“Ritual Puja for Menstruation”
Created and performed by Annalisa Derr
Animation by Kalista Skydancer
This ritual performance piece is the second “offering” in a series exploring menstruation, the Divine Feminine, and Mary Magdalene.
“Puja” is a Sanskrit word meaning worship. Generally speaking, puja is a devotional worship act that is unique to various Hindu traditions. Giving/receiving puja is a sincere devotional act, generally administered in temple ceremonies by Brahmins, but it is also performed at home by a member of the household. Furthermore, the honoree of puja is reserved for a god/goddess or a very important person.
In this performance piece, I have decided to use the act of puja to honor both the menstrual body as well as menstruation as a microcosmic manifestation of cosmic death and regeneration.
This is a particularly challenging topic because in most cultures that are steeped in patriarchal institutions and androcentric mindsets, menstruation and therefore women, are considered dirty, impure, unclean, a “hindrance” to business, etc. For many women in the world, Her time of the month ushers in a time of menstrual seclusion--sometimes voluntary and other times involuntary--because the act of menstruation is seen as taboo and polluting. In the West, menstruation is arguably still considered shameful and is, in fact, treated much more like a disease rather than a natural bodily process.
In north India, Kamakya is a tantric goddess associated with fertility, and can been seen to affrim the connection between the female body and the cosmic body: "All the various knowledges, O Goddess, are portions of you, as is each and every woman in the various worlds".* She is often seen with Her vulva exposed, and Her menstrual blood is believed to fertilize that land. Julia Jean explians that for Kamakhya's devotees, "the regeneration of both the Earth and the devotees...is understood to derive from the shake (power/energy) in the menstrual blood of the Goddess".** In more formalized rituals, Brahmin priests preside over Her temple, and in an ironic twist, control who can and cannot see the the “menstrual blood” of the goddess.
Therefore in this performance fragment, I performed puja to Kamakya to celebrate my menstrual body, as well as to honor all women, the female body, and menstruation as beautiful, natural, and life-affirming!
Red—passion, fertility, menstrual blood
Roses—associated with goddesses and the vulva. Rose petals are often used in puja ceremonies to honor the deity.
Rose-petaled yantra—a visual representation of the mantra chanted for the goddess.
* Quoted from the Devi Mahatmya in Dobia, Brenda. "Approaching the Hindu Goddess of Desire." Feminist Theory, 2007.
** Dobia, Brenda. "Approaching the Hindu Goddess of Desire." Feminist Theory, 2007.
More Ritual Art to come!