The Wise Ones Say
Wise Woman Tradition
by Gail Faith Edwards
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
Wise Ones Say
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
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
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
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
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
the Wild Terrain of Menopause; Herbal Allies for Midlife Women
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
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
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.
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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