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Chapter 13

Narratives: Descent Myths and the Great Flood

W O R D migrated from cosmetikos to story with the development of human language.[1] Ancient narratives employed characters, plots, numbers, and orientations that had already been deeply imprinted upon human mind by millions of years of menstrual ritual. According to the Dogon philosopher Ogotemmeli, speech began as the second Word of weaving the cloth skirt, so that speaking, storytelling, spinning, and weaving all come together in myth. The spirit who wields the Dogon shuttle has a forked tongue and is thus connected to Snake. On Easter Island, if a native woman wants to tell an old story, she first makes a cat's cradle whose design "holds" the story. Word is thus cosmetikos spun into the air as sound.

In some cultures, the sight of another woman menstruating, or the sight of an arrow, bow, or spear might actually cause a woman to begin her period, or so the people reported. It is not surprising, then, that a story alone could also cause women to bleed. Peruvian Sharanahua women covered their ears so as not to menstruate on hearing the words of a story about Moon (a male character) causing women to bleed through sexual intercourse.[2] Remnants of the power of narrative to bring on a physical "flow" still exist in modern dramas that cause tears or sexual arousal, or in fiery speeches that succeed in persuading people to commit acts of bloodshed. [p. 209]

Given that story alone might have caused menstruation to begin, it is not surprising that for many peoples origin story was the same as ritual in its capacity to hold the world order together. Origin stories were incorporated into menarchal, hunting, healing, and funeral rites and were used at certain times of year to order the universe. The Kogi report that the titles of their oral origin story take nine nights to list, and the epics, nine times nine nights to tell.[3] As we know from the Babylonian rites, origin stories were associated with New Year celebrations, as they were with other seasonal menarches in the Americas.

Writing, which evidently began as cosmetikos with its embedded numerical, lunar, and geometric markings, was transferred to the "skin" of cloth, and then to the "flesh" of sacred pottery. Marija Gimbutas believes that the serpentine symbol painted in Magdalenian and Old European cultures in association with uterine and vulvular shapes suggests affinity between the zigzag, the letter M, and all types of female moisture. The zigzag, and its truncated form M, is the earliest symbolic motif recorded.[4] The two crescents of M perhaps also indicate it is a menstrual/lunar cipher, leading to the concurring M-words menstrual, mensural, moon, mental, measure, medium, mother, milk, moisture. The inverted M was perhaps the mother of such words as water, wicca, warrior, wagon, and of course, "word."

After thousands of years of marking symbols on pottery surfaces and divinatory plates like runic stones, flat bones, and bark tablets, our ancestors began to organize the earliest scripts. Cuneiform, beginning five thousand years ago in Sumer, was used to record grain accounts as well as religious myth. The alphabet allowed writing to be somewhat abstracted from ritual. It could then be used not only to record older stories, but also to open up new combinations of narrative that shifted from female to male origin story.

At first all written texts must have been considered sacred and surrounded with special temple ritual. Tablets from Mesopotamia found last century and translated throughout this one have given us the roots of sacred story, hieros logos, in the Western tradition, [p. 210]

including the earliest written versions of the Flood myth, the creation story of Tiamat and Apsu, the creation of humans by a goddess using bits of clay, and many others. The texts of the goddess Inanna tell a nearly complete female-based drama, of her courtship and marriage, her acquisition of throne and bed, her inheritance of the sacred measurements, or laws, and of her philosophy of cycles of life and deaths.[5]

These earliest written myths, dated 3-2000 B.C.E. form the basis of the completely male-centered religious mythology that began to establish itself around 800 B.C.E. In particular two menstrual narratives, the Descent myth and the Flood myth, were written down in enough detail that we can trace the crossover from female to male protagonists. Just as men imitated menstruation through cutting the penis or other displays of blood during puberty rites, just as they became hunters in order to participate in blood rituals of their own, so in narrative terms they also developed central characters who imitated and replaced the original goddess metaforms.[6]

The Descent Myths as Menstrual Journeys

The Descent myth's menstrual elements are clear in texts related to the goddess Inanna/Ishtar, particularly in the poem "The Descent of Inanna to the Underworld."[7] The seclusion rites are of mythic proportions, for here Inanna is a planet, not a person: The goddess makes a voluntary journey to the underworld palace of her older sister Ereshkigal, where she is stripped, judged, flayed, and hung for three days on a peg.

