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Chapter 15

Crossing the Abyss to Male Blood Power

I N considering materialism, we have seen that it is rooted in the menstrual metaforms of craftspeople. Increasingly dependent on agriculture and herding, as well as on the horticulture and irrigation that developed in Mesopotamia and ancient Eygpt, human culture began to break away from wilderness metaform. Instead narrative logos and materialist metaform began to transform whole river valleys of the earth into farms and villages, and then temple-centered cities, toward which the trade of crafts gravitate.

Our story thus far has begged the question of why? Why was the break with "mother earth" and Snake so complete? Why did Eve cast her serpent of female instruction to the ground, changing it from a central metaform back to simply a creature? What became, in the West, of the rich goddess heritage archaeologists have unearthed from our near-past? How is it that some indigenous peoples of the Americas retain a female-centered, snake-revering, blood-based, and earth-protective tradition lost to the Spaniards and other Europeans who overran their continents after 1492? What became of menarchal rites? How did menstruation come to be listed as a biological condition rather than the center of the human mind and spirit? And why is the modern approach to matter and to female origins so different from that of the Kogi, or even the ancient Sumerians, who lined in long processions to bring their [p. 248]

baskets of figs and their prize lambs to the temples of Venus and the moon couple? Most important, what became of the teachings of female menstruants to human consciousness and culture? What became of female origin story? The answers to these questions help define what we modern people mean by "materialism." Materialism began as the manipulation of earth into crafts, but it continued as a full-blown philosophical stance toward the earth and femaleness itself.

Proponents of the theory that goddess-centered cultures of the Neolithic period achieved peaceful farming civilizations have done an excellent job in reconstructing, from archaeological evidence, the iconography of their central female metaforms. It has been postulated that women developed pottery, weaving, farming, and a protectiveness toward animals and nature. According to proponents of "goddess theory," during the Bronze Age, men suddenly stole the goddess culture from women, usurped its rites, and established male rule and male sky gods by force of arms. Marija Gimbutas argues that nomadic herders with less-developed culture swept into the farming villages of Old Europe and replaced its complexities with more violent, warring stances. Warfare and violence replaced peaceful Neolithic "goddess cultures" throughout the Middle East.[1] Before speculating how and why this happened, let's take a look at what mythology can tell us about "stealing," from a menstrual point of view.

Male Tradition of Thievery

 The accumulation of forms and ideas spill out of women's seclusion rites and pass over to the male domain, where they become public, extended completions of the cosmogony of the whole people. This passage happens through several vehicles, among them, parallel menstrual rites that lead to hunting, blood sacrifice, ritual games, and warrior battles. Another example of crossover is shamanism, that special male apprenticeship, often of men who identify with [p. 249]

the female. The office of the Shaman expanded in complex farming societies into that of holy man, priest, chief, and also king, pharoah, and mikado.

A third method by which menstrual knowledge transfers to the men is through the office of the male thief. Because, I believe, the male is always one step removed from actual physical correspondence with the lunar cycle, and from other metaphoric tools of the menstrual and birth huts, he has developed an ingenious tradition of ritualized, ceremonially acknowledged "thievery" to acquire cultural paraphernalia for his own uses and to explain his own creativity in the context of "new" metaforms.

In my family the men bragged about getting away with cheating or stealing. Primarily this was linguistic theft, not theft in a legal sense. "Go steal some when your mother isn't looking," my father would say of my desire to have cherry pie before dinner. My mother never used the word thief about us. She "borrowed" my father's things, and she was embarrassed when he spoke of himself, as he often did, as a thief. He on the other hand, loved the whole idea, stroking his chin or moustache with pleasure as he told a thief story on himself or called another man a "horse thief." On those occasions when he accused my mother of stealing from him, his screwdriver for example, she was completely mortified, and retreated into herself, furious and full of denial.

Motives for a male tradition of thievery are implied in the testimony of Native Australians: "the women have everything, the blood, the baby, everything . . ." [2] Women, through the offices of seclusion and direct blood synchrony, collect essential principles and metaforms, and the men, if they can't get them otherwise, break in to get them. According to some traditions, bold men "opened a hole in the women's weaving house," or overran the women's living complex, or through some other effort, acquired some of the paraphernalia women had developed. That this requires breaking taboos to which the whole society has agreed for [p. 250]

as long as anyone can recall perhaps accounts for the acts being called "stealing." Or, more likely, the notion of "theft" holds in place the idea of "original owner."

Male traditions of thievery are found among many peoples. In some South American tribes, the men describe suddenly raiding the women's part of a village and stealing "their things," including string and a flattened stick with which the men made a noisy instrument, a bull-roarer, which they then used to frighten the women. A global mythic tradition of men or boys stealing women's clothing, especially the clothing women leave on the river bank while they bathe, has been suggested by folklorist Martha Beckwith as the theft of menstrual garments.[3] Unless the women gave some of theirs, menstrual blood for sorcery, healing, or magic could be acquired only by stealing. In the West, we might see a fragment of this tradition in college dormitory panty raids!

