Menstruation

Why would I ever choose an easy topic?

Every once in a while a post comes up on some forum or another about menstrual blood in magic or offering to the gods, etc. The posts invariably essentialize menstruation with the gender identification of woman, effectively alienating all the women who don’t menstruate, whether cis or trans, men who menstruate, and genderqueer folk like myself who menstruate. I really shouldn’t be surprised at this point, but I still kind of am.

I wrote a post about blood sacrifice yesterday, but didn’t touch on menstruation. Here I will talk about menstruation as offering to the gods, menstruation as magical use, and how I feel when I menstruate as a genderqueer person.

Menstrual blood as offering

It depends, I think, on one’s relationship with the deity and that deity’s purview. I’m not going to automatically discount it as gross and unwanted because menstrual blood is bodily waste; that’s lazy thinking. But before you can even sort out the appropriateness of menstrual blood as an offering, you have to determine what menstrual blood means to you.

If menstruation is something you cherish as a symbol of your own fertility and possibly womanhood, then using it as an offering to gods whose alignments are within those areas would probably be appropriate.

If menstruation is something you view as a coming of age and nothing more, then using it in a coming of age ceremony — whether that involves gods or not — would be appropriate.

If menstruation is something you view as painful, gross, and not connected to how you feel about your gender or fertility at all — if it’s an inconvenience, then using it as an offering is probably not appropriate.

If menstruation is something that causes severe dysphoria for you, it could be appropriate to offer it as a symbolic gesture of throwing it away — asking for the gods’ help in disposing of that part of your life, in helping you cut away what doesn’t help you be who you truly are.

There are many other ways menstruation could make you feel; I’m just touching on these four.

Once you’ve determined the importance of menstruation to yourself, then you have to determine which gods would appreciate an offering of it and which wouldn’t. If menstrual blood is a symbol of sovereignty, the earth, or fertility to you, then offering it to a deity in charge of those things could be appropriate. If it’s a symbol of body dysphoria and you want to get rid of it, an offering to a deity who takes things away could work.

Generally speaking, it’s my opinion that deities who are chthonic and more connected to physical being are going to be more open to receiving menstrual blood as an offering. Gaia, Persephone, Morrigan, Demeter, Lilith are names that come to mind off the top of my head; I’m sure y’all can come up with other gods. In the end, you’ll need to do some research if you want to offer menstrual blood to deities. And probably ask the deity in question if it would be appreciated.

When I asked Morrigan, I got a shrug that amounted to “If you want to offer it, it’s fine by me.” Other deities may go “Ugh. No.” Others still may say “Awesome!”

Personally I’m not likely to use menstrual blood as an offering to the gods. As I said in my post about blood sacrifice, part of the sacrifice is knowing when and where to cut, and when to stop cutting. Using menstrual blood, that comes no matter what I do (save getting pregnant or taking hormonal birth control to stop my period), is lazy. And impractical, considering my cycle is whenever the hell I want so have fun trying to predict me.

Menstrual blood as magic ingredient

I’ve often heard about using menstrual blood in spells to “make friends with your womb” or reconnect with the “divine feminine”. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the first one, but the second one is pretty cissexist in my opinion.

If you view menstrual blood as a fundamental part of being a woman, then using it in spells to reconnect with your womanhood is appropriate. If you view it that way and you’re a woman who doesn’t menstruate, an option is to simulate menstruation by drawing blood from somewhere else on your body and use that in the spell.

If you view it as something that denies you your gender identity, then you could use it in a spell to cast away things that cause dysphoria.

Again, before you can use menstrual blood as a magic ingredient you have to determine what it means to you — unless you’ve found a folk magic recipe that calls for it, in which case it doesn’t matter what any of the ingredients mean to you because folk magic is ingredient-specific, intent-negligible.

If I ever do use menstrual blood in a spell, I think what I may use it for would be to become pregnant (getting my period again after trying to conceive would be pretty depressing, so I’d offer it up as away of symbolically casting it aside for a bit; the spell would probably include the number 9 somehow to show that I only want it gone for 9 months, etc), to connect myself to my land — ie, doing a spell to increase the output of my garden and make myself connected with the land (this could double as an offering to land spirits), to make my periods less painful, to regularize my cycle, to bring about menopause, to get rid of dysphoria…there are many possibilities. Not sure if I’ll ever use it for any of these, but I might.

How menstruation feels for this genderqueer witch

My genderqueer-ness manifests as a pendulum swing on a spectrum. I’m always femme, but somedays I’m more male than female, somedays I’m more female than male, somedays I sort of feel right down the middle, making me a third, unnamed gender that’s a blend of the two binary ones.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with my period, even before I discovered I was genderqueer. The cycle was whacko, the flow was really heavy, and the cramps were incredibly painful. On the plus side, when it came it was always for five days exactly, and I did see it as a coming of age thing — I was finally a woman.

And then came all the other shit of being a teenager and suddenly I wanted to go back to being 12 years old.

Since getting the IUD, my period cycle has become more whacko, but the flow became light. The cramps started coming earlier and randomly, and it started lasting for random days at a time: 14, 3, 7, 2. Sometimes I’d have 14 days of really light flow, followed by 4 days off, followed by another week of bleeding. Cramps happen up to a week before, during, and up to a week after the period. Sometimes I have 2 months without a period; sometimes I have four in one month.

When I discovered I was genderqueer, I realized what those days of feeling completely uncomfortable in my own body were: my male-days. Those were the days when I was clumsy and depressed and wore baggy clothing to cover the fact that I had breasts and didn’t want to go anywhere, because I felt so ugly. If I had my period on those days they were even worse.

Now that I know what’s going on on those days, I know what I feel when I have my period on them.

It worsens the dysphoria. My body feels so wrong. I want to rip out my uterus with my bare hands.

If I get my period on my female-days, then it’s just a day of discomfort and bloating and constant anxiety over whether or not I have blood on my jeans, and no dysphoria. To keep myself optimistic during my period on my female-days, I can say to myself “Well, at least I know I can have kids. Theoretically.”

So menstruation is a complicated bag of spiky hammers for me. I’ve often tried to just feel better about my period, as so many women have urged me to do because all my discomfort is obviously just patriarchal programming — but that doesn’t work. Periods can really suck for some people. On top of physical discomfort, a lot of period-sufferers have to deal with body dysphoria too, and I’m not an exception.

Bottom-line, I’d feel a lot better about my period and periods in general if people stopped assuming that a) every woman gets periods, b) every person who gets periods is a woman. Cause, you know, being reduced to one’s reproductive organs or bodily functions is kind of dehumanizing. Just like women aren’t walking baby-factories, I’m not a woman just because I have the potential to grow a parasite child in my womb.

Genderqueerly yours,

-Morag.

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