WISE BLOOD to WISDOM
MENOPAUSE: A NEW AWAKENING
by Joanna Poppink, MFCC
In ancient times, human beings believed that because a woman did
not bleed for nine months before giving birth, infants developed from
retained menstrual blood. Menstrual blood, called wise blood, took on
powerful meanings. It was used for healing, to fertilize crops and to
It followed that when a woman did not bleed for a
year and did not bear a child, people believed she retained her wise
blood. At that time she became a respected elder, judge, teacher, healer
and leader. Her community respected her as a powerful and loving wise
person who honored and cherished life. In her later years part of her
purpose was to help humanity move through the passage of death as she
had once helped us move through the passage of birth..
of mid-life women are reaching the retaining wise blood stage. They
are frightened abut physical and emotional upheaval, social and professional
exclusion and health risks. Because of the past generations of silence
around menopause, many feel ill equipped to make choices concerning
hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and personal priorities. Fear can
make them oblivious to opportunities for new choices. In the current
economic and social allegiance to youth at any cost, many women feel
vulnerable and naive as they approach "the change."
ancient times, when the clan respected the maiden, mother and wise elder
woman trilogy, women at regular intervals gathered in a separate space
within the community to encourage, support and teach one another. Young
girls who had yet to bleed and older women who had ceased bleeding would
stay for days with menstruating women so that physical, spiritual and
emotional knowledge could be shared and learned.
The tradition of
women helping each other through menopause broke down during the massive,
community sanctioned torture and murder of nine million women during
Today, we have a new climate for women who are coming
of age. Never in our patriarchal society have so many political free
and economically independent women begun entering the menopausal years.
Women are now too educated and financially competent to accept the old
definitions of menopause. A summary of those definitions describes menopause
as the deficiency disease of an old, depleted woman with a failed uterus
who is about to lose her sexuality and her mind. Cher, Jane Fonda and
Elizabeth Taylor are a few well known mature women who still have vibrant
life juices flowing. Most of us now have friends and family as well
as our own lives to show us that living is rich and full well beyond
the Barbie stage.
Women are beginning to realize that menopause is
more than a physical change. It is a rite of passage that holds deep
meaning. In my 16 years of psychotherapy work and research with women,
I've learned that menopause is a call to make choices. Mid-life women
now have an opportunity to live a future filled with love, satisfaction,
serenity and joy of creative challenge. Menopause can awaken courage
and recommitment to life.
Although hormonal treatment may be necessary
and helpful for some women during menopause, there is more to this passage
than deciding whether to go on HRT. To discover the personal significance
of this passage, many women are coming together to give voice to their
inner lives and encourage each other. We are discovering that life experiences,
including private hurtful and solitary experiences, are the seeds of
wisdom that need to be shared now.
As in ancient times, women are
using herbs, diet and exercise to tend our menopausal blood floods,
waves of sudden raw heat, skin changes and emotional intensities. We
share healing teas and talk privately with one another for soothing
and understanding. We write, sing , dance and paint in new creative
surges. We contemplate mortality and create priorities based on deeply
held values. Most importantly, we listen to women's stories and may
make changes in our personal and spiritual lives that startle the people
close to us.
Often, only in the context of being heard and understood
do we appreciate the significance or magnitude of our experiences. We
can provide that context in regular journal writing where we offer ourselves
private, honest time to compassionately listen to ourselves. Sharing
regularly with a friend, therapist, spiritual guide or in a women's
group gives us a more immediate and personal exchange when we are ready.
Women discover a new energy when we share our stories. By so doing
we encourage our inner selves to unite in harmony. In finding a sense
of clarity for making reasonable, soul-satisfying choices, women can
discover our deeply believed positions related to the care of our bodies
and our commitment to a life purpose, whatever it may be.
menopause, our bodies become our teachers and demand our attention.
We are learning to make choices we learn to care responsibly for ourselves.
As we move through this passage of menopause we can create a future
for ourselves and our daughters where we can be fully alive to the end.
We can pass our gifts on to our granddaughters and great granddaughters.
Menopause is a time to let our wise blood awaken us to the good life
that is yet to come.
J. 1994. Maiden, Mother, Crone: the myth & reality of the triple
goddess, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN
1987. Journey Through Menopause: a personal rite of passage,
Crossroad Publishing Co. New York, NY.
Greenwood, Sadja M.D. 1989.
Menopause Naturally: preparing for the second half of life, Volcano
Press, Volcano, CA
Ojeda, Linda. 1992 Menopause Without Medicine.
Hunter House, Alameda, CA.
Walker, Barbara G. 1983. The Woman's
Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Harper, San Francisco.
licensed by the State of California in 1980, is a Marriage, Family, Child
Counselor (License #15563). She has a private practice in Los Angeles
where she works with adult individuals and couples. She specializes in
working with people with eating disorders and with people who are trying
to understand and help a loved on who has an eating disorder.
10573 West Pico Blvd. Suite 20
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 474-4165 phone
(310) 474-7248 fax