by Barbara Walker

(Barbara Walker's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets)
from LunarLions Website


From the earliest human cultures, the mysterious magic of creation was thought to reside in the blood women gave forth in apparent harmony with the moon, and which was occasionally retained in the womb to ’coagulate’ into a baby.

 

Men regarded this blood with holy dread, as the life essence, inexplicably shed without pain, wholly foreign to male experience.


Most words for menstruation also meant such things as incomprehensible, supernatural, sacred, spirit, deity. Like the Latin sacred, old Arabian words for ’pure’ and ’impure’ both applied to menstrual blood and to that only. The Maoris stated explicitly that human souls are made of menstrual blood, which when retained in the womb ’assumes human form and grows into a man.’

 

Africans said menstrual blood is ’congealed to fashion a man’. Aristotle said the same: human life is made of ’coagulum’ of menstrual blood. Pliny called menstrual blood the ’material substance of generation’, capable of forming ’a curd, which afterwards in process of time quickeneth and groweth to the form of a body.’ This primitive notion of the prenatal function of menstrual blood was still taught in European medical schools up to the 18th century.


Basic ideas about menstrual blood came from the Hindu theory that as the Great Mother creates, her substances become thickened and forms a curd or clot; solid matter is produced as a ’crust’. This was the way she gave birth to the cosmos, and women employ the same method on a smaller scale. According to Daustinius, ’the fruit in the womb is nourished by the mother’s blood....The menstruum does not fail the fruit for nourishment, till it at the proper time comes to the light of the day.’


Indians of South America said all mankind was made of ’moon blood’ in the beginning. The same idea prevailed in ancient Mesopotamia, where the Great Goddess Ninhursag made mankind out of clay and infused with her "blood of life."

 

Under her alternate name of Mammetun or Aruru the Great, the Potter, she taught women to form clay dolls and smear them with menstrual blood as a conception-charm, a piece of magic that underlay the name of Adam, from the feminine adamah, meaning "bloody clay," though scholars more delicately translated it "red earth."


The Bible’s story of Adam was lifted from an older female-oriented creation myth recounting the creation of man from clay and moonblood. So was the Koran’s creation story, which said Allah "made man out of flowing blood"; but in pre-Islamic Arabia, Allah was the Goddess of creation, Al-Lat. The Romans also had traces of the original creation myth. Plutarch said man was made of earth, but the power that made a human body grow was the moon, source of menstrual blood.


The lives of the very gods were dependent on the miraculous power of menstrual blood. In Greece it was euphemistically called the "supernatural red wine" given to the gods by Mother Hera in her virgin form, as Hebe. The root myths of Hinduism reveal the nature of this ’wine’. At one time all gods recognized the supremacy of the Great Mother, manifesting herself as the spirit of creation (Kali-Maya).

 

She,

’invited them to bath in the bloody flow of her womb and to drink of it; and the gods, in holy communion, drank of the fountain of life -- (hic est sanguis meus!) -- and bathed in it, and rose blessed to the heavens’.

To this day, clothes allegedly stained with the Goddess's menstrual blood are greatly prized as healing charms.

 

W.R. Smith reported that the value of the gum acacia as an amulet "is connected to the idea that it is menstruous blood, i.e., that the tree is a woman." For religious ceremonies, Australian aborigines painted their sacred stones, churingas, and themselves with red ochre, declaring that it was really women’s menstrual blood.


The esoteric secret of the gods was that their mystical powers of longevity, authority, and creativity came from the same female essence. The Norse god Thor for example reached the magic land of enlightenment and eternal life by bathing in a river filled with the menstrual blood of ’giantesses’ -- that is of the Primal Matriarchs, "Powerful Ones" who governed the elder gods before Odin brought his ’Asians’ (Aesir) out of the East. Odin acquired supremacy by stealing and drinking the ’wise blood’ from the triple cauldron in the womb of the Mother-Earth, the same Triple Goddess known as Kali-Maya in the southeast Asia.


