While in New York with my daughter, and without access to Internet, I actually lived day to day without blogging, without emails, without surfing the net. But thankfully, I had several new books with me, one The Cleft by Doris Lessing, an amusing and fictional account of the origins of a people who at first birthed only girls, and who gradually get used to seeing male children be born....treating them as misshapen monsters at first and killing them. She imagines a highly segregated society, with the men living over the other side of the mountain, brought up on deer's milk and learning to hunt, while the women live near the sea and swim and fish all day.
Another historical perspective was gleaned from Marilyn French's overview of women in From Eve to Dawn....a history of how women are treated, what status and privileges they enjoy (or mostly not) from prehistoric matrilineal clans to the creation of the major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Fascinating and crammed with bizarre facts and treatment of women as virtual slaves without rights, this book is a must read for anyone wondering why it took so long for women to rise up and demand equality.
The sad thing is, our myths and metaphors, our spiritual narratives and origin stories do define us. They delineate what is 'normal', permissible and usual. My strongest reaction in reading these two books is how strong 'story' is for the human mind. In order to believe something is real, we need to have a story to lay it out for us, a beginning story. The original mother myths where women are honoured for their birthgiving and lifegiving powers are mostly buried under the father myths of origin. Who was Eve's mother, I wonder, knowing that Eve is a construct, a myth created to aid the subjugation of women. How undo the 'curse' laid on her, and bestow honour and beauty on the feminine mysteries once more?
All through the Marilyn French book, there are references to women mystics and our propensity for intuitive types of knowing. Another powerful book, Blood Bread & Roses, which I also had with me, posits that women's menstrual cycle is the basis for all ritual and religion, and even culture. It is a fascinating and plausible re-creation of the early prehistoric mind, searching for meaning and connection to the world outside it, but without the power of language to create meaning.
Women secluded themselves during their bleeding times for very practical reasons : wild beasts are attracted to the scent of blood and it is a life-threatening occurrence to be outdoors leaving a trail of blood behind one. Much safer to stay in the cave, but this creates a messy environment to share with children and men, so women created little seats or chairs to raise themselves off the ground and collect the blood, or they removed themselves completely into tents or huts made especially as shelters for bleeding women.
Women also tended to bleed together: this is known as entrainement. You've probably noticed if you live with other women that your cycles start to be in synch with each other. Women had more exposure to the moon, and no artificial light for thousands of years. So the link between their monthly 28 day cycle and the moon's was easily recognized and venerated. The first 'holy' sacred deities were moon goddesses. Women created elaborate rituals to protect their connecton or 'power' at this time and segegrated themselves in what became a kind of secret society of women (which in later centuries became threatening to men and considered witchcraft).
Women in native american cultures were often seen as having greater powers of Dreaming or having visions for their people during their menstrual time. And at least one modern author, Alexandra Pope, encourages women to use this enhanced sensitivity and cultivate solitude or stillness to create a sacred time for themselves, paying especial attention to their dreams and intuition. It appears that women do have special healing powers, when they allow their rational minds to slow down and allow the unconscious forces to guide them.
Of course, our rational scientific world and its emphasis on external proof of truth denies that there is power coming from within, or knowledge internally based without 'proof'. But most women who allow themselves to get in touch with it can vouch for its authenticity. In peri-menopause, many of us begin to weary of the solely outward focus of modern life and either experience nervous breakdown or simply a strong desire to be alone, to quit unsatisfying jobs or change careers, to allow this creative, healing power to manifest.
Have you felt the call? do you recognize that your menstrual cycle may be the barometer of your wisdom, your inner knowing? there are many good books now by women researchers and historians. This blog is my attempt at synthesizing this 'new' but ancient information.