Weed Wanderings Herbal eZine with Susun Weed : Feature Article
November 2003
Volume 3 Number 11
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What's Inside Weed Wanderings this Month...


Feature Articles...
Soul Shaman
The Wise Ones Say
Wise Woman Tradition

by Gail Faith Edwards


cave painting from Gail Faith Edwards bookSoul-Shaman
excerpt from Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause; Herbal Allies for Midlife Women and Men by Gail Faith Edwards, author of Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs

From a shamanic perspective, menopause is an initiation process into ageless and ancient midlife mysteries. Why look at menopause from a shamanic perspective? Because shamanic awareness implies deepening, as well as developing personal power, or spirit power. Not power over anyone, or anything, but an inner strength, a power from within.

Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause from a shamanic perspective is walking a beauty path of inner knowing and self realization. Soul work. We are talking about a natural, chemically induced, spiritual growth process, an age-appropriate initiation that connects us to every other human who ever lived to midlife on the planet throughout time. This ancient passage also links us in an unbroken line back to the ceremonies held by ancient indigenous peoples throughout the world, such as the ancient Goddess cultures, the early Mesolithic hunting-gathering societies of Eurasia, and New World cultures.

Like all true shamanic initiations, menopause is a complete metamorphosis that consists of three distinct phases. In today's world, if you are a woman presenting early menopausal symptoms, your medical doctor may refer to the first phase of this initiation as peri-menopause and offer you hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) to ease the symptoms.

If you are a man, your midlife changes likely bewilder you, and may drive you to take pharmaceutical antidepressants to mask your pain. You can certainly choose these routes if you want to. But please consider another option. Consider a life-affirming, life-honoring surrender to the natural world. Consider Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause from a shamanic perspective.

Allow your unique passage, your sacred story to unfold, unsuppressed, before you. Honor the soul of your menopause and welcome your changes. Allow your menopausal/andropausal symptoms to point the way toward the nourishment you need.

Heart palpitations? Nourish the heart. Uptight? Anxiety-ridden? Jumping out of your skin? Nourish the nervous system. Depressed? Nourish your spirit. Generally run down? Feel like shit? Nourish your immunity. Trust the infinite wisdom of your body/mind/spirit. Allow yourself the opportunity to choose a path that will bring you to the door of self realization, self acceptance, and self love. A path that will lead you into relationship, and therefore connection, with Mother Earth and all your relations. A path that will bring you into resonance with the medicine plants, the nourishing, tonic, and blessed herbs. I encourage you to choose a path of healing and nourishment, a path of beauty, a path of grace. This ancient path I lay before you now.

The Wise Ones Say
excerpt from Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause;
Herbal Allies for Midlife Women and Men
by Gail Faith Edwards, author of Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs

Hear the voices of the wise ones calling across the ages. Let the soothing sounds of their wisdom stories inspire you, and show you the way.

Wise ones the world over refer to the first phase of our midlife passage as isolation. They call it the descent.  They know it as a down time. They say it is the cocoon. This is Persephone being dragged down into the underworld, the dark world of Hades. This is the dark night of the soul. During this often painful part of our midlife journey we may yearn for time alone, may literally ache to simplify our lives, cut our losses. Both women and men may become irritable, preoccupied, scattered, and suffer memory loss, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia. Feelings of regret, remorse, and depression are common during this time.

If you find yourself sinking into the black hole of depression, consider surrendering to it and allowing, perhaps even welcoming, the descent into your deepest nature. Depression can often be a call from deep within, is often the soul's yearning for deeper meaning. Give yourself the time and permission to go into the darkness willingly, to uncover the wisdom lying there. Uncover your deepest strengths, your deepest truths, the stuff of which you are made. Reclaim your authentic voice.

Allow this brush with Saturn to enrich and empower your life, even as it breaks you and brings you to your knees. This is the shadow side, and intimacy with it will bring depth, weight and measure to your soul. Often, midlife depression accompanies emotional growth and indicates that some serious, life-altering changes need to be made. If we ignore the call of the wise-one-within for midlife change, we may remain depressed, stagnant, and immobilized for the rest of our lives.

Use your growing shamanic awareness to traverse this terrain carefully as it winds and turns, like an underground tunnel, until a light is seen. Dance on the edge, balance on the rim for awhile, even fall between the cracks, just have faith, the light will appear. This is a good time to get to know, and use regularly, an array of safe and effective herbal allies that will nourish your spirit and help keep you grounded.

