Women > Reproduction > Menstruation from Cultural Perspectives
Different cultures around the world view menstruation in varied and
interesting ways. Here are some examples:
Aboriginal Australians linked rebirth with the blood of the womb.
Aboriginal men exercise ritual power through ceremonies in which
they cut themselves to imitate women’s menstruation. In some tribes,
men actually cut open their penises to reproduce the look of
bleeding female genitalia.
During the winter, most households in a small town in Portugal kill
a pig and cure its meat for later use. There is a strict taboo
against menstruating women. They are not allowed to help butcher the
pig or even enter a house where a pig is being cured. It is believed
that a menstruating woman has the power of the evil eye that she can
ruin the meat by merely looking at it.
The Beng people of Africa’s Ivory Coast believe that menstrual blood
is special because it carries in it a living being. Menstrual blood
is said to be like a flower which must first emerge before the fruit
(i.e., the baby) can be born.
In a small Muslim village in Turkey, menstruation was believed to be
punishment given to the women as punishment for Eve’s disobedience
against Allah in Paradise. Turkish women are not allowed to enter
the mosque, touch the Koran or join the community in fasting during
Ramadan while they are menstruating. Also, a menstruating woman
cannot join the Hajj to the holy city of Mecca. Thus most women make
the journey after menopause.
Native Tribes of North America
The Navajos hold a ceremony for girls who have their menstruation
for the first time. Considered as the most important of their
religious rites, it is supposed to make sex holy and fruitful. The
girl is secluded and given instruction and afterwards, there is a
great celebration in which the entire community is involved.
Yurok menstrual rules say that menstruating women are isolated in a
menstrual hut or in the back room of their house during their
period. She is supposed to be very powerful during this time and
should isolate herself so that she would not waste her energy on
everyday matters and not be bothered by members of the opposite sex.
All her energy should be focused on meditating on the purpose of her
life and the gathering her spiritual energy.