It is Spring and time to honor and celebrate the Goddess. I am surfacing from a two month vigil with feminine archetypes, not so much because I choose to as because it was simply biologically time to turn within and listen. I have been going through menopause, which some women pass through without notice. However I was amongst those who experience it as a tumultuous passage. My children are all leaving home now, and so I have greater time for self-reflection. My husband is also deeply contemplative and so we have both entered the cave and are open to revelation. Just as all women go through menarche around the age of twelve, all women pass through this initiation around the age of fifty. While the age is not exact, the initiation is required of all women. Many religions made us believe that our blood was impure and something to be ashamed of, but in order to recognize the wisdom we have to realize that blood sustains life. Blood and wisdom are interconnected. There are many methods we have to suppress the symptoms including the use of hormones and surgical hysterectomies, but I decided instead to speak to the archetypes of the divine feminine. This meant stepping beyond the archetypes I was familiar with and turning to the unknown mysteries. I wanted to honor the end of my phase as maiden and mother, and step fully into the third phase of crone calling upon the wise woman archetype. Yet, Hecate is not an Goddess that one approaches lightly, neither is the Lady of the Lake.
Menopause for me was a blood ritual, frightening at times. I thought often of the Grail heroine Dindrane in Arthurian legend who willingly bled to death to save the leprous countess and heal the land. I had dreams of my grandmothers who had to become martyrs, giving up their individual dreams so that the family unit could thrive. I could also see that in some ways I have also compromised my dreams so that my children could blossom. A certain amount of self-sacrifice is healthy, normal and builds character. It is part of becoming Demeter, the mother who nurtures the land. As my children leave I begin to remember who I was at twenty-eight when I gave birth to my daughter and my individual path became part of the collective family unit. I love my family, yet it seems that some part of me is still standing in England waiting for me to complete my studies. When I completed my doctorate there was no time to research further or to teach the Celtic legends that had fascinated me so much. I thought I would be a writer and a professor, yet my ambitions went on pause, waiting until I had time to listen to the dry riverbeds that wished to flow with water once again. My recent dreams led me to research the Inquisition to see what happened to my great-grandmothers and why they cry in my dreams.
What I discovered was shocking. Do not read on unless you are in a place in which you are willing to become infuriated. The Woman’s Holocaust was initiated in 1252 by Pope Innocent IV and for over five centuries (until it was banned in 1816), the Inquisition burned women at the stake. The numbers vary widely from a hundred thousand to eight million condemned women. Every healer, midwife or woman with knowledge of herbal medicine was killed. This was followed by the deaths of women with property, authority, independence or intelligence. Finally the damnation of women included old women, the poor, the powerless and the demented. The only way to survive as a woman was to be invisible. The worst of the prosecutions occurred between 1560-1760. Women accused of witchcraft had to walk backwards and naked toward their accusers. The Inquisition could take the estate of a woman who had been denounced as a witch and burned, charge her for the cost of her imprisonment, her torture, and even the cost of her execution. When we begin to feel into the archetypes of Dindrane and other Grail keepers, we often sense the fear and persecution of wise women. Now we know that the inquisitor’s fear of women with power was pathological. Yet our grandmothers are still being released from their bondage.
It is time to recognize the wisdom and the beauty of our elder years. It is said that the crone archetype Hecate had powers over earth, sea and sky. She did not dominate nature, but helped our elements sustain life. She understood that nature can heal us and that for some people herbs really are magic. Chinese herbs sustained my life through this passage and I give thanks to the women and the men who were wise enough to keep their knowledge underground and alive until the time was ripe enough for their wisdom to resurface. There are wrathful deities such as the feminine Palden Lhamo in Buddhism who act as defenders of the truth. Palden Lhamo is the female guardian of a sacred lake. This Lady of the Lake helps those who seek her understand their next incarnations and protects certain lineages of wisdom keepers. Today I honor all Ladies of the Lake, all of the wisdom keepers who became marginalized yet still whisper because they love the earth so much they continue to heal the wasteland and remind us that with wisdom and compassion we all can flourish.
Blessings & love,