To make her journey, she dresses in elaborate cosmetikos that display her rulership of seven of the temple-based cities of Sumer. (Inanna's temple is the oldest known, and the development of the oldest known cities should be credited to her.) These cosmetikos, including a crown, lapis necklace, gold ring, and decorated robe, are stripped, office by office, at each of seven gates --- seven being the number of days of creation and also of menstrual seclusion in the Near East, as we know from Leviticus, a later text. [p. 211]

Once Inanna has entered the cosmic "shade" of the underworld, she is put under a silence taboo: "Silent Inanna, sacred customs must be obeyed."[8] There are food and drink taboos as well: "Even if she offers you a field of wheat, do not eat it." "Naked and bowed low" as any initiate, Inanna approaches the wooden throne of the queen of the underworld. She herself sits upon the throne, and at that moment she is pronounced "guilty." We might say that her status of menstruant is established by her action, and she then must pay the debt of consciousness with her bleeding flesh. The three days she hangs on the peg are the dark moon, and the peg itself recalls the tree wherein the moon once "hung." While Inanna bleeds on her peg, her older sister is giving birth, so the two goddesses synchronize their two kinds of bleeding, just as do the ancestral sisters of the Wawilak myth. But here death, the killing of the younger sister in the underworld, has become part of the narrative logic. The myth carefully, it seems to me, avoids blaming Ereshkigal for her sister's death. Inanna, though she is "struck" by her sister, is flayed and killed by seven "judges" of the underworld. Ereshkigal is never described as Inanna's enemy. Indeed, after the slain goddess is resurrected at the end of the myth, she says of her older sister, "Sweet are her praises."

The person who effects Inanna's emergence, and the first person she sees on her return, is Ninshubur, her "vizier," the "Queen of the East." The original menstrual principle of orientation is here personified as queen and goddess. The proscribed behavior of the gods that ultimately resurrects Inanna is also thoroughly menstrual, as is the fact that she leaves the underworld with the injunction that she must use "the Eye of Death" --- consciously directing the menstrual gaze --- to choose another to take her place. She will thus utter "the cry of guilt" to Dumuzi, declaring him sacrificial menstruant.

So far the story, though it contains male gods --- Sky and Storm, who do not help Inanna, and Enki, god of Word and semen, who does --- is a female myth of seclusion, "death" (bleeding), and regeneration. But Inanna's choice of a replacement is Dumuzi, the Bull, [p. 212]

her lover/husband, and she thus passes the role of main character in the menstrual logos to the male principle. In this gender shift, the story begins to change.

Dumuzi's reaction to the underworld is completely different from Inanna's. She volunteers to go and dresses grandly for the occasion; he reacts with terror and attempts several times to escape. He has himself turned into older wilderness metaforms, first a snake, then a gazelle. He goes to his mother for a dream interpretation, and to his sister's house, and to the house of an old woman, to hide from the seven demons, the galla, sent from the underworld to take him below by force. He begs not to go. While he is hiding among the plants of the field, the demons torture Geshtinanna, his sister, but she will not betray him. However, Dumuzi's friend (an early unnamed Judas), after promising loyalty, gives him away at the first offer of sacred grain and water. Dumuzi's stripping is violent. He is beaten, his sheepfold is torn to pieces, his bowls of milk overturned, and he is dragged into his "shade."

Yet his role as victim is still partial, for both Inanna and his mother are moved by compassion to a compromise. Dumuzi will stay in the underworld only six months of the year, and his sister Geshtinanna will serve the other half of the year in his behalf.

