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

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Beacon Press, 1993 - Social Science - 323 pages
Blood is everywhere in our society: on nightly T.V., in daily newspaper photos, in religious imagery. Yet menstrual blood is never mentioned and almost never seen, except privately by women. A girl's first period is usually kept secret, a source of embarrassment and irritation. Menstruation in our culture is invisible and irrelevant if properly hidden, shameful and unclean if not. It was not always this way. Long ago, in cultures around the world, a girl's menarchal passage was a time of celebration and initiation, and a time for ceremony, often including special clothing and foods and a period of seclusion. Far more than a biological event, menstruation was a recognized mark of female power, a source of ritual and of awe. The influence of early menstrual rites remains visible in our culture today. According to Judy Grahn, the ancient rites explain much of contemporary material culture - why women wear lipstick and eye makeup and adorn themselves with earrings and hair clasps, or why forks, bowls, chairs, rugs, and shoes originated, for instance. But Grahn also reveals the profound connections between ancient menstrual rites and the development of agriculture, mathematics, geometry, writing, calendars, horticulture, architecture, astronomy, cooking, money, and many other realms of knowledge. Blending archaeological data, ethnography, folklore, history, and myth, she constructs a new myth of origin for us all, demonstrating that menstruation is what made us human. Blood, Bread, and Roses reclaims woman's myths and stories, chronicling the ways in which women's actions and the teaching of myth have interacted over the millennia. Grahn argues that culture has been a weaving between thegenders, a sharing of wisdom derived from menstruation. Her rich interpretations of ancient menstrual rites give us a new and hopeful story of culture's beginnings based on the integration of body, mind, and spirit found women's traditions. Blood, Bread, and Roses offers all of us a way back to understanding the true meaning of women's menstrual power.

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Blood, bread, and roses: how menstruation created the world

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Best known for several books of poetry ( The Queen of Wands , LJ 12/15/83, among others), Grahn presents a bold interpretation of the rites and traditions surrounding menstruation. Using a wide range ... Read full review


How Menstruation Created the World
Light Moved on the Water
Crossing the Great Abyss

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About the author (1993)

Grahn is a lesbian feminist poet, fiction writer, publisher, and cultural critic of note. Born in Chicago, she grew up in New Mexico and at age 21 was expelled from the Air Force for being a lesbian. Over the years she attended six colleges, where she studied poetry, and she completed her B.A. at San Francisco State University in 1984. She has taught lesbian and gay studies and women's writing, co-founded a women's press (The Women's Press Collective of Oakland), and was at the forefront of a West Coast poetry "renaissance" of the 1970s, along with Susan Griffin, Pat Parker, and Alta. In her work, Grahn seeks to link various oppressions in order to facilitate the emergence of coalitions of the oppressed. She draws her themes and images from ancient myths, Western literary and philosophical traditions, and historical and social trends, defining---or redefining---them as expressing feminine and homoerotic desire and then appropriating them for their subversive potential. For example, she invents a new, more expressive "American sonnet" for "The Common Woman" sequence in Edward the Dyke and Other Poems (1971), which celebrates both women's differences and commonalities. In She, Who (1977), she rewrites scripture as feminist experimental verse. Although she first came to critical attention with her poetry, Grahn is now also known for her cultural and literary criticism. Her two editions of Another Mother Tongue (1979, 1984) offer a wealth of information about gay identities throughout history, which Grahn links to a number of myth systems and languages in a form that blends poetry, legend, autobiography, and etymology. In effect, she imaginatively retrieves and invents gay cultural history, mythology, and language (the "other mother tongue" of the title).

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