Approximately 4.5 billion years ago, Earth had a neighbor almost the size of Mars called Theia. As the gravitational pull of our solar system intensified, a collision occurred, releasing debris into space. Eventually, it assembled, and the moon was born. This event also had a significant impact on our planet, causing a tilt of 23.5 degrees. The remnants of Theia are still in Earth’s mantle.
The story of life on Earth is connected to the formation of the moon. Their rhythms intertwine, to create favorable conditions that alter the reality of time and the seasons of our planet.
The moon influences the speed of Earth’s rotation and is continuously moving away from us, causing the length of day to increase.
The moon is considered as a symbol of fertility. It’s common folklore that the moon brings rain, and it’s been proven scientifically. Rain is the harbinger of growth, creating the perfect conditions for vegetation to grow. Isabella Guerrini, at the University of Perugia in Italy, also confirms the correlation between growth and pruning of plants according to the moonlight.
The gravitational pull of our closest celestial neighbor causes the seas and oceans to rise. Marine life is highly tuned to the phases of the moon. Mass-spawning, the reproductive event of corals, is synchronized with the moonlight. Fish, oysters and crabs also respond to the lunar phases. Since life began in the ocean, moonlight has been an important zeitgeber for developing circadian rhythms.
The human body contains up to 60% water. Is there a possibility that the gravitational pull of the moon can affect us too?
The word lunatic comes from the late Latin word ‘lunaticus’ which means ‘moon-struck.’ Ancient Romans and Greeks, including Aristotle, suggested the idea that the moon causes epilepsy. The correlation between the moon and madness escalated over time, igniting myths for generations.
Though there is skepticism involved with these beliefs, some evidence does bring to light the menstruation synchronicities and sleeping patterns that could be affected by the periodic rhythms of the moon. For example, the average duration of a women’s menstrual cycle coincides with the moon’s waxing and waning cycle.
In many communities, menstruation is also known as ‘moon time’.
During this period, the women will reside in the menstrual hut. It has been a common belief that during this time a woman is impacted by supernatural abilities, and she must then harness her creative and spiritual energies. The women will share the myths, stories and knowledge gained, building stronger connections amongst themselves. Through their verbal performances, women also gained important roles as ritual specialists.
The idea is not solely limited to synchronizing the menses with the moon, but also among women living together. The Suri and related people use rhythms and synchronicities as a contraceptive method. Unmarried Suri women live in closely-knitted groups and claim to bleed together. When a new girl joins the hut, she begins to follow the group and sync with the others. Links are made to the moon, and on a full moon, sexual encounters are considered safe from their contraceptive syncing methods (Menstrual Synchrony Claims Among Suri Girls, Jon Abbink).
“The control of the woman’s lodge indicated the overall importance of women in society at large, even as it served as a marker of that power. Underneath these outward manifestations of women’s power in the community at large were those behaviors and beliefs constructed internally, among women themselves, in the woman’s lodge”.
Mary C. Wright,
American Historian and Sinologist
The first menstrual cycle of a woman is celebrated in a few communities. These practices persist in some parts of the world as a right of passage for a girl going into womanhood.
“As I set out to do research on the revitalization of the women’s coming of age ceremony for my tribe, I was keenly aware that I wanted my research and study to focus on the impacts of this ceremony and demonstrate how it (re)writes, (re)rights and (re)rites who we are as Native people”.
Cutcha Risling Baldy
Cutcha Risling Baldy is revisiting the significance of the flower dance to Hupa people by interviewing native women in her community. The flower dance is celebrated when the girl gets her first menstruation, and the family, including men, spend days collecting things for the ceremony.
The indigenous understanding of the menstrual cycle is profoundly connected to the life force and sees blood as a powerful element. The process of seclusion and rituals were done for anything related to blood; for men, they were to follow restrictions before warfare or hunting. Many rites were lost during the period of colonization and a woman’s menstruation blood was introduced as a ‘taboo’. The seclusion rituals were interpreted dismissively by western society, and their narratives were different from the ones that these communities followed.
Being born and raised in India, my mother prohibited us from touching sacred items, doing rituals, or entering temples during our menstruation. Not being able to participate in rituals made me frustrated, as no one would provide me with a logical explanation for these taboos. My family often visited Kamakhya Devi Temple, where the Yoni (an aniconic representation of the goddess Kamakhya) and the menstrual cycle are worshiped. These contrary behaviors made me even more perplexed about our taboos.
When I moved to Italy, I was surprised to learn that menstruation itself is considered taboo in this part of the world. It was my curiosity that eventually guided me to the moon. Though some scientific research has attempted to link the moon and menstruation, I can’t say for certain that all our bodies are similar or that our cycles will always be in tune with the moonlight. Light pollution and modern lifestyles make it challenging.
Menstrual cycles, especially for a young woman, can be a challenging time. Both curiosity and confusion have a significant role in this process. I often wondered why my mother or anyone else wouldn’t tell me the reason for restrictions like not being able to touch certain sacred items in the household.
Maybe it was knowledge that was lost in the transition from sacred to profane; from community to colonization; and finally from a girl to a woman.
Even though these topics are not widely discussed, and are even secluded, I would like there to be a time when we can seclude ourselves and understand more about our own bodies, create new rituals, or maybe wonder about the moon’s imprint on us.
Words & Art Direction by Priyanka Singh @Priyanka.parihar16
Photos by Wilson Ballarin @WilsonBallarin
Featuring Limaraina Alfonso @Kaafi_Lima