The underworld saga of Inanna and Dumuzi in Sumerian mythology is echoed by related stories of Ishtar and Tammuz in the neighboring Akkadian tradition; of Demeter and Persephone, Aphrodite and Adonis, Orpheus and Eurydice in the Greek; of Isis and Osiris in the Egyptian; of Nana and Balder in the Norse; of the Nisan shaman in Mongolia and the two male companions Gilgamesh and Enkidu in Babylon; and the Mayan version with the moon and sun in the Popol Vuh. The crossing of the river became incorporated into some of the versions, a river of blood, or the River Styx, or the Red River (in a Mongolian myth), or a river that must be crossed but cannot be touched.

By the time the Greeks were telling this story, Ereshkigal had been replaced by an active male principle, Hades (Pluto), and from the male point of view, Persephone's descent was an abduction. Her [p. 213]

mother Demeter, helped by the older underworld goddess Hecate, pursue her in a menstrual hide-and-seek. Women were now leaving their mothers' villages to live with their husband's kin, and the myth may have expressed the ambiguity women felt at this shift. The pomegranate is an obvious metaform, as we have seen. Persephone must not eat the rich red fruit of the dead if she wants to return to her own kinfolk. But Hades tempts her with it, and she eats the seeds. The myth makes a compromise of this wrenching situation; some of the time she lives with Hades, some with her mother. Greeks made at least one pilgrimage in their lives to Eleusis for the public reenactment of this menstrual Descent story, and the Eleusinian mysteries were the central religious rite in Greece for two thousand years. By the time the myth of Christ replaced Demeter's earth religion, the male sacrificial role was uncompromised, though the story retained the fundamental elements of the earlier female versions.

The Descent myth is the essential plot of most Western stories, featuring a crisis and a transformation. Ritual stories of war and the hunt, of ordeal and treasure-seeking, are also Descent myths. In our twentieth century accounts, emphasis has been on the crisis of sacrifice (murder, almost always featuring blood), which is forbidden. The question of who did it and why reinforces our curiosity about human psychology, our use of logic, and our ability to think in terms of cause and effect: who had motive, opportunity, and weapon? We sharpen our reasoning powers by solving little narrative mysteries that stem from the greater Mystery of our origins.

But the Descent myth is not the only menstrual story in Inanna's female lineage; she also inherited the even more widespread creation story, the Flood.

The Covenant and the Boat of Heaven

By the time written narrative developed in Mesopotamia around 3000 B.C.E., the fourth generation of Sumerian gods were well de-

[p. 214]

fined --- the waters had divided into salty sea, land, and sky; the storm god Enlil was differentiated from Ea/Enki, the god of "sweet waters," and the moon pair had parented the sun, Utu, and his sister Inanna, the planet Venus. It is of these gods that the earliest literature of Mesopotamia tells, and the stories underlie much of the narrative-based religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Of this literature, two outstanding Flood myths survived on clay tablets through four or five thousand years of weather and human turmoil.

The evidently older of the two stories, or at any rate the most elementally tribal and direct, centers on Inanna and the god Enki. The story told in one long poem, "Inanna Meets the God of Wisdom," cannot be dated, though Inanna's statues and eight-pointed star emblem have been dated from at least 4000 B.C.E., and goddess worship that may have included her has been detected at sites twice as old.[9]

The story features a uniquely female ark, "the Boat of Heaven," a reference both to Inanna's vulva and to the crescent moon. Inanna sometimes rides a crescent moon. The Sumerian god of wisdom, Enki, known in Babylon as Ea, is the god of semen and sweet waters, and also of "the Word." In fact, he is said to be able to create because he is of "the Word." Remembering that the Dogon people recall "the Word" as the fiber skirt that marks the menstrual vulva, we can imagine that Enki/Ea is an ancient male fertility god, and directly in the menstrual/lunar lineage; in fact he is unique among male gods in that he can safely go into the underworld. He is Inanna's father-in-law in "Inanna Meets the God of Wisdom."

