Title: The Curse of the White Queen
No. 3 in the: ‘...bloody women!’ Collection
Garment: Women’s Dress
Materials: Paper and thread
Symbolism/Inspiration: Even in the 21st century, in some parts of the world, quarantine is enforced on girls who have just started puberty ie. girls of twelve are locked in their rooms, not allowed to look at the face of a man, even their father, for the length of their period; sometimes they're not even allowed to look at the sun, for between seven to fourteen days. Historically women in many cultures have been isolated during their period particularly at mealtimes. Women have even been found abandoned in village cow sheds during this, the most painful part of their month. Due to pressure, through indoctrination or for other more complex socio-personal reasons, women have colluded with such practices. In some of the societies that most strictly adhere to traditional rituals, it is often the matriarch figures who act as the primary enforcers.
Whilst menstruation has in many cultures been regarded with some anxiety the word ritual actually comes from the ancient Sanskrit meaning menstruation. Mense is the ancient root of many words including menstruation, moon, mind and meaning. In the Daoist practice of internal alchemy women practitioners historically sought to transmute both menstrual blood and the Flow of their milk (the breast secretion, otherwise known as the secretion of the heart) the red and the white. The Philosopher’s Stone was spoken of as a transmuting agent, a menstruum; practitioners were believed capable of distilling it within their own bodies. Women were, therefore, at certain points in the alchemical process, believed to be at a physiological advantage.
Throughout human history blood has generally been viewed as endowed with symbolic value. Menstruation can be a time when a healthy woman is able to draw on such abilities and capacities as are not beholden to the outward focused values of ovulation and of childbearing; those that relate instead to the other side of her nature.