The Red Death: Menstruation as a Symbol of Renewal- Part 9

Figure 9 Georgia OKeeffe Inside Red Canna 1919

Georgia O’Keeffe ‘Inside Red Canna’ 1919

Now women return from afar, from always; from ‘without’, from the heath where witches are kept alive; from below, from beyond ‘culture’ Helen Cixous

In returning to the starting point, to the question that prefaced this journey: ‘How are we to understand menstruation in our modern world? I reach no real conclusions and arrive only on a precipice in which science and technology boldly offers a bridge- I am not sure that I trust this bridge as looking back I can see the rational, left brained approach to humanity and culture has largely excluded and denied the gifts of the feminine- the price to pay for this has been high. Is there another way to cross? Maybe it is less about crossing and more about healing the chasm that has developed between matter and spirit, body, and mind.

I do not believe that menstruation is like a vestigial organ left over from an outworn evolutionary stage, nor do I believe that it is a ‘curse’ a burden, a pathology, or a mark of inferiority. I believe menstruation, then as now, and hopefully into the future is a divinely sacred and beautifully ordinary expression of our interconnectedness with life; our inevitable dance with death; and our inherent capacity for renewal and regeneration. It is also a symbol of the goddess for whatever that may mean in our modern world; for me it is the comfort of feeling that no matter how advanced science is or however ‘artificial’ intelligence becomes, there exists beneath the surface of things a deep well spring that replenishes and nourishes humanity in its evolution and helps us to make choices based on the creative principles of life.

An exploration of the meaning of menstruation through language is limited, words like ‘patriarchy’ and ‘feminism’ are loaded and betray a deeper meaning of the ways in which human consciousness and especially sex and gender has been, and continues to be, manipulated. I am neither ‘anti-male’ nor do I wish to ‘elevate’ women above men: “to exalt women-as-nature” (Curry, 2012), but neither can I deny the unique connection women do have with the natural rhythms of life through their bodies.

It is not menstruation that is dangerous, it is the speaking out of things that have so long been denied and punished: “When you find the place where culture splits form a natural truth you have found a key- a way inside the disease of a culture” (Owen, 1991). Not everybody is willing to look at the disease. Instead, we advance more and more scientific ‘breakthroughs’ to clean all traces of “the fact that we are born of women and that we shall die, that we are carnal, mortal beings” (Mies and Shiva, 1997).

We stand at a threshold where I believe we have a say in which path to take. Is the ‘Red Death’ the end of menstruation or is it a reappraisal of menstruation as a symbol of renewal?  As Jules Cashford and Ann Baring say in their book ‘The Myth of the Goddess’

“Nature’s continued existence depends ultimately on the kind of consciousness we bring to bear on it”.

In the digital age that takes us deeper into virtual worlds and machine consciousness, being embodied and present in all of our being, not just the head and imagination seems more important than ever.


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