In the poem, the goddess, a budding young woman, leans against her apple tree and admires her own vulva, praising it out loud. Then she leaves her city to visit the city and the temple of Enki. When she arrives, his vizier (in Sumerian, sukkal) Isimud lets her in and tells Enki of her presence. The god greets her warmly, serves her butter cake, sweet water, and beer. Not just any beer, we recall, but "for my lady, emmer beer" --- the most sacred beer. The two [p. 215]

proceed to drink together; they "drink more and more beer" together. As Enki becomes drunkenly convivial, he begins to give the star goddess, one after another, the sets of laws that hold heaven and earth together. These laws are called the holy me.

With much toasting, Inanna accepts the laws, which are actually principles of civilization. More precisely, they are the gifts of royal menstrual office, beginning with the priestly offices, godship, kingship, and the high thrones, the underworld and its officers, and the sexual precincts, the crafts, and other elements of urban life. "I'll take it!" she exclaims after each offering. As eldest daughter of the moon couple, Inanna inherits the me by family right.

On and on the lists go, fourteen (lunar) sets of them, and the beer drinking goes on as well. Inanna accepts everything and loads the me into her Boat of Heaven. This boat appears in her love poetry as well, referring to her well­-praised vulva; and of course it also refers to the world formation that derives from the vulva.

Leaving Enki in a drunken stupor, Inanna and her sukkal, Ninshubur, sail off in the direction of Inanna's city, Uruk. When Enki wakes up he calls out to Isimud in alarm. "Where is kingship?" he asks, "Where is decision?" "My lord," says the sukkal, "you have given them all to Inanna." Horrified as he realizes he has given away all the powers of rulership, Enki sends Isimud out over the water to get them back.

Inanna is enraged by what she calls Enki's deceit, and she calls on Ninshubur

Come, Ninshubur, once you were Queen of the East;
Now you are the faithful servant of the holy shrine of Uruk.
Water has not touched your hand,
Water has not touched your foot.
My sukkal who gives me wise advice,
My warrior who fights by my side,
Save the Boat of Heaven with the holy me![10]

In the ensuing stormy water battles, Ninshubur, her hand slicing through the air, defeats a series of demons, monsters, and giants [p. 216]

and even the "watchmen of the big canal" sent by Enki to sink the boat and recapture the me. On the day the Boat of Heaven arrives at Inanna's city, "High water swept over the streets/High water swept over the paths." But the high water is controlled, because the goddess has the menstrual laws in her possession.

The people of Uruk turn out for a festivity whose features are specified by the goddess: old men and old women are to give counsel and "heart-soothing"; young men must show their weapons; the high priest and the children will sing; and the king is to slaughter oxen and sheep and pour beer out of the cup; there is to be music of tambourines and people singing the praises of the goddess of the planet Venus.

Inanna sails her Boat of Heaven through the square gate of her city, flanked by her tall treelike emblems, and docks it in her own city's "white quay." Then she distributes the inherited me among all her people, adding a few more of her own: the spreading of the cloth on the ground, some feminine arts (of allure), and a new set of drums, including the kettledrum. And because this is a ritual passage of menstrual power, not a modern war with winners and losers, Enki then arrives at the celebration to bless his "daughter-in-law" Inanna and her city. She wins the right to the me, not because she is strongest and fiercest (though she is both), but because she is the most appropriate, as child of the moon she inherits the menstrual temple rites and, of course, the menstrual laws. The part Enki and his sukkal play is somewhat like that of the men in the mask lodges of tribal society, who dress as evil spirits to shake the menstrual hut, chase the initiated girls, and strike them, only to arrive much less fiercely marked at the great feast that announces the menstruants' emergence.

The high waters in this myth recede before the Boat of Heaven, and they are perhaps analogous to the carefully controlled waters of irrigation, at which Mesopotamian farmers excelled. The battle that rages between the powerful god of, waters and a goddess of the sky is won by orientation itself. Venus is the Morning Star, and therefore Inanna is a point of orientation, especially of east. Nin [p. 217]

shubur, as Queen of the East, is goddess of the dawn. She wins the battles with the chaotic forces for Inanna because she is East, the first knowable direction enacted millions of times at the emergence of menstruants from their seclusion into light.