The male theft of fire, and the sun, is another theme common to myths across a variety of cultures. In a northern Asiatic tradition, Old Grandmother's grandson stole fire from her and burned down the world. Prometheus stole fire from the sun in Greece --- from the protomoon, men got the red fire, like blood. In one African myth, the culture hero Mokele "steals" the sun when he goes up a river and discovers the place where the sun lives in a cave.[4] This act of differentiation of the sun surely means he "stole" it from the original protomoon of the female tradition.

The Dogon people of the Sudan have formalized the rite of male sun thievery. In their cosmogony the first blacksmith stole fire from the sun, and the tongs with which he accomplished the deed have been carefully reproduced, passed through the generations and tended as sacred objects. In Ogotemmęli's words, "the smith went stealing with his robber's crook. It was in the mouth of this stick that fire began. That was the smith's gift to the world. That is why the institution of ritual theft was started." Ogotemmęli describes every family head in Sanga as a ritual thief, and a ritual crook was hung in the Dogon "big house." The ritual thieves also conducted raids on small livestock, "which were then eaten in common ac- [p. 251]

cording to prescribed conditions."[5] Since in the Dogon system the sun exudes liquid (copper) and is in the female domain, the smith's heavenly sortie was to steal a piece of the older menstrual tradition. With fire, iron, and the arts of the smith, an independent male office of trade and craft was established and carefully integrated into the Dogon village.[6]

Raiding and stealing, always under specific rules, have primarily been men's work, part of men's story. In myths from China to South America, some male characters are thieves who take, not only the paraphernalia of women, but women themselves, queens renowned for their beauty and slaves from other tribes. In addition, they make off with fire, the sun, livestock, treasures, technologies. One effect of this was the accumulation of materials and ideas from many different places, combining and recombining to form mechanical arts and complex trades. Another was the dispersal of "women's stuff" and tribal arts, scattered out from the sacred huts into the secular world. Men, more often than women, have widely dispersed and recombined knowledge, craft, trade, and story.

Male Separation from the Queen of Heaven and Earth

About twenty-five hundred years ago, not long after myths began to be etched onto clay tablets, a male-centered tradition ran off with the narrative religion of the paired elements descending from Tiamat and Apsu, the Great Sea and the Great Abyss. The gender-balanced pantheons that had existed for many millennia were consolidated into a single male creation deity. This theft differs from my earlier examples in that the stories of men's theft of women's things retain these female origin stories intact: women continue to be credited, they remain central to the story, so the role of r'tu is retained. When monotheistic men "stole" written narratives of female origin stories, they left female creation out. This was far more than ceremonial "stealing"; it constituted a complete overthrow, which eventually suppressed the older female traditions and lost a great deal of the whole story. [p. 252]

As we have seen from the discussion of how people approached the manipulation of physical matter, "weap-mon" was transformed into "crafts-mon." But the traders and artisans of ancient cities were just as immersed in the r'tu of the goddess-based religion as their fellow hunters, warriors, and farmers. But in at least one area of the world, as recorded in the mythology of Mesopotamia, men took another step, an independent step --- they separated their Identities and their sense of purpose from women, and from the feminine principle of menstrual r'tu.

The earliest account of "male separation" from the essential lunar tradition is in the myth of Gilgamesh, who we recall was a historic king of a Sumerian city around 2600 B.C.E. In the myth, "The One Who Looked into the Abyss," he faces off with the Queen of Heaven and Earth, Inanna/Ishtar. "Marry me," she says, "and I will give you anything you want." But his answer is a surprise. In effect he says, since you have everything in the world to offer, what could I possibly bring to such a match? And he then lists her six earlier suitors, beginning with the bull god Dumuzi, whose sacrificial death she annually mourns. He names the animal forms and sad plight of her other lovers: bird, lion, wolf, stallion, frog. Gilgamesh is saying that he refuses to become a wilderness metaform! And he refuses to enter a relationship of either sacrifice or dependency with her. Unlike his predecessors, he spurns marriage with the metaformic goddess because, he says, he wants to remain a mortal man.

The entire myth of this rebellious king centers on the establishment of a germinal male-centered stance toward wilderness, identity, paternity, and the goddess religion. Enraged by his dismissal of her, Inanna/Ishtar sends a bull to kill him. The king and his companion, Enkidu, the "wild man," kill the bull instead, tricking the gods. The institution of the bullfight thus substitutes the sacrifice of the bull for the royal victim. As followers of the sun deity, who is Inanna/Isthar's brother, Utu, the two men go into the forest of sacred cedars, kill the guardian spirit, and cut the tabooed redbarked trees. They let the sun shine directly on the earth. For their [p. 253]

crime against r'tu, Enkidu is condemned by a pantheon of concerned deities, who send him a fatal illness. (This part of the myth might be read as a description of the annihilation of indigenous peoples all over the earth by diseases borne by urban civilizations, a process that has not yet been stopped.)