Herbs such as lavender, rose, lemon balm, cannabis, skullcap, and St. John's wort all have solid reputations as allies that nourish the spirit. Revitalizing ginseng and angelica are also excellent friends during bouts with depression and general low energy.

The continued growth of our human consciousness, and the consciousness of our planet, requires that we give in to our soul's longing at this time of our lives. We are being challenged now to process lingering emotional baggage that we may not have had the time or inclination to deal with before. Doing the work we are being called to do during the initial phase of menopause prepares us for, and leads us into, the second phase of this human evolutionary process, which is death.

Though death is a difficult concept for us to confront willingly, given our culture's repulsion and denial of it, we are actually being called upon during the second phase of our midlife passage to face death, and all that death represents, head-on. We are being challenged to become like the Buddhist monk, who lives with the constant awareness of death on his/her shoulder. We are being asked to summon all the courage, strength, and grace it takes to give death to our former selves, to who we have been.

Midlife is a time of dealing with loss and learning to let go. We must bid farewell to our youthful promise, the richness and fecundity of our childbearing years. We may be called upon to say goodbye to a beloved parent or spouse. No matter how death, and the mysteries surrounding death, are presented to us, we must give ourselves permission to mourn our losses.  

Doing this work requires time alone and a lot of thought, support, and psychic energy. When we have fully examined each and every part of who we have been, cried over all our many disappointments and losses, raged and ranted over all the should haves, could haves, and would haves, all those dreams that never quite materialized, the love that didn't last, or was taken to soon, and finally put them all to rest, it's done.

We are ready for the third phase of this ancient, eternal passage, this shamanic mother-father-rite, our re-emergence, reintegration, and recommitment. Our midlife renewal. We have undergone a complete and utter metamorphosis. We are reborn, have given birth to ourselves anew. And this is as it has always been, and shall always be.

Did you know that hot flashes and night sweats, experienced by both men and women, are kundalini energy rising up the spine, transforming our circuits, altering our brain chemistry, physically and energetically calling forth enlightenment and wisdom? Did you know that the hormonal and chemical changes that are going on in our bodies and brain during midlife are affecting our minds and spirits and doing the same thing? Literally making us wise. It's true!

Our culture, for the most part, doesn't acknowledge any of this. Our culture denies the spiritual aspects of midlife and completely ignores the fact that well joined couples often experience menopause together. So few couples remain together long term, that few of us realize the depth of the hormonal interplay between a man and a woman who have been loving one another over many years. A couple's hormones become completely coordinated and interdependent with one another over time, and produce a constantly fluctuating array of hormones in response to one another. Energetically, and hormonally, a well-joined couple is one united blob in a constant feedback loop. In one study of eleven monogamous heterosexual couples, the testosterone levels in the male partner rose to their highest levels simultaneously with the ovulation of the female partner. This was the case in twenty-five out of the thirty-two cycles studied.

During midlife, intense hormonal changes are happening to both partners, individually, and in concert with one another. We are partners in a long, slow dance, an incredibly drawn out process of renegotiating and rewiring our relationship for the next phase of our lives together, our elder years. More than any other relationship in our lives, our intimate relationship with our mate can be counted upon to illuminate old wounds still in need of healing.

It takes a lot of time, space, attention, true listening, patience, forgiveness, and especially love, for couples to make it through these midlife changes with a renewed sense of love and commitment to their lives together. We all know that the relationship between a man and woman who share a loving bond is a living entity with a soul, intelligence, and energy all its own. It is a great and magical mystery, a sacred thing, due utmost respect, proper nourishment, and care.

I learned to nourish myself and my mate in many ways during our menopausal years, to support the deep cellular changes we've been going through. We've gained a number of gentle, consistent, effective, and truly nourishing herbal allies I will consider to be lifelong friends. You'll learn about using them to support the transformative processes of midlife, for women as well as for men, in these pages.

The above articles are excerpts from
Traversing the Wild Terrain of Menopause; Herbal Allies for Midlife Women and Men
by Gail Faith Edwards



The Wise Woman Tradition

excerpt from Opening Our Wild Hearts to Healing Herbs by Gail Faith Edwards

My interest in herbs has taken me on a journey back through time into ancient history, into an era when women’s values, such as reverence, receptivity, flexibility, cooperation, health, hearth, home and family, were predominant. Men and women lived in harmony with their inner, cyclic natures and with the rhythms of the earth. Recent archaeological studies reveal this nature-centered time in earth’s story lasted for more than 30,000 years. People honored the feminine image, the goddess, and revered her as mother, creator, nurturer and sustainer-of-all-life. I believe that these pastoral people held all beings, plant and animal, to be sacred and deserving of respect.

