“Contact with menstrual blood turns new wine sour, crops touched by it become barren, grafts die, seed in gardens are dried up, the fruit of trees fall off, the edge of steel and the gleam of ivory are dulled, hives of bees die, even bronze and iron are at once seized by rust, and a horrible smell fills the air; to taste it drives dogs mad and infects their bites with an incurable poison.”
–Pliny The Elder, Natural History: A Selection
Western civilization’s lust for blood has never extended beyond the fetishization of death and gore, shunning the cyclical bloodletting central to the sacred feminine and scorning it as polluted miasma. As such, menstruation is the ultimate taboo. In our culture of ‘no-period’ birth control pills and pharmaceutical cycle suppression, menstrual cycles have become something of an evolutionary anomaly. This is due in part to the stigma of inconvenience and impurity that pervades the way we talk about menstruation, if we dare to talk about menstruation at all. For those of us that prefer to remain feral, oldfangled, and bodaciously bloodied, the options for corralling our crimson flow might seem, at first glance, scanty and stodgy. We have inherited a musty marketplace from the corporate patriarchy dominated by bleached tampons and déclassé disposable pads. Although these moldy oldies are considered the status quo of the $3-billion-a-year feminine care industry, there is no definitive research assuring their long-term use is actually good for our health. One could bleed for thousands of moons without ever encountering the hefty dossier of menstrual products that exist outside the Tampax box. Along with keeping Proctor & Gamble and the military-industrial complex from oozing its slime into your vagina, these alternative menstrual products support women-owned businesses, ecological welfare, gynecological health, and the re-claiming of the feminine experience, bringing the stench of blood back into the homestead.
According to The Guardian:
“On any given day, millions of American women are menstruating – and more than half of them are using tampons. What many of those women don’t know is that there is no research that unequivocally declares these feminine hygiene products safe, and independent studies by women’s health organizations have found chemicals of concern like dioxin, carcinogens and reproductive toxins present in tampons and pads. The multi-billion dollar feminine hygiene industry likes to say that the amounts of those toxins in a single tampon is very low. But the average woman who uses tampons will use over 16,800 during the course of her lifetime – and there is almost no data on the health effects of the cumulative use of tampons over a woman’s lifetime.”
Though I disdain the rampant sensationalism of ‘toxins’ and the fear-mongering and shaming (often targeted at women) that comes with such proclamations, I strongly believe that the overuse of conventional tampons poses a serious threat to women’s health. In addition to increasing the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome by encouraging the bacteria to grow when left inside the vagina for an extended period of time, tampons can also stick to the vaginal walls, especially when blood flow is light, causing tiny abrasions when they are removed that create an environment for bacteria to proliferate. Conventional products also leave behind fibers that can irritate tissue and further cause bladder and vaginal infections, and they absorb the natural fluids and friendly bacteria that enable the vagina to self-regulate. I’ve had a slew of patients that have resolved reproductive health issues ranging from menstrual migraines to pain during intercourse simply by stopping the use of conventional tampons.
Through the years of bloodshed, my vagina has hosted such luminaries as organic cotton tampons, the Diva Cup, and The Keeper, although these days I remain eternally faithful to my menstrual sponge from Holy Sponge. The righteous gals of Holy Sponge are menstrual priestesses, who ceremoniously ensconce their sponges in ritual moon kits that include two sustainably-harvested sea sponges, organic tea tree oil to disinfect the sponges at the end of each cycle, a cotton bag to hold them tight between uses, and hand-foraged herbs for smudging and bathing. If enshrouding the pliant ostia and oscula of a supple sea creature in your holiest of caverns isn’t romantical enough to woo you away from the tampon forever, here’s a gaggle of other reasons to heed the call to re-wild your period:
+ No peeing on the dastardly dangling string.
+ No drying out the tissues of the vagina.
+ Bloodied, discarded sponges can double as offerings to Cthulhu during a frenzied rite.
+ Sponges are supple and soft, and infinitely more cozy than the brittle bullet of a conventional tampon.
+ With proper care, sponges can be re-used for up to a year of cycling.
+ Sponges are naturally spawning, and replenish themselves when harvested ethically.
+ Sponges are hermaphroditic, and symbolize the divine union of opposites.
+ Sponges are biodegradable, and will return unto the chthonian depths imbued with the seeds of your blood magic.
+ Sponges can be worn during sex if your partner is sheepish about earning their red wings.
