Menstruation! Yikes! This is a very heated topic but I found myself dying to mentally marinate on what sacred menstruation must be for a Christian woman.
First, a little background on me for those whom don't know. For about 10 years or so I was a pagan, new age, Goddess worshiping, wiccan leaning, feminist type. I earned my Master's degree in Women's Spirituality and the head of my program was Judy Grahn - a woman famous for her book Blood, Bread and Roses; How Menstruation Created the World.
Therefor, I always saw that special time each month through those eyes. My connection with the Goddess, with Mother Earth, with the moon cycle, ritual magic and all things feminine. Since becoming a Mormon and hence a Christian I haven't really revisited the topic in my mind - until now.
I found myself wondering tonight, if I no longer worship Mother Earth, no longer pray to a Goddess but instead pray to my Father in Heaven and worship Him (while still adoring my Heavenly Mother and the earth) how then does the sacredness of menstruation manifest in my life today? How do I view my moon blood in an empowering way that is consistent with my beliefs?
Well, I started in the obvious place - the scriptures!
So most of the menstrual talk in the scriptures happens in the Old Testament. This is the bit that can be off putting. It talks of uncleanliness and so forth but let's think about it deeper. First here's a quote from Leviticus.
"And if a woman have an issue, [and] her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean. And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe [himself] in water, and be unclean until the even. And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe [himself] in water, and be unclean until the even. And if it [be] on [her] bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even. And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean." Leviticus 15:19-24 (KJV)
So right away you're thinking, wow, that's harsh! All that business of being dirty, that's not appealing and certainly not empowering.
The first thing we should hold in our minds is that Leviticus was written a long time ago and includes A LOT of rules that were originally designed for our safety that we no longer follow. For example; it forbids the consumption of shell fish. Now back in the days before the common household fridge, not eating shell fish was usually a good idea.
So let's look at menstruation. What is menstruation? It is blood. What does blood do? More specifically what does blood smell like? To you, it smells like blood, but to the lions at the back gate in ye old times, it smells like lunch.
And there you have it, simple as you can get. Those laws about not touching a woman, or anything she had touched, or worn - it was mostly for their own darn good. To protect the rest of humanity from the woman who smelled like a three course dinner for everything with sharp teeth within a 100 mile radius. That bathing in water bit is sounding like a better idea now eh?
Let's look at another...
"And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people." Leviticus 20:18 (KJV)Wow, fountain of her blood. That sounds like a heavy flow. Do you think they wove extra long maxi's with wings on their looms? :)
But in all seriousness there is a lot of talk in Jewish law about not having intercourse with a menstruating woman or seven days thereafter. Seems silly to us right? But wait. Back then men traveled a lot. They hunted, farmed, traded in other villages - all manner of things PLUS they usually had to walk to get there so their commute was really l----o----n----g.
So imagine you are an ancient Jewish man. You need to go to the market for a few weeks this month and try to sell your wares. Your looking at your day planner to pick a time. If you can make love to your lady whever you please your likely to schedule that market trip based on some other need, such as when the goats need milking or when your son needs a ride to his friends house.
But wait, if you can ONLY have sex with your wife half of the time (one week for menstruating and seven days thereafter totaling about two weeks per month) you might be inclined to schedule your trip around your lady. AND let's see, having intercourse about two weeks after menstruation begins puts the happy couple where? (Those of you with Cycle Beads are anxiously nodding your heads here) Right in the middle of baby making season!
So our ancient Jewish man is most likely to stay home and get his wife pregnant. It was a whole baby making survival thing! Make sense now? OK, good, let's move on.
Here's one of the passages I really like, and it is found in the New Testament which makes it a little more relative for us Christians.
"And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour." Matthew 9: 20-22
OK, so most of us don't have a diseased condition around our issuance of blood (yet a lot of us do) let alone do we suffer as this poor woman did for 12 years! Can you imagine?! But what I LOVE LOVE LOVE about this passage is how we see that the healing touch of Christ, the love of Christ, our wholeness made through Christ applies to us daughters of God during our periods too!
That thought is like the coziest, warmest, fluffiest, blanket I can just wrap around myself. I don't know about you but it makes my heart burst with joy! What a wonderful Savior we have!
His word testifies to us that He is here with us, comforting us, strengthening us during this time in our lives, just like any other!"Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole."
And what an important time it is in our lives! Our menstruation is a monthly reminder to us women of the life we give to our families. We have the awesome ability to become closer to our Savior by being like Him; by giving our bodies over totally for the life of another human being (or in most cases beings)!