Odin’s theft of menstrual magic paralleled that of Indra, who stole the ambrosia of immortality in the same way. Indian myth called the sacred fluid Soma -- in Greek, "the body", because the word’s eastern root referred to a mystical substance of the body.

 

Soma was the object of so much holy dread that its interpretations were many.

  • Soma was produced by the churning of the primal sea (Kali’s ’ocean of blood’ or sometimes ’sea of milk’).

  • Or Soma was secreted by the Moon-Cow.

  • Or Soma was carried in the ’white pot’ (belly) of Mohini the Enchantress.

  • Or the source of Soma was the moon.

  • Or from Soma all the gods were born.

  • Or Soma was the secret name of the Mother Goddess and the active part of the ’soul of the world’.

Soma was drunk by priests at sacrificial ceremonies and mixed with milk as a healing charm; therefore it was not milk.

 

Soma was especially revered on Somvara, Monday, the day of the moon. In an ancient ceremony called Soma-vati, women of Maharastra circumambulated the sacred female-symbolic fig tree whenever the new moon fell on a Monday.


Some myths claimed the Goddess under her name of Lakshmi, "Fortune" or "Sovereignty", gave Soma to Indra to make him king of the gods. His wisdom, power, and curiously feminine capacity for pregnancy, came from Lakshmi’s mystic drink, ’of which none tastes who dwells on earth.’ On drinking it straight from the Goddess, Indra became like her, the Mount of Paradise with its four rivers, "many-hued" like the Goddess's rainbow veils, rich in cattle and fruiting vegetation.

 

The Goddess’s blood became his wisdom. Similarly, Greeks believed the wisdom of men or god was centered in his blood, the soul-stuff given by his mother.


Egyptian pharaohs became divine by ingesting ’the blood of Isis,’ a soma-like ambrosia called sa. Its hieroglyphic sign was the same as the sign of the vulva, a yonic loop like the one on the ankh or Cross of Life. Painted red, this loop signified the female genital and the Gate of Heaven. Amulets buried with the dead specifically prayed Isis to deify the deceased with her magic blood. A special amulet called the Tjet represented Isis’s vulva and was formed of red substance - jasper, carnelian, red porcelain, red glass, or red wood. This amulet was said to carry the redeeming power of the blood of Isis.


The same elixir of immortality received the name of amrita in Persia. Sometimes it was called the Milk of the Mother Goddess, sometimes a fermented drink, sometimes sacred blood.

 

Always it was associated with the moon.

"Dew and rain becoming vegetable sap, sap becoming the milk of the cow, and the milk then becoming converted into blood; --Amrita, water, sap, milk, and blood represent but differing states of the one elixir. The vessel or cup of this immortal fluid is the moon."

Celtic kings became gods by drinking the ’red mead’ dispensed by the Fairy Queen, Mab, whose name was formerly Medhbh or "mead."

 

Thus she gave a drink of herself. Lakshmi. A Celtic name of this fluid was dergflaith, meaning either "red ale" or "red sovereignty." In Celtic Britain, to be stained with red meant to be chosen by the Goddess as king. Celtic ruadh meant both "red" and "royal." The same blood color implied apotheosis after death. The pagan
paradise or Fairyland was at the uterine center of the earth, site of the magic Fountain of Life.


An old manuscript in the British Museum said the dying - and - resurrected Phoenix lives there forever. The central Holy Mountain or mons veneris contains both male and female symbols: the Tree of Life and the Fountain of Eternal Youth, the latter obviously menstrual, as it was said to overflow once every lunar month.


Medieval churchmen insisted that the communion wine drunk by witches was menstrual blood, and they may have been right. The famous wizard Thomas Rhymer joined a witch cult under the tutelage of the Fairy Queen, who told him she had "a bottle of claret wine here in her lap," and invited him to lay his head in her lap. Claret was the traditional drink of the kings and also a synonym for blood; its name literally meant ’enlightenment.’ There was a saying, "the man in the moon drinks claret," connected with the idea that the wine represented lunar blood.


