Monday, 8 July 2013

Rape, Murder and Misogyny - The Real Revelations of the Kama Sutra

Tantra, The Kama Sutra & the Song of Songs - שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים: a comparison
“The following women are not suitable as lovers: A leper, a lunatic, an older woman, a woman ostracized by her caste..., a woman who is too black...” 
 Kama Sutra of Vātsyāyana (Part One, Ch:5)
  “I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon.” 
 The Song of Songs (1:5)


Saturday, 4 May 2013

Rabindranath Tagore – Saviour of the Tantric Temples of Khajuraho

Rabindranath Tagore (born 7th May 1861)
a Bengali poet, novelist and painter - best known for being the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 with his book Gitanjali, Song Offerings.
Perhaps few people know that it was Tagore who intervened when “pious” Hindu vandals supported by the father of modern India, Mahatma Gandhi, decided that the erotic sculptures of the temples were deeply distressing and incompatible with the true spirit of Hinduism.
Gandhi gave his blessing to a band of fanatic Hindu vandals who wanted to destroy the walls of the temples, clean from the ‘indecent and embarrassing' affronts to their ignorant notions about Indian culture.
It took the intervention of no less than Rabrindranth Tagore who wrote to Gandhi, outraged, explaining that this was a national treasure and could not be so cavalierly demolished because some people were uncomfortable.
OSHO: "Khajuraho is a dream. And Mahatma Gandhi wanted it buried under earth so nobody could be tempted by the beautiful statues.
We are grateful to Rabindranath Tagore who prevented Gandhi from doing such a thing. He said, ‘Leave the temples as they are....’ He was a poet and he could understand their mystery.” (from: Glimpses of a Golden Childhood, Ch.4, session 4. Published : 1985)

Monday, 8 October 2012

Rape, Murder and Misogyny - The Real Revelations of the Kama Sutra

Erőszak, Gyilkosság, Nőgyűlölet – a Káma Szutra Igazi Titka



“The following women are not suitable as lovers: A leper, a lunatic, an older woman, a woman ostracized by her caste..., a woman who is too black...” (Kama Sutra, P.1:5)