As we saw earlier, in religious rites around the world, the four directions more than any other factor are what establish the idea "earth." Native American rites almost always include acknowledgment of the four earthly directions; this is done with body motions as well as in the construction of square altars. Less obviously but just as ritually, Jewish and Christian places of worship also make use of sacred direction and frequently emphasize east.

The Flood and Gilgamesh

A second Mesopotamian version of the menstrual flood and orientation myth shifts the central characters with their ark from two females to a man and his wife. From the area north of Sumer and south of the city of Babylon comes the Akkadian myth "The One Who Looked into the Abyss." The story is part of a long saga of King Gilgamesh, a historic figure whose reign is dated at around 2600 B.C.E. Fragments of this myth dating to a few centuries after the reign of the king exist, though the versions most repeated are from around 2000 B.C.E.[11]

King Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu commit a grave transgression of protective taboo: they kill the guardian of the cedar forest in order to harvest the wood. (In addition, they mock Queen Ishtar, Inanna's Babylonian counterpart). A committee of deities decide to kill Enkidu, but they spare Gilgamesh. The king is so distraught by his friend's death that he cannot participate in the normal mourning rites and instead embarks on a journey to learn the nature of death and immortality. Along his way, Gilgamesh reaches the shore of the sea of death, the dwelling of a female guardian (or priestess) whose title is the "Bar Maid" (or Alewife). Gilgamesh tells the Bar Maid his fear that death is a finality. She, [p. 218]

true to the courtesan (and barmaid) tradition, listens to his question and then instructs him how to cross the sea between life and death. She sends him to the boatman, who says that he can take him across the sea in a journey of three days, providing he does not "touch the waters with his hand." At his next landing, Gilgamesh stays with a figure named Utnapishtim, who tells him the Flood story.

This portion of the Gilgamesh epic created a sensation when it was first translated in the nineteenth century, for until then few in the Christian West recognized that many biblical stories derive from myths thousands of years older than those collected as the Old Testament. In this earliest known written version, some elemental gods gather to discuss the possibility of sending humankind a flood, not as a punishment, simply as an event. The first deities listed are Mama, the great water (Tiamat), and An, the sky, then the storm god Enlil, followed by a throne-bearer and an inspector of irrigation canals. Ishtar/Inanna is also present, as is last-named Ea, the Word who is able to enter the underworld. Since Ea is also Enki, two of the deities in the Sumerian Boat of Heaven myth are present in the Babylonian Flood story as well. These deities all have a direct association with the fundamental elements of menstrual creation, including the "throne-bearer," who can control the cosmic waters by enabling the gods to sit safely off the earth, and the inspector of irrigation canals, whose engineering tasks would have also been religious concerns in the equation of the canal and the vagina.

But without agreement of the council of deities, the storm god Enlil capriciously proceeds to rain a deluge. Before the rains begin, Ea learns of the impending disaster. He goes first to the giparu, the holy reed hut, and addresses the walls of it to warn the human Utnapishtim, instructing him what to do when the rain begins: "Tear down the house. Build an ark./Abandon riches, seek life!" says Ea, telling him to load the seed of every living thing into it.[12]

The descriptions of the ark fit a building rather than a water [p. 219]

going vessel. The sides are high, there are three stories, no keel, no prow. Perhaps it is called a boat because it derives from Inanna's Boat of Heaven, the arc of the crescent moon. The ark in the Gilgamesh epic is no longer a "vulva boat," but its detailed measurements suggest its metaformic dimension. It is perfectly square, ten dozen cubits on each side. The ark is thus a geometrical shape. Inanna had the Queen of the East and the vulva; perhaps the male survivor of the Flood must have another method of measurement, a metaform that will let him form solid ground and make his way about on it. Perhaps that metaform is a structure holding the idea of squareness, the four directions in complete alignment. Moreover, the ark covers "an acre" of floorspace, so it is a unit of farmland in area. The sacred number of menstrual creation is connected to both the ark and the flood: the ark is in seven levels (with nine inner parts); it takes seven days to build; there are seven days of storm, and it takes seven days for the ark to land on the mountaintop. Three birds are sent out to search for land, and the four winds are sent out as well.

