Periods and Pedophilia: How Indigo’s Remedy Showcases the Plight and Power of Women

In one of my journal assignments, I performed a healing ritual from Ntozake Shange’s Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo titled “Suitors with the Moon’s Blessing” and discovered the importance of learning about the world through many types of mediums. For this post, I want to look at a different healing ritual found on page 25; I believe that this ritual, titled “To Rid Oneself of the Scent of Evil (Traditional Method),” helps us to understand the plight of black women and their fight for liberation in a way that is unique and demonstrates the power of women.

Indigo creates and performs this ritual after Mr. Lucas tries to make a move on her when he finds out she has started menstruating. This is Indigo’s first taste of the cruel reality of womanhood; she sees first-hand that black women are over-sexualized and objectified in order to reenforce the black male identity. She creates a remedy in an attempt to cure herself of this evil using a variety of resources, inducing heat to draw out the bad energy from her body and drinking the water of a white rose, a symbol for chastity, innocence, and the world in which Indigo did not have to face the realities of being a grown woman. It is clear that Indigo wishes to be free from these aspects of being a black woman.

While the remedy is symbolic and intriguing, the most striking part of this passage is not in the remedy itself. After the title there is an asterisk that leads to a footnote containing the following message: “Violence of purposeful revenge should not be considered in most cases. Only during wars of national liberation, to restore the honor of the race, or to redress calamitous personal & familial trauma, may we consider brutal force/annihilation” (Shange 25). Here, Indigo is saying that violence is not necessary in most cases. This makes sense given her circumstances; later in the novel, we see that black women – most notably Sassafrass – suffer physical abuse at the hands of the men in their lives and cannot fight back using violence. This brings us back to the first line in the novel, which declares that “Where there is a woman there is magic” (Shange 1). Indigo’s goal is to be “again among nature’s flowers” (Shange 25); her strength does not lie in her ability to enact revenge but in her talent of understanding the world in a mystical – and inherently feminine – way. This capability to endure such hardships and pain and still find ways to perform and find beauty in themselves unites all women but is especially prevalent and powerful when looking specifically of the experience of black women in a way that embraces different modes of learning such as remedies rooted in magic and the supernatural.

I leave you all with a question posed in class the other day: In the novel, where is Indigo free and where is she woman? Going off of that, are these two terms opposites? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Works Cited:
Shange, Ntozake. Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo: a Novel. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010.

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