Much of this suspicion and mistrust had to do with the nature of the process: Roughly every month, otherwise healthy-appearing members of a cultural group began discharging blood from their private parts. Given that the sudden seeping of blood generally signals some form of disaster or misadventure having befallen the person leaking his or her hemoglobin, such process was regarded as ill-omened at best or a certain sign of impending calamity at worst.
Although the connection seems obvious now, it wasn't until the
Most societies have since discarded the idea that menstruating women pose a threat to the wellbeing and safety of its members. However, because lore is not easily displaced by advances in knowledge, numerous superstitions and taboos still exist throughout the world regarding such females. Many of these admonishments against performing various acts expound upon a theme of contamination via touch — that such women will either spoil products in the making through having physical contact with them or cause even unremarkable tasks they're part of to not turn out well. These folk beliefs are surprisingly prevalent; chances are you've encountered one or two yourself:
- Hair washed during a gal's period will not hold a curl; it will instead hang limp and ratty.
- Fruits or vegetables canned by a menstruating woman will spoil in the can.
- Visits to the dentist should be put off until after 'the curse' has passed, because fillings put in during this interval will fall out.
- Mayonnaise a menstruating woman has a hand in producing will not come together; it will instead curdle.
- Touching fruit trees during this time is prohibited because such contact will spoil the fruit even as it hangs on the tree.
- A gal experiencing 'a visit from Aunt Flo' should avoid going near wineries, lest her presence turn the wine into vinegar.
- Breadmaking will fail because the dough will refuse to rise.
- A girl enduring 'the scourge of Eve' mustn't be allowed to take a turn at the butter churn because the butter will not "come," that is, not form into a solid mass.
- Any jam or jelly a woman attempts to make at 'that time of the month' will fail to set.
- Hams hung to cure must not be touched by a woman during catamenia lest contact with her cause them to spoil.
- During her monthlies, a gal must not butcher meat lest she cause it to rot.
- A gal experiencing her monthlies should not engage in sexual activity. (Actually, there is no harm it for either party involved, and there is some reason to conclude that for at least some women their orgasms will lessen their menstrual cramps.)
- A woman should not bathe or go swimming during Aunt Flo's visit. (This one likely springs from a fear of contamination via menstrual blood's being transmitted to the water where others are paddling or bathing.)
- A menstruating female should also be barred from joining any hunting party lest her presence scare off the game. (In theory, prey animals will scent her blood, which will send them scurrying. Were this the case, the deodorants, soaps, and detergents used by any of the expedition's members would probably have long since put the wind up the tails of the hunted.)
It was also viewed as a potent ingredient to add to a love potion or to slip directly into something that would be ingested by the
Menstrual blood was viewed as possessing powerful medicinal qualities by some primitive tribes. The apron worn by a young girl during her first menstrual period was highly coveted by relatives who were anxious to wear it themselves, certain it would ensure good health. Other tribes believed merely touching a drop of menstrual blood could relieve severe pain and bring about success and wealth.
Barbara "rub of the
Last updated: 14 June 2005
Engel, Peter. Sneezing After Sex Prevents Pregnancy. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996. ISBN 0-312-14696-5 (pp. 93-94). Grant, Dorothy. "A History of Myths and Taboos." Medical Post. 23 March 1999 (p. 24). Opie, Iona and Moira Tatem. A Dictionary of Superstitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-19-282-916-5 (p. 247). Pickering, David. Dictionary of Superstitions. London: Cassell, 1995. ISBN 0-304-345350 (p. 168).