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Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories

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A Balazaring Menstruation Myth?

The hearthmother sat at the fire in the dark grinding ochre as her knees no longer allowed her to squat.  She said "What do you want" to the naked boy creeping up to the fire.  He started like a rabbit and almost fled for this hearthmother had a fearsome reputation among the boys.  But gathering his courage he crept up into her view.  When she nodded irritably across the sacred fire from her he scurried over and squatted there. 

He sat there for a while shivering, staring into the flame while she ground ochre.  After a good long time she said, "Well what is it?  You look well fed enough to me and I'm not hungry."  He flinched. "Surely you're not ready for coupling?"  He blushed a ferocious red and almost died then and there. She snorted, "Not that you couldn't do better than me I'm sure if you were ready for coupling.  Not that I wasn't pursued by lots of men in my time.  Your great-grandfather seemed to like me well enough."  This would have killed him but she reached gently across the hearth and took his chin in her hand.  "You're a likely looking lad, what is it you want?"  He whispered something and she snapped, "Speak up, the years have snatched away my hearing." 

She stopped and spoke softer admiring the boy's courage. "What is it that you want?"  He cleared his throat and spoke loud enough to be heard, "Why do women bleed?" The hearthmother snorted, "Everyone bleeds if you cut them or break them." The boy looked terrified again and said quietly, "Why do women bleed," he paused and took a deep breath, "from their women parts?"  It was the hearthmother's turn to be shocked. "And what business is that of your's manchild? That is sacred women's business, none of your's." 

She looked very angry and the boy looked ready to flee again but then she smiled. "I am an old woman and perhaps I can tell you a story".  He looked very excited at this as the hearthmother was known to be the best story teller and made himself comfortable. 

"You know that once upon a time men and women were joined together face to face.  Well Trickster Squirrel separated us with a tool he had borrowed from the Stone Man and we've been apart ever since except when we couple."  The boy turned bright red again and the hearthmother hid a smile.   "Well Trickster Squirrel had to sew up the wounds he caused and thus created a woman's and a man's parts." 

She snorted, "Messy job, puckered holes and dangly bits.  Just like a male to botch the job.  If Hearthmother had done it the sewing would have been done properly."  She looked dreamily for a moment, "Of course men and women wouldn't have quite as much fun as they do then so maybe that's not so bad."  The boy grimaced and squirmed as though remaining where he squatted was agony.  The hearthmother shook her head, "Anyway, men and women spend quite a bit of time trying to get back together again and quite enjoy it.  Now men, they try and do it and then they're satisfied.  Not so women.  We miss the togetherness so much that twice a season our private parts, which is where we were most deeply joined weep tears of blood to show how sad they are."  She lowered her head and her body shook.  

The boy squatted there horrified and whispered, "Is that true?"  The hearthmother raised her head her body still quivering and stared at him, "What do you think?"  He let his terror take him away into the night and her echoing laughter followed him into the dark.

January 21, 2003 

Last updated October 07, 2016

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