Wednesday, January 12, 2011


My good Sister friend Marcina Arnold posted a vid on Forum Feminina about Menstruation.

Names for the release of menstrual blood  and for those who are a bit squeamish or easily offended , you have been warned - period, the rag, the code red, on the blob, Aunt Flo, the crimson wave, bloody mary, the curse, the devil's juice (eugh). Some talk about feminine sanitary items as vagina diapers, a blood hammock, a crotch bat, a dracula's tea bag - oh it gets worse!
Marcina's post me thinking about a book  I've read called The Red Tent. I lent it to someone and never got it back but when I read the post, I ordered it off Amazon again (£1.50 used. Gotta love it). Anyhoo, the book is set in the biblical time of Pharaohs and is narrated by Dinah, a young woman of a nomadic tribe,  daughter of Jacob (a daughter is Israel). She is supposedly raped by Shechem, son of Hamor (son of Egypt). The controversy that raged through the pages of this book after this occurance is whether she should be blamed for now being a fallen woman and or whether Dinah and  Shechem were actually in love. There would be too much scandal if they were in love because that kind of inter-racial, inter class (him a prince, she a slave)  activity back then was more than NOT COOL.  Has much changed? The story ensues.... have a read if your interested.
However, THIS post is about monthly bleeding.
In the book, the 'Red Tent' is a physical place where the women of Dinah's family who would 'flow' in time with a new moon, sitting on a rag on some straw till their periods had finished. All their cycles peaked simultaneously and they would bleed together.  They were that finely tuned with each other. and time in the Red Tent was quality time spent bonding with each other and communing with the cycle of the moon. They massaged each other, share "the escapades of their youth", "sagas of child birth", shared  their knowledge and craft skills, their sexual antics and tips on surviving as women in that time. I was moved and intrigued how important a first period was back then.  The focus on what it meant to become a fertile young woman was evolution.

"Rachel bled her first blood, and cried with relief. Adah, Leah Zilpah sang the piercing, throaty song that announces birth, deaths and women's ripening. As the sun set on the new moon when all the women commenced bleeding, they rubbed hennah in Rachel's  fingernails and on the soles of her feet. Her eyelids were painted yellow and they slid every bangle, gem, jewel onto her finger, toes, ankles, wrists.They covered her head with the finest embroidery and led her to the red tent. The sang songs to the Goddesses...
....The women sang all the welcoming songs to her  while Rachel ate dates honey and fine wheat-flour cake, made into the three-cornered shape of her sex. She drank as much sweet wine as she could hold. Adah rubbed her legs her back her abdomen with aromatic oils until she was nearly asleep... Rachel was stupid with the pleasure  and wine."

Most of us might remember  a clumsy sex education lesson, a vague or overly explicit description of what to expect (from those parents or guardians who tried too hard) - the embarrassment at the insertion of a tampon or the thought of  wearing that nappy you had to waddle down the street in. Body Form and Always and the wings thing was a blessing (except when you get the sticky bit burn).  Now we have Moon Cups, Soft Cups and reusable sanitary napkins. The business of having a period has moved forward, but not the evolution into womanhood. That line has been well and truly blurred with the hyper-sexualization of young girls as young as 5 years old.
So what happened to  that song and dance over coming into Womanhood? What happened to the pride over a girl child, your child becoming a vessel full of beauty and the potential of bringing ultimate Femininity to the world? And what happened to having a party that wasn't about getting drunk on your sixteenth? What happened to the blessed Rite Of Passage?  Have  our periods become so much of a bother to us that we've neglect to remember it's relevance to those yet to experience it? Have we forgotten the young girl in us who experienced it and the comfort we needed when  that reddy smudge appeared for the first time in our panties? Could paying unprecedented attention to  a girls first blood re-ignite a forgotten innocence? Could it place a revered importance on preserving that innocence in  a world that sexualizes our girls at ludicrously young ages through music, fashion and advertising? The questions need to keep coming before we get too complacent and this hyper-sexualized state of being crystalises itself as 'normal'.

When Rachel, aged 12-ish, got her first blood she was relieved. She was a woman and most of the joy around her coming of age would have been because now she was fertile and marriage would have followed closely behind her ripening. Now-a-days the pressure of pre-teen marriage  may not be such a pressure but that moment will only happen once and should be celebrated, the transition made less frightening and the welcoming of womanhood noted in the annuls of memory as a joyous occasion. An important sensual rite of passage.
What are your experiences of coming of age, your early experiences with your cycle? Post on the Forum Feminia .

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