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purple fringe lily as symbol of a woman's midlife passage to wisdom Passage to wisdom

Contemporary western culture is somewhat short on road-maps for the second half of life… How might we feel differently about ourselves if the ‘change of life’ was welcomed as a timely eruption of spirit, calling us deeper into intimate relationship with ourselves – body, heart and soul? In a society in which most adult women can expect to live into their eighties, we need a framework which acknowledges the slow passage into our wisewoman years, most often beginning in our early forties, continuing through the perimenopausal years, and deepening again as we approach our sixtieth birthday (in astrological terms, our second Saturn return).

“Logically, the perimenopausal passage into menopause is not an error or oversight of nature, but rather the next step in evolution, growth, and development for women.”
(Mary Ann Copson, The Perimenopause Passage)

“The menopausal woman is in a liminal, transitional phase, and she is pregnant with her future, wise, elder self. She needs to take very good care of herself, go on retreat as much as possible, not exhaust her adrenal glands, clarify her life so it really works for her, and let go of occupations and relationships that drain her physically or emotionally. Most of the symptoms of menopause are actually an injunction from the body to do just this..”
(from the website PLANETARY ENERGIES – earth & sky wisdom by Lara Owen)

Have we achieved the goals and dreams of the past?
Are those dreams still relevant? Are our current circumstances serving us?

This reevaluation is much like a birthing process, transforming life from one phase to the next and defining how we are going to live the second half of our life.

At times the changes can be so profound we hardly recognize the person we were before. This process, both painful, and exhilarating, is a re-birthing, a redefining of who we are that brings us into deep contact
with our own soul.

And just like being born, this period can be marked by alternating periods of tremendous pressure, chaos, and intensity (the contraction), interspersed with calm (the relaxation) and, finally, the exhilaration as something new and promising comes into the world.

Barbara Schermer – Astrology Alive!   http://www.astrologyalive.com/Midlife06.html

Full Bloom Ceremony (for perimenopausal women)

A ceremony to honour the unique flowering of spirit that is you.

Here you are, in the middle of your life: no longer a young woman, not yet an old one. All around you, you can see the manifest fruit of earlier life-choices and experiences – in various stages of ripening
or decay. Within you, you feel the seeds and shoots of unrealised potential, stirring gently perhaps, or maybe shouting out loud their urgent need of attention, of another chance at meaningful expression in and through your life.

How will you move forward? What allies and tools will help you find your way – as you move deeper into these uncharted territories
of your soul?

Having by now achieved a level of mastery in certain dimensions of life, from where will you find the courage and grace to return to a state of not knowing, of pregnant uncertainty – what zen buddhists call ‘beginner’s mind’…

In this ceremony a woman gathers her circle around her to witness and affirm her innate soulfulness, to take stock of the challenges
mastered and the resources and wisdom gathered during the first half of her life, as she prepares the way for her new self to be gestated and born.

Growing Older

The whole of life is a learning journey, yet by the time a woman reaches her mature years, life has certainly brought her some significant lessons about what it is to be a human being in this world. She has seen some things, done some things, and lived through some things, and she has the potential to be a source of wisdom and insight that can inspire and empower younger members of her community. In the absense of a clear cultural prescription for our elder role, each of us is challenged to envision for ourselves what it means to enter our wisewoman or grandmother years. And it may look a little different for each of us.

“Perhaps most important of all, she bears the responsibility to be beautiful – physically, emotionally,
spiritually. It is the Grandmother who represents the Great Earth Mother, the Goddess; she needs to portray Her with every step she takes, with every thought she thinks, with every action she makes. The Navajo say ‘Walk in Beauty’ and this is truly the key to Grandmother energy.”
Marcia Starck, Women’s Medecine Ways [USA, 1993]

One thing I have noticed: as women get older we often get more forthright, more willing to speak our minds. There is perhaps less investment in worshipping the god of other people’s opinions. But at the same time the crone or wisewoman
has also learnt that people sometimes need to be allowed to work things out for themselves. It can be wiser and more loving to hold our tongues. The wisewoman may be available to midwife another’s birthing or creative process, yet she
conserves her energy by doing only that which is essential – of the essence. Like the elder midwife at the very first homebirth I was privileged to attend, she understands that to silently witness is often the most subtle and the most effective of all interventions.

 

Wisewoman or Croning Ceremony (for post-menopausal women)

A rite of passage for the woman who is ready to claim her place in the
circle of grandmothers/wisewomen.

What does becoming a wisewoman mean to you?

Preparing for a wisewoman blessing ceremony is an important opportunity
to reflect on your own vision for the next part of your life.

  • What are the gifts that the passing years have brought you? Looking
    back over your life to this point, to what extent can you name and claim
    the fruit of your experiences? Are there things within your inner storehouse
    that you wish to pass on or share, not out of duty, but from personal
    desire?
  • Which qualities and concerns from your earlier life do you wish to carry
    forward with you? Which are you being asked to let go of, or consciously
    choosing to leave behind?
  • How do you see your future role in your circle of family and friends?
    in the wider community?
  • As you contemplate the finite nature of your bodily existence, what
    soul aspirations arise? is there anything you desire to accomplish in
    the unknown timespan that remains?

A wisewoman ceremony often includes a central element of storytelling. For the woman being celebrated, recounting the story of her life journey becomes a sacred act. Held in a circle of women’s hearts, the story-telling weaves its own magic of healing and integration, perhaps bringing fresh insights or an unexpected sense of peace.

For a calligraphic copy of Jenny Joseph’s poem ‘Warning’ (or associated ‘red hat’ merchandise – Check out www.elizabethlucasdesigns.com

More reading about perimenopause as our passage to wisdom:  http://evenstaronline.com/articles/perimenopause.html