Unable to sit still for the duration of the old funeral practices, Gilgamesh undertakes a journey to find the spirit of Enkidu, to ask if immortality exists. "I sat by him until a worm fell out of his nose," he laments. What is called into question here is the fundamental lunar story of cycles, of rebirth and reincarnation. When Gilgamesh finally does find Enkidu, his friend is merely a ghostly voice speaking from the underworld: "The flesh you loved to touch" has rotted away, he reports. Immortality through reincarnation, the cyclic system taught by the temple priestesses, is false. The only immortality for man, Enkidu says, lies with material reproduction of male progeny. He lists a new sequence of "eternal life": the man with one son does fairly well, the man with two does a little better, and so on, until the man with seven sons, who does the best of all --- and whose memory lives on in the honoring his sons give his name. The myth ends here, in a new doctrine of paternity and of physical reproduction as the only guarantee of a place in the world ruled by the sun god, "a place in the sun."

Perhaps it was the differentiation and close study of the habits of the sun that led to a crisis of faith in the lunar narratives, especially in the Mesopotamian area, where --- unlike many other places --- the sun was designated male and associated with paternity. The lunar menstrual ritual passed over to Utu's sister, Inanna, the deified planet Venus, whose poets gave her a character both fierce and tender to carry the massive weight of the menstrual tradition. The new perspective that the sun, being male, did not menstruate, did not have a three-day darkness every month, left the way open for a new story to emerge. At the same time, the development of planting by seed instead of cuttings and a new emphasis on manufacturing through pottery and crafts would have given physical reproduction a new emphasis. The herding arts that had replaced human sacri- [p. 254]

office also externalized paternity, as herders inevitably noticed the effects of breeding certain rams and bulls with certain ewes and cows.[7] Gradually, in the ancient Near East, paternity became the object of human "study" and the focus of its religious doctrines. Father gods had held prominent positions in the sky, sea, and even the earth in many religious myths, but always in conjunction with female deities. But the new father god, the god of Abraham, was different from these, and different even from the monotheistic sun god of Ahkenaton in Egypt. Though the pharaoh tried to establish a single deity in the form of the sun, and many other peoples in the Northern Hemisphere also worshiped the sun, the new religion could not use old wilderness metaforms to create a unified creator deity. The monotheistic god could not be anthropomorphically attached to a planet, star, or other natural formation and still be the All-being who oversaw a universe that --- thanks to the measurements and observations of temple astronomers --- was rapidly expanding in size. The very success of the sciences of the goddess priesthoods and the pervasiveness of earth as menstrual Mother eventually disenfranchised them. The All-god, needing new parameters of description, crossed over to a new male tradition --- one that did not use wilderness or cosmetikos metaforms to describe him. Once again, the metaform extended by crossing the Great Abyss of changing consciousness.

Born as he was in a world saturated with goddess ritual and goddess iconography, the All-father deity had to be singular and jealous to be truly monotheistic. He also had to take many of the characteristics of the goddesses before him, as there were no other terms for "greatest" deity. The greatest deity was the one who had the full weight of menstrual creation tradition behind it. The priests and priestesses who founded the religion of Yahweh therefore endowed him with some of the character of older gods --- especially elements of Enki and Inanna --- but only enough to establish him as Great and to continue his definition as a god of paternity, a god who promises polygamous Abraham success with his "seed," his progeny. Yahweh thus has Inanna's title of "Great" but not her [p. 255]

cosmetikos. He has a throne and the Flood myth, and like her he rules "heaven and earth," but he has lost the underworld and the older sister Ereshkigal and the art of giving birth. He is "eternal" and does not go through menstrual cycles or rebirth as Inanna did. He was her ferocity, to protect his people, to slay his enemies, to bring down mountains, but he does not have her sacred marriage or her rampant sexuality. Nor does he have the homosexual priesthood that marched in her New Year's procession or the sacred whores who officiated in her temples.

To account for these missing elements --- which of course did not go away, since they are central to human culture­ --- a new character was invented: Satan.[8] All the menstrual characteristics of creation/decreation that could not be molded into Yahweh's fatherness were gradually, over the centuries, consigned to "the evil shade" and the realm of "sin," a word related to the moon. As he developed through medieval times, Satan's red color, three-pronged fork, seductive sexual qualities, his embodiments as serpent, goat, black dog, and dragon all speak eloquently to the inversion of the essential metaform. As the paternal religions sharpened their definitions, menstrual r'tu was increasingly suppressed, and Satan grew in dimension as a character outside of the Father's realm --- cast away, blamed, and avoided.

Though the sun could not be sustained as the "Great" deity of Western civilization, one of the key elements of the paternal religion's focus was its identification with light, especially with light's ability to cleanse and complete. During the centuries following the fall of Rome, all across the Euroasian continent, both the power of enlightenment and the power of light to "wash" one "clean of sin" attached to male deities. The Christian god extended paternity one step by being the Son of the (slightly) older Father, but he also was given the menstrual traditions of the Mother. In a new Descent myth, the bleeding Son was hung on a peg-tree-cross, to die for three lunar days before a glorious resurrection --- just as Inanna had before him. In the Christian mechanism of forgiveness, both [p. 256]

wrongdoings and debts were declared cleansed, washed away, by a simple change of inner feeling toward the wrongdoer and the verbal statement, "I forgive you." In secular materialist terms, "The creditor forgives this debt." Increasingly, male blood was considered "clean" and generative, while female blood was only "unclean" and destructive. Male ritual was associated with creation, while menstrual creation was forgotten and suppressed.