Ea's warning, "Say that at dawn he will rain down bread, he will rain wheat," can be read ironically. But we also know the equation of wheat with rain has deeper significance, for wheat --- especially red, emmer wheat, from which sacred beer was made --- is a powerful metaform. Utnapishtim lists how lavishly he feeds his workmen. In addition to butchering bulls and sheep, every day they swill beer, wine, and oil --- as though for the New Year feast day, he says. Again our attention is caught by menstrual associations.

The committee of gods are horrified at the destruction of humanity on earth, and they blame Enlil for taking matters into his own hands without finalizing the plan with the rest of them. In their distress, they establish a new law of justice based in individual responsibility: let only the one who is guilty be punished, and not the whole human race, or any group. Ea speaks the covenant: henceforth death shall not come in the form of Flood. Death will be more selective in keeping human population within bounds, and [p. 220]

to that end Ea decrees only four ills to diminish humankind: the lion, the wolf, famine, and the plague.

The Ark and the Covenant of Yahweh

The Flood myth in Genesis was written down about two thousand years after King Gilgamesh reigned in Erech, and after his story had been copied so many times that it may have been the most popular of the Mesopotamian myths. The Genesis version of the Flood establishes one of the most crucial covenants of the Hebrew religion, and of Christianity as well. Islam also has a version in the Koran, though much sparser in detail than the earlier myths.

In Genesis, Utnapishtim and his wife have become Noah and his wife, the only female element remaining. Ea, Mama, Enlil, Ishtar, and the whole committee of Babylonian creation goddess and gods are now merged into one, Yahweh, who sends the rain not on a whim of rage, but deliberately to destroy humankind because it has become "violent and corrupt." The ark again has carefully delineated dimensions, and again, it is clearly not a boat.[13]

The covenant between Yahweh and Noah, and all his seed and "every living creature that is of flesh," is the Rainbow:

And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.[14]

Humanity's part of the covenant is to remember the successful landing of the ark of Noah when Yahweh sets the Rainbow arc in the sky.

In Exodus there is a detailed description of yet another ark, the ark of the covenant, and of the tabernacle that encloses it. Both [p. 221]

became incorporated into the Jewish temple. The ark is an oblong box made of acacia wood enclosed in gold, resting within a wooden three-sided structure that is veiled on its east side with lushly colored linen cloth. This tabernacle is itself enclosed within a cloth tent. Thus both the metaformic square of orientation and the first direction are retained in a place of seclusion. According to Exodus, inside the ark are the Lord's testimony, tables of laws, the rod of Aaron, and a pot of manna. On top of the ark rests, according to careful specifications, the "seat of mercy," over which stand two cherubim with their wings protectively covering the chair, which is in "the most holy place."[15] Inside the tabernacle is a table on which is the showbread; the priest alone may enter the Holy of Holies where the ark is kept, and then only after a blood sacrifice.

Using the menstrual elements of chair, birds, flood, blood, and the four directions, the ancient Hebrews put narrative itself into the wooden ark, orienting their lives around written law and written myth. To a great extent, story alone would guide their travels on the face of the hard, still earth, with the help of the tabernacle's veiled face, always aimed toward the east. [p. 222]

Flood Stories and Mensural Rite: Common Elements
  Orientation Ark Chair Food Covenant Contents Birds Serpent
East, light Womb,
 vulva, hut
Leg, stool Water,
no flood
Taboos Two doves taken for sacrifice Snake &
Inanna/Enki Queen of East Boat of
High throne Red beer,
Blessing & peace
after storm
Fourteen sets
of me
Flying giants (Inanna's
Utnapishtim /Ea Mountaintop Giparu &
square ark
Throne-bearer  Beer, bread No flood Seeds & animals,
silver & gold
Dove, swallow,
Noah/Yahweh Mountain Rectangular
     * * No flood Seeds & animals Dove, raven Rainbow
Ark of the
East side
box &
Seat of mercy Showbread No flood Torah Two winged

