Welcome to Part III of The Vagina Series! Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. As this is a continuation post, I recommend going back to read Part I and Part II if you haven’t already before continuing.
To start, I began researching the background on the word “vagina.” As we know, language is powerful, and the way the vagina is referred to and talked about in any given culture affects its history and people.
The word “vagina” has only been in existence, as it is known today, since 1680. It is a medical Latin term meaning a “sheath” or “husk” (source). A sheath connotes that it is “meant to be filled” by something—as in a sheath for a sword or a husk for corn—drawing a stark connection between the naming of the vagina and the male-centric view of entering it.
However, the vagina has not always been referred to this way. Historically and in many cultures, the prefix “cu” was used to express all that was feminine. As Wolf writes, as well, it also had associations to knowledge, wisdom, and goddess naming. The root “gund” meant “enclosure.” Combine “cu” and “gund” and you guessed it, you get, “cunt” or “feminine enclosure,” a seemingly more holistic view that encourages woman’s own self-power.
Ancient female goddess-like figurines from the Fertile Crescent, where human life is said to have originated, date back to 25,000 BCE, hinting that these ancient people held the sexual and life-giving power of the female vagina in high regard.
The Sheela-na-gig (above) is a Celtic representation of the open and powerful vagina, and was used to adorn the outside of buildings.
Even early European churches used divine feminine architecture represented by an almond shape similar to that of a vulva.
“Cunt,” as well as “vagina,” have been used both positively and negatively in regards to women’s bodies and status throughout history. In Victorian era England, the word “vagina” began to be synonymous with “the worst.” In modern day, “cunt” is now considered to be one of the worst curse words you can use or call someone. However, during the 1970s a movement to reclaim both the words “cunt” and “vagina” were a part of feminism.
Think about the ways that you speak about your vagina now and how this affects the way you feel about it and yourself. Do you speak about your vagina as your “Lotus of Wisdom” as one ancient Hindu translation reads? Or do you speak about it the way you would to a child, calling it your “pee pee”? How is it referred to sexually and for whom or by whom? Or is it even referred to at all, and why not?
This etymology and history lesson unveils that not only has the thinking around the vagina changed over time but also that our current context is very site specific of our own era.
As I mentioned yesterday, the theme word for this month is “rebirth.” I’ve gone through a rebirth of my “self” and my relationship to my own vagina over the course of researching and writing these posts. I am reborn in a new awareness—one that comes from knowledge and self-power. I can’t ignore the history of this word or the weight that comes from carrying this history around inside me. It gives a new dynamic to who I am as a woman.
If it feels right to you, allow your eyes to open upon a new world as well. Take your first new breath in your changed perception of your vagina and how it relates to self. Welcome the rebirth.