Celebrating Menstrual Blood

Anna Fedele

in Looking for Mary Magdalene

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199898404
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980130 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ritual Studies Series

Celebrating Menstrual Blood

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This chapter explores the way in which the pilgrims celebrated menstruation as a way of bleeding without being wounded and countered Christian theories labeling menstruation as impure. An overview of the literature on the sacralization of menstruation introduces the main theories the pilgrims use for their ritual crafting. The chapter offers a detailed description of a pilgrim group’s ritual of offering of menstrual blood to Mother Earth and shows how it represents a refiguration of the Christian Eucharist. In this ritual context the pilgrims understand Mary Magdalene as a guardian of menstrual blood with many elements in common with the figure of the red dakini in Tibetan Buddhism. The chapter compares these crafted rituals with other contemporary menstrual rituals and refers to theories by Jean Comaroff, Michael Houseman and Simon Coleman. These rituals appear to be ways of making sense of menstruation at a historical moment when menstrual bleeding is no longer an inevitable event thanks to the most recent developments of the contraception pill. Menstruation appears as an event ambiguously related to both life and death and the menstrual offering can be seen as a celebration of the woman’s power to give birth but also of her choice not to have a baby. The author argues that through their menstrual rituals and their theories about sacred sexuality the pilgrims decouple sexuality from reproduction and question the religious and social system.

Keywords: menstruation; red dakini; Mother Earth; Mary Magdalene; ritual crafting; menstrual ritual; sexuality; Eucharist; reproduction; contraception pill

Chapter.  21957 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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