Holy Bloody Bitches

medieval-nunYou are a woman of God.

In fact, you are His wife.

Other women may choose to endure bloody bitchdom, but not you.

You have decided upon a cleaner life, a life in which you are no longer ostracized monthly, a life in which blood no longer stains your person, your reputation, your very existence.

You have chosen to become a nun.

You have made this momentous decision for many reasons, not the least of which being the escape it offers from your monthly plague…

Many medieval women became nuns for relief from the emotional burden of menses. The belief system of menstruation at the time was that it was not a natural bodily process, but instead something “much more sinister.”

The mere presence of bloody bitches caused the fruit of trees to fall off and rot on the way to the ground, and caused hives of bees to die. When a bloody bitch was near, horrible smells filled the air. Dogs who licked the trail of menstrual blood she left in her wake, were driven mad and their bites were “infected with incurable poison.

Frances and Joseph Gies’, in their book “Women in the Middle Ages,” explain that “as a result of this type of paranoia towards menstrual fluid, women were considered more suspicious and powerful since men failed to have this type of power.

On the flip side, medievalist Dyan Elliott wrote of the medieval view of a man’s nocturnal emissions, that “…the body was out of control [but it was] considered normal since men did it.” However, “excessive unruliness of the body is perceived as feminine.

Ah, the dichotomous genius of misogynistic medieval medicine.

medieval-bloodElliot elaborates that only women had emissions that were considered unnatural. The female body “seeps, and is uncontrolled.” Furthermore, “too rigorous a focus on the unruly masculine body has the effect of dissolving it into a feminine one.”

Holy buckets of blood, Batman!

And speaking of holy…

Medieval holy women were exempt from bleeding.

They were believed not to experience menstruation because of their holy status in God’s eyes. Only regular, sinner-women were cursed by God to suffer for Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Paradise.

Why be a bloody bitch when a more exalted position in society awaits?

Actually, the truth about blood-free medieval nuns is a bit more reality-based.

Holy women practiced fasting on a regular basis. Even when not fasting, their diets were excessively abstemious. There was the belief that the less they ate, the closer to God they became.

chilli-cheese-fries That practice alone rules me out as a holy woman.

Unless chili-cheese fries and chicken-fried waffles with a mud-sucking thick Oreo-cookie milkshake counts as an abstemious meal.

The spartan diets of medieval holy women affected their physical anatomy. Lack of consistent and adequate nourishment halted their menses – the body’s physiological response to an inability to sustain a healthy pregnancy.

When a holy woman gave up the nunnery, her diet and her body returned to normal – which included the return of a normal menstrual flow. This was viewed by medievals as proof of the cleanliness of holy women, and the poisonous punishment visited by God upon the rest of womankind.

But what did it say about menopausal women?

Menopause may factor more in her repugnance than would an uncontrollable flow of menses. According to one of the ‘secrets’ of the De Secretis Mulierum: “The noxious powers of old women poisoned by their own accumulated menstrual fluid which, finding no outlet in the menopausal body, festers and generates venomous vapors that seep invisibly from their eyes to infect men and infants with various diseases.

Misogynistic views about old women dictate that when women’s lives are reduced to having sex and giving birth, a menopausal woman is worthless.

An ancient Roman erotic poet by the name of Publius Ovidius Naso,  wrote: “behind the much celebrated flesh of the young woman lurks the crone: joy and misery, bliss and disgust, death hovering over the best of life.”

A menopausal crone lurking beneath a succulent virgin.

optical-illusion-old-crone-young-woman

Riiiiight.

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Would you have become a nun to escape bloody bitch-dom?

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Read Sylver’s Medieval Monday Bloody Bitches series!

medieval-man-pulling-away-from-bloody-medieval-woman

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Medieval Monday

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3 thoughts on “Holy Bloody Bitches

  1. Pingback: Amish: Dress Design by Ordnung | Sylver Blaque

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