IS MENSTRUAL BLOOD SACRED?
A few months ago, as I was about to dump the contents of my menstrual cup into the toilet, I decided to put it in our newly purchased banana leaf plant instead. I had read that women in certain tribal communities previously used menstrual blood as a sacred fertilizer for their soil. I was intrigued, but it took many months later, an empty house, and a sudden thought to finally find the courage to do it myself.
I proudly – yet carefully – held my menstrual cup, as I stomped to the living room to find our new green friend. All the woowoo books I read about menstruation always talked about menstrual blood being of this Earth, so I felt proud and excited to do it. Woman and Earth connected! I thought, quickly followed by, What if this makes the plant too big for our living room?! I then discarded the contents of my menstrual cup and stood there, with a bloody right hand and a blood-coated empty cup. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel afterwards. Was there some ritual or ceremony I should have done beforehand? Did I fuck this up somehow? I noticed how red my blood looked against the brown dirt, something I was weirdly proud of. It reminded me of a time when my blood looked brown instead of vibrant red.
I’m not sure what I expected, but as I stood there, I felt disappointed that nothing happened and nothing changed. I guess I’ll have to wait to see the growth; it’ll be an experiment, I reassured myself.
As I walked away, I started thinking more about menstrual blood and its potential power. Are there superpowers in menstrual blood? Is menstrual blood sacred? I decided to look into it.
The first article I read described menstrual blood as the most sacred substance on earth: The Fountain of Life. I’m off to a good start.
I read about menstrual rituals in different cultures throughout history. Some made immortal drinks made of menstrual blood and water, a supernatural red wine if you will. I read that the Maori people viewed menstrual blood as a powerful medicine, so they painted anything sacred red, including sick people in an effort to cure them. I read about menstrual offerings to the gods and to the moon.
I found out that the Lakota tribe believed menstrual blood to be so powerful that it could weaken the strength of warriors or interfere with a healer’s ability to heal. They would return their sacred blood to the Earth by free-bleeding on their seeds.
I even read a story that the menstrual blood of great healers was stolen by powerful men in an effort to make them even more powerful. Can you imagine? I giggled over the thought of my husband arguing over the contents of my menstrual cup monthly.
Society didn’t want to see my menstrual blood and neither did I.
Reading about ancient menstrual views and rituals helped shift my perspective about my menstrual blood, but even today, some women are taking the term “self-care” to a whole new level. The things they are doing with their menstrual blood seem very far from what I would do with mine (even though I just dumped my blood in a planter). Menstrual facials are now a thing. Yes, you read that right: menstrual blood on your face. As a proponent of menstrual facials, Yazmina Jade defended her decision after some social media backlash, “I decided to place the blood all over my face, and taste it to reclaim that part of myself. I could truly embody all that I was.”
Though I’m very far from feeling comfortable applying my bloody bodily fluids all over my face, the concept did intrigue me. I grew up never wanting to look at my menstrual blood. I learned that hiding my tampon would be an effective way to avoid bullying, but I was also taught, like most girls and women, to ensure my blood was invincible. In relationships, at the gym, at school. I made sure no one saw my blood. I realize now how much I took these societal messages to heart when I think to how quickly I would flush my tampons down the toilet, barely allowing time to see any evidence of blood on them. Society didn’t want to see my menstrual blood and neither did I.
A few years ago, after reading the cons of using tampons, I decided to opt out and start using a menstrual cup instead. I realize now how much it’s helped me establish a relationship with my menstrual blood. I was forced to look at it, and over time, I found comfort in it. I tried to understand what my body was telling me by analyzing the color of my blood, once brown like the dirt in my plant. As Alissa Vitti, author of Woman Code, explains, “knowing the color tells you exactly what hormones are in and out of balance.”
I can’t help but feel that if I had access to these stories of empowerment at a much younger age, that I would have felt no resistance in believing that the blood that drips down my legs every month has superpowers.
Using a menstrual cup might’ve been my first step towards viewing my menstrual blood as sacred. As I started looking at my blood, I began embracing my bodily fluids. No longer avoidant, I started to feel connected to my blood and my body. Following more of Vitti’s instruction, I changed my diet and immediately saw an impact on the way I experienced my menstruation. My menstrual blood looked different too, full red, and I felt a full body connection: what I put in to feed my body also nourished my blood.
While I continued researching about whether menstrual blood has sacred properties, I landed on the following: no article, no doctor, no spiritual healer would be able to definitively answer. But I could. Messaging from my family and society shaped the way I viewed my menstrual blood when I was young, but it’s up to me to redefine my relationship with it now. Learning about how other cultures view menstrual blood, and how people previously and presently are using menstrual blood in rituals, has allowed me to widen the scope of my relationship with my own menstrual blood. If other cultures saw magic in menstrual blood, then maybe I could too.
Celu Amberston, author of Blessings of Blood, thinks of her menstrual blood as her superpower, and uses it at her alters because it comes from no wound, no death, and no sacrifice. It’s an interesting point: We bleed every month without dying or without killing something. I can’t help but feel that if I had access to these stories of empowerment at a much younger age, that I would have felt no resistance in believing that the blood that drips down my legs every month has superpowers. That it is indeed sacred, and perhaps I could find myself free-bleeding all over the soil to give back to the Earth.
Instead, I’m taking baby steps in viewing my menstrual blood as sacred. For me it starts with having a relationship with my blood by analyzing it monthly, and sporadically when I feel like it, dumping my menstrual cup on our banana leaf.
Our plant has not outgrown our living room or magically increased in size, but it looks happy. And it made me feel happy when I did it. It made me feel connected to the Earth and to my body, and happy to be menstruating. For a few moments, it really did feel sacred, and I guess that’s all that matters.
photography by onourmoon