Goddess as the Challenger of Illusion - artwork by Rachel MayattI’ve come to that age now when my body begins to change again as I make ready to initiate into the time of the crone and it’s a strange sensation sometimes. Thinking about it recently took me back to when I began to change as a young girl, developing hair in odd places, filling out on the hips and developing breasts. I don’t remember it being particularly obvious at the time, apart from the weird sensation that I had two bumps appearing on my chest when at one time it had been smooth.

I hadn’t had any teaching or support from family regarding periods as I came from a fairly repressed kind of family environment. My mother is a strict evangelical Christian and kept things fairly secret about bodily stuff, and when I did finally begin to bleed monthly, it felt more like a dirty secret than a life affirming thing. (But that’s another story I have gone into in a previous article.)

Since then, working within pagan and earth based spirituality, I have come to love and appreciate the workings of my body (in all its fantastic and sometimes uncomfortable, messy glory!!) Sometimes I found myself considering it was a nuisance which is emphasized by our society's attitude towards it too. Think about the adverts with their messages that you can still 'live a normal life' using their products when you have your period, coyly pouring blue water on menstrual pads or tampons rather than showing anything remotely like blood!

Then I will remember it’s a time to slow down and listen to the messages my body has for me. To rest and allow the experiences and lessons life offered to be heard. A time to enter the red tent.

I began a commitment to myself to honour that part of myself. I sometimes collected my blood to pour onto the earth. To make that connection to the Earth that nourishes and holds us. (I had wonderful vegetables and flowers in the garden when I used the rich red water to nourish them!) I looked at various ways to collect the blood, from buying pads, to making reusable ones, using a moon cup and sea sponges. Although my life didn’t always allow for me to rest for the first day, I would still make time to sit quietly after work, maybe a soothing bath with beautiful smelling oils by candle light. All this led to a desire to really understand my life and connection to everything. And so I like to honour and acknowledge each change and development I move through.

For the last year or so, I have got used to the fact that my monthly bleeds have changed considerably - sometimes waiting for 6 or 8 weeks for it to put in an appearance. Just lately I waited almost 3 months beginning to wonder if it intended to ever show up again at all! When it finally decided to return, I had a couple of days of continuous heavy blood. Needing to change my clothes because I was trying too hard to get on with life and not take care of myself often enough. It came at a completely inconvenient time and I fell back into previous behaviour for a brief time, complaining and angry with my body’s disruptive and unhelpful attitude.

Then I remembered. I sat quietly and in meditation went into myself to talk to that part of me I was angry with. To find out where the anger came from and what I needed to do to make things right with myself. In my meditation I saw the Crone. She sat by a grave full of ancient bones and indicated that I should collect the blood still flowing and pour it onto the grave. When I did so, the bones rose and became one skeletal figure.

The Goddess got up all bent and bowed and took hold of the skeleton and began to dance. Slowly at first and then with more energy and grace until they were whirling together. I understood that she danced with me, with my life-force and by respecting my blood and womb I became less rigid and bent to become one that flowed with life – with her dance.

Physically I had noticed some other differences in myself too. Quite subtle changes at first, I don’t eat any more than usual but find it easier to put on weight, I feel more tired after physical exercise and little things like dryer skin and eyes are another sign of my ride into the menopause.

Finally a few months ago, I had my very first hot flush. It was a strange sensation and for just a few moments I felt otherworldly. A slight out of body sensation along with a feeling of heat and damp skin.

For a brief moment my body raged in a storm. My hair clung to my damp face and a fire raged through me, eventually ebbing away and leaving me a little lightheaded. Had I never been interested in meditation, magick and my relationship with the Goddess, maybe I wouldn’t have found it so interesting, rather believing it to be the 'nuisance' some women feel about it. Similar to my initial feelings about my periods before I came to develop a better relationship with them.

I believe each step of the development of a women’s body is an initiation. The maiden begins to bleed and develops into a woman - taking a step into the initiation of the Mother phase. This is the time it is possible to become a mother in my opinion, rather than actual motherhood. She has always had it within her to give birth, to babies, her life, ideas, projects etc. All with the creative flow within. This gives her the momentum to move with that energy.

And after many years the mother finally releases this outward flow to internalize it and take it within. She initiates into the Wise woman - the Crone. The blood still flows within and the creative juices are concentrated in her. Still possible to create, to have projects and ideas but may be more internally than projected outward. She has all that life experience and wisdom to share with the maidens and mothers that come after her.

I think a lot of the energy can still be directed outwards, but often as a Mother it involves caring for others around us. Our children, our outer family members, our students, our community. Maybe as we enter that time of the Crone, the energy focuses on ourselves in relationship to these outward connections, and how these relationships affect us personally. Its not a selfish time, it’s a time for self realization.

I believe we have this in small mini experiences when our periods turn up as we become introspective and delve deep within, coming out after a couple of days if we are lucky enough to have that personal space. But when we reach menopause, this ability to reach deep within is available to us more fully, if we care to look. The physical symptoms are there for us to grab hold of and dance with them. A hot flush, an internal storm, a need for focus and solitude as we make a new relationship with ourselves.

I might need some extra nutrients – vitamins or minerals my body needs to cope with this new experience. Starflower oil or vitamin B? Certainly I would opt for more natural complementary help. I’m not interested in medical help here although some women do find it helpful. But then I’m of the opinion that the symptoms are trying to tell us something and I want to learn what it is. It seems to me our society tries too hard to ‘fix women’s problems’ before allowing us to interpret their ancient messages.

And yes - sometimes it’s not convenient when a flush comes upon me. Maybe it’s annoying because it’s getting in the way of what I might be doing that day. It doesn’t respect my daily life - I may be at work and trying to get the children’s food ready for lunchtime, or maybe at a meeting. But it is another reminder to slow down, to look at everything around me, at the flowers, at my family, at my life. To remember the ancient magick of women and to reconnect to this aspect of the Goddess. And listen to what my body is telling me as it points me towards this new initiation experience as it whispers to me - ‘now revel in the experience of riding the storms and dance with the Crone’.