The Kama Sutra, Tantric Goddess Worship and the Song of Songs – a Comparison
Looking at the latest illustrated colour edition of the Kama Sutra one could be forgiven for thinking that that this book is one of the greatest erotic masterpieces ever written. The title of another edition, “Kama Sutra: Aphorisms of Love”, suggests that the Kama Sutra is meant to educate, enhance and expand the sex life of men and women, implying that its philosophy combines sexuality and intimacy with the quest for fulfilment of mind, body and soul.
The media has effectively made the Kama Sutra a widely-accepted byword, and the term itself is often used interchangeably with ‘Tantra’. People take this book as a comprehensive sexual manual, the true path to tantric pleasure. The various sex positions in Part Two are promoted for its forward-looking, sex-positive attitudes to women. Consequently, the Kama Sutra is seen as an empowering tool for women to use.
But how many people have looked at the actual text? Those who start reading Part One of the book would certainly realise that the Kama Sutra will never be mistaken for a feminist manifesto:
“Sexual relations are forbidden with women of lower or higher caste, or with married women of one’s own caste. This is not the case however with prostitutes or widows, provided that it is only for pleasure ...
If the woman who loves me has a rich and powerful husband who is in touch with my adversary, she will arrange for her husband to harm him ...
Once she has fallen in love with me, she (or I) may murder her husband and having obtained of his wealth, I shall live in luxury ...
...There is nothing wrong in having an affair with a woman out of (financial) interest. If I am bankrupt, without any means and livelihood, thanks to this woman, I can become rich easily; I will therefore become her lover.” (Part 1, Ch.5)
Indeed, what most people imagine to be a liberal compilation of ideas about sex, sensation and pleasure for men and women is basically just a handbook describing the best ways to use, control and manipulate women.
The notion that the Kama Sutra is one of the greatest treasures in tantric literature is mostly due to the persistent emphasis on only one of the seven ‘books’ or ‘parts’ that comprise the Kama Sutra - Part Two, which discusses sexual typology, positions, kissing, biting, slapping, oral and unusual sex, etc. Part Two is perhaps also the best known and, because of the erotic illustrations in innumerable editions of the Kama Sutra, has overshadowed the rest of Vatsyayana's text in the popular imagination.
Needless to say, the Kama Sutra is no treasure as far as women’s emancipation is concerned, and scholars have gone into detailed examination to show that, considering the age and period of compilation it cannot be tantric either. The fact that the author mentions, “some learned men, who object, and say that females, not being allowed to study any science, should not study the Kama Sutra”, is just further evidence that the text could not have been written in the spirit and ethos of Tantra, where women are valued as teachers and gurus.
In a previous article I have explored authentic tantric goddess worship, but one doesn’t have to be an expert to know that genuine Tantra requires unconditional respect and reverence to every woman, as each and every woman is seen in Tantra, the representative of the Goddess:
”He should always worship women
With his powerful sceptre or wisdom,
Even crippled women, artisans and women of the lowest caste”
For good measure, the Kama Sutra does mention in the introduction to Part One that it is a duty to “visit the sanctuary of the Goddess Sarasvati” , but as modern translations point out, the Laws of Manu, India’s most famous early legal code, have a clearly more significant influence on the text - including the views on women:
“In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, and when her lord is dead, to her sons; a woman must never be independent ... It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world, for that reason the wise never remain unguarded in the company of females ... Women, shudra (the lowest of four castes), dog and crow embody untruth, sin and darkness.”
The Kama Sutra — “kama” means desire, while “sutra” means thread —was first translated into English in 1883 by two Indian Sanskrit scholars, and polished by the explorer and linguist, Sir Richard Burton, who, given censorship laws at the time, helped get it published privately. The book was formally published only in 1962. We know very little about its author, Vatsyayana, except that he probably lived sometime around the 4th century CE. He never actually presents the Kama Sutra as his original work - but rather as a compilation and impartial examination of existing ideas, texts and traditions of his time. When Vatsyayana interjects a personal opinion, he refers to himself in the third person. He makes it clear that this book is written primarily for rich and powerful men, or as Wendy Doniger’s new translation puts it: “the man-about-town”.
The Kama Sutra itself has 36 chapters, divided into 7 parts: the first is an introduction giving general advice, the second covers sexual union. The next three sections are titled: “About the Acquisition of a Wife”, “About a Wife” and “About the Wives of Other People”. In these parts, the book describes courtship and the way a woman behaves in response to male attention, proposals or sexual advances. The descriptions range from old-fashioned but expected gender-normative idiocy to offensive degradation. Among others, he warns, that the following women should be avoided by prospective husbands:
