Recently, I announced via F’book and G+ that I was adding “shamanic advice columnist” to the already lengthy list of services that I provide. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I am a shaman and healing work is part of that, but it’s kinda difficult in this culture to get people to seek out shamans, especially in this town where I am known more as a cranky old weirdo than a frequent traveler to and from the Spirit World, so throwing it out to the online community seemed like a good way to get the ball rolling. I’m confident that it’s only a matter of time before I’m witching off warts and sucking bad magicks out of people in exchange for gifts of tobacco, goats and cash.
Several people responded with questions, most of which were not serious. One young lady, did ask a couple of questions, which I shall treat with below. She used her real name, but I’m going to rename her “Need Information Period” to protect her privacy and because it seems to be how these things are done.
When will I get my first period?
- Need Information Period
NIP, a girl's first period is called "menarche", which comes from Greek "mene", "moon", and "arche", "beginning". That you have not yet reached the "First Moon" of your life indicates that you are trapped, physically and psychically, in childhood, a state of being which, though it has certain pleasures, is changeless. You must break out of your stagnancy. I would suggest going into seclusion, preferably in a natural setting, fasting, going without sleep and praying. During the third night, offer a blood sacrifice to the Earth Mother. It doesn't have to be much - cut the insides of your thighs and let the blood run into the Earth. Menarche should occur within two days of the offering. If it doesn't, consult me personally. A more intense ritual would be needed in that case.
What would you advise me to do with my menstruation once I finally get it?
- Need Information Period
Well, NIP, that is a complex issue. Before I delve into your bleeding vagina, I should touch on a few things.
I am male and therefore have never experienced menstruation first-hand. My thoughts on the matter are, like so much else of what I’ve said in this space, uninformed and ignorant. I wouldn’t even venture to comment on this subject if it wasn’t already covered by so many of the world’s faith traditions, but it is, which puts it in my realm of knowledge.
The Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition, of course, generally denigrates and reviles all things female. One of many examples of this is:
“And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.” - Leviticus 20:18
Or, in other words, bloody sex is icky and bad and wrong and anybody who does it should be ostracized and left to wander and die in the desert, which is just stupid. There is, in fact, absolutely nothing wrong with uncovering a woman’s blood fountain and getting all messy. Feh to Leviticus, says I. However, it must be noted that I do not totally disagree with the Biblical writers, who at least acknowledged the import of menstruation. Among the pagans of antiquity and the modern era, menstruation was associated with powerful magic. Menstruating women were subject to many taboos, lest they accidentally interfere with the normal course of events. For example, menstruating women were required to stay away from hunters and the tools of hunting on the grounds that their “female magic” might negatively influence the “male magic” of the hunters and cause a food shortage. There is recognition of female power. The Biblical writers removed the power aspect and twisted the whole thing into misogyny. Feh again.
Following the Bible’s example, Western society in general has denigrated women and all things associated with them. In the past hundred years or so, women have made enormous progress toward equality - seriously, the Feminist movement has changed the culture unbelievably in just a dozen decades – but not without certain compromises that are, in the long run, harmful to women. Work-place equality has mostly taken the form of women proving that they can do the same work as men, which is fair enough, but which forces women to act as if they are men. Men don’t get periods, which means that they aren’t bleeding out of their genitalia for a week every month, which means that women are expected to pretend that they aren’t either, when in fact, they are. Of course, women are further forced to deny the fact that they experience certain intrinsic aspects of being female by the disgust, fear and loathing which our culture has for menstruation. No woman in the work force or out is immune from insulting comments about “that time of the month” any time she displays emotion or disagrees with the male consensus on any issue. Probably half the pain and discomfort women feel when they’re menstruating is the result of having to pretend that they’re not.
Fuck that noise.
What I would suggest NIP and all other females do with their menstruation is a radical departure from Western society’s norms. I won't suggest a return to a pre- or non-Biblical state of being, because for one thing, the information isn’t available, and for another thing, we now know that bleeding women don’t radiate waves of potentially harmful magic. I’m going totally rogue here, making shit up, but the shit I’m up-making is consistent with the basic premises of traditional paganry and I am completely serious.
Recognize and honor the Goddess within you, NIP. Chart out your cycle and take those days off work. If you get your cut early, just call in sick. Spend shark week in seclusion, meditating on the awesome power of your sex. Obviously, this tree-hugging dirt-worshiper would opt to go out to the Nat’l Forest, squat over a hole and bleed out while trancing out and running wild with various spirits, and I do heartily encourage that kind of activity, but I understand that not all femmes are quite ready for that. It’s a major step from popping over the counter painkillers and pretending nothing is happening in your vagina to all-out pagan menses rituals. It might be better to start gradually: take off work, turn off the phone and spend a quiet few days contemplating your womanhood. Relax, meditate, get together with some female friends, preferably ones who are also menstruating. Take a walk in the park or woods, but nothing too strenuous. If you have a sex partner, get a little messy. At the outset, you’re trying to undo the negativity you’ve been taught to associate with your period. After a few months, getting your period will stop being something dreadful and will start to be something you look forward to, a respite from the rest of the world. At that point, it would be easy to stop. This Espresso Shaman would, of course, encourage you to go further: to make that time of the month the starting point for intense meditation and ritual, focusing all the while on the awesome Goddess power inherent in all females. Whether you do that or not is really up to you.
The worst thing you can do with your menstruation, NIP, is fight it. Midol and vodka might mask the pain and discomfort, but the price will be the full realization of your Self.
I’m still figuring out exactly how I want to go about this advice column thing. For one thing, I need to come up with a suitable pun for the title. Feel free to ask questions. I’ll consult the Spirit Animals and see what they have to say.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.