Herding, Disease, and Menstrual Shame

In the goddess-based religions, nonreproductive sexuality had been a lush part of r'tu. It promoted visions and physical health in Chinese and Indian Tantric traditions, and it was also understood to bring rain, to make the crops grow, to help the herds increase, and generally to enhance the well-being and fertility of the countryside surrounding the temple complexes. In the new male-centered laws, nonreproductive and unmarried sex were severely restricted, to ensure exact paternity. The principles used in herding were applied to human reproduction. This necessitated controlling sexuality, especially of the mother, and of banning --- and eventually satanizing --- all sex that did not lead to reproduction. The arts of lovemaking and control of reproduction, carefully tended by sacred prostitutes in temple rites and by village midwives, disappeared. Some Christian sects and later monastic orders undertook celibacy for long periods of time and with mixed success, but with the aim of neutralizing the female influence while continuing the essential church and temple rites. The genders would blend, according to this ideal, and both would become the clean, pure male.[9]

The factors leading to this extraordinary crossover from the rich female-centered pantheons that established urban and farm life to the "seminal" and "conceptual" ideology of the male All-god can only be guessed. But it is clear that a shift in blood sacrifice was one such factor. The god of Abraham had replaced human sacrifice with animal sacrifice, and gradually the herdsman's "mentality" --- a [p. 257]

concern with paternal line, with offspring --- became more completely integrated into the worlds of farmers and craftsmen. And perhaps the more successfully human sacrifice was replaced, the guiltier menstruation itself became. In Genesis, the earth is described as "thirsty for blood." The fields of farmers from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, and beyond, were saturated with human blood. Not only agriculture but evidently even crafts required ritual use of blood: "The Goddess was worshipped as a Potter in the Jewish temple, where she received `thirty pieces of silver' as the price of a sacrificial victim (Zechariah 11:13). She owned the Field of Blood, Aceldama, where clay was moistened with the blood of victims so bought. Judas, who allegedly sold Jesus for this same price, was himself another victim of the potter. In the Potter's Field he was either hanged (Matthew 27:5) or disembowled (Acts 1:18), suggesting that the Potter was none other than the Goddess who both created and destroyed."[10]

But craftspeople themselves had helped to end certain forms of human sacrifice by their arts. In India, the r'tu of sacrifice was acted out by using a wooden statue of the central female metaform, taking the statue completely apart, lying it down in seclusion for a specified period of time, and then reassembling and "washing" it with a new coat of paint. In earlier times, the fields of the same area had been littered with human parts.[11]

It seems only logical to assume that as human sacrifice, especially of one's relatives and of children, was completely replaced by the "blood-offering" of statues and herd animals --- and later barley-cakes and flowers --- shame would follow from what the people had formerly done.[12] Menstruation, being at the heart of r'tu, would take the full brunt of blame, as it did for incest-consciousness and death-consciousness in other cultures and eras. Even so this scenario does not adequately explain the deep submergence of menstruation and the vulva to the point of utter unspeakability --- ­sustained, even in my family in the 1950s, some one to two thousand years after the last of my north European ancestors would [p. 258]

have taken the eldest son or youngest daughter to the drought-starved fields and used their blood to solicit rain.

A second idea occurs to me as a possible explanation for the depth of menstrual shame. Recently, historians have acknowledged the role of disease in the conquest of the North and South American continents, first by the Spanish, and then the French and English --- opening the way for waves of settlers and immigrants from every nation on earth. It is now estimated that 95 percent of the indigenous peoples perished of diseases brought from the European continent, most of them within a few decades of contact in 1492.[13] All of these diseases had been introduced over millennia into human populations on the Euroasian continent by their close contact with the herding animals they had brought under domestication species by species. The bacilli, harmless while living in the animals, mutated in the human body, producing virulent strains of highly communicable illness, to which Europeans, because of repeated exposure, were less susceptible.

But the populations of the Americas and places like the Hawaiian Islands, which also lost most of its peoples to illness, had domesticated very few animals --- on the south American continent, only the llama, muscovy duck, and guinea pig, and further north, only the turkey. The people had no defenses whatsoever against the sudden exposure to so many bacilli, especially smallpox, the most devastating of many dreadful diseases.

This was one of the cruelest paradoxes of menstrual r'tu and culture: that the development of herding economies, which helped to replace the practice of human sacrifice, was responsible, from 1492 through the present, for the greatest die-off of humans and of entire cultures in any recorded or remembered history.[14] Perhaps, because no one had any other explanation, the blame for the catastrophe fell on the deities of the older religions --- the great snake goddesses and jaguar gods, the sun, moon, and planet deities of the Mayans and Aztecs. The relative immunity of the conquerors seemed an act of divine judgment, and it gave their paternal god [p. 259]

incredible power. Horrified and conscientious native shamans and priests sometimes urged their people to become Christians to save them from the plagues. The royalty of the Hawaiian Islands and other native leaderships led the way to the new male-centered religion, though of course Christian priests could not stop the dying either. Only immunization would accomplish that, and not fully, and not until the twentieth century.

