The Mysterious Mechanisms of TABOO


Before I begin my new adventure as Managing Editor of this glorious magazine, there is something important to be said. Every creative venture needs a sure hand on the wheel as it navigates through Museland and beyond. For the last three years this has been our own Isabella Vickers with her grounded wisdom, gentle laughter, and outrageous writings. Oh, and her paintings! This magazine would not be what it is without you Isabella – a HUGE THANK YOU for all you have brought into being!


Mohawk Warrior Woman, closeupThis being my first article for Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine, I thought about beginning with a light, airy, funny article. For about 15 seconds. Then my Muse, she of the pink mohawk and black leather studded cowgirl boots twitched like someone had just rubbed her fur the wrong way. Her eagle eye gaze narrowed as she looked over at me as if to say,

Don’t Even Think It.

I’ve learned not to argue with my Muse when she wears those boots. She knows how to use them. So instead of light and airy, we are diving deep into the juicy wisdom, the hard-won knowledge, the grand mistakes, and the fiery ecstasy of who I am – into my lived experiences of life.

Then I’m taking it one step further and tearing off the covering to look inside down into the mysterious mechanism of what RUNS me. Why? Because my Muse says diving deep into mechanism is required work in the study of life. We need to understand these stories we barely notice which influence how we behave every single day of our life. These stories emerge from the same things that influence and form our culture:


The only chance we have of shifting culture into new patterns is to understand the patterns we weave around ourselves right now, right here. This is part of what I call Pattern Walking, a topic for a future article. For my first dive into the mysterious mechanisms of my hidden stories, I begin with where TABOOS come from.

Can you hear my Muse smiling? Yes, I do mean hear.
She has this way of smirking out loud when I am finally moving in the direction she wants. Sheesh.

I first encountered the word TABOO in depth when I was studying with Judy Grahn, poet, author, feminist, and activist, during my masters degree in Women’s Spirituality. She was teaching a class on Metaformic Consciousness, an alternative origin theory tied into the origins of menstruation rituals. In her book on this topic, Blood, Bread, and Roses, she writes:

“One word recurs again and again in stories of menstrual ritual: taboo. The word comes from Polynesian tapua, meaning both ‘sacred’ and ‘menstruation,’ in the sense, as some transitions say, of ‘the woman’s friend.’ Besides sacred, taboo also means forbidden, valuable, wonderful, magic, terrible, frightening, and immutable law. Taboo is emphatic use of imperatives, yes or no, you must or you must not. Taboo draws attention, strong attention, and is in and of itself a language for ideas and customs.”

The class opened up vistas I had never dared to peek into and plowed right on into them without any hesitation whatsoever. We started with menstruation – and, as my Muse likes to point out, how many of you out there feel entirely comfortable talking about that at the dinner table?

Yet, menstruation, in the most advanced radical theories of evolution, posit measurement, spoons, straws, shoes, hats, and many other social items we have would not exist in our culture if it had not been for the taboos that came into being to manage menstruation.

Say what? Our monthly cycle is just a dirty, biological thing women have to put up with, right?


This is where my Muse tells me the hidden, juicy gems of understanding can be found. Menstrual taboos formed because the ability to bleed once a month along with the ability to grow a child in our wombs put women on the same level as the Divine – with the same power to CREATE and DESTROY. Think about that for a second. We are talking earth-destroying power like a goddess or god has – and people all over the world believe women have that power in their bodies. Pretty cool, huh?

So how did humans end up thinking women had all this power?

Imagine a world, 100,000 years ago, covered in forest. The sun and moon are only ever seen when creatures come into clearings like those around a lake or pond. When the moon is full, they see the reflection and can look up and observe the moon. Women’s bodies are entrained with the moon. When the moon is full, they ovulate. When the moon is dark, they bleed.

As my Muse reminds me, this still happens today when artificial light  is removed from a woman’s life. Try sleeping in a completely darkened room every night but the nights of the full moon for a few months and see what begins to happen.

lunar-tally-sticksOver time, this entrainment with the lunar cycle influenced the formation of human consciousness. It literally brought us out of our animal self and into what we call human consciousness. One of the most intriguing pieces of evidence of this are what are called lunar tally sticks. Pieces of bone upon which humans marked the observational cycles of the moon as a way to keep track of time.

My Muse loves to point out that what prompted humans to pay attention to the lunar cycle was menstruation. Making lunar tally sticks could even have been our first act of creation outside of those needed to survive. We will likely never know, but I like to think so.

The correlation between when a woman bleeds and when the moon is dark, and when her bleeding stops and the new moon appears gave rise to the concept that women’s cycles were closely tied to bringing the moon back to life. To the creation of life. To the cycle of life, death, chaos, and rebirth.

Imagine a young woman at menarche, her first cycle. She is stepping into this power for the first time. Her people believe if her foot touches the soil, her incredible power will destroy it unless she  follows the taboos setup by the older women – like wearing bark on her feet or staying secluded in a hut when bleeding. She is taught how to understand and work with her power through the taboos of her people. The taboos keep the girl and her people safe and channel her power into behaviors, actions, and ways of being supportive of her and her people.

Breaking a taboo is horrifying and can result in the destruction of the village, people, earth, and fertility. The echoes of the terrifying consequences of breaking a taboo are still with us. Another reason to poke into these hidden stories.

Her people also believe she has incredible powers of healing and will sneak up to her hut to ask for a healing in the dead of night. The documented reports of those healings are downright amazing. Some of her first blood is saved for the miraculous healing properties it has. It is used to help birth babies and fertilize fields. She is honored with feasts by her family and friends. She is welcomed into the circle of women.

Dirty? Just a biological response to puberty? Think again. Menstruation is where the taboos and the hidden stories that run us began. And now, my Muse has a question for you:

What is your hidden story around menstruation?


Taboos and Hidden Stories are our theme this year in Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine. I invite you to come back every Tuesday to explore with us the taboos and hidden stories running our lives – and the mysterious mechanisms of those stories.



Annette painting in rocksAnnette Wagner, M.A.,  is a Visionary Artist, Color of Woman Intentional Creativity teacher, Art Doctor, author, and shamanic practitioner.  She paints in the Contemporary Symbolism style and works extensively with metaphor, symbol, and color.

Annette studies with American Master painter Sue Hoya Sellars and has a Masters in Women’s Spirituality  from Sofia University. Her background includes over 25 years of hi-tech experience including 21 patents. She is owned by her dancing daughter, two cat beings, and her Muse. You can view her artwork, visit her Etsy shop, and read more about Annette at:

Author: Annette Wagner

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  1. Nice job Annette! It is very refreshing to revisit the wild woman content that Judy always brings to the conversation. Your article is fantastic and I love the pic!

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  2. Thank you, Annette. It has been a life-changing honor and a pleasure. I am thrilled to pass the reins to your capable hands and passionate heart and look forward to every drop of wisdom and creativity you will bring to this beloved conversation.

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