Do you start blushing when tampons roll out of your bag? Make up an excuse if you don’t want to swim when you’re on your period? Although menstruation is considered a taboo in Western culture, and some cultures even dishonor women who are menstruating, there are a lot of civilizations that celebrate and respect the female monthly bleeding.
Anthropologist Alma Gottlieb wrote a book about rituals and traditions that come with menstruation in some cultures, Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation. If you’re looking for inspiration to celebrate your own monthly festivities, some examples.
Communicating with ghosts
Lots of Native American cultures consider the first menstruation of a girl a spiritual event. Women are at their highest spiritual level when they’re on their period: a perfect time to communicate with gods and holy spirits. The Yurok, a tribe from the northwest of the United States, consider menstruation a purification of the body. A group of wealthy, aristocratic women within this tribe executed monthly holy rituals.
Menstruation is also considered to be a sacrifice. The Washoe tribe in Nevada see a women’s period as a monthly blood sacrifice. Seeing as blood is the greatest possible offering, being a woman is considered a big honour. The men in the Washoe tribe came up with the Sun Dance to match the female sacrifice of blood.
Throw a party!
It’s not just the Native Americans that celebrate and honour menstruation. In some parts of Ghana, West-Africa, the first menstruation of young women is celebrated with a massive party. The girls are treated like queens: they sit under a beautifully decorated bow and receive gifts. Women on the tiny island of Ulithi in the Pacific throw a little party in a separate house, together with the women that are breastfeeding and the children of the tribe.
But why make it so elaborate? For the people of the Rungus tribe in Borneo (photo above), it’s not such a big deal. What must come out, comes out. The women of the Beng tribe in Ivory Coast have to obey certain rules when on their period, but those rules weren’t invented to harm or exclude women. Quite the contrary: the monthly bleeding is compared to a blossom. A tree needs blossom to carry a fruit, the same way a woman needs her menstruation to be able to carry a child.