Might it not be possible that similar plagues killed people in the Middle East and Europe as the herding-based paternal religions first began to spread? Marija Gimbutas describes the goddess-worshiping culture of Neolithic Europe, whose rich settlements were suddenly replaced by simpler horse-based patriarchal herders, whose invasions virtually erased the older civilizations.[15] Perhaps smallpox was the more virulent culprit there as well --- the pestilence that came in the wake of the nomadic peoples would have strengthened belief in the "power" of the masculine deity to "punish" unbelievers.

As farming and herding allowed population densities to rise, plagues began to appear, and they are recorded in the mythology of Mesopotamia, where the earliest known cities developed: At Babylon, the Gilgamesh Flood myth specifies plague as one of mankind's four ills; an illness sent by avenging gods kills Enkidu, the wilderness man; and plague is in Egypt before the writing of Exodus. Yahweh, like Inanna before him, is a deity who brings illness at will, and he does so specifically to punish those who are not faithful to his paternal tenets. The new male doctrine, in short, used natural disasters to frighten people and promote itself.

Of the fatal diseases that sweep human populations, smallpox was one of the deadliest, and the red dots typical of the disease may have enhanced its association with the menstrual power of annihilation. In India, one of Kali's titles is "goddess of smallpox" --- and Kali, we recall, is completely connected to the dark menstrual moon. Two goddesses, sisters of course, tended by artisans in a village in rural India, are named for illnesses: "Prayers are then offered to the goddesses asking that the village be free from cholera [p. 260]

and smallpox, for Durgamava is believed to preside over and cause cholera, while Dayamava is the presiding deity of smallpox."[16]

It is thus very possible that the ancient goddess of menstruation, however she was imagined, was believed to have sent the most crushing of the plagues of humankind and that this intensified the fear, punishment, and shame associated with menstruation, helping to establish the male-based religions of "light." Perhaps a series of plagues lies behind both the spread of Christianity into pagan Europe and the waves of witch trials that followed the bubonic plague, which killed one out of three Europeans in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. That the fears about these mostly poor and old women were tied to old menstrual taboos is clear. They were believed to cause illness from a distance, with the gaze of the Evil Eye. They were identified as "real" witches by their association with old wilderness metaforms: one woman "vomited eels"; others "evacuated snakes"; some turned into birds, goats, or dogs. In Norway, witches were thought to cause storms by turning into geese or by whistling. Catholic theologians held that Satan could turn men into wolves, but that women were the greatest evil, spreading illness with a gaze, rotting men's bodies, deserving of shame simply for being women.[17] Though the Inquisition was politically motivated and served the avaricious male leadership to seize property and authority from traditional women healers and diviners, there is no doubt that in times of stress European peasants and townspeople, Catholic and Protestant alike, were genuinely frightened of anyone believed to have the old menstrual powers. In the absence of the germ theory of disease and other mechanics of natural cause and effect, people blamed the symptoms of illness, epilepsy, and all manner of other disasters, on the same power they had always held responsible: menstruation. But now they called the metaform "Satan," and they imputed evil motives not only to the menstruant but to their neighbors and to whole groups of people with older (and more menstrually based) traditions --- Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and prostitutes. They were fearful of people with darker or redder physical characteristics. But in particular the Evil [p. 261]

Eye was imputed to old women, who were believed to retain their menstrual blood so that it flowed through their veins following menopause![18]

The menstrual gaze was imagined as Satan-directed "possession," which could be cured simply by something as male as the symbol of the phallus.[19] The Evil Eye was called "fascination" and could be counteracted with the male "fasces," a bundle of phallic sticks --- hence fascism's association with the "fire of male cleansing." The Evil Eye and its subjective responsibility could be replaced through spoken prayer and charms invoking "God's Eye," the Eye outside the woman, the Eye from above.

The Rise of Clean Male Light

Gradually, from Catholicism and Greek orthodoxy through the Protestant reform movements, Christianity stripped itself of all but the most narrative approach to blood ritual. In the English, German, and Swedish Protestantism of my grandmothers, women not only were kept away from the sacred ritual, they also wore only the slightest cosmetikos. The old cosmetikos of slashing of the skin and tatooing had been forbidden since the writing of the laws of Leviticus, but these women took austerity much further. They held their faces very still, engaged in no public mourning, kept their food as white as possible, never threw plates, did not dance or move their pelvises --- as though they ordered their world through the degree of stillness and paleness they could maintain in the face of any adversity. They expressed themselves instead with small collections of miniature crafts, kept in glass cupboards and carefully displayed and dusted. (One of the signs of possession by "Satan," the Inquisition taught, was expression of enthusiasm.) And no mention of menstruation, no memory of its connection to religion and female origins of culture, no use of the Jewish menstrual bath and celebration of sexuality, no calling in of the Shekinah, no statues showing Christ's blood running down his side, no Madonna standing on her crescent moon and her snake. The Sabbath of sepa- [p. 262]

ration had become associated solely with the clean male light, the Son/Sun of Sunday. Even one's disposition was supposed to be relentlessly "sunny" --- no "dark" underworld feelings. The old office of female mourner lost its blood­slashed face and vulva, lost its wailing and its black veil, and then among my people, vanished.[20]

