This was the very first book I ever read about menstruation. The title completely blew me away. With true serendipity, I had picked up a life-changing book in a second-hand bookshop. As I hugged it all the way home, I could feel my womb pulsating with excitement.
‘The Wise Wound’ was co-written in 1978 by Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove and was completely daring and innovative. The fact that it is still in print 37 years later is a testament to its value and relevance today. The book is well researched and beautifully written, weaving threads of psychology, anthropology and poetry creatively together. It embraces everything that more contemporary works on menstruation cover – the science behind bleeding, the relationship between the moon & blood and ancient Goddess mythology. Cycle charting using cervical mucus and changes is also explored in the Afterward, with particular emphasis given to recording our nightly dreams. This lays the foundation for the sequel ‘The Alchemy of Women’.
My favourite chapter is ‘Witchcraft: Nine Million Menstrual Murders’. This investigates the witch-trials of the middle ages, where tens of thousands of women (and some men) were murdered for being healers, midwives, and followers of the old ways. The authors surmise that these ‘witches’ would have had knowledge of their cycles knowing when they might conceive, when they enjoyed sex more and when to go deep within, at the bleeding time, to access inner wisdom.
I feel that we owe some of the menstrual-positive changes we have experienced since the late 1970’s in part to the ripples of ‘The Wise Wound’. It is only right and honourable to raise a glass to our pioneering activist grandparents – Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove. Without them ‘Occupy Menstruation’ Facebook Page might never have existed. I also want to particularly appreciate Peter’s contribution to the book – what an inspiration of a man! He would certainly make the invitation list to my Dream Dinner Party, alongside Penelope.
You need to set a good chunk of time aside to read the book, as it is unashamedly erudite and intellectual. Not everyone will find it the easiest of reads but it is packed with treasures to savour and ponder over. In the words of Margaret Drabble “This is a book of many questions and some answers”. If you only ever read one book about menstruation, then this should be it. You will be chewing it over for at least the next 37 years.
Originally published on Occupy Menstruation Facebook Page