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Author Topic: Superstitions  (Read 3540 times)
qrypt
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« on: November 19, 2007, 5:19:11 pm »

Reading a book published in 1946, I just came across reference to a nutty superstition: "Young women ... refuse to handle meat when they are menstruating, and can cite examples of meat that spoiled because this rule was broken." 

WTF?  Do any particularly venerable forumites remember when this was the case, and why/how it was made obsolescent? 

I suppose we could have a discussion of persisting superstitions, but my real purpose is to inquire about the menstruation thing. 
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magistra
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2007, 5:23:57 pm »

I remember in the fifth grade being told that women used to believe that you shouldn't bathe while menstruating.   Double, triple yuck.  Apparently this was still a current enough myth that they felt the need to dispel it.  I'm not that old, either.
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arcanemoniker
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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2007, 5:30:19 pm »

I remember a girl my brother brought home--she wouldn't bathe when on her period because she thought she would get pregnant!!  I had not heard the one about the meat....
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bibliothecula
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like Bunnicula, only with books


« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2007, 6:01:17 pm »

I've heard some of these....one supposed way to secure a man's love was to put a few drops of your menstrual blood in his drink. Here's a list of others from snopes. http://www.snopes.com/pregnant/menses.asp
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venerablefemme
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« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2007, 6:08:14 pm »

These are all in the book called The Curse: a Cultural History of Menstruation.

Socrates believed all women menstruated at the same time (moon's influence), and Pliny thought menstruating women would make mirrors cloud over.

Leviticus says not to have sex during the period.

http://www.amazon.com/Curse-Cultural-History-Menstruation/dp/0252014529/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195509973&sr=1-1
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qrypt
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2007, 6:21:51 pm »

These are all in the book called The Curse: a Cultural History of Menstruation.

...

Leviticus says not to have sex during the period.

http://www.amazon.com/Curse-Cultural-History-Menstruation/dp/0252014529/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195509973&sr=1-1

Thanks.  That last one, yes, well this continues to be a matter of enormous interest among orthodox Jews.  There is a voluminous body of rabbinic literature that goes into great detail about the way in which a rabbi must inspect a woman's underwear, to see whether she is ready to be purified in the dunking pool in the basement of your local orthodox synagogue.  Because, you see, whatever Levicitus actually said about it, the man may not touch his wife at all (it isn't just sex that is prohibited), and the end of menstruation isn't the end of the uncleanness (one must wait an additional seven days), and one is required to let go of the salt shaker before she takes hold of it lest their hands should touch accidently, and on and on. 

Hmm.  I think I'm writing all this because at the moment I'm pissed off at my rabbi (not to suggest that I subscribe to this nonsense).  So perhaps that's enough for now...
« Last Edit: November 19, 2007, 6:22:39 pm by qrypt » Logged

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geonerd
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2007, 8:44:12 pm »

Reading a book published in 1946, I just came across reference to a nutty superstition: "Young women ... refuse to handle meat when they are menstruating, and can cite examples of meat that spoiled because this rule was broken." 

Shhhhhh!!! That's how we get out of cooking dinner for a week.
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crazybatlady
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« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2007, 8:54:29 pm »

These are all in the book called The Curse: a Cultural History of Menstruation.

...

Leviticus says not to have sex during the period.

http://www.amazon.com/Curse-Cultural-History-Menstruation/dp/0252014529/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195509973&sr=1-1

Thanks.  That last one, yes, well this continues to be a matter of enormous interest among orthodox Jews.  There is a voluminous body of rabbinic literature that goes into great detail about the way in which a rabbi must inspect a woman's underwear, to see whether she is ready to be purified in the dunking pool in the basement of your local orthodox synagogue.  Because, you see, whatever Levicitus actually said about it, the man may not touch his wife at all (it isn't just sex that is prohibited), and the end of menstruation isn't the end of the uncleanness (one must wait an additional seven days), and one is required to let go of the salt shaker before she takes hold of it lest their hands should touch accidently, and on and on. 

Hmm.  I think I'm writing all this because at the moment I'm pissed off at my rabbi (not to suggest that I subscribe to this nonsense).  So perhaps that's enough for now...

This is interesting: many women ovulate around day 14 of their cycles, so by waiting 5+7 days or thereabouts before having sex improves the chances of conception in childbearing-age women.

I find it fascinating when there are rules like these purity requirements that also actually improve the chances of reproduction. Nifty!

cbl
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polly_mer
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« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2007, 8:58:24 pm »

Like many of the Torah/ Old Testament rules for daily life, I suspect this was a trial and error thing that was codified specifically because it worked.