No secret violent tempers my mother ever exerted on her children can be discussed with her. She acts as though they never happened. If press her with an example, she speaks vaguely of "past mistakes," but never acknowledges details. As a female child under my mother's roof, I could not drink, curse, talk about sex or death, whistle, dance, talk with my hands, yawn without covering my mouth, sleep past 7:00 A.M., or be overly enthusiastic on any subject. I could not discuss blood or any violence. When I was very young, up to about age eight, I had to stand silently for an hour or two in the corner of the living room, facing the wall like a menstruant of old, if I broke a minor rule. (But menstruants had stood facing the wall for weeks, not hours.)

My mother's house rules were not as rigid as those under my Swedish grandmother's roof, which my sister tells me forbade girls to leave the house on Sunday, even to go into the yard, constraining them to sit still all day, carefully dressed from top to bottom in white.

During much of the era of the patriarchal gods, women have virtually been in seclusion, subduing the red dragon power equated, through the old narratives, with the most drastic evils to befall humankind. Through its denial of physicality, especially female physicality, the Christian religion has led humanity squarely into the middle of the materialist metaform.

Materialism, as I have imagined, began with crafts and architecture as a means of ordering the menstrual world, manipulating minerals and clay as the earth's blood and flesh. "Goods," processed metaformic objects, were hauled on ships imagined as vulvas of the goddess --- hence the female figures and dragon's heads [p. 263]

on ship bows, and the amazing amount of menstrual taboo associated with sailing and fishing. But as the goods themselves became central metaforms for success, the materials of the earth became "products," just as did the infant materials of the womb. Birth became "labor," a work that "produced" a "product," and human beings came to be traded and designated slave or owner. These elements combined into the philosophy of materialism, which sees the earth from "outside" rather than from "within" or "as part of" its processes. The male god was increasingly identified with the purifying element, light, while the feminine remained tied to the old menstrual definitions of the earth, now shamed and defiled with illness and blood, nonpaternal sex, and naked wilderness.

The shift to a single male deity directed human consciousness toward a state of objectification. The new male perspective, allied with the cleansing fire of the sun and based in menstrual crafts that processed the "female" substance of earth, denied all subjectivity, intuition, meditation, and the female arts of sexual connection and r'tu. The new perspective was completely "off the earth," not the few yards of the menstruant hanging in her hammock, but miles high on a heavenly throne. Whereas in former times, only menstrual blood itself and a few metaforms had been considered permanently unclean, the very substance of the earth --- all matter --- came to be seen as polluted. Earth's abundance was valued only if it could be cooked, burned, baked, boiled, shaved, painted, covered, tamed, dressed -­- processed into a product, suitable for trade. Deity now overlooked the earth; it was no longer within the earth. This separated the human psyche from the earth's psyche, stripping the natural world of sacredness, intelligence, or creative interaction with humankind.

Because the female origin stories were suppressed by written narratives of male origin stories, the goddess tradition was lost. Materialism led people to trade crafts with more and more frenzy and without remembering why. By 1492, a Europe terrified by plague and witchcraft sent Columbus and other explorers to gather protective cosmetikos from other peoples --- gold to line the churches, [p. 264]

spices to color and flavor food and make it more "healthful," and herbs, even tobacco, as health aids.

Perhaps, as the earth itself was treated more and more as a menstrual substance and "taken over by Satan," r'tu lost its power and humankind could no longer protect themselves by their own actions, by adherence to ritual law. Salvation could only come from above --- from light, from grace. In the Christian West, this view was nevertheless sustained by images of the purifying "blood of Christ," which "washes," "redeems," "forgives," and "saves." But the earth was no longer seen as alive or enspirited. In materialist metaformic terms, raw matter was inert and defiling, woman was guilty of evoking its "sins," and man was alone on its broad dangerous surface, looking off the earth, seeking light and eternity.

Ages of Light versus Dark

The values underlying social categories based on differentiating the sun from the earth are completely embedded in language. "Lower" is connected to earthy, and menstrual earth is the source of ideas like soiled, crude, cloddish, inert, mucky. Dirt is considered unclean and unhealthy. Parts of the earth are equated in common speech with disliked female body parts and sexual behavior: slime, bog, tangle, deep, dark, damp, smelly. Elements connected to the older, prematerialist cultures have been "cast away" in the developing male doctrine, so the metaformic creatures that gave us our minds to begin with are often particularly persecuted --- the creatures who live close to the earth and crawl and the predators that represent "death." Ideas of "good" and "bad" are applied to classes of people, animals, and portions of the earth as well --- as though it does not all work together, as though death, menstruation, and the earth itself are our enemies. Good qualities are associated with the sky --- hence "upper" and "superior" are desirable, "lower" and "inferior" are not. Light is considered cleansing, intelligent, healthy; intelligence is brilliance, brightness; health glows; inspiration is a spark that lights a fire. [p.265]

All the negativity associated with disease and menstrual destruction is applied, through speech, to entire groups of people. We could say that the negative menstrual-based associations which are connected to racism, anti-Semitism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and related caste systems are all applied, not only to people, but also to the earth and its "raw" life forms. This can only accelerate the materialist zeal to drain swamps, cover over wetlands, strip trees or plant them in military rows for the purpose of "producing" an "orderly" world. (But the more we "produce" the earth, and the more one group persecutes another, the more disorder threatens to engulf us).

