Under the Mosaic law, as well as in probably every portion of the world, the woman in child-bed is considered unclean;1 and she is scarcely leas so during menstruation. Pliny tells us that the presence of a menstruous woman will turn wine sour, cause the trees to drop their fruit, parch up the young shoots, and make them forever barren; dim the splendor of mirrors, and the polish of ivory, turn the edge of sharpened iron, rust brass, and cause hydrophobia in dogs.J This is a sad arraignment of the fair sex, truly; and that at a time when every sentiment of chivalry and manhood, as well as religion, should sympathize with her, and prompt us to treat her with the greatest tenderness and respect.
In China a man does not speak to his wife within the first month after childbirth, and visitors will not even enter the house where she lives.* In the early Aryan traditions, a witch, and a woman during menstruation, were considered very intimately connected;* and in the literature of the medieval monks, to whom woman was only templum œdificatum super cloacam—a temple built over a privy—the most astonishing superstitions concerning such women are recorded. A garment stained with the menstrual blood of a virgin was believed in Bavaria to be a sure safeguard against cuts and stabs. A little of the blood would extinguish a fire, was most efficacious as a lave philter;" would cure leprosy; and a certain sect of theValentintans, attributing to it mystical virtues, actually partook of it regularly in their sacraments, as the blood of Christ.'
"A naked woman," says Pliny, "led around an orchard, will protect it from eater-pillars;" and even in Italy to this day, according to Dastanzi, the belief is acted on and the custom practised.
In the sugar refineries, in the North of France, no woman is permitted to enter while the sugar is boiling for fear one might be menstruous and the sugar be blackened thereby; and the women of Annam, themselves, say it is impossible to prepare their opium pipes properly while they have their courses.' The most portentous account of the prodigies attending this period is probably given by Pliny. "Hailstorms," he says, "whirlwinds and lightnings, will be scared away by a woman uncovering her body while her courses are upon her; and the same with all other kinds of tempestuous weather. At sea, a storm may be stilled by a woman uncovering herself, even though not menstruating at the time; and if she walk round a field, while menstruating, the caterpillars, worms, beetles and other vermin will fall from the ears of corn."'
1 Pliny, "Natural History," Books vir and XAVUI. Respectfully referred to our agricultural friends as a remedy for the boll-weevil and potato-bug. Indeed, the Department of Agriculture could do worse, I think, than send a copy of this book to every farmer in the United States. I have not the slightest doubt it would be received with far more pleasure, and read with, possibly, more profit, than many of those annually Bent out. As to the calmative influence of female nakedness on the sea, have we a hint in it of the origin of the nude woman so often used as a figure-head for ships?
But coming down to more recent times, in 1878 a physician wrote to the British Medical Journal asking if it were true that if a woman " boiled hams, while menstruating" (the woman of course, not the hams), "would the hams be spoiled," as he had known it twice to occur? Another inquired, in all seriousness, as to what would happen to her patients should a lady doctor, while menstruating, attend them; and still another replied, with that know-it-all air so often observable in our friends but never in ourselves, that he thought the fact was so "generally known," that meat would spoil if salted at the menstrual period, that he was " surprised to see so many letters in the Journal on the subject."
Indeed it was only as late as 1891s that Dr. William Goodell, of Philadelphia, was enabled to write concerning the prejudicial effects of menstruation on surgical procedure—"I have learned to unlearn the teaching that women must not be subjected to a surgical operation during the monthly flux."
But enough has been said to direct attention to the fact that, in all ages and countries, the phenomena attending this vital function of the female are such as to preclude the sexual relation during its continuance.'