by Joanna Poppink, MFCC

Wise women,
respected elders who were
judges, healers, teachers,
guides through death passages
disappeared from our culture.

I wonder how many
of the nine million
murdered witches
were women in menopause.

To dance at night
under the trees
away from cottages and farms
partially clad or nude,
alone or holding hands with other women,
could get a woman killed for being a witch.

Yet dancing helps strengthen bones,
a weight bearing exercise critical for
preventing osteoporosis.
Cool evening air on bare skin
gives relief from hot flashes.
Being in nature with understanding friends
soothes the soul,
calms emotional swings
and might well provide respite from night sweats.

Yet these efforts
to allay uncomfortable menopause feelings
were classified as actions
of a devil possessed witch.

Being with women who understand
the menopausal experience
gives strength and encouragement
as a woman moves through this normal
and human feminine passage.

meeting regularly
for information, love, and support
was called
being in a coven
and was highly suspect.
Meeting to quilt or spin
was acceptable to some extent,
but when suspicion and anxiety
grew in the power structure,
meetings were condemned
and women were tortured and killed.

Practicing medicine
was against the law
for women.
To do so
meant punishment by torture and death.

Yet, then and now,
women approaching,
in and beyond menopause
gather to discuss herbs,
vegetables sources of estrogen,
and various brewed mixtures
which relieve physical and emotional stresses.

Plus, women were traditional healers
as caretakers of their families.
They had the most knowledge
of gathering and cooking
herbs, meats and vegetables,
and of healing effects their creations had
on the people they served and loved.
Yet, a woman healer was considered
a witch
and condemned.

Today, cats are more popular as pets
than dogs
and favored among women.
However, during the holocaust,
for a woman to find solace
and friendship among animals,
to relax into an intimate moment
stroking the warm, purring body of a cat,
was a sign of uncontrollable and
consorting with the devil.
This was punishable by
torture and death.

The belief was
that the animal was the devil in disguise.
When no one was with a woman and her cat
(or other creature)
the animal was believed
to take the shape of a man.
This demon/man
And the woman/witch
supposedly would then have
Millions of cats stood trial
and were burned along with the women.

From wise elder to horrific witch
was a long fall for women's cultural identity.

A hushed silence around menopause is still with us.
Women show a massive docility as they accept
drug companies' pronouncements
of the mature woman's hormonal needs,
despite minimal, weak, and flawed testing.

Current economic
and social allegiance
to youth at any cost,
may influence
this silence and docility.
But the real basis of women's
fear and passivity
may primarily come
from our racial memory of that
400 year holocaust.


Joanna Poppink, M.F.C.C., 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.

Contact Information:
10573 West Pico Blvd. Suite 20
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 474-4165 phone
(310) 474-7248 fax

Please help support our SelfhelpMagazine mission
so that we may continue serving you.
Choose your
support amount here: