The “Curse!”

Lola is our guide on this provocative article on Sin, Salvation, and the Menstrual Cycle in the Middle Ages.  Just a few thoughts:  Yikes!  “What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable (sic) punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colors….”   The charge of being more carnal than men of course stems from that day in the garden of Eden.  But what do you make of Gregory’s conceit that sin is committed in three ways?  Again, this leads us back to the identification of women with nature (flesh) and men with mind and spirit (culture).  How does the definition of menstruation intersect with Marian piety?  Why does the stain threaten Mary’s Bodily Assumption into heaven?  How do medieval theologians get around the fact that Mary lactates, and does so copiously at that?  How do medieval exegetical writers get around the fact that Mary is in a sense the last in a line of female fertility goddesses? What is the Dominican position on Mary’s physiology?  How does Albertus Magnus reconcile Aristotle’s conclusions about the lifespan of men and women with the contradictory data culled from the 13th century? How does the Virgin unwittingly become a source of misogyny?  Does the Virgin ultimately save the female day?  Confession:  If I couldn’t be a medieval art historian or a bard in ancient Greece, I would love to be and Early Christian Church Father, shaping exegetical thought for the theologians of the future ….Onward!

Remember to post your thoughts!!!


3 responses

  1. Here are some more questions to ponder!

    What do you think of the medieval “bent rib” argument?

    Form and Matter. The Aristotelian argument-Menses are “formless matter” but sperm have form. Discuss.

    Women were associated were carnality, but orgasms helped to release the menstruum (egg that developed during a woman’s pregnancy). Does anyone else see a conflict of interests here, or not?

    Beware: Heresy ahead. If mary is more than human and without Eve’s curse, is she not immortal like eve pre- temptation? It’s almost as if Mary wasn’t cursed by the effects of eating from the tree of knowledge. In that case is she equivalent to God?

    What significance do you see in Mary’s milk?

  2. I really enjoyed this reading! Although I knew that Catholicism teaches the enduring virginity of Mary, I never understood the reasoning behind this thought. I find the “bent rib” argument fascinating. I have always been taught that Eve was made from Adam’s rib so that they would be seen as equal (“She was not taken from his head to rule over him, nor was she taken from his feet to be trodden upon. She was taken from his side. She would be man’s companion, walking side-by-side with him as a co-equal” ( Because of this I never considered seeing women as the “deformed” version of man. Although interesting, I honestly think the rib argument is grabbing at straws, seeking to show women as somehow lesser.

    Looking at your last question, I would say, according to Christian theology, no. Although an interesting point, because Adam and Eve were never considered to be equal to God “pre-fall”, nor is immortality equated, necessarily, with Godhood (Angels are immortal, but not God), the New Testament equivalent, Mary, would still be simply human, although, admittedly, a better human than most. Adam and Eve, though sinless, were unlike God in that they did not understand good or evil and could not tell the difference. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is such a double edged sword! They became more like God in one way (they now understand good and evil) however, they lost the other component of God, which is perfection/sinlessness.

    I always felt bad for Eve and didn’t/don’t really blame her. I am much more resentful towards snakes. I think that if the church would have just blamed snakes and seen Eve as a victim that we would live in a much happier and more snake-free world. sigh…

  3. The article started by saying that the primary source material about the topic is rare (711). So how reliable is this article?

    I was fascinated by the bit about orgasm releasing the egg. (716) I’m excited to discuss this in class. Was it simply a “female body is based on male body” train of thought, or was it more complex? Medicine has a long history of using the male body to define the human body.

    I never really thought about Mary’s menstrual cycle before. Nor did I associate being exiled from the Garden of Eden with menstruation. I’m not sure what to say about these ideas yet, but I’m excited to discuss them in class.

    Also, Albertus Magnus is a great name.

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