Menopause Metamorphosis workshop with Susun Weed
By Karen Joy
This was another wonderful one-day class with Susun. The group was pretty small at only about 10 people.
We began as we usually do -- Welcomed at the driveway by apprentices, and ushered up carefully so no plants get hurt.We park and are greeted by Susun, then wind our way down to the circle. The geese, Sweetheart and Loverboy (today, though, Sweetheart is alone) are squawking in the distance and the goats are calling from the barn. Cold infusion awaits us at the circle and we informally meet each other until class begins. On the menu this morning is nettle infusion.
Susun opens class with a brief intro and a song some of us know already. Then the talking stick is passed as we each get our turn to share whatever we want. Of course we are told this can be dance, music, song, etc, but today it is the basic name intro and draw to the class. Soon after the intros begin I realize I am here to learn from Susun AS WELL AS my classmates!
I look at the beautiful wise women around me, silver hair in the sun, artfully sculpted faces, and feel my youngness, my ignorance of life. Many times from family, friends, or on this forum I hear questions from someone going through her change, wanting ideas for herbs or foods to help her through it. I give my learned answers, but feel a little awkward. Who am I to be answering this?, I think. Not only have I been a student of herbal magic/medicine a relatively short time (compared to the lifetimes I believe it takes), I have only lived 31 years, a nursing mom of a toddler.
This feeling of awe for this time of life and these women only grew as the class progressed, as well as the thought that I should know my place in the line of women wisdom. I thought I came to learn symptoms and remedies, instead I learned magic and strength and power.
We left the circle to visit the cohoshes, black and blue, growing in Susun's garden, then walked to a beautiful clearing in the woods. On the way we were introduced to a wild mushroom (was it black chanterelle?) and taught how to identify and gather it, which we did. We brought them back when we returned for lunch and Susun sautéed them to add to our meal. Yummy!
What I remember hearing at the clearing is this (Now mind you what is said and what and how I hear it are different. I love statistics, numbers, studies, etc, but when I've heard them I draw my own conclusions and "delete the file" they were drawn from. So I can't remember what Susun said that brought me to my thoughts, but I can guarantee you it was loaded with lots of info!):
In a tribe or tribes someone studied somewhere, it was found the women who no longer bled were the ones who were the most active and brought in the most food calories.
Someone concluded it was menopausal women as much as the upright posture that has allowed humans to expand so much.
Unfermented soy is an absurd thing to have ever recommended to women.
We are born with 29 estrogens and always have these 29 estrogens in us. At menarche the 30th, estradiol, starts up, and at menopause, it stops.
Our hormone levels are always changing. The idea that they need to be "balanced" or that the cessation of estradiol production is a defect, is not the truth about our bodies.
We can not be "put on" any thing. To say a doctor "put us on something" is giving away our power by not acknowledging our role in buying the drug and swallowing it. A doctor can make her or his suggestion (however it's stated), then we can learn from many different sources about our bodies and the suggested things, and then make our decision. Unless we are bound and forced a drug we are not put on it by anyone but ourselves. I REALLY learn about taking responsibility for my life being around Susun.
We wandered back through the woods for lunch, gathering a few more mushroom delicacies, learning a few more tidbits, as many of us now had questions about the other mushrooms we saw. We ate our usual wild salad, organic bread, butter, made on the farm goat cheese, herbal vinegars, gomasio, olive oil, and soup. This was my first time trying this soup, "Strong Bone Stew", a recipe in Susun's New Menopausal Years book. It is heavenly -- you must try it!
After lunch we harvested motherwort, the flowering tops, and made motherwort tincture! We learned the beauty of this plant and what she can offer us during this time of our lives.
Oh my, there is so much more we learned! But I am not remembering it all in order right now. I left this day with a feeling of awe for the women who have gone through, and are going through, this. I likened it in myself to going through childbirth, except this takes years. It can be intense, our bodies change form and behavior, it can be emotionally trying and physically uncomfortable, and in the end there is no way we can not emerge a changed woman, more powerful for what we just experienced, the years behind us, and who we now are! I think Susun said we are giving birth to the woman we are going to die as.
Still I am only a 30 year old lactating mom. I can only guess at what this is all about. I know now more than ever I want to learn from the crones I am blessed to know. And just as I did as a maiden, knowing I could NEVER know what motherhood and birth was until I experienced them, I know I will never know the depth of a crone's secrets and treasures.
Thank you to all the women who shared this magic in their lives with me! To my mother and mother-in-law who hoped I would leave with herbal remedies for their "symptoms", though I have some ideas for plant allies they might choose to befriend, their "hot flashes" now look to me like surges of power coursing through them!
And thank you Susun for passing on this wisdom and for the armload of motherwort I have put up as tincture on my shelf!
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