Menopause – A Fart at a Dinner Party

BeautifulCroneOfCordoba

The Beautiful Crone of Cordoba*

I have heard it said that talking about the menopause in polite company goes down about as well as a fart at a dinner party. Well I say that stinks and it is about time it changed. I grant that talking about the intimate physical details of the changes to a woman’s body may be too much for the squeamish, and perhaps should be held with more reverence and mystery. But the concept of menopause as a rite of passage for a woman is something that should be far more widely talked about. If approached in a conscious way, the menopause is a time when a woman can harvest all her skills and experience, and step into a phase of great power and wisdom. And perhaps this is what our patriarchally dominated culture is truly afraid of.  

The conventional concept of menopause seems to be that it’s the beginning of the end. Soon you will become a wizened, bent backed old bag with brittle bones and a dry vagina, who smells of wee and mutters to herself, perhaps even cackling from time to time. Even spiritual circles who talk about the triple phases of woman – the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone seem to be missing something. Surely there is a phase between hard worked Mother and ancient Crone, where we step into a place of wisdom, freed from the ties of mothering young children, but still with enough energy and vigour to make a difference in the world? This is surely a time when we are free to follow our soul’s true purpose and to fulfill the secret wishes of our hearts. This is the time of the Maga, the wise elder woman, who is at the top of her game in terms of skills and experience. She is the majestic Autumn Queen who harvests the abundance of all she has created in her life. As the world teeters on the brink of man-made self-destruction, this is the time when we truly need these women to come into their true power to help rebalance human life on earth.

As I embark on my perimenopausal years, I am making it my mission to find out all there is to know about walking through menopause in the most empowered and conscious way that I can. I will be embracing my hot flashes as a transformational fire that burns away all the crap that is no longer needed in my life. I shall be seeking herbal allies to help me through the worst of my physical symptoms. I shall be seeking the spiritual meaning in all that happens to me. I intend to step out the other end of this experience wiser, stronger, with more vigour and a medicine bag full of tools to help others. I want to share this knowledge with any woman who is willing to listen. And if there are sisters out there who have gone through this rite of passage before me, I would love to hear of your experience and your wisdom.

*The image in this blog post is taken from Grandmother’s Stories by Barefoot Books.

 

Dreaming with the Bee Goddess

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In Brigid’s Garden by Judith Shaw

It was a bright spring day with a sharp wind, as I stood in the garden, about to go for a walk. My hand brushed over something on my dress. Too late I realised it was a bee, which stung me on my palm, just below the middle finger of my right hand. It felt such a specific spot, like an acupuncture point. I felt sorry for the bee as I pulled its sting out, knowing it would die. I tuned in to ask, ‘Why did that just happen?’ The guidance I got was, ‘Don’t worry. It was a blessing from the Goddess.’

I set off on my walk, delighting at the spring flowers that flanked my path and the noisy twitterings of bird song.  There were violets, primroses, a host of celandines, and more bluebells than I have ever seen on this route before.

Soon the destination of my walk made its presence known, even before I could see it. The delicious scent of apple blossom came to me on the breeze, enticing me towards it. I arrived at my dear friend the crab apple tree to see her robed in delicate pink blossoms and absolutely humming with bees. She is a magnificent old lady, huge and gnarled, part of her blackened from a lightning strike, but still incredibly beautiful in her gown of flowers.

The Healer by Holly Sierra

The Healer by Holly Sierra

I greeted her and sat on a natural seat formed by her roots. It felt so comfortable, like sitting in a mother’s lap. The spring sunshine filtered through her leaves, the aroma of the blossom and the hum of a thousand bees surrounded me. The hypnotic effect of this soon sent me off to sleep. I dreamed of falling through an opening in her roots into a cave where I met the Bee Goddess. She wore an amber coloured velvet dress and a coronet with a golden bee at her brow. To her right was a beehive, with bees busily going in and out. A river of honey flowed from the hive along an earthy floor and out of the cave. I greeted her and asked what wisdom she had for me.

‘Child, life can flow as sweetly as honey, or be as painful as a bee sting. It is your choice whether you wish to go with the flow, or to stay in a place that gives you painful stings. When you are stung by life, it is a sign to change direction.’