Medieval romance and the courtly-love movement, later related to the witch cults, were strongly influenced by the Tantric tradition, in which menstrual blood was indeed the wine of poets and sages. It is still specified in the Left Hand Rite of Tantra that the priestess impersonating the goddess must be menstruating, and after contact with her a man may perform rites that will make him "a great poet, a Lord of the World" who travels on elephant-back like a rajah.


In ancient societies both east and west, menstrual blood carried the spirit of sovereign authority because it was the medium of transmission of the life of clan or tribe. Among the Ashanti, girl children are still more prized than boys because a girl is the carrier of "blood" (mogya). The concept is also clearly defined in India, where menstrual blood is known as the Kula flower or Kula nectar, which has an intimate connection with the life of the family.


When a girl first menstruates she is said to have ’borne the flower’. The corresponding English word flower has the significant literal meaning of ’that which flows’.


The Bible also calls menstrual blood the flower (Leviticus 15:24), precursor of the fruit of the womb (a child). As any flower mysteriously contained its future fruit, so uterine blood was the moon-flower supposed to contain the soul of future generations. This was a central idea in the matrilineal concept of the clan.


The Chinese religion of Tao, "the Way", taught Tantric doctrines later supplanted by patriarchal-ascetic Confucianism. Taoists said a man could become immortal (or at least long-lived) by absorbing menstrual blood, called red yin juice, from a woman’s Mysterious Gateway, otherwise known as the Grotto of the White Tiger, symbol of life-giving female energy. Chinese sages called this red juice the essence of Mother Earth, the yin principal that gives life to all
things.

 

They claimed the Yellow Emperor became a god by absorbing the yin juice of twelve hundred women.


A Chinese myth said the Moon-goddess Chang-O, who controlled menstruation, was offended by male jealousy of her powers. She left her husband, who quarreled with her because she had all the elixir of immortality, and he had none, and was resentful. She turned her back on him and went to live in the moon forever, in much the same way Lilith left Adam to live at the ’Red Sea’. Chang-O forbade men to attend Chinese moon festivals, which were afterward celebrated by women only, at the full moon of the autumnal equinox.


The Hebrew word for blood, dam, means ’mother’ or ’woman’ in other Indo-European languages (e,g. dam, damsel, madam, la dama, dame) and also "the curse" (damn). The Sumerian Great Mother represented maternal blood and bore names like Dam-kina, Damgalnunna. From her belly flowed the four rivers of Paradise, sometimes called rivers of
blood which is the ’life’ of all flesh. Her firstborn child, the savior, was Damu, a "child of the blood." Damos or ’mother-blood" was the word for "the people" in matriarchal Mycenae. Another common ancient symbol of the blood-river of life was the red carpet, traditionally trod by scared kings, heroes, and brides.


Taoist China considered red a scared color associated with women, blood, sexual potency, and creative power. White was the color of men, semen, negative influences, passivity, and death. This was the basic Tantric Idea of male and female essences: the male principal is seen as ’passive’ and ’quiescent’; the female principal as ’active’and ’creative’, the reverse of later patriarchal views.


Female blood color alone was often considered a potent magic charm. The Maori rendered anything sacred by coloring it red, and calling the red color menstrual blood. Andaman Islanders thought blood-red paint a powerful medicine, and painted sick people red all over in an effort to cure them. Hottentots addressed their Mother Goddess as one "who has painted thy body red"; she was divine because she never dropped or wasted menstrual blood. Some African tribes believed that menstrual blood alone, kept in a covered pot for none months, had the power to turn itself into a baby.


Easter eggs, classic womb-symbols of the Goddess Eostre, were traditionally colored red and laid on graves to strengthen the dead. This habit, common in Greece and southern Russia, might be traced all the way back to Paleolithic graves and funeral furnishing reddened with ochre, for a closer resemblance to the Earth Mother’s womb from which the dead could be "born again." Ancient tombs everywhere have shown the bones of the dead covered with red ochre. Sometimes everything in the tomb, including the walls, had the red color. J.D. Evans described a well tomb on Malta filled reddened bones, which struck fear into the workmen who insisted the bones were covered with "fresh blood."


