cover image Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World

Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World

Judy Grahn. Beacon Press (MA), $22 (323pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-7504-3

In native and prehistoric cultures around the world, a menstruating woman carried out rituals in which she was secluded--not allowed to see light--but emerged triumphantly at the end of her period. Grahn ( Another Mother Tongue ) believes these rites taught women principles of separation and synchronic relationship (reinforced by women's awareness that the menstrual cycle was in rhythm with the moon's phases). This ``menstrual logic,'' she adds, was transmitted to men, who extended it. Stretching the evidence thin to fit her theory, Grahn uses menstrual ritual and ``menstrual consciousness'' to explain the orignis of mathematics, astronomy, marriage rites (the bride's dress in Europe was once red), cosmetics, cooking and mourning customs. Her intriguing excursion through folklore, myth, religion, anthropology and history bespeaks a feminist conviction that male origin stories must be balanced by a recognition of women's central role in shaping civilization. (Nov.)