These materialist beliefs could be called necroforms --- metaforms that have not only grown out of sync with the greater knowledge of science and religion alike, but that actively work against the survival of the ecosystem. They are on the same level as belief that disease is caused by the menstruant's "evil-eyed gaze." We are in grave danger and put the planet in grave danger as long as we continue to use necroforms. They are illogical separations that shred the social fabric of nations and the web of life on earth.

Male Seclusion and Male Science

In the centuries after Christianity established itself in Europe, the church began to exclude women from positions of religious power. Especially in the twelfth century, when the office of abbess had lost its former authority, religious orders became institutions of male seclusion. The word "monk" means separate, alone. Many of the orders stressed years of isolation, simple meals, fasting, holding severe positions for days on end --- similar to the disciplines of menstrual r'tu. However, the men distanced themselves from the feminine by criticizing the arts of women. Augustine, for instance, deplored the seductive habit women had of lowering their eyes, and looking down at the ground. All humans were evil, but women were especially susceptible to Satan's wiles. (And given that Satan's [p.266]

qualities were taken directly from the most ancient menstrual rites, misogynist theologians like August' were accurate in their assessment --- as far as it went.)

The institutions of male seclusion created a kind of "seminal mind," by taking control of origin story, seizing control of written biblical narrative, and forbidding the rituals, pageants, and other enactments that carried the female tradition in nonverbal form. In the monasteries, "monkish scientists" who spoke only to other men developed rationalism and other fundamentals of modern science as methods of further understanding God. "At the outset . . . the culture of science was the culture of the ecclesiastical academy and, hence, a world without women. . . . Western science first took root in an exclusively male --- and celibate, homosocial, and misogynous --- culture, all the more so because a great many of its early practitioners belonged also to the ascetic mendicant orders." [21]

For several centuries, the university system developed as a cloistered society of men who identified deity as a light from above, "off the earth." In Descartes's mechanistic view, only God was living. Early scientists from Copernicus to Newton searched for a male creation deity as Absolute Being, unchanging, noncyclic. For Kepler, the sun was the "purest light," worthy to be the home of God. Newton thought that atoms were unchangeable building blocks ruled by immutable mathematical laws. Others believed that mathematical patterns proved a fixed creative principle that could be comprehended by (European) man, and through him by women and others designated "inferior" status. In their flight from earth and the body, men succeeded in lifting human consciousness out of the subjective matrix of older metaforms into a new position: the nonintuitive view of matter, from off its surface. [22] Materialism, one might say, is identification with light, and with the point of view of light, especially as it examines surfaces. And as was true of earlier seclusions, the contents of monkish cells and science libraries spilled out into the secular world, impelled by the democratic ideal of allowing everyone who desires it to have a university education. [p.267]

Among other discoveries of this external light-based science are the idea that nature has laws of its own, independent of human actions, and the germ theory of disease, which mostly has laid to rest witch-hunting doctrines of illness. Even so, many people retain deep shame about certain diseases. That AIDS is related to both sex and blood has made education about its causes very difficult. The shame and silence taboo and the pariah status of HIV positive people, lead to secrecy and greater risk of the disease's spread. Not only AIDS but all genital diseases carry the old menstrual stigma. In my mother's generation, it was also cancer (she cannot speak the word), and in her mother's generation tuberculosis, which displays blood and which killed my mother's father. Recently my mother told me that when she was born in Kansas in 1903, the doctor who delivered her had arrived fresh from a case of smallpox, infecting her. "They didn't know much about what caused such things in those days," she said. "I recovered, but I was always the smallest person in any crowd." She looked sad then, so that I wondered how many years of shame she had lived with, before the germ theory of disease lifted the veil of judgment and fear.

Though the male "theft" of goddess worship oppressed women, it also has gradually freed us from older bonds, from the phenomenal but also enslaving responsibility of having created everything, of having to hold everything in place, of having the power to destroy everything with a gaze, a touch, or a breath of air whistling through the lips. The sciences in the age of light lead us out of many of our older shames and inaccurate beliefs. But they did so at the price of female origin story. Science, that is, modern society, uses male origin story to explain itself, giving humans only a partial story with which to cope with our complex planet. Origin stories are never only about the past; they always affect how we act in the present. Young people entering the university system without knowing its history as a male-developed institution may imagine they are entering halls where "all knowledge" resides. They may, like me, drop out of school to search for more real truths. Worst of all, men imagine they must take responsibility for everything, their [p.268]

tradition is believed to be the root of human culture, and we are taught to believe we have no choice but to follow them.