“... One who looks masculine, whose breasts are too big ... One who has been (raped) polluted by another.1 One who is disfigured in any way (disabled) … also a girl whose name ends in 'r' or 'l'...”
In Part Three, Chapter 5, “On the Different Forms of Marriage”, Vatsyayana also gives details of the various means by which a man can legitimately acquire a wife. While he agrees that a marriage of love is, and should be, the best preferred option, he also lists different scenarios of rape as perfectly legal and legitimate ways of marriage. Some “practical advice” on marriage by rape:
“The man should on the occasion of festivals get the nurse to give the girl some intoxicating substance, and then cause her to be brought to some secure place under the pretence of some business, and there having raped her before she recovers from her intoxication – she would marry him.
The man should, with the connivance of the (female accomplice) nurse, carry off the girl from her house while she is asleep, and then, having raped her before she recovers from her sleep ...
When the girl goes to a garden, or to some village in the neighbourhood, the man should, with his friends, fall on her guards, and having killed them, or frightened them away, forcibly carry her off, rape her ….1)” … and because of the shame associated with rape, she would have no choice but marry him.
The enormous sense of shame associated with rape in the Indian psyche has filtered through to modern times with lasting damage. Even the “father of modern India”, Mahatma Gandhi, believed that women who were raped lost their value as human beings. He argued that fathers could be justified in killing daughters who had been sexually assaulted for the sake of family and community honour. He moderated his views towards the end of his life. But the damage was done, and the legacy lingers in every present-day Indian press report of a rape victim who commits suicide out of "shame".2
The Song of Songs – “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine; he browses among the lilies” (6:3)
“The following women are not suitable as lovers: A leper, a lunatic, an older woman, a woman ostracized by her caste..., a woman who is too black...” (Kama Sutra, P.1:5)
“I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon.”3 (Song of songs 1:5), proclaims the heroine in the Song of Solomon. Doing so however, this sensuous, Goddess-like woman of the Hebrew Bible falls foul of the exceptional “standards” of the Kama Sutra.
Unlike the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, which addresses a male readership, the Song of Solomon clearly refers to the “daughters of Jerusalem” in several verses (1:5. 2:7, 3:5, 10, 11. 5:8, 16, 8:4) as her audience. Here the woman’s voice and presence dominates the rest of the Song. The Shulamite is a strong, independent woman – hers is the first word (1:2) and hers is the last word also (8:14). She takes more initiative in the acts of love than her beloved (3:1-5; 5:6-7), and only she makes dramatic declarations about herself: she insists that her very blackness is beautiful (1:5), and “I am a wall and my breasts like the towers; then was I in his eyes as one that found peace (8:10)”
The author of Song of Songs is clearly a woman, and we mainly hear a feminine voice that challenges patriarchal values. Astonishingly the Song begins with the female initiating, with the famous opening lines: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your lovemaking (dodecha – דֹּדֶיךָ) is better than wine”. (1:2)
Solomon’s Song is, from the outset, a love poem, two lovers celebrating their mutual love for one another, including the delights of one others’ bodies. Although it has been compared to the Kama Sutra, there is nothing that justifies this assertion. The suggestion that it bears similarities to tantric texts, however, is much more realistic and closer to the truth. The fact that the main protagonist is the female is a good indication of tantric character. The author of the Hebrew Goddess, Raphael Patai (1990), also reminds us about the similarity of tantric hymns to the black and beautiful goddess Kali (p. 150), to certain verses in the Song of Songs, especially (1:5), referring to the contemporary interpretation of M. H Pope.
Marvin H. Pope (1995), in his epic modern translation (over 700 pages) comments that the author of Song of Songs reveals that sexual desire is an integral part of Eros, something to be celebrated. In his focus, being true to the original text, Pope reveals some key aspects of the Hebrew mindset, which both men and women can learn from. Far from the Kama Sutra, where “men are the actors, and women are the persons acted upon”, the Song of Songs is describing a relationship of equals, and genuine tantric dialogue of the lovers, with all the senses, just as Tantra teaches, using the senses in our relationships and sensuality:
Sight - ... show me your face (2:14); You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes (4:9); How beautiful are your feet, your navel, your stomach, your breasts, your eyes (7:1-6).
Hearing - ... let me hear your voice (2:14); Listen! My lover is knocking (5:2); You who dwell in the gardens ... let me hear your voice! (8:13)
Touch – Kiss me with kisses of your mouth (1:2); His left arm is under my head and his right arm embraces me (2:6)
Taste – His fruit is sweet to my taste (2:3); ... and taste its choice fruits (4:16); ... your mouth like the best wine (7:9)
Smell – Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes (1:3); The mandrakes give a smell (7:13)
