Today is Friday the 13th, considered by many to be an unlucky day. People who are afraid of this day suffer from paraskavedekatriophobia. Believe it or not, a great many people do fear this day, actually altering their routines to stay close to home and it is estimated that nearly a billion dollars in business are lost because of this. A billion dollars.
However prevalent the superstition surrounding this day may be, I am certain many more people suffer from xenophobia; the fear of menstruation.
Superstitions can be insidious. You may not realize how ingrained certain customs and beliefs can be, and oftentimes not fully understand the reasons behind them. Did you know that the superstition about walking under a ladder bringing you bad luck has its roots in medieval menstrual taboo? Relatively civilized humans once believed that walking under a menstruating woman (under a bridge or window for example) could cause some of her blood to land on them and thus befalling them with bad luck.
The Curse, a book about the cultural history of menstruation by Janice Delaney, Mary Jane Lupton and Emily Toth begins as such:
There are so many menstrual taboos that it's mind-boggling, and the fact that many are still enforced to this day, even more so. Especially when you consider that many are based on antiquated writings by the likes of Pliny the Elder.
Here are some examples of taboos from around the world regarding menstruation and menstruating women:
- In the Phillippines it is believed that if you wash your face in your first menstrual blood you will be blessed with clear skin ever after.
- In Sumatra women are forbidden from the rice field whilst menstruating.
- In South Africa, Kaffir tribes insist that women who are menstruating must not drink milk or else the cow will die. (This withholding actually lasts for 2 weeks.)
- Galela women must not enter tobacco fields whilst menstruating.
- Women in the Bahamas must not drink milk or eat meat but rather drink beer and eat a vegetarian diet at that time of the month.
- Jewish women are taught they are unclean when on their periods and anything they touch or sit upon is likewise unclean.
- In many parts of India women are banished from the kitchen and temple when they are menstruating and often must live in menstrual huts for the duration of their periods.
Well, it's now 2014 and it seems high time to put these menstrual superstitions to rest once and for all. We now know that menstrual blood, far from being poisonous and deadly, is actually very much a life force that can heal. We understand it is a privilege to be a woman and have such a continual life force flowing inside us. Blood may not be pretty but it is beautiful because it represents the most sacred gift of the universe; life itself.
Women need not be worshipped nor scorned for this but accepted and appreciated.
Here's an interesting video created by Menstrupedia, an Indian based organization whose goal is to educate young girls and women and their families about all things menstrual in a country that still adheres to archaic rituals and beliefs.
Isn't is time that menstruation is recognized for what is actually and factually is; a normal, biological function of the female body? And while we're at it, to view Friday the 13th as just another day?
On an interesting note, please be aware that it is a full moon tonight. Apparently this is the last full moon on a Friday the 13th for quite some time...some say it will be as many as 35 years before this particular phenomenon occurs again. Enjoy it!