These ancient times fostered an incredibly rich, woman-centered healing tradition, as old as humans have been on the planet, and yet still very much alive in diverse cultures world-wide. This ages-old approach to health is today called the Wise Woman Tradition. The Wise Woman Tradition tells us that it is through the wise use of herbs, the cultivation of a wild and compassionate heart, and the acting out of simple ceremony that we heal the whole person.

The Wise Woman Tradition encourages us to focus on nourishing herbs common to the area in which we live, that grow abundantly, and are readily available. A wise woman looks for herbs that grow along the paths she walks, in the field beside her home, or underneath a favorite tree. The Wise Woman Tradition teaches that wild foods and herbs are whole, integrated nourishment carrying spiritual, emotional, physical, and other invisible energies. It invites us to enter into resonance with these nature-given energy sources.

The Wise Woman Tradition likes to keep things simple. The wise woman allies herself with a single herb, a simple, then gives herself the time and opportunity to encounter the many possibilities, subtle energies, and unique properties of that herb. She builds a foundation of knowledge and trust by simply using one herb at a time while paying close attention. The wise woman makes a commitment to know each herb deeply, as she would a dear friend. In this way, she develops a small circle of intimate green allies she can count on in diverse circumstances.

The Wise Woman Tradition emphasizes optimum nourishment, with a deep respect for, and trust in, the body/mind/spirit’s intrinsic inclination toward health and wholeness. Understanding this, the wise woman creates a strong foundation, using herbs as a wellspring of support. She knows that true health and well-being flow from nourishment.

The wise woman creates simple rituals and ceremonies to ground and focus her experience, and to help open her wild heart. She gives thanks before her meal, praises each new morning, and joyfully tucks her child into bed each night. Through conscious and attentive enactment of these simple daily rituals, the wise woman affirms and acknowledges the sacredness of her everyday life.

Wise women want stories. They understand that when we know the story of an individual, a community, a place or a plant, or even just a part of the story, we can begin to expose deeper truths and find deeper meaning. Every story is a part of the whole story. By opening our wild hearts to the stories the plants have to share, we deeply nourish the planet and ourselves. By exposing and sharing our personal stories, we deeply nourish each other and ourselves. My students share their individual stories as a way of introduction at our first class meeting. They learn to listen with deep compassion, for themselves and their peers. I know that, over time, we will become part of the other’s story, adding essential threads to the warp and weft that reweave ancient, healing, Wise Woman Ways.

The Wise Woman Tradition is wild-heart-centered. Deep compassion for our collective humanness comes by concerning ourselves with the development of the wild heart’s truth, attention, forgiveness, and love. As wise women opening to our many contradictions, we realize that validation of each unique reality and perspective is a fundamental component of nourishment.

The Wise Woman Tradition considers good health to be an ever-changing state of being, grounded in everyday experience. The Wise Woman Tradition encourages us to accept and acknowledge our pain, or problem, as our ally. If we seek the grace to embrace the problem as a gift full of benefits, rather than attempting to rid ourselves of it, we allow the problem to point the way toward true health and healing. In that way, the problem becomes our ally. An ancient admonition says go to the wound for healing and receive from your wound its gift. Look to your pain with a new perspective. Allow it to reveal its unique offerings. When my foot hurts, I don’t take an aspirin and go back to work. The Wise Woman Tradition has taught me to take the time to soak my foot and rub it with some healing oil. I might put it up and let it rest a while. I thank my foot for the little break it afforded me, by calling my attention to the fact that I needed one. Then I go back to work, refreshed and in less pain.

Men can be wise women too! In fact, on of the most inspiring wise women I know is a man. Every person has the capacity to bring forth the inner wise woman and honor the wise woman in others. Each of us has the capacity to open our wild hearts and to live our lives with attention, compassion, and love. We can all align ourselves with the green growing plants and learn how to use them for nourishment and healing.

May the seven directions empower you. May the ways of the Wise Woman make themselves known to you. May you walk the Trail of Beauty always, and be good to all you encounter.

excerpt from Opening Our Wild Hearts to Healing Herbs by Gail Faith Edwards



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