Menstruation and Henna: Pollution & Purification

The henna traditions were for more than just a bride’s wedding, and in countries other than India and Pakistan. Through the Muslim cultures across North Africa, the Levant, and the Middle east, a woman went to the bath at the end of her menstrual cycle and the bath included henna application for hair, hands, and feet.

Henna, applied at the end of a menstrual cycle created stains which were vivid for a week and then gradually exfoliated over the next two weeks. The week of vivid color coincided with the optimal time for conception, and faded towards the following menstrual cycle, generally disappearing by the onset of menses. This provided a visible fertility gauge for optimizing chances for conception. The more reliably a woman could conceive and bear, the more likely she was to retain her husband’s affection and esteem.

This sequence of menstruation, henna, intercourse and conception may have been reinforced by the success of its remarkable coincidence: Henna stains peaked during the days of greatest fertility, and demise during the least fertility.

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