This is our monthly renewal, our monthly blessing, our monthly visit with our Redeemer when our bodies mimic the blood sacrifice given by our Savior! We bleed for days, we hurt, we grow tired, we may even at times feel forsaken, and goodness knows I have prayed to have to have the cup menstruation taken from me in my darkest moments BUT we go on! We experience our own personal, mini, resurrection! And it is through this wonderful, womanly event that our bodies were/are able to create new life on earth!
*deep breath* Yeah, it's that awesome!
So what examples do we have to look toward in this time? Who are our fellow women in scripture that we can meditate on?
The first that comes to my mind is our Heavenly Mother. I think this is a wonderful time to think about Her and ponder what She must be like. Does the female half or our Heavenly Parents menstruate? Will our resurrected bodies menstruate or is menstruation only an earthly experience? Does menstruation fit into our idea of a perfect body without blemish?
In my mind there is something very fleshy and earth about menstruation. I suppose I wont know until I reach heaven but my guess is that menstruation is part of our earthly experience, and that even a perfect, cramp-free period is most likely not part of our afterlife.
Mary the mother of Jesus must have menstruated because she bore children. Her moon blood seems especially sacred since she was chosen to carry and birth Christ. Her experience would be the closest thing I could think of to scared menstruation in the Christian experience especially since she eventually went on to see the child of her womb suffer and die for our sins.
So....do you want to get a little more controversial? Take my hand, it's OK, we wont go off the deep end but let's wade into the water a bit further here. What about Mary Magdalene?
And no I don't mean the prostitute, I mean the as the wife of Jesus.
Did I lose you?
I hope not.
OK, so, as a Mormon I believe Jesus was married. Here's where I'm getting my ideas from (hint: it's not the Divinci Code!)
I wont go into all the details but I will sum it up by saying in the early Church many spoke of Jesus as being married. Orson Hyde, Joseph Fielding Smith, J. Ricks Smith, among others believed Jesus Christ was married - most likely to Mary and Martha and that he had children. The current leaders say that the belief that Christ as married has never been official church doctrine. So, having said that, I suppose it's open to debate but let's get back to Mary Magdalene.
So, assuming the early leaders of the Church were right and she was the wife of Jesus Christ how does this relate to our menstruation topic? Well, Jesus and His wife most likely would have obeyed Judaic law such as what we read in Leviticus. And this also puts Mary in a different light at the foot of the cross. What role did her womb play in Christ's story? Did she bare Him children? What might that experience have been like for her?
*another deep breath*
I don't know about you but that felt heavy and full of material for deep contemplation that we can dive into every month but for now, let's move on!
So how do we go about our wifely and motherly duties when we are menstruating? For me that has always been an interesting question. I feel very drawn to sit and reflect, take long baths, be in the company of other women, go out and gaze at the stars - but as they say, the show must go on!
Proverbs 31:17 says of a good woman...
"She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms."
This would seem an urging to continue to run our homes as best as we are able during our cycle. Proverbs 31 tells us that a virtuous woman rises early and prepares the household meals, that she mends, and sews, and cleans and is not idle.
But reality is reality and with our modern lifestyles, diets and toxins, menstruation is not what it use to be. We don't find accounts from ancient societies of women being in a great deal of pain of discomfort during menstruation. Certainly some may have been, but I believe the tiredness, moodiness, pain, etc. associated with this time is a modern creation born of an unhealthy world.
So, if you feel tired, weak, or experience pain I don't see anything wrong with ordering a pizza for dinner and putting your feet up. I think what we women should avoid is complaining and self pity.
"Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole."
I read a wonderful quote over at Passionate Homemaking a few weeks back. In regards to how we should treat our husband's, it said; "Don't complain, period. And don't complain about your period ;)"
I think this strikes an important point -our husbands don't understand menstruation. Their reactions may vary from grossed out to perfectly comfortable with the topic but if we complain to them endlessly on a subject matter that they cannot control nor do they understand we will gain little sympathy and may be in danger of making ourselves a monthly annoyance in their eyes.
Certainly sympathy can be sought, assistance asked for, but I think it's a good idea though to keep in mind that if we become helpless and hard to be around every month this may cause unwanted stress in our marriages - and who needs that?
Wow, we have gone all the way round on this subject I think! Have I forgotten anything? Left anything out? If you survived all the way to the bottom of this post, thank you! This was some mental marination! I know I have a lot to think about now and I hope you do to!
I love comments! <3