A born-again ceremony from Australia showed that the Aborigines linked rebirth with the blood of the womb. The chant performed at Ankota, the "vulva of the earth," emphasized the redness surrounding the worshipper:

"A straight track is gaping open before me. An underground hollow is gaping before me. A cavernous pathway is gaping before me. An underground pathway is gaping before me. Red I am like the heart of a flame of fire. Red, too, is the hollow in which I am resting."

Images like these help explain why some of the oldest mages of the goddess, like Kurukulla in the east and her counterpart Cybele in the west, were associated with both caverns and redness.


Greek mystics were "born again" out of the river Styx, otherwise known as Alpha, "the Beginning." This river wound seven times through the earth’s interior and emerged at a yonic shrine near the city of Clitor (Greek kleitoris) sacred to the Great Mother. Styx was the blood-stream from the earth’s vagina; its waters were credited with the same dread powers as menstrual blood. Olympian gods swore their absolutely binding oaths by the waters of Styx, as men on earth swore by the blood of their mothers.

 

Symbolic death and rebirth were linked with baptism in the waters of Styx, as in many other sacred rivers the world over. Jesus himself was baptized in Palestine’s version of the Styx, the river Jordan. When a man bathed seven times in this river, "his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child" (2 Kings 5:14). In Greek tradition the journey to the land of death meant crossing the Styx; in Judeo-Christian tradition it was crossing the Jordan.

 

That was the same "river of blood crossed" by Thomas Rhymer on his way to Fairyland.


Tantric worship of menstrual blood penetrated the Greco-Roman world before the Christian era and was well established in the Gnostic period. This worship provided the agape - "love-feast" or "spiritual marriage" - practiced by Gnostic Christians like the Ophites. Another name for the agape was synesaktism, "the Way of Shaktism," meaning Tantric yoni-worship. Synesaktism was declared a heresy before the 7th century A.D. Subsequently the "love-feast" disappeared, and women were forbidden direct participation in Christian worship, according to St. Paul’s rule (1 Timothy 2:11-12).


Epiphanius described the agape practiced by Ophite Christians, while making it clear that these heretical sexual activities filled him with horror:

"Their women they share in common; and when anyone arrives who might be alien to their doctrine, the men and women have a sign by which they make themselves known to each other. When they extend their hands, apparently in greeting, they tickle the other’s palm in a certain way and so discover whether the new arrival belongs to their cult.… Husbands separate from their wives, and a man will say to his own spouse, "Arise and celebrate the love feast (agape) with thy brother."

 

And the wretches mingle with each other…after they have consorted together in a passionate debauch…The woman and the man take the man’s ejaculation into their hands, stand up… offering to the Father, the Primal Being of All Nature, what is on their hands, with the words, "We bring to Thee this oblation, which is the very Body of Christ." …They consume it, take housel of their shame and say:

 

"This is the Body of Christ, the Paschal Sacrifice through which our bodies suffer and are forced to confess to the sufferings of Christ."

 

And when the woman is in her period, they do likewise with her menstruation. The unclean flow of blood, which they garner, they take up in the same way and eat together. And that, they say, is Christ’s Blood.

 

For when they read in Revelation,

"I saw the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month"  (Rev. 22:2), they interpret this as an allusion to the monthly incidence of the female period."

The meaning of this Ophite sacrament to its practitioners is easily recovered from Tantric parallels. Eating the living substances of reproduction was considered more "spiritual" than eating the dead body of the god, even in the transmuted form of bread and wine, though the color symbolism was the same:

"When the semen, made molten by the fire of great passion, falls into the lotus of the "mother" and mixes with her red element, he achieves the conventional mandala of the thought of enlightenment."

The resultant mixture is tasted by the united "father-mother" [Yab-Yum], and when it reaches the throat they can generate concretely a special bliss.