She told me that local honey included in my diet is very beneficial for me, and described its healing and fertility boosting properties. She advised me to keep one hive of bees and to make sure I talk to the bees regularly. I awoke from my nap with her words ringing in my mind, ‘Tell it to the bees, Dear,’ she said.

The Bee Goddess Calls by Judith Shaw

A Visit to Cae Thomas’ Holy Well, Llanveynoe, Olchon Valley, Black Mountains

Cae Thomas well

Cae Thomas Holy Well

Yesterday, Phoebe and I set off on an adventure. Our quest was to find Cae Thomas’ Holy Well near Llanveynoe. Rumour had it that this beautiful natural spring was to be found somewhere in the mystical Olchon Valley of the Black Mountains on the border between Herefordshire and Wales. So far no-one we knew had been able to find it. Local folklore has it that the water has special healing properties and is particularly good for rheumatism and strengthening weak eyes and this was good enough incentive for me. Perhaps it would be good for my gammy hip and maybe I’d even be able to read the small print on labels after a draft of the elusive water.

So, armed with an OS map and a sketchy description from on elderly guide book on the Holy Wells of Herefordshire, we set off. Phoebe was as excited as me and had prepared a bag of provisions – a bottle to put some water in, some extra strong mints and a bag of jelly babies – excellent emergency rations!

We drove off up Long Lane in the direction that leads away from civilisation and into the mountains. I love this route – turn right at Bob Shop, through Michaelchurch Escley and then dipping down into the valley of the River Monnow. The verges of the narrow lanes spilled over with wildflowers – purple vetch, the magenta of rosebay willow herb and the frothy cream flowers of meadowsweet, to name but a few. Amongst these, waved the golden fronds of tall grasses bleached by the August sunshine. We passed quaint cottages with flower filled gardens, tumbled down stone ruins, glossy red post boxes set into garden walls, each turn in the road unveiling a scene more beautiful than the last. Rounding a bend, the imposing ridge of Black Darren reared up in front of us. Round another bend we were treated to a lovely view of the craggy end of the Cat’s Back Mountain, also known as the Black Hill, made famous in Bruce Chatwin’s novel.

Now entering the Olchon Valley and crossing the Olchon Brook, we kept a beady eye out for anything that might resemble the description in the book.

‘Ooh, hang on, that tiny little gate might be promising. It’s not big enough to get a tractor through and why else would you have a gate only big enough for pedestrians going into a field?’ I asked Phoebe. She thought it looked like a good bet too. I squeezed the car off the narrow lane into another gateway, hoping that we wouldn’t meet an irate farmer wondering what we were up to. But I needn’t have worried – there was not another soul about. We went through the little gate and hearing the sound of running water, thought that we must be onto something. Going through another small gate, we found ourselves at a beautiful waterfall flowing into a pool. We sat and enjoyed this lovely place for a few minutes. Phoebe was keen to fill her water bottle, but I was sure that we hadn’t found the right place. So near and yet so far. How frustrating.

We started making our way back towards the car to try again further along the road. I pondered about the little gate and then something made me stop and turn around. This time I noticed another gate off to our left. Not a small gate this time, a full size farm gate, but it was propped across a gap that again wasn’t big enough for vehicles. Phoebe got really excited by this and ran back ahead of me. I heard a shout as she disappeared round the corner.

‘This is it Mum. I can see the enamel cup hanging from the tree with the initials carved into it, just like it said in the book!’ We had found it at last. I negotiated the broken wooden gate and immediately, the atmosphere changed completely. It was serene, peaceful and welcoming. The vegetation was somehow different here too – short neat grass, soft moss and shamrocks, gave the impression of a magical garden. A three-limbed ash tree grew out of a rock above a little pool, into which the spring was merrily gurgling. The water in the pool was crystal clear and very inviting. The ancient enamelled cup hung from this tree, left there by some thoughtful person who would like others to enjoy the spring. With great reverence, we took it in turns to have a drink from the cup, and to bathe our eyes and feet. The water from the spring was the sweetest and freshest I’ve ever tasted. We stayed and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Cae Thomas’ Well for a while before saying a little prayer of thanks for such a lovely place and hoping that it always stays as unspoilt as this.

We returned to the car, feeling refreshed, soothed and very satisfied that we had accomplished our mission to visit such a beautiful and magical place.