Moontime and Menopause
by Corinna Wood
Most women can feel it coming on...the dark time. Our partners may comment that we don't seem to want their company, or anyone else's for that matter. We get caught up in our emotions, and we're not our usual selves. We're hypersensitive. We weep, and we bleed.
Modern society tries to minimize this experience. Women attempt to suppress the wave of feelings that surge to the surface, to put on a happy face and push through. But stoic as we may be, we're often forced to acknowledge the power of our bodies and our emotions. Cramps, headaches and fatigue drive us to our beds or into the bath, where we soak away our woes.
You would think we could take a hint; our bodies and spirits are crying out for sanctuary and succor. But, somehow we've come to view menstruation as an aberration rather than a grace. Yet the ancient wisdom that many women are rediscovering is that the moontime is when the veils between the worlds are at their thinnest, when we as women have a unique window into our own Souls, our inner guidance and our divine wisdom. The physical and emotional intensity of this time is an opportunity for healing and release.
Interestingly, we also tend to approach menopause as an ending, even a disease, rather than an ushering into a rich and fulfilling phase of our journey. It wasn't always so.
In traditional societies without artificial lights at night, women's cycles of fertility are directly synchronized to the phases of the moon, ovulating when it is full and bleeding during the dark. The wise woman tradition invites us to embrace this spiral, or ebb and flow the alternate ebb and flood of the tide; often used figuratively.
See also: Ebb of light and dark in our lives. It isn't 'just' your hormones, dear one--it's you. To be all of who we are, we need to look beyond the denial and consider ways to nourish ourselves deeply.
On the physical level, we can find support for our specialized needs through wholesome foods and nourishing herbs that nurture the body and encourage optimum health: the bridge where food and medicine meet. For the sake of expediency, many women turn to drugs or supplements--the silver bullet of a precise, tasteless, odorless capsule. But our bodies are designed to absorb necessary nutrients in a gentler, more integrative way. We need whole foods and food-like herbs.
My favorite herbal allies for women are nourishing herbs such as nettle, common name for the Urticaceae, a family of fibrous herbs, small shrubs, and trees found chiefly in the tropics and subtropics. Several genera of nettles are covered with small stinging hairs that on contact emit an irritant (formic acid) which produces a , oatstraw, raspberry and red clover. These herbs are dense with nutrients, including chlorophyll, minerals, vitamins and phytosterols. Infusions are the most effective way to fully extract their benefits and can be enjoyed on a daily basis (see sidebar at right for instructions). For strong bones, also try a vinegar enriched with the extractions of nettle, chickweed.
The consumption of nourishing whole foods is difficult in a time when the trend is low fat/fat free diets. The trend dictates that women must be extremely thin in order to be attractive and is a particular threat to our well-being Aesthetics are a matter of opinion, but being emaciated e·ma·ci·ate tr. & intr.v. e·ma·ci·at·ed, e·ma·ci·at·ing, e·ma·ci·ates To make or become extremely thin, especially as a result of starvation. certainly isn't healthy. Among its other dangers, low body fat is directly linked with amenorrhea,(amen'?re`a, ?men'–), cessation of menstruation. Primary amenorrhea is a delay in or a failure to start menstruation; secondary amenorrhea is an unexpected stop to the menstrual cycle. (lack of a period), osteoporosis and infertility, a fact that isn't surprising since sex hormones are manufactured from fat-soluble nutrients.
We need to consume healthy fats to keep our hormonal rhythms in sync. This is especially important during menopause, when our fat cells (along with our adrenals) take over the job of producing a form of estrogen. Healthy animal fats can be found in organic dairy products, like butter and raw cheese, as well as yogurt. Yogurt is a good choice for those with lactose concerns since the fermentation process provides the lactase enzymes necessary for easy digestion.
So herbs, yes. Good nutrition, yes. And there's more. To be fully realized as women, we need to access the inner knowing that our lunar rhythms offer us. Rather than rushing blindly through moontimes, we can sink into the gifts of this dark time.
During menstruation, pregnancy and menopause, our emotions and perceptions are heightened. There is a primal urge to remove ourselves from the daily routine and allow these feelings to move through our bodies and our spirits. We crave the Moon Lodge.
In traditional societies where the natural order of things was revered, the Moon Lodge offered a retreat, or cradle to receive women when they felt most vulnerable. Women gathered there during their menses menses /men·ses/ (men´sez) the monthly flow of blood from the female genital tract.
n. , but not as an exile imposed upon the 'unclean.' The Moon Lodge offered a sacred space sacred space, n space—tangible or otherwise—that enables those who acknowledge and accept it to feel reverence and connection with the spiritual. to be immersed in reflection, to be still and truly be.
These days, our busy lives don't always afford us the option of leaving our responsibilities behind for a week, but we can honor this need by taking a Moon Day (or even an hour!), either just before our bleeding begins or at its height (usually the second day). Many women find that taking a Moon Day does wonders to prevent menstrual woes and pains; when we're already in the Moon Lodge, our bodies don't need to yell so loudly to call us back there!
With the high incidences of stress-related illness and the women challenged by reproductive issues ranging from infertility to menstrual disorders.
A menstrual disorder is a physical or emotional problem that interferes with the normal menstrual cycle, causing pain, unusually heavy or light bleeding, delayed menarche, or missed periods. to endometriosisendometriosis, it is simply good common sense to take some time to care for ourselves, whether as a preventative or a restorative.
The key to creating a healthy, embracing approach to our life-long lunar dance is to treat it, and ourselves, with the respect and nurturing that we extend to all those we care for. Nourish your body and your soul, and you will be well prepared to nourish others.
Corinna Wood apprenticed with Susun Weed in 1993, and has been practicing, teaching, and carrying on the Wise Woman Tradition ever since. Corinna co-founded Red Moon Herbs, making herbal medicines from fresh, local plants for 20 years before passing on the baton. Corinna is also renowned as the founding director of the legendary Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference. With extensive training and experience in herbal medicine and spiritual psychology for women, Corinna now offers earth-based woman-centered tools for inner growth and healing. See Wise Woman Studies with Corinna Wood at www.corinnawood.com
A note from Corinna: "After many years of making and teaching herbal medicines for women's health, it dawned on me that I needed my own medicine kit for the heart, mind and soul! I applied all I knew of the wise woman ways towards my own deep inner healing. I drew on my depth and breadth of knowledge––nature and her cycles, health and healing, nonviolent communication and feminist spiritual psychology. Now I support wonderful women like you, with tools for inner growth and healing to ground you in your own innate wisdom, needs and desires. I'd love to support you along your journey ~ come connect!"