We all know that as a society, we are still struggling with menstruating taboos, especially when religion is added to the mix.
But how bad is it really?
Last week, I passed by a church early in the morning. A service had just ended and people were walking out, talking to each other. I happened to catch a bit of the conversation between a priest and an elderly lady. They were discussing menstruation, and I heard the priest tell the woman that people should stay away from “her” because “the devil is trying to get out of her body”, hence all the blood, and after her period is over, she will be pure again.
I was astounded. Is this what the church thinks about menstruation? Is it what Christianity thinks? It made me curious to find out if there were any taboos about periods when it came to religion.
As it turns out, religion is harsh to menstruating women.
The idea of women being impure while menstruating is a common denominator when looking at these taboos.
Judaism seem to be the harshest about this. A woman is considered niddah, impure, for two weeks every month. That is from the first drops of blood until a week after the period is over. Men are also not allowed to come into contact with niddah women unless they also want to be considered impure. This includes things like sharing a bed or passing each other objects.
Islam maintains the idea of the unclean woman, too. However, it goes a step further by denying women access into a mosque or to a Quran. They are also not allowed to fast or participate in daily prayers. Here too, men are told to keep away so as not to be ostracised by their religious community in the same way.
Buddhism is not as harsh. That is because menstruation simply belongs with other bodily functions which signal impurities that humans have to deal with in the physical plane. This is why this existence must be transcended. Buddhism is not fully accepting of periods, however, as it is thought that women lose a bit of their “Qi”, their life force, every time they menstruate. There is also a belief that some ghosts eat blood, so women are more prone to spiritual impurities because of this.
Christianity does not keep menstruating women away from the community. This is why, for the most part, Christianity is not very harsh with when it comes to this subject. However, the Orthodox church in Eastern Europe and Russia is sterner. They do not allow women to receive communion while on their period.
Life is hard enough for women when they are going through their periods.
Menstruating taboos can be a challenge during the daily lives of women, but the issue becomes even more complex when religion is concerned. These religious ideas about menstruation do not necessarily come as a surprise. However, it saddens me to see that they are not allowed to take part in various religious rituals and are kept to the outskirts of the community due to something they have no control over. Especially since all religions claim that love and acceptance lay at the heart of their beliefs.