Claire Walter of Boulder, Colorado
is an award-winning writer and the travel editor of Skiing magazine.
Her own menstruation celebration consisted of being allowed a day
off from junior high. The following are Claire's thoughts on a Menstrual
Ceremony she recently attended in Bali.
Would you like
to see a menstruation ceremony? The invitation was
disconcerting. Intriguing, but disconcerting to one who grew up
when such functions were rarely mentioned, let alone celebrated.
Publicly celebrated. I'd heard that visitors are often invited to
Balinese funerals, Balinese weddings, Balinese feasts. But something
as personal as this?
on their heads...
there we sat, the other menstruation guests and I, on folding
chairs in the home of the girl whose new maturity we were
honoring. My place was among a covered portico between the
heavy gate and the courtyard where the ceremony would take
The gamelan' played
without respite, and sarong-clad women bearing elaborate towers
of fruit and flowers on their heads filed past on the way
to the main altar around the corner in the courtyard's largest
section. Men brought in tubs of meat and poultry, as well
as a chicken for a ritual slaughter.
wore a golden sarong...
Then the guest of honor,
clad in a golden sarong, was carried into the enclosure on the
shoulders of two young men. She was accompanied by two pubescent
boys, cousins I was told, who shared her day because they too
were coming of age. The girl was a graceful beauty, who looked
discretely proud. She wore a gold headdress of traditional design,
but was lipsticked into modern womanhood -- rather symbolic,
I thought, of ancient Balinese traditions in conjunction with
the late 20th century.
The boys seemed bored...
boys, also riding on men's shoulders, seemed bored. One was
toothpick-thin and appeared to verge on restlessness. The
other, pudgy and sullen, kept looking toward the kitchen,
from which drifted aromas of the banquet that would follow.
The procession wound
to the altar where the ceremony took place. Older men and
women, seated separately, had the best places -- close, just
before the altar. I could see them, but not the ceremony itself,
and for a while I watched the old folks watching what was
actually going on.
Balinese do it better...
I found myself drifting off into a dreamy state, furthered
by the heat of an early Balinese afternoon and the sensory
overload of the colors and sounds and smells. Through
my haziness, an insight emerged, nothing cosmic, just one
of those realizations of the obvious that nonetheless satisfies.
A joyous celebration of a girl's very clear transition in
life, shared by her male peers, no matter how reluctant or
bored, seemed preferable to furtiveness, snickering, and the
other traditional Western responses to coming of age--or many
other of life's transitions. The Balinese do it better!
Women's Words About
is one of the ways in which females put their lives in perspective,
whether it be Purim, Advent, or drawing down the moon. Ritual
calls together the shades and specters in people's lives,
sorts them out, puts them to rest.
(Clarissa Pinkola Estes)
Women's Words to Ponder
never have young minds. They are born three thousand
(Shelagh Delaney, 1958)
is not born, but rather becomes a woman.
(Simone de Beauvoir, 1949)
Religion - The Yin
and Yang of It...
you know that despite celebratory menstrual rituals in Bali,
menstruation can, in some spheres of everyday life, be viewed
differently? For example, you will often find notices outside
Balinese Hindu temples requesting menstruating women not
(Source: Handbook for Women Travellers -- Maggie & Gemma