procreative process was identified, women's ability to menstruate, give birth, and lactate were revered as sacred mysteries. The realization of paternity, one woman believed, no doubt coincided with the beginning of a widespread hostility toward menstruation.

Another woman was convinced that at the core of misogyny lies a hatred of the menstrual act, a hatred of women who bleed but do not die.

According to Grahn, in prepatriarchal times power and control were the same: those who bled held the power because "the ability to shed blood equals the control of life powers." We recalled that classic line, "war is menstruation envy." Since men do not cyclically bleed, some women were convinced that men usurped ancient female power by denigrating women's menstrual and reproductive powers. To menstruate is natural power, original power if you will.

Clarifying Grahn's concepts of power and control, one woman made the analogy between a river and a hydroelectric dam. Although a dam is perceived as powerful, it is the river that possesses authentic power. The power of a dam in reality is merely control, i.e., artificial power derived by controlling a river's natural power.

We all agreed that reclaiming our menstrual power can be a formidable counterforce to the systemic debasement and patriarchal control of all that is female.

If menstruation is natural power, one woman questioned whether (her own) menopause is tantamount to disempowerment. Several women were quick to assert that for thousands of centuries crones were revered for the reservoirs of knowledge, experience, and power endowed to them by decades of menses.

They cited books such as The Great Cosmic Mother, The First Sex and Women's Creation which claim that a consciousness of chronological time was first developed by prepatriarchal women who notated their cycles in harmony with the moon on pieces of wood anthropologists call calendar sticks. Grahn et al believe these menstrual markings eventually led to mathematics and astronomy. Such scientific discoveries directly rooted in women's menstrual wisdom contributed to human civilization.

Other women opposed conceptions of power based so narrowly on biology. A few noted that men probably have bodily cycles, too. Women were unclear, however, what form such cycles may take (ex., morning ejaculations?), or what meaning to attribute to them.

Other women noted that because the male-dominated medical profession zealously concentrates on women's bodies, comparatively little is known about the specificity of men's bodies. Citing Mary Daly, one woman stated that when gynecology was "invented" in the late 1800's (precisely during the First Wave of feminism), its male corollary—andrology—never caught on. Another woman suggested that along with misogyny, homophobia might well explain the aversion many male doctors may have to the intimate and routine examination of men's genitalia.

In contrast to capitalism's nine-to-five regimen, several women lamented that our species has become estranged from a more natural regularity offered by women's lunar rhythms. Menstrual leave, advocated by the Menstrual Health Foundation, entails women's right and need to spend time alone and with other women during their periods. Selene Circle, a modern-day menstrual hut of sorts, exists in part to facilitate the rapprochement between women and their menstrual blood that we believe is key to deep planetary healing.

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