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Old 07-10-2000, 09:35 AM   #24
Lee Winterhunter
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I think the reason we want to discuss this topic is because it seems the way a culture considers a woman’s natural menstrual cycle tells a whole lot about how the culture considers women generally.

The ancient Hebrews, and some Jewish people today, consider a woman’s time unclean and impure. Husbands will not even hold their wives’ hands during moontime. Do women in that culture have the options of women in other cultures? I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out.

Some sects of Islam swath women within veils and define their existence strictly. What beliefs do those sects have about the menstrual cycle? Again, it would be interesting to know.

I have to say that my own family treated moontime as a very natural thing, referring to ‘the period’ and not ‘the curse,’ and my parents - who both worked in health care - taught us to be pay attention to our bodies in general and to changes in our cycles in particular, as these could give crucial clues to what might be happening with our health.

Now, then: My native elders have given me a range of answers on moontime, from "you must not go into the circle" to "if you feel the need to dance, dance!" It’s been the non-native people inviting me to sweatlodges who, after quoting the dollar price of participation, announce that if I or any of my female friends turn up on moontime at the sweat, we’ll be told to stay away because our medicine could harm (yes, they said ‘harm’) the medicine man’s medicine.


The thought has occurred, more than once, that information we get now on tribal customs and beliefs re: moontime very well might have been coloured by missionaries, etc. Just as it's entirely possible that Euro-folks, seeing menstruating women (happily) hiking off to the moonlodge, reported back that women are "banned from the village" --

-- could it be that some NDN-folks way, way back liked what they saw of old Euro-culture - the men leading everything, the women’s role diminished - and adapted some of these attitudes about women and women’s natural ways?

To the posters who have indicated that we should go to the source and embrace the teachings wholeheartedly:

I question the pronouncements from ‘on-high’ made by leaders in my Christian sect, and I read and talk with others of different beliefs and I use my brain to think about my religion. Sometimes I come to my own conclusions; sometimes, I have to leave something ‘undecided;' sometimes, I have to believe that what the theologians say is right.

Why shouldn’t I do the same with the culture of my native ancestors?

It seems to me that now, when the phenomenon of menstruation is understood as part of the reproductive cycle, and where it’s more common than it may have been in the days when women were often pregnant or nursing, that it’s most important for each woman to be aware of her cycles, the changes in her level of energy, patience and so forth. (The ads that encourage women to keep going at their usual breakneck pace all month, by using certain products, irritate me no end.)

It’s next most important to observe how a nation or culture treats women. On their moontimes, are they shunned, or excused from participation in certain things, or are they given the freedom to choose their level of participation?

At any time, are they and their abilities considered as important as the men’s, or are women dismissed, ignored, harassed or just tolerated?

It may well be that menstruating women have energies that other people don’t. It seems to me that the way a culture interprets these energies will reflect, to a great degree, the honor and respect with which it treats all women, and the way it treats women and men.

Words, as we’ve seen in abundance in this discussion, have incredible power. I’ve tried to choose mine carefully to reflect my experiences, beliefs and attitudes, and not to pass judgment on others.

With respect,

[This message has been edited by Lee Winterhunter (edited July 10, 2000).]
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