A guide to menstrual magick and using period blood in your practice by sorceress and spellcaster Isabella Greenwood
Unless periods are carefully monitored and synchronised, the universe might descend into chaos. At least that’s what men used to be worried about, according to anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss’ study of Indigenous myths of North and South America. Throughout history, menstrual blood has been the subject of mythical taboos, and today it is still heavily stigmatised and excluded from everyday discussion. Menstrual blood is seen as threatening in its transgression of bodily boundaries between inside and outside, private and public. This, combined with its inherent power, has endowed it with mystical properties that have been revered and practiced ritualistically for centuries.
In ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder argued that menstrual blood contained powers with no limit. Natural catastrophes such as hailstorms, whirlwinds and lightning were said to be driven away by a menstruating woman. Menstrual blood was also said to sour crops, wither fruits and vegetables, kill bees, drive dogs insane, dull the brightness of mirrors, blunt razors, turn linens black, and rust iron and bronze. Fellow ancient Roman writer Columella tells us that a menstruating woman could kill a young plant by merely looking at it. Meanwhile, in North America, the Cherokee people traditionally believed that menstrual blood gave women special powers that let them destroy their enemies.
People who menstruate have always been regarded as powerful, and it is precisely this power that has often been weaponised against them. “In cultures where women were seen as good, menstruation was seen as something special,” notes Alexandra Pope, founder of Red School and co-author of Wild Power. “In cultures where women were a threat, menstruation was demonised.”
Despite a history of weaponising monthly bleeds, menstrual blood has also been revered as sacred given its synchronisation with lunar cycles. The etymology of the word menstruation is derived from the Latin menstruare, meaning monthly, stemming from the Greek mene, meaning moon. Menstruators historically ovulated during the full moon, which represents fullness and life, and bleeding during the new moon, which represents shedding ahead of new cycles. In Mayan mythology, menstruation’s origin story comes from the moon goddess, whose monthly flow was given to her as a punishment for sleeping with the sun god. Her blood was stored in 13 jars, where it transformed into snakes and poison, and was used in potions. Menstrual magick is deeply tied to the magick of the earth.
“Our periods are so inextricably linked with the cycles of the moon, the tides, the ancient calendars,” agrees practicing Green witch and author of A Witch’s Path Back to the Ancient Self, Jennifer Lane, who says our bleeding is a huge part of the earth’s story. Lane pours her menstrual blood clockwise onto the soil as an act of giving back to the earth, as well as anointing her chest and third eye with her bleed. “This helps me feel earthy and connected with my sexuality, as well as feeling connected to those who have bled before me.” A practice of acknowledging your bleed not only reconnects you with your body, but also the earth and the larger cosmos as well, which is, in itself, an act of rebellion against the weaponisation of menstrual blood.
Lisa Lister, the author of Witch and Code Red: Unlock Your Flow was diagnosed with PCOS in her early 20s leading her to embark on a journey of reconnecting with the health and sacristy of her menstrual cycle. Lister says that fusing our bleeds with ritual is central to reconnecting with menstrual blood’s inherent power. Each bleed, Lister makes an offering to her menstrual altar, paints her nails red, wears a garnet ring and feeds her plants with her blood. “There was a time when people thought I was ‘gross’ for talking about my period on Instagram and for pouring my blood on my plants – but it’s nutrient-rich, it makes total sense.”
If you have a monthly bleed, consider tracking your own cycle and embarking on a ritualistic relationship with your blood. It could be as simple as offering some of your menstrual blood to your altar, or back to the earth. In my own personal practice, I scry with my menstrual blood, using the divinatory messages to guide me through my next cycle. This can be done by adding your blood to a chalice and looking through it in a darkened room. I also keep my menstrual blood on my altar, and use it in personal spells and rituals, as well to empower magickal tools like my athame and sigils. Menstrual blood can be used to amplify almost any spell or magickal object, as well as being historically used in love spells.
Others have found power in using their menstrual blood for painting, or facials, noting the magical and nutritive potencies. The artist Gabrielle Sonney has painted for several years with her menstrual blood: “I used to experience painful periods and turning that pain into paint was the turning point for me. Not only did my pain go away, but I also realised that the blood is part of a much greater process.” Like Lane, Sonney describes this greater process as being tied to the universe, and her own ancestral lineage. “At the root of all of our lineages is the menstrual cycle. When we bleed we bleed the same blood as our ancestors.”
A practice of awareness and kindness is in some ways the most powerful magick. Pope says menstruation is a powerful altered state of consciousness that must be accessed with a ritual of rest. “Dare to push the world back, rest and reclaim your territory, as menstruation is in essence about recalibration.” The author of the bestselling book Period Power, Maisie Hill, also advocates for rest during menstruation, or, as she calls it, inner winter. “Inner winter marks a time to focus on your purpose, and decide what changes are necessary in your upcoming cycle that reflect that.” Though this is not always accessible, we are seeing a move towards radical rest that opposes the otherwise fast-paced capitalistic cycle of constant production and consumption, which was designed for cis-men’s cycles and not for those of us who are cyclical. As Pope comments, “We can only access the portal of menstrual magick and unyielding sacred energy when our bodies stop.”
The practice of destigmatising menstrual blood, and radically advocating for rest and ritual, is inherently tied to its mythological roots. For what is witchcraft if not a practice of deconstructing that which has been erased by society as a means of acruing power, as well as that which has been reinforced to control it? Menstrual blood magick and menstrual awareness are in this sense revolutionary – to enter into a mindful relationship with your menstrual blood is to reaffirm your own natural bodily processes and inner dynamism, reject shame and reconnect to a long history of menstrual rite.