by Lynn Andrews
“Wise blood.” What a beautiful expression, exquisite in its richness of life, dignity and promise.
Wise blood, the time in every woman’s life when she has lived long enough and experienced more than enough to become “one who knows,” a woman who has gone through the gateway of Changing Woman and stepped into her own sacred self. It is the time when a woman is finally free to explore the vision that has been living on the edge of her awareness, for change of life is but the rebirth into new responsibilities, new mirrors and new power in life.
Not that long ago, the grandparents held the position of the “ones who know how,” the wisest and most respected members of their communities. With the wisdom of their elders as their backbone, they had lived through their own time in history. It was now time to pass wisdom of their experiences down to future generations.
Today, much has changed. Gone from our lives are teachings of our elders, who are all too frequently shunted off to hidden corners of our world. Gone are the rites of passage given to us by the elders, those initiations which marked the individual and social growth of a people, which taught us what was coming and what was expected of us at different stages of our lives.
There are four passages that every woman is entitled to know about and celebrate as she goes through life, the four cycles of fertility, each with its own unique gifts to be honored and embraced:
- first blood, when a girl moves from the exuberant imagination of childhood into adolescence and into the beginnings of her own cycles of fertility and creativity in the world;
- marriage, whether to a partner or to her artistry, when she truly begins to conceive what her own gifts to the world will be;
- childbirth, whether it is the birthing of a family or the birthing of her talent and intellect into the world; and
- wise blood, when a woman goes through the gateway of “Changing Woman,” or menopause, and moves from fertility of the body into fertility of the soul.
Within each passage, there are plateaus to be recognized, times not only of ceremony but also of introspection and taking stock, guided by the love and wisdom of those who have gone before.
Although it is feared by modern woman as the beginning of the end, the gateway of Changing Woman is actually profoundly strengthening and filled with joy. It is a rite of passage for a woman that needs to be fully illuminated so that the actual event of menopause – when a woman’s monthly bleeding cycle stops and another cycle of life begins – becomes the start of a new and empowered way of viewing her life rather than the inevitable onset of aging and decline.
To the Sisterhood of the Shields, a society of shaman healers from indigenous communities across the world with whom I have studied and worked for the last 37 years, the gateway of Changing Woman is the entrance to the most sacred time of a woman’s existence on earth. It is the time when she can finally release the dominion that time has had over her life and discover the deeper meanings she has always sought.
To the Sisterhood, many of them elders, hot flashes, the symptoms of shifting hormones, are actually the kindling of a fire within that prepares a woman for an incredibly powerful time of living. Their heat is the alchemy of transformation that clarifies the body and spirit of negative debris and prepares a woman for her new cycle of existence.
Hot flashes ought be welcomed instead of fought against. So when you are a woman going through the gateway of Changing Woman, experience your hot flashes. Dance with their heat, ride it like a fractious horse and know that there is something going on that is far more important than the physical rebalancing of hormones! Significantly, wise blood is the time for holding not only your blood, but also for holding, finally, your own power.
The first ring of power for women is where we are dedicated to physical existence and the fertility of our bodies, the raising of family and career, choices in relationships and the conditioning of family and society. The second ring of power is the fertility of spirit, the enlightened, sacred life that marks the second half of a woman’s evolving.
Lynn Andrews is the author of Woman At the Edge of Two Worlds: The Spiritual Journey Through Menopause. She is recognized worldwide as a shaman teacher and healer, New York Times and internationally best-selling author of the Medicine Woman series.