Beliefs on Menstruation across Cultures

Beliefs on Menstruation across Cultures

The scientific explanation behind menstruation is a well-known fact to anyone who studied 8th grade biology.

But, every culture and every religion have their own mythological explanations for the phenomenon. Most of these beliefs are fascinating, giving us a peek into how different cultures view menstruation, and some are quite intriguing!

Here is a list of six cultures across continents, and their beliefs on menstruation

  • Aboriginal Australians

The natives of Australia believe in the “rainbow snake”, which is the spirit behind tides, lunar phenomena, menstruation and other such seasonal periodicities. The observation that human females ovulate over a 29.5 day cycle – very similar to the lunar cycle – led native Australians to believe that the moon was in some way responsible for the menstrual cycle of women.

  • The Cherokee
Most native cultures referred to menstruation as “moon time” – relating, as many cultures did, to the lunar cycle. The Native American legend behind periods is as follows..
Women were considered very powerful; they were the life-force of the family, and took care of the family’s needs and daily food, sleep, everything. It is said that one day, the woman got tired of household work all the time, lamented to the Raven about her troubles. The Raven suggested she go to the Grandmother Moon and Grandmother Ocean.
Grandmother Ocean could not help her because not all women lived near the Ocean, but the Moon looked down on everything.
Grandmother Moon, who represents female power and feminine strength, promised that she would send the waters of Grandmother Ocean into the woman every month; so her power would reach all women and cleanse them of their sorrows and troubles.
  • The Mayans

The Mayan people believed that menstruation originated as a punishment for being unfaithful, or disloyal to your marital partner. Menstrual blood would turn into snakes, insects and other creatures used in black magic. They also believed that menstruation was a result of bad luck, and a curse on the woman who committed adultery.

  • Mesopotamians
The Mother God of the Mesopotamians, Ninhursag was believed to make men out of the loam that she soaked in her “blood of life”. She would also teach women to make similar loam dolls and paint them with their menstrual blood to create life.
  • Hindus
A story in Hindu mythology relates as follows..
The God Indra had committed a sin by killing a Brahman. The belief is that women accepted the pain of menstruation in order to free the God of this sin. After going through a year of repentance and suffering, Indra purified himself by giving the sin to the Earth, water, trees and women. Having passed on the pain of his sins, Indra would once again be able to experience the joy of giving.
  • Taoism

Believers of the Tao faith tell legends of how menstrual blood is the red dragon, and is the source of a woman’s energy. Semen, or the white dragon, is the male source of energy. Periods were seen as a phenomenon that drained women of their energy; and the Tao had methods of traditional alchemy and gynecology to reduce the bleeding to a pale yellow discharge, thus keeping the female energy in the body.


Which of these beliefs on menstruation did you find most fascinating? Tell us in the comments!

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