Do you ever feel uncomfortable talking openly about your period? For me, the word “taboo” comes to mind. Do you know the origin of this word? I didn’t, so I investigated.
I’ve always enjoyed learning language, so when I traced the etymology of the word “taboo”, I was intrigued. Let’s start with the Western definition of the word according to Merriam-Webster:
"banned on grounds of morality or taste; forbidden to profane use or contact because of what are held to be dangerous, supernatural powers"
Taboo is of Polynesian origin. Captain James Cook brought the word to western civilization after visiting Tonga in 1771. The word taboo comes from the Polynesian word, “tapua”, which means both “sacred” and “menstruation”. Here is the Polynesian understanding of taboo or tapua:
“the prohibition of an action based on belief that such behavior is either too sacred and consecrated or too dangerous and accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake”.
Here are a few other interesting words that also trace back to our menstrual cycles:
“regal” (meaning ‘power to rule’, coming from the Latin, “regula”, which means both ‘measure’ and ‘menstruation’), and “ritual” (comes from the Sanskrit work r’tu, meaning ‘menstrual magic’).
So why did so many ancient matriarchal societies refer to menstruation as sacred? Did you know that civilization's way of tracking time was born out of the observed correlation between the lunar rhythms and a woman’s monthly cycle? In fact, women were the first observers of the lunar cycle. As the first agriculturists, women related the moon phases to planting and reaping times.
So how should we start in the process of healing our collective menophobia? We talk about it! The more we share, connect, and support each other in this journey of understanding our menstrual cycle, the faster we heal and join together in solidarity.
Tankishka, author of Goddess Wisdom, puts it this way:
"It is important for women to have a safe space in which to connect with and express their feelings because a 'social space' evokes the ego (personality), whereas a 'sacred space' evokes the soul, which is the wise part of us that is transparent and vulnerable. Sharing circles allow women to respond to life's obstacles with more dignity and grace paired with increased group awareness of cycles."
Menstruation matters!! I can’t say this enough. It doesn’t matter if you have a regular or irregular cycle, whether you are on contraceptives or not, or whether you are menopausal. Women are intensely cyclical beings. We can each learn to understand the patterns of our own cycle and support the women in our lives to heal from the “taboo” of menstruation. Let’s start now. How do you feel about your cycle?