Menstrual Taboos in Different Cultures

Tlingit People – When a girl first menstruates she is immediately isolated in a menstruationmenstruation hindu nepal hut and she has to follow very rigid rules. She is not permitted to lie down during the whole period of her seclusion, instead she has to sleep propped up with logs. Her face is smeared with charcoal, her head wrapped in a mat, and she has to be careful to keep out of the sunlight. She is not even permitted to chew her own food (her food is chewed for her by her relatives).

Island of Kadiak (off the cost of Akaska) – The women have to stay in menstruation huts for the duration of their period, and food is reached out to them at the end of a stick.

The Eskimo People – Among the Eskimo people women are regarded as dangerously
contagious during  menstruation, therefore they have to stay in special menstruation huts. They are also subject to special dietary regulations. They have their own cups and dishes which men must be careful not to use or touch.

Déné People – Apparently menstruating women are feared as, “the very incarnation of evil, a plague to be avoided at all costs, a being with whom all contact… entails exceedingly dreadful consequences.” Women are relegated to the menstrual hut when they have their period (there is one menstrual hut in each community). When a girl gets her first period she must remain isolated for two months and not touch her food with her own hands (she uses skewers instead). It is also believed to be dangerous for her to touch her own head, therefore she scratches her head with a stick instead. However, if a child is not thriving (or if several of its brothers/sisters have died) the mother will fasten a small piece of cloth round its neck soiled with menstrual blood. Hence, menstrual blood is regarded as like a powerful poison or disinfectant – scaring away evil spirits.

Pima Indians – Menstruating women isolate themselves for several days in the bushes, where they build themselves a rough shelter.

North American tribes – excluded menstruating women in a special hut or shelter. When the corn began to ripen a menstruating women would leave her isolation hut in the middle of the night and walk through the fields – she would do this so that her menstrual blood would destroy the insects/caterpillars.

Canadian Tribes – Menstruating women must seclude themselves from society, they are not even allowed to keep the same path as the men when travelling, and they are not allowed to touch any utensils of manly occupation. If they broke these rules it was believed that misfortune would follow.

Mohawk Indians – Menstruating women could generally sleep inside the wigwam, however they had to cook outside and they were not allowed to eat or drink out of the same vessel as their husbands.

Naudowessies – When a woman menstruates she is secluded in a separate hut for 8 days.

Delaware people – When a Delaware girl gets her first period she must stay secluded in a menstrual hut for 30 days.

Bribri Indians (Costa Rica) – A menstruating woman must not use any household utensil, but must use banana leaves instead. She must then carefully bury the banana leaves because it is believed that if any cow should happen to eat such a leaf it would die.

Macusi of Guiana – Menstruating women must not do any work, nor must they go into the forest (if they do it is believed that they will be attacked by snakes). When a girl gets her first period she must remain all day in her hammock, and at night get up and cook some food for herself. Any vessels that she uses are broken directly after & the shards are buried.

Guayquiry of the Orinoco – It is believed that anything a menstruating woman steps on withers and dries up, and if a man trod where they have set their foot his legs would begin to swell. Therefore menstruating women are secluded, and a girl has to fast for 40 days before marriage (to get rid of the ‘poison’ inside her so that she will be less dangerous).

Samoyeds and Ostyaks – menstruating women are segregated in an inner chamber of the ‘yurta’ and must be purified by fumigation from burnt reindeer hair before resuming their duties. The yurta must also be fumigated before men can enter it.

Ancient Hebrews – Anyone who touches a menstruating woman was considered unclean & had to be purified.

Anciant Arabia – menstruating women were isolated in a special hut.

Ancient Persia – The very glance from the eye of a menstruating woman was regarded as polluting whatever thing it fell on. Women were confined to an isolated portion of their house known as “dashtanistan” during menstruation. Their food had to be cooked separately.

Hinduism – According to the ‘Laws of Manu’ a man becomes impure by touching “a menstruating woman, an outcast, a woman in childbed or a corpse.” A menstruating woman is impure for three days and three nights.” “The wisdom, the energy, the strength, the sight and the vitality of a man who approaches a woman covered with menstrual excretions utterly perish.” Among the Brahmins, “the wife is pure to her husband and impure to every stranger.” During the wedding ceremony the wife is marked with blood or red paint to mark her as tabu to everyone except her husband (marking the bride with ‘sindur’). The parting of a bride’s hair is commonly stained with vermilion. Brides were also marked with red or blood in many other parts of the world (e.g. China, Borneo, the Congo, the Solomon Islands, Australia, and the Carribbean).

Pulay caste (India) – a menstruating woman is segregated in an isolated hut for 7 days which even her mother dare not enter.

Warundi of East Africa – the menstruating girl is led all over the house and obliged to touch everything as if her touch brings a blessing.

Ancient Greece and Ancient Italy – People believed that all insects and worms would be destroyed in a field if a menstruating woman walked around it. A similar belief was held in parts of Germany and the Netherlands.

Polynesian cultures – the word ‘tabu’ or ‘tapu’ is closely associated with the word ‘tapua’ which means ‘menstruation.’ The word ‘atua’ (meaning ‘god’) also has a connection with the word ‘tupua’ for menstruation.

Dieri Tribe (Australia) – Menstruating women painted themselves red around the mouth to mark themselves as ‘taboo’. The tribes of Victoria also painted menstruating women red, as did the Tapuya tribes of Brazil and some parts of the Gold Coast. All objects which are sacred or tabu are commonly smeared with blood or red paint.

http://www.radicalanthropologygroup.org/old/pub_the%20mothers.pdf

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