Once you decide to break your covenant with the tampon, you will have roughly ½ cup of menstrual blood each mooncycle at your disposal. If you are certain you are free from any bothersome blood-born pathogens, you can begin to explore extending the livelihood of your menstruum through these utilitarian blood rites. Should you decide to re-purpose your menstrual blood like a truly pragmatic bleeder, you will want to store your scarlet sorcery in sterilized jars in the refrigerator, much like a good Rosé. Here are a few re-animation rites you can use to get the most out of your monthly menses~
Harvest Your Stem Cells at the Menstrual Blood Bank
Menstrual blood contains stem cells that have the prodigious property of being able to morph into various other kinds of cells such as cardiac, neural, bone, fat and cartilage, a miraculous feat of incredible protean prowess. Truly the elixir immortelle, menstrual stem cells have similar regenerative capabilities as the stem cells in umbilical cord blood and bone marrow, AND pack the added punch of further incensing the neo-conservative right (because, you know, PERIODS). Cell banking is an emergent technology that cryo-preserves your menstrual blood in a medical setting, for future potential use treating life-threatening diseases such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and ischemic wounds. Clinical trials utilizing stem cells are encouraging and abounding, and are only limited by the religion-poisoned, obstinate worldview of a cringing old-guard patriarchy. To quote the scripture of Oingo Boingo, “From my heart and from my hand, why don’t people understand, my intentions?! Oooh…weird science!”
Concoct Magical Elixirs
The same pluri-potent puissance that is the driving force behind the magic of stem cells can be harnessed in ritual to enchant your brews. Known in alchemy as the ‘Elixir Rubeus,’ menstrual blood possesses a fluid intelligence that has been used by surreptitious sorcerers for aeons to bewitch potions and consecrate talismans. Use a dollop or dram in your kitchen magic (it is particularly strong during the full moon) to open your heart, ignite your will, gestate the seeds of your creative endeavors, fertilize your desires, and commune with your carnal, animalistic self. There is, of course, etiquette and propriety involved in the handing out and ingestion of such rarified kitchen alchemy. Be a classy witch- use your discretion and always exercise good taste.
Take Notes for your Acupuncturist
Traditional Chinese Medicine has a rich and storied tradition of diagnosing systemic patterns in the body through observance of the menstrual cycle. Your blood sends you messages in passenger pigeons of clots and cramps. A well-trained Chinese Medical Physician can interpret the augury of bloodstains and mood swings, and use this knowledge to inform herbal formulas and acupuncture point prescriptions, even for issues not related to your menses! We LOVE when our patients show a pioneering spirit, and take detailed notes on the color, thickness, quantity, and flow of their blood. It helps us craft the best possible treatment protocol to address your health needs. Before rinsing your sponge out in the sink, take a moment to ruminate on the nature of your flow, scribbling a few notes before sending it off in a proper Viking funeral down the drain. No pen and paper handy in that urinal? You can use ‘My Moontime,’ my new favorite cycle-tracking app (thank you, Erin Olivia!) that allows you to imbue your ebb and flow with sacred sorcery by teaching you how to interpret your cycle signals, take hold of your fertility, and tether your magic to the flow of the moon.
Fertilize Your Garden
Menstrual blood is ripe with the fecund seeds of sex, growth, and death (a garden’s best friends), and is an amazing source of natural nitrogen. With a little research and a few precautions, it can be added to compost as an alternative to synthetic fertilizer. Combine it with a little bone meal for the most heavy metal garden sludge the Dark Gods could ever muster. I wouldn’t necessarily do this if I was currently in the throes of taking antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, or synthetic hormones, as these compounds could taint the vibe of your organic brew.
Add it To Homemade Ink
Create a rubicund mirepoix of beetroots, blackberries, and menstrual blood wrung from your sea sponge to make DIY ink, dripping with the hexxxy hue of bloodied rubies. You can reserve this ink for love spells (boring), or use it for graffiti hexes marking agents of the patriarchy with flaming scarlet letters, or create sigils encoding the magic of destruction.
If you long to learn more about menstrual sponges & un-hexing the crimson curse (who doesn’t?!?), the ladies of Holy Sponge! will be holding court at the Women’s Center for Creative Work in Los Angeles on Thursday, August 13th for ‘Take Back Your Period: A Conversation on Blood and Shame.’ You can sign up online at Otherwild.
“The great mother whom we call Innana gave a gift to woman that is not known among men, and this is the secret of blood. The flow at the dark of the moon, the healing blood of the moon’s birth - to men, this is flux and distemper, bother and pain. They imagine we suffer and consider themselves lucky. We do not disabuse them.
In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks — for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood.”
–Anita Diamant, The Red Tent