Throughout Pope’s translation one also gets the distinct impression of the empowerment of the woman – she proudly proclaims to the world that she is all woman, and beautiful, betraying a clear confidence in herself and her body – a true Tantric Goddess. While this is present in other translations, it comes through much clearly in Pope. Repeatedly the man and woman within the Song show their care for each other- not just for their bodies, but for their entire being. In tantric terms, the word “prema” love as emotional attachment come to mind, rather than just “kama” (physical desire), in contrast to the language of the Kama Sutra.
In the spirit of authentic Tantra the Goddess literally invites her lover to make love to her – “Let my beloved come to his garden...”. The Hebrew word literally “come into” is used frequently of sexual penetration. “... eat of the sweet fruit” (4:16). Here the Shulamite also seems to encourage her lover to taste her sex. The fact that contemporary scholars are not being constrained by religious constraints has also allowed modern translations to re-interpret centuries-old traditional translations. Significantly, the noun שֹׁרֶר (shorer) is a hapax legomenon, appearing in the Hebrew Bible only once, here (7:2.). There is a debate whether it means “navel” or “vulva”. Pope, in his interpretation asserts that the original intended meaning is “vulva”:
“Your navel/vulva is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine. Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies.” (7:2)
This is contextually supported by several factors: the descriptive praise of her begins with her feet and concludes with her hair, as if her lover was on his knees at her feet, slowly standing up, worshipping the Shulamite in a true tantric way. The movement from her feet, to thighs (in 7:1), to her vulva (7:2), and then to her waist (7:2), breasts, neck, nose, head and hair would fit this. The vivid comparison to a glass of wine would be strange, if her navel were in view – filled with liquid – but appropriately poetic, if her vulva were in view with the moisture of desire, Pope suggests.4
“How beautiful your sandaled feet...
Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of an artist’s hands.
Your navel/vulva is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine.
Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies.
Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle.
Your neck is like an ivory tower.
Your eyes are the pools of Heshbon
by the gate of Bath Rabbim. Your nose ...
Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel.
Your hair is like royal tapestry;
the king is held captive by its tresses.
How beautiful you are and how pleasing,
my love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm...”
(Song of Songs 7:1-7)
These verses clearly echo the instructions of the tantric goddess in early tantric texts:
“He should continuously worship Vajrayogini, with flowers incense ...
Honour Her with speeches and ornate expressions ...
He should gaze, touch and contemplate (her) ...
Constantly take refuge at my feet ..., look at my three-petaled lotus, look at me up and down.”
Drink sweet nectar from the lips below...
Activities that produce the musk of desire ... Looking her up and down.
Thus one attains extensive spiritual perfections and becomes equal to all Buddhas.”
This “spiritual perfection” is also present in the Song of Songs, as Rabbi Akiba, one of the most famous sages of the Talmud declares:
"The whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was written, for all the Scriptures are holy and the Song of Songs is holy of holies.” (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5).
References: Dane, L (2003) The Complete Illustrated Kama Sutra, Inner Traditions, Rochester
Danilou, A (1994) The Complete Kama Sutra : The First Unabridged Modern Translation of the Classic Indian Text, Park Street Press, [Unabridged edition]
Patai, R (1990) The Hebrew Goddess, (3rd enlarged edition) Wayne State University Press
Pope, M. H. (1995) Song of Songs: A New Translation and Commentary, Anchor Bible 7, Doubleday, New York
Shaw, M (1995) Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, Princeton University Press
Vatsyayana, M ((Wendy Doniger, Sudhir Kakar - Translators) (2003) Kamasutra, Oxford University Press
Notes 1. The Kama Sutra was first published by Sir Richard Burton (1883) and his is the most well-known translation, albeit somewhat archaic and at times inaccurate. Two different modern scholarly translations by Alain Danielou (1994) and Wendy Doniger (2003) also have some difficulty with the ancient Sanskrit text, terms and expressions. Here, I have made an attempt to integrate these translations with my understanding and offer interpretation. It has to be pointed out therefore, that the original text does not actually use the word, “rape” and the English translations also use euphemisms, however in her notes Doniger (2009) does draw attention to the fact that the Kama Sutra is effectively offering a lesson in rape.
3. Traditional bible translations translate this verse: "I am black but beautiful..." - new translations acknowledge that the simple meaning is "I am black and beautiful..."
4. Navel/vulva - Classical Hebrew does not have words for sexual organs and often poetic euphemisms are used instead. For example in Genesis (24:9), “So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.” Here the text refers to the servant actually putting his hand on Abraham’s circumcision, this being the most sacred thing to swear an oath on. However, regardless of literal meaning, there can be no doubt that the intended meaning here, is vulva.
5. Quoted in Passionate Enlightenment, by Miranda Shaw - Candamaharosana-tantra, Hevejra-tantra.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Tantra, Történelem, Tudomány

