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Mythology and History

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Related Mythology

Vagina Dentata / Cunt / Moon Blood

'Vagina Dentata' is a widespread, archetypal fear to be found in mythology, symbolism and faiths worldwide. It is evocative of a subconscious belief that a woman may devour or consume her partner during sex, believed to be aroused by the mouth-symbolism of the vagina. Sigmund Freud, who coined the term, said, "Probably no male human being is spared the terrifying shock of threatened castration at the sight of the female genitals."
Visions of a gaping, hungry vagina lined with rows of sharp teeth have been predominant throughout especially patriarchal societies, representing the fear the destructive man has of being conquered by what he seeks to oppress. 
"Metaphorically, every vagina has secret teeth, for the male exits as less than when he entered." said Camille Paglia in "Sexual Personae". Risen with the belief they are superior to women, the weakness and impotence felt after the moment of ejaculation awakens unconscious fears of having been devoured. It is a belief in many cultures that the man expels his energy in ejaculation, while the woman draws it into herself, and adds it to her own energy. 
In ancient civilisations, women do not only give life, they take it also. Dark Goddesses are the manifestation of the warm, nurturing womb, and the devouring gateway to the afterlife.  The Norse Goddess Hel ruled over Helheim, whose gateway was a vagina, or 'yoni' and the Christians, who adopted Hel's name into 'Hell' for their afterworld, often depicted the gateway to Hell as lined with teeth,and looking very much like female genitalia. The Indus symbol for women was a comb, which was symbolic of the vagina dentata. The vagina having the same capacity to consume as the ocean - also a feminine symbol - and whose waves were said to be teeth.
Vagina Dentatism and its prevalence in religions (readers advised to visit the below link to what Barbara Walker says about it, for a more complete overview of these) would seem to be mankind's fear of being conquered, of being weakened and taken back to what he was as a mere foetus, germinating within the womb.
This fear continues today, now taking the form within art and pop culture. Picasso, among others, had depictions of the vagina dentata is his artworks, movies such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Candyman and even one episode of Batman, where Poison Ivy's giant venus fly trap engulfs her victims, contain vagina dentata imagery and it is a popular area of study for feminists, theologists, mythologists and historians.
The Vagina Dentata is an image or an attiude being reclaimed by women in the world today, that of the aggressive, powerful female who is a danger to any man who seeks to conquer or oppress. Women are reclaiming their metaphorical vagina teeth and are prepared to bite back! - An interesting article on the subject - Entry from Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets - lots of good info here.

Go to and do a search for "vagina dentata" - you'll be amazed at what comes up!

Considered to be the most vile, obscence and vulgar 'swear word' in the English language, the word 'Cunt' in the vernacular means vagina. As if that is not indication enough why it is considered so vile a term in the vagina-hating Patriarchy, the word itself was originally a term of respect and reverence for a powerful, spiritually enlightened woman.
'Cunt' derives from 'Kunda' or 'Cunti, the Oriental Great Goddess. She was the Great Yoni (vagina) of the Universe, where all life came from and to where all life returned for renewal. From this same name the words country, kin and kind came from.
It is not a slang word, but a true, ancient language word. Other derivates are 'cunabula' - a cradle (and like the mother's womb, protects and sooths the child), the Roman Goddess 'Cunina' who protected cradled children, 'cunctipotent' - cunt magik (all-powerful), cunning, kenning and ken.
In the old days, bloodlines were traced through the female side of the family, as that was the most reliable way of discerning parentage, and the word 'kin' meant not only matrilineal blood relation, but a cleft or crevice, like a genital opening. In China children were considered to be born of their mothers only and having no relation to the father, the name also applied to them.
Western transcribers of ancient texts were shocked to find that the term 'cunt' was synonymous with 'women', but what they did not realise was that the term was not being used as an insult, rather an acknowledgement of the divine power and life-giving ability they bore.  Scholars from the Medievals Ages onwards were embarrassed by sacred places, and female genitalia shrines identified with the word 'cunt', failing to understand it's original meaning, and labelled these sacred places as the devilish cunts - 'cunnus diaboli'.  This attitude is highly suggestive it was Western society and it's revulsion of all things female which turned the word into something obscene and nasty.
Modern feminists are in the process of reclaiming the word and using it with the spirit and soul of it's original meaning. Slogans declaring 'I love my Cunt' are not unusual, and with the publication of Inga Muscio's book 'Cunt', the divine nature and power inherent in the word is beginning to overtake its negative connotations.

Of all things revered and reviled of womyn throughout history, menstruation is the most. 
It has always been regarded with a mixture of fear and awe, horror and reverence.
It has been dubbed 'moon blood' because menstruation works on a 28 day cycle, according to the phases of the Moon. 
It was noted by the earliest peoples that the blood was cyclical in nature, and that when a woman was pregnant, it ceased. So the link between the blood and the singularly female ability to create life was recognised, and the blood was regarded as some of the most powerful magik known. Early thoughts were that the blood "congealed" to form a human being. Words for menstruation throughout time and cultures have also meant the same as both pure and impure, supernatural, sacred, and incomprehensible.
Many early creation myths featured the almighty Goddess infusing figures she created with her blood of life, or giving birth to the cosmos from the congealed blood in her womb.
To recount the way menstrual blood has featured throughout mythology and religion world wide would take up more space than we can spare. For a condensed history, check out Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. To examine such references for yourselves, remember the powerful use of metaphor employed in religious tales and myths. Like as not, references to sacred red wine, red earth, blood of life, life juices and similar euphemisms are about menstrual blood and its power.
But menstrual blood has not always been revered as the source of life. Traditional human thinking equates blood with injury, and continuous blood loss with death. The ability to bleed without pain or loss of life, and to do so regularly, was intimidating to men, for whom the experience was utterly alien. What resulted hereafter, prominently in patriarchal societies, was an abhorrence of menstruation and a teaching of it as unclean. It was dubbed the 'curse', as in the curse of Eve. The change in perception was dramatic: where once the blood was sacred, it was now a threat to nature itself. Women were (and are, in some places) actually forbidden from entering houses of worship during their menstruation. Throughout time, cultures where women have been considered property or second class citizens, a series of taboos concerning menstruation have been imposed, to the state where ritual purification is required should one come in contact with a menstruating woman.
Even today in the West, a general fear and revolt of menstruation prevails. The idea of the female genitalia as dirty, combined with the general horror of blood does not aid the situation. Gradually, however, there has been a slight shift of attitude. The topic is not as awkward to breach, and improved education and understanding have helped better women's attitudes toward their own natural bodily functions. But there is still a long way to go, both in the West and worldwide, to the day when menstruation can be respected and appreciated for the gift that it is, and not at all feared or viewed with disgust.


'The Women's Encylopedia of Myths and Secrets'
Barbara Walker

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