Menstruation and Childbirth as Ritual and Religious Experience among Native Australians

Rita M. Gross

in A Garland of Feminist Reflections

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780520255852
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520943667 | DOI:
Menstruation and Childbirth as Ritual and Religious Experience among Native Australians

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The subjects of this chapter are menstruation and childbirth as they figure in the religious lives of both Australian Aboriginal women and men. In the religious lives of women, these biological experiences are the occasion of significant rituals; they are symbols and metaphors through which women express and attain their adult status as sacred beings within the Aboriginal community. The experiences and rituals of menstruation and childbirth, laden with clues and characteristics that are not found in connection with anything else, would be automatically referred to as “sacred” or “religiously significant.” The significance of menstruation and childbirth in both women's and men's religious lives is not especially noted or studied by most scholars of Aboriginal traditions. Two noticeable features of Aboriginal religion are the basis of all theories about the role of women in it. The first is the extreme sexual differentiation that characterizes religious life in Aboriginal Australia. The second, the most obvious, elaborate, and time-consuming dimension of Aboriginal religion, is represented by those men's rituals from which women are so rigidly excluded.

Keywords: menstruation; childbirth; Aboriginal community; Aboriginal traditions; Aboriginal religion

Chapter.  5367 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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