Tantra beszélgetések

Tantra, Történelem, Tudomány

Ha még mindig azt hiszed, hogy a Káma Szutrának bármi köze is lenne a Tantrához és érdekel a neurobiológia ...

...Tantra - ahogy talán még nem ismerted

Vallási és társadalmi kondicionálás és minták gyakran még ma is megfosztják a nőket elidegeníthetetlen joguktól,  kreativitásuk és érzékiségük megélésétől. A probléma egy része az, hogy a férfi energiát magasztaló és  imádó kultúrában élünk, ami az elismerésért küzdő nőket arra kényszeríti, hogy maszkulin mintára  viselkedjenek, ami a női energiáik rovására megy. A valódi nőiség  szerepe, ereje és hatása nem kap elismerést, sőt tudat alatt még félnek is tőle. Ez a kultúra gyakran elvonja a nők figyelmét önmagukról, testükről és gyakran képtelenek felismerni és megvalósitani   kreativitásukat, kifejezni érzelmi szükségleteiket, vágyaikat és érzékiségüket. 

Valójában, mi férfiak és nők egyaránt  érintettek vagyunk, ha a nők  képtelenek elérni és  meriteni belső teremtőerejüktől és érzékiségüktől. Mert ha a nők számára elérhetetlen saját  feminin teremtő erejük, testükből  és természetükből eredő kreativitás forrása , akkor ez az a különleges női teremtő erő a férfiak számára is elérhetetlen, ami kettős tragédia.

Beszélgetés az Istennő kultusz szerepéről a Tantra kialákulásaban. A vallástörténeti alapokat feltáró beszélgetés során betekintünk a tantrikus elemeket tatartalmazó Summér templomi költészetébe és a Bibliába. Gyöngyszemként elemezzük a  mantra - OM MANI PADME HUM eredeti jelenését
(A Dalai Láma szerint, ez a tibeti buddhizmus egyik legfontosabb mantrája. Buddha összes tanítását magába foglalja. De valojában honnan származik ez a mantra?)
Zsigmond André Imre,  BA(hons), MA, (University of London) Dip.OT, ITEC,  a londoni egyetem vallástörténeti szakán tanult, amikor felfigyelt a vallás, az egészség és a gyógyítás kapcsolatára a keleti kultúrákban, vallásokban.  Ez késztette arra, hogy különböző keleti és nyugati stílusú masszázsokat, aromaterápiát, reflexológiát, majd visszatérve az egyetemre pszichológiát tanuljon.  Kutatómunkájában a masszázs, emberi érintés és érintés-hiány pszichológiai hatását tanulmányozta és jelenlegi érdeklődési köre is érintés-masszázsterápia. Elsősorban olyan  problémákkal foglalkozik amelyek pszichés eredetűek – szorongás, depresszió, szenvedélybetegségek, anorexia, bulémia, test-kép zavarok és jó eredménnyel kezel olyanokat, akiknek pszichológiai vagy érzelmi trauma, (szexualis) erőszak következtében vannak nehézségeik pozitív önértékeléssel és test-tudatukkal.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Mythology, Menstruation and the Land of Milk and Honey

I first became aware of the personal, cultural and religious significance of menstruation during my post-graduate research of the origins of male circumcision. Among other theories, the term “menstruation envy” – men’s desire to equal and imitate menstruation, creating parallel menstrual rituals - were suggested in studies of different cultures all over the world. This revelation was the opening to me to search for, and discover the Goddess. (First published in "Goddess Pages")