War Metaforms

Under the influence of male origin story, war has replaced menstruation as the primary cause of mayhem, but war is simply an extension of old warrior games of ritual sacrifice --- a parallel menstrual practice. Originating as sacrificial games played between villages or as mythic bouts with the powers of wilderness, warrior traditions burst out as armies of conquest when city-states battled each other's metaforms with warriors dressed as jaguars, wolves, and predatory birds.

Like menstruants and hunters, warriors abstained from sex, and they endured parallel menstrual disciplines --- keeping silence, altering their diets, removing their hair, covering their heads, painting and slashing their bodies, and wearing animal metaforms of horns, quills, feathers and skins related to the origin stories of their peoples. Sometimes they wore veils. The medieval European king went out on the field with his armies as he had gone hunting, carried in a covered litter. When warriors returned to their village, they underwent purification rites, separation, steaming and bathing, fasting, and other restrictions to remove the menstrual stigma of the "blood on their hands."

War is primarily for the socializing of young men. In urban-based cultures of the past, war was an extension of ritual games in which "the gods like it better if some of us die." [23]  That war pits the warrior against his own fear is evident from battles Celtic warriors once fought against the waves of the sea. [24]  They waded out, heavy swords in hand, and sliced at waves (Tiamat's great walls of water) until their feet went out from under them and they either drowned or made it back to the beach. They were, perhaps, cutting the dragon in half. Celtic warriors also had many bloody confrontations with each other, keeping blood feuds going among their clans for centuries on end, a practice controlled only by Christian [p.269]

intervention. Male Celtic warriors retained old menstrual beliefs. For instance, if a barefoot woman crossed the road in front of their band, they caught her and extracted blood from her forehead to keep from being "cursed" by her crossing. [25]

War took on economic motive in the cultures of materialism, which value the paraphernalia of cosmetikos without regard for its connection to any local r'tu, seeing wilderness as "raw material" to be converted into products. War accelerates the dispersal and recombination of elements in new ways. Modern war acclimates people to advances in technology, by placing soldiers and civilians alike under intense stress. Whether the latest technology is a shift from spears to bows, arrows to bullets, guns to gasses and chemicals, sharp ears to radar, horses to tanks, tanks to helicopters, mortar rockets to atomic explosives, much of what is developed in a war later comes home into civilian life, for good and ill.

The Chinese invented gunpowder, wrapping it in red paper and setting it afire to fight evil spirits at New Year's --- the menarche of the year. Gunpowder was taken over by the masculine tradition of the West, and the gun has been associated with the penis ever since Freud defined it as a universal symbol of the masculine unconscious. But in menstrual logic, the gun is a metaform. Like the penis in defloration, it has the ability to induce bleeding. The Tiwi, we recall, believed that coitus led to the onset of menstruation, and early Native Americans believed that stepping over arrows or bows could cause a woman to begin her period. The metaformic power of these penile weapons comes from their association with blood, not semen.

In the West, origin stories are often based in war and the belief that male aggression first pushed primates into humanity. These ideas are put forth by scientists as well as by pop television shows. Male-centered myths begin by assigning an invention to a particular form of warfare --- the wheel, for instance, is commonly believed to have been developed for war chariots. But as we have seen, early wheels were attached to the ox-carts that pulled Hera on her path between seclusion and the river, and between the river and her [p.270]

marriage on the mountain to the god of light. Similar carts were found in an excavation of a mass grave of red-dressed priestesses at Ur, and perhaps belonged to the moon goddess Ningal or her daughter Inanna. War chariots were a brief flash of human history, not usable without roads. And the earliest roads --- la via, "the way" --- were those of the path of the moon goddess and the moon god as they were dragged in procession through ancient cities. Not until Rome did roads have military importance. And even in the Roman army, menstrual imagery was never far from the battlefield­ --- rose petals were strewn under Roman war chariots, as today paper petals are thrown over returning generals in processions.

Armies today still use cosmetikos in their rituals, as in the term dress-right-dress, meaning to line troops up straight. They also use humiliation, sleep deprivation, severe body postures, seclusion, silence taboos, and other methods of discipline to instill self-control in "raw" recruits, who are cooked into soldiers after being "dressed down" by tough­mouthed sergeants. White gloves are used in inspections to look for "dirt," but the warriors are no longer conscious of the menstruant who lay still in long white gloves, prohibited from touching her all-powerful blood.

Since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have lived with the probability of annihilation, if not through atomic explosions then surely through the degeneration of the world environment by the stockpiling and dispersal of men's light-based weapons. Albert Einstein, after helping to develop the nuclear bomb, warned that men cannot solve the problems they have created in the twentieth century with the technology of the twentieth century. As poet Audre Lorde said, "For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." [26]

But blood, not war, is the central organizing principle of human culture. What tools can we use, then? Does women's r'tu have the answers? [p.271]

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