Many of the dietary restrictions greatly reduce food poisoning and eating contaminated food.
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sikora
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« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2007, 9:13:42 pm »

Among traditional Roma (Gypsies), a menstruating woman is highly polluting.  Men's and women's clothes must be washed separately, and if a woman (whether or not she is menstruating) steps over an object, that object becomes polluting to men.  A baby is ritually impure until it is three months old.  Some Roma men will not live on the lower floors of apartment buildings because a woman may walk on the floors above them.

I can see a lot of advantages for menstrual "seclusion."  I've heard that woman can modify their cycles by exposure to moonlight, and when you add in the "dormitory effect," a whole community of women could synchronize their cycles and go hang out together for a week every month. 
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cropguru
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« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2007, 9:19:46 pm »

And here I was looking forward to nostalgic accounts of Friday the 13th, salt over shoulders, breaking mirrors, and black cats. 

Ah yes, the semester is nearly over!
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amlithist
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« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2007, 1:55:15 am »

As to not handling meat, I was raised with a similar rule:  I grew up in a rural area where lots of us were either farm kids or had parents raised on farms.  (I was the latter.)  As a result, many of my friends' families and mine butchered our own meat (you had to wait for the day of the first hard freeze, and the extended family would get together and "work up" several cows and/or hogs; the men did the killing, bleeding and heavy work, but once the meat was cut up into more manageable pieces, the women took over to cut steaks, roasts, etc. and grind the hamburger and sausage--all outdoors in the freezing cold) and grew our own fruits and vegetables.  By my time (born in 1960), much of the meat and produce went into the deep freeze, but we also still did a lot of home canning, jelly making, making pickles and sauerkraut, and so on.

I started my periods very young (a week after I turned 10), and I distinctly remember my mom and my dad's sisters (who both had only sons) getting into something of a confab that first summer, because I always got the job of shelling peas, seeding cherries, working up grapes and strawberries, stemming gooseberries, and snapping green beans for canning.  Seems they all wanted to make very sure before every session that I wasn't on my period, the fear being (as I later learned) that if I handled anything to be canned while I was on my period--no matter how often I washed my hands--the whole batch would spoil, the lids wouldn't seal right, or some similar disaster.  Looking back, I do remember, too, that some years on butchering day there would be a woman or two absent because she was "sick"--which struck me as odd, because these women never let much short of death keep them from a day's work.  I remember thinking how "backwards" all my German-descended family was, but as time went on, I learned that most of my girlfriends' families had similar rules.  Mom was even careful that I didn't help make supper--always my job, once I'd hit sixth or seventh grade--on "those" days.  This didn't really end until I was off in college, as I think about it.  I was also banned from baking at those times, because the cake or rolls or bread wouldn't "raise" right and the pies wouldn't "set" the way they should.

I hadn't thought of this in years, OP!  Interesting!  BTW, your book was from 1946--my mom lost her mother at age 15, in 1945, and was the only girl with her dad and brother til she married in 1948.  I know she told me in later years that "a few days every month," her maiden aunt who lived up the road with the grandparents would cook meals and bring them over--a real hardship in the summer, as they had no electricity to run a refrigerator and didn't always splurge on the luxury of ice for the icebox (food was kept cold by suspending it in a deep well or by floating it in a watertight box in a shady, fast-flowing area of the creek).  At any rate, your information would be contemporary with what she'd have been taught by her mother and aunt.

Thanks for reminding me of some family lore I'd forgotten for years!
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amlithist
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« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2007, 2:02:48 am »

Oh, and about bathing:

We had an "only sponge baths" rule while on our periods; I can remember my first huge real fight with Mom over that one (she'd consulted her calendar while I was in the shower).  Also, I was pretty much forbidden from washing my hair then, too.  (This was the '70s, and I had the typical long, thick hair, so long I could sit on it, and this was before we had blowdryers.)  I was always catching hell for "running around with a wet head," on my period or not--for some reason, wet hair was a sure omen of developing pneumonia at any time of year, and on your period, you also seemed to run the risk of "Female Problems" on top of it!

Good times.....
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sikora
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« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2007, 12:02:52 pm »

I remember when having your period meant that you could get out of gym class.  Yeah, right.  A good workout helps cramps.  And then, the days before ibuprofen was an OTC med. 

In the Army, menstrual discomfort was never an excuse for anything, but many guys believed that women were weaker during their periods, and thus objects for contempt.  The menstrual cycle was one of the big arguments against women in combat.  How could you rely on a soldier who would have to run off to the woods to change a tampon or a pad? 


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scheherazade
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« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2007, 12:06:20 pm »

I've heard some of these....one supposed way to secure a man's love was to put a few drops of your menstrual blood in his drink. Here's a list of others from snopes. http://www.snopes.com/pregnant/menses.asp

OK, this is just disgusting.
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