The Temple of Hera at Olympia is thought to be by far the oldest and predates the temple of Zeus (470 BCE - completed circa 456 BCE). In fact the earliest Greek temple, according to Carl Kerényi, was that of Hera, and it was a prototype for the later, more "Olympian structures”.
Hera’s first Temple - the Heraion of Samos - was a sanctuary on the Southern region of Samos. Research has revealed many of construction phases, the first dating to the 8th century BCE. The religion of Hera included menstrual rituals to follow the cycles of the moon and every four years the Goddess Hera was celebrated at the games & feast of the Heraia, where only women ran races. Runners were selected from three age groups representing the phases of the moon. These special games, Carl Kerényi believes, originated what became the Olympic Games.
Pre-Olympian Myth: On the day of the new moon, women of the city walked together to the river Eleutherion (ελευθεριον - freedom) - the Water of Freedom. They bathed and then gathered branches from the lygos bushes, which they laid in a circle. With the blessing of Hera, the lygos encouraged the flow of their menstrual blood that would complete the cleansing. As evening approached, they called upon the Goddess in Her appearance as the Moon. Or as Carl Kerényi has called Her "the spellbinding moonlight of Greece", the "origin of all things". Gradually Hera drew forth the blood of purification and renewed fertility.
Working as a complementary therapist in London, I have seen a significant increase in the number of women seeking help for menstrual problems in the last few years. During the course of treatments, I have time and again observed an overwhelming need to talk in detail about the physical and emotional experience of menstruation, as if there was an unstoppable desire to make it a shared experience.
Having read Comparative Religion at post-graduate level, I often see these occasions as an opportunity to recall the history of the Goddess as Her origin relates inextricably to the rituals and mythology of menstruation. Clients find these sessions especially healing, but Her story has not only engendered amazement, but often rage – anger, that this rich heritage is not in the public domain and is missing from general culture and awareness.
During treatments, these conversations have repeatedly developed into integral part of some sessions, leading to requests to give talks on the history of the Goddess as it relates to menstruation. Consequently I have returned to the library of the University of London, my alma mater, to have another look at the literature and some of the archaeological, historical and etymological sources on this topic.
The Moon
Detail Image for art Menstrual NightThe phases of the Moon affect the ebb and flow of the tides on earth. The Moon also affects our mood as well. The gravitational pull of the Moon affects all bodies of water, including the human body system, primarily made of water. Most commonly, women tend to ovulate around the time of the full moon and begin menstruating just before or around the new moon. Many cultures throughout time have referred to a woman's menses as her "Moon time". From ancient times people recognized the connection of the Moon’s cyclic nature with the cyclic nature of women's menstrual cycles. Many creation myths follow the familiar theme that menstrual blood was the source, from which the World and humans were created. Greek, Roman, Norse, Celtic, Egyptian, Hindu and aboriginal Australian creation myths, all refer to the mysterious and sacred nature of the Moon's cycle and menstrual blood-flow as the very origin of life and Creation.
While Genesis, the most familiar creation story to the Western mind, in the Bible does not appear to echo this premise - God creating Earth simply from chaos and later forming the first man, Adam from earth, breathing soul into him. A closer examination of the original Hebrew text, however appears to reflect earlier creation myths that place a kind of primordial blood as the fundamental source of creation. Thus an examination of the Hebrew reveal that words for earth - adamah - and human/man – adam - can be traced to the actual root word: dam meaning blood. It is also important to note that unlike English, in the Hebrew language nouns are divided into feminine and masculine gender and interestingly both words (mother) earth (adamah) and soul(nefesh) are in the feminine gender.
Researching and analysing this theme from entirely diverse backgrounds, Chris Knight , Judy Grahn , as well as authors of  The Wise Wound’ and others, in their writings on different cultures and world mythologies, have shown that all religious ceremonies, rites originated from ancient menstrual rituals. Menstrual blood was considered by the earliest cultures to be one of the most sacred substances since it is the only kind of blood that's not linked to death and dying – but to the potential for new life.
In ancient times, the obvious and visible relationship between phases of the Moon and the female cycle clearly indicated women’s special relationship with nature generally and uniquely with the Moon. It has been suggested that the very first religious rituals developed, when in harmony with nature, as the New Moon menstrual synchrony was celebrated in small communities by women. In various cultures the Moon became the symbol of menstruation and femininity. This is again reflected in language: in Latin languages - luna and once more in Hebrew - levanah, one of the expressions for moon is feminine.
A woman's cyclical life opens her to a vast elemental force that is both deeply intimate and at the same time cosmic; euphoric, creative, erotic and healing. She can enter the depth of this sphere monthly at menstruation and the menstrual cycle is itself can be the guidance for fully understanding and realizing this power, writes Alexandra Pope in the “Wild Genie”.
For our ancestors this power reflected the rhythms of Mother Earth as the female body is also able to renew, nurture, give birth, nourish and feed new life. For early humans it seemed that it is by design that the menstrual blood, the only blood that is not the result of illness or violence, holds the blessing and wisdom of Goddess Earth and each and every woman carry within herself HER wisdom and blessing.
The negative patriarchal attitudes to the Goddess, menstruation and women generally during the last 5,000 years are well documented today. Yet it is significant that in ancient Greece the Goddess Athena remained the representative of “Wisdom”. Later with the emergence of Christianity the very name Sophia, meaning “wisdom”, perpetuated this link between female blood and wisdom.