Words with roots related to tabernacle include "table," not only the square or rectangular shape considered a prerequisite for formal dining and alter alike, but also tables of numbers, the writing tablet, and --- shades of the Alewife --- ­the word "tavern." The mountain that Noah's ark landed upon is Mount Ararat, the more northerly spelling of which is Ararath, or Earth. Hera's name may be read there, and Sara's, bringing the mythic female back into the story.[16]

In the biblical Flood myth, it was a white dove that ultimately found dry land. White doves, as I have said, are metaforms for the new moon, and in the Near East the white dove had explicit connections to menstrual rite. The text of Leviticus, which spells out the seven-day menstrual seclusion, also requires that on the eighth day after her seclusion a woman must take two turtledoves or young pigeons to the priest for sacrificial atonement for her uncleanness." Again and again, the practices of menstrual seclusion surface in the ancient myths of humankind. My chart of the Flood myths (above) displays their overlapping elements and the recurrent metaforms of menstrual rite. [p. 223]

The Flood myth is the covenant between humans and universal mind, the promise that through external measurement --- for some peoples the Rainbow Snake and for others the orientation of the giparu, the sacred hut-womb and ark --- we will not be lost. We will not be helpless victims of watery chaos. The Flood myth promised that the "menstruation" of the sky --- whether the monsoon (moon's rain) or the seasonal overflowing of rivers and lakes --- would not overwhelm our ancestors, who had come to understand that dry land would inevitably appear again. Their recognition of cycles, of orientation --- the ark that bears direction, sacred number, astronomical observation, and the seeds and me of civilization­ --- assured us that we could always begin again, no mater how far we fled in terror or what landmarks had been washed away. In this view, the Flood myth says that external measurement is our connection to deity, and it also is the basis of our science. The promise that we could rely on human mind, could leave so much instinct behind and not perish in chaos, has never been broken.

These narrative metaforms, products of the evolving menstrual logos, gradually replaced physical ritual, so that origin story itself "crossed over" from the female to the male principle. It has been said that the menstrual tradition is "a river of blood" connecting all women. Heros often have to cross mythic rivers to attain their goals, and in narrative, too, men had to cross the Abyss in order to identify with what had formerly been entirely female protagonists

Using "and," the simplest metaphoric connection, people constructed compound oral narratives, describing their rites and incorporating sacred number, orientation, and wilderness and food metaforms. They used as plots the menstrual logos, the journeys that retold the course of the menstruant. Raised to her greatest logic of inclusion, she encompassed the constellations and the sun, moon, and earth. From her characterizations as primal creator, we understood deity as having a human visage, human emotions, and human motives while remaining connected to more ancient wilderness metaforms. Her combined forms, often imagined as male-female or sister-brother pairs, filled the great pantheons of ancient [p. 224]

religions, from Greece and Mesopotamia to West and North Africa, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, northern Europe, North America among the Pueblos, and further south with the Inca and the Maya. In their writing down, the narratives of creation would gradually cross the genders, changing from all-female to all-male stories over a period of about two thousand years. Increasingly, narrative metaforms replaced cosmetikos as the central Word communicating origins.

If the earliest "writings" were sacred numbers and chevrons carved or tatooed into the menstruant's flesh, these markings then migrated onto her clothing and the surfaces of woman-shaped pots, and finally, as an alphabet, the marks migrated to clay tablets. We could say that Word migrated from skin to skirt, from skirt to script. The Sumerians were not the only people to develop writing, of course. Chinese writing evolved from divinatory markings on bones, and it continues to modernize as the world changes. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mayan temple writings continue to puzzle researchers and to reveal the past. But the abstraction of alphabet systems of the ancient Middle East spread writing across languages and cultures, unifying people of very diverse backgrounds and geographical areas, and enabling a new kind of logic --- written discourse. For five thousand years, written metaform has spread across the world, retaining and conveying humanity's knowledge.

In conjunction with the spread of written creation stories, another kind of metaform, material metaform, also began to take center stage. How it gave us the underpinnings of our modern lives, why male-only origin stories have been so dominant, and where we might be going next are questions I address in the next section: Roses. [p. 225]

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