Menstruation and the moon in early modern England

Year of award: 2018


  • Rhianna Elliott

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

In early modern England, astrologers, physicians and patients thought the moon had a mysterious influence over the female body. Women’s general health was thought to be determined by the health of their womb, and the moon was believed to play an important part in menstruation – demonstrated by their mutual 28-day cycle. There is a vast amount of literature on menstruation and women’s bodies, but no significant study has examined its lunar connection.

My research will analyse the moon’s influence over the menstruating body in elite learned discourse, vernacular knowledge and everyday practices in early modern England. I will use medical handbooks, guides to sex and reproduction, almanacs and astrological manuals to examine what people thought caused this connection and how it was used it in practice. I will also demonstrate how the notion of the moon’s power over menstruation is important to ongoing historical debates about how the human body was medically framed, as well as the enduring appeal of popular astrology.