In the English language the words “blood” and “blessing” has been traced back to a common root: bleodswean - “to sanctify with blood” - according to The Woman's Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets. Here, Barbara Walker suggests that the word has its origin in menstrual rituals.
The Kabbalah teaches us the Scriptures are full of alluded meanings. So it should not come as a surprise that the Hebrew word for blessing - berachah - is feminine. Moreover, in Hebrew, words that represent wisdom - hochmah, insight - binah, knowledgedaat, are all feminine.
Menstrual blood was not only seen as fundamental and central part of ritual, and perhaps magic. It was also widely viewed as a universal elixir of life. Ancient Taoist teachings imply that a person consuming it, could achieve longevity or even eternal life. Ayurvedic medical practices recorded the use of menstrual blood, and in the past it could be prescribed, both for internal and external use.
In Olympia the life of the Gods depended on ambrosia: the mixture of the Goddess Hera’s menstrual blood and honey ensuring their immortality. As well as the Moon, honey was also associated and used as a synonym for menstrual blood in many cultures. The word “honeymoon", according to The Woman's Encyclopaedia, refers to the lunar month following the wedding that would include a menstrual period, the real source of what was euphemistically called moon-honey. According to ancient beliefs, the groom had to be literally in contact with the source of life; the menstrual blood of the bride. There are similar expressions today in different languages. The Hungarian language has comparable traditions, calling this time mézeshetek - “honeyed weeks”.
Milk and honey
In popular thinking, the Jews of the Hebrew Bible shared a common belief system, ruled by a male God. The evidence from the Bible itself paints a different picture. Raphael Patai, the noted Biblical scholar and author of The Hebrew Goddess states: "... it would be strange if the Hebrew-Jewish religion, which flourished for centuries in a region of intensive goddess cults, had remained immune to them." Archaeologists have uncovered Hebrew settlements where the goddesses Asherah and Astarte-Anath were routinely worshipped. And in fact, for about 3,000 years, the Hebrews worshipped female deities.
The enduring presence of the feminine facet of God, the female deity, Sechina, in the Hebrew Bible also backs up Patai’s thesis. This is supported by evidence from wall paintings in the earliest known synagogue - built in the middle of the 3rd century CE at Dura Europos (in present day Syria). In the most sacred area of the building, the heroic women of the Old Testament are portrayed on the murals. Only one central figure is shown nude on the frescos. Raphael Patai, relying on early rabbinic literature, the Midrash, convincingly presents a case that the naked female figure is God’s female aspect - the Shechina.
The eternally present, but never actually revealed divine feminine, never ceases to permeate the language - lashon, soul - nefesh and landeretz, of the Hebrew Scriptures. Can it be just a coincidence that these words are all feminine?
It is universally known that in Judaism, contact with menstrual blood is not permitted and consuming any kind of blood is forbidden as blood is believed to contain the (feminine) nefesh - soul (Leviticus 17: 14). The Kabbalah points out however that, after giving birth, the mother’s body transforms menstrual blood, to life-giving milk to feed the baby.
The familiar biblical phrase in Deuteronomy (11:9) “A land flows with milk and honey - 'eretz zavat halav udvash’ - appears several times in the Bible, and serves as the description of the land of Israel. This phrase can be understood at many levels. The simple meaning is - a rich and fertile land. In Numbers (13:23), we read that the scouts return with pomegranates, figs and grapes as a confirmation that it is a land 'flowing with milk and honey'.
Here, repeatedly, the reader comes across an imagery of the feminine that was widespread in the ancient world. Pomegranates were a universal symbol of fertility because of their many seeds, and at the same time of menstruation because of the vivid blood red colour. In mythology, the pomegranate was a symbol of the Aegean Triple Goddess who evolved into Hera, who is often represented offering the pomegranate. The fig in early and oriental cultures was similarly a symbol of the feminine and fertility. In ancient Rome, where Hera has evolved to Juno, She was celebrated as Goddess of the wild fig tree. Ancient rabbinic literature also records discussions among the sages, suggesting that the “forbidden fruit” of the ‘tree of knowledge’ in the Garden of Eden was either the fig or the pomegranate that has given Adam and Eve sexual knowledge.
It is difficult not to notice the rich sexual and clearly menstrual imagery here. The fact that milk and honey are both considered feminine substances, literally or symbolically, strengthens this argument. Additionally the word 'zavat' , which is translated as ‘flowing’ or 'oozing' , usually appears in the Bible within the context of sexual and body fluids, including semen and menstrual blood.
There is further evidence to support this interpretation of the feminine. The sexual imagery of the Bible in King Solomon’s poetry uses similar expressions. In the Song of Songs (4:11), we read: 'milk and honey are under your tongue’. Later (5:1) the erotic imagery of the feminine or even menstrual, seems even more explicit: “I have come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh, with my spice; I have eaten my honey-comb with my honey; I have drank my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yes, drink abundantly, O beloved.”
Searching for an additional layer of meaning, when exploring the word “honey” again the Kabbalah puts forward an effortless but compelling argument, simply by using numerology - gematria, the study of the numerical value of Hebrew letters to reveal hidden meanings of words of the Bible. It draws attention to the fact that the value of the letters in the word dvash - honey and the word isha - woman is equal. The numerical value in both words is 306. 3+0+6=9. Once again the timeless, pre-Olympian Hera comes to mind, Goddess of fecundity, renewing her fertility in the river at the new moon, revealing Her sacred number - 9.
©André Zsigmond


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