Saturday, 9 November 2013

Menstruation and Ritual Purity

"Circe" by J Waterhouse (1911)
Lately I have been thinking about the question of menstrual blood and ritual purity. Menstrual taboos are most notably associated with conservative Judaism and Islam, but they also occur in fellow Indo-European religions in the east, such as Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and the indigenous religion of the Kalash. Meanwhile in the west, if social media is anything to go by, a number of polytheists seeking to reconstruct the indigenous religions of Europe (including the Religio Romana) also advocate menstrual taboos the general idea is that menstruating women should not perform ritual offerings (or enter temples) to the Gods because they are ritually unclean while they are menstruating. In light of all of this, and because I like to think I am genuinely open minded, I considered the possibility that there might be something to this apparently very ancient and widespread taboo.