Weed Wanderings Herbal eZine with Susun Weed
April 2004
Volume 4 Number 4
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What's Inside Weed Wanderings this Month...


Menopausal Years ...

The Serpent & the Moon
by Gretchen Brown

Under a dwindling sliver of moonlight, I shamble onto the stage panhandling the mixed blessings of Mad Hettie, the bag lady, to the response of nervous coughs and whispered questions. “Who’s that ???? How did she get in here?” “What is she talking about?” The Crone cackles, “I’m planting the seeds of renewal from the compost in my bag over all these many centuries.” And then I begin to demonstrate the point through a humorous and erotic strip tease shedding of Mad Hettie’s dingy mismatched garb.

Shocked and amused, the audience begins to perceive the sacred theatre underlying the spectacle and lends their engagement in the ongoing transformation. Imagine then, the amazement and wonder all of us experience when, toward the end of the striptease, I finally reveal Sofia, who slithers up and around my neck, as another serpent, Hannah entwines around my fingers.

We dance, all three of us, as yet another incarnation of the Triple Goddess. Serpent, Moon & Goddess energies, as ancient as time and as new as the moment!

This ritual performance piece titled Shedding a Skin was the final catalyst for me to fully reunite and heal the Sacred Feminine within me. I was near the end of a long battle with endometriosis, which resulted in infertility and ovarian failure (immediate menopause). I was drowning in rage, grief, and self pity.

Shedding a Skin was a dance conceived intuitively, without a “logical” concept, that only divulged its wisdom upon completion. The repetition of rehearsals combined with the inherent contact improvisation of the serpents became a tangible example to me of the consistently changing phases of the Moon.

Slowly I realized that in reawakening my connection to the Moon Goddess through my snakes, I was healing my Triple Goddess nature, coming into my Crone through the death of Motherhood and the rebirth of my commitment to living. I made a conscious choice to dedicate the gifts of my creativity in ritual dance/theatre and my serpents to the service of Goddess. In return, I’ve come home to being a whole woman.

In retrospect, I wasn’t always so dissociated from the Goddess. Born on a Moon-day (Monday), as a child I enjoyed the bliss of spontaneous movement, dancing around in backyards or in the woods and was always attracted to snakes, though I had none as companion animals until I was living on my own.

I have memories of believing I could walk to the ends of the Earth protected by the full moon, although my knowledge of the lunar phases and accompanying energies was negligible.

Around the onset of puberty, I, like many young girls developed a negative body image and mind set that was influenced by the attitudes of a society that didn’t acknowledge voluptuous beauty. Physically, I began experiencing painful menstrual periods and entered an emotional cycle of judgment and defeat.

When I moved out on my own, I began studying the ancient woman’s art of belly dance and joined a belly dance troupe. Still, the betrayal I felt, growing into a woman, was deeply centered within my womb and expressed itself in all of my actions. In my mid-twenties, I was in so much pain that I began a short series of dances (in private) that consisted of beating myself in my belly while spinning. This attempt to exorcise my femininity through the creative muse was intended to render me invulnerable to any further “female troubles.”

Not surprisingly, I didn’t want children at that time either; I was completely split from my Sacred Feminine and hardly ever noticed Her in the sky. My childhood years as a Maiden dancing and dreaming under Luna were submerged as a woman living under the tyranny of her moon.

Sadly, there was at that time very little knowledge being disseminated about Goddess; women were still trying to become “like men” to gain equality.

Many years before my breakthrough ritual dance, I received my first gift of a red tailed Boa Constrictor. I often danced improvisationally with that serpent in the privacy of my home, marveling at its ability to move into any shape, but unaware, except on a very basic level of the transformational nature of what I was doing.

As I continued to dance with snakes, I found it was a way to journey deeply within my own story and the mysteries of the Universe; an experience that is sensual, cryptic, exhilarating and profoundly centering at the same time. I refused dancing with my boa Sofia in public for several years, believing that to do so was tawdry, gimmicky, and lacking in artistic integrity. Actually, I was simply unfamiliar with the vast ancient heritage linking the Serpent with the moon mysteries.

Sofia (at first mistaken for a male snake) was steadfast and infinitely patient as she imparted her instinctual knowledge to me through her being. Watching her shed her skin in one complete piece and renew her vitality emerged as a metaphor of letting go and beginning anew. From there, I made the cognitive leap to understanding that the moon was a mirror influence for my monthly cycle.

For me, a woman consumed with menstrual pain and infertility, this leap was nothing less than miraculous. Finally, I had found a higher power with which I was aligned; I could offer prayers to Her and seek answers.

Absorbing the written work of Marija Gimbutas, Demetra George Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung (among others) provided the key to unlocking ancient cellular memories within me. I believe that I have lived previous lives as a Serpentess (snake priestess), practicing the moon mysteries and honoring the Triple Goddess in all Her manifestations.

This discovery was significant for me and the simple faith I grant these memories now helps me to recognize when Goddess is channeling vision, ritual, or prayer through me.

Viewed from a cosmological perspective, the world of today is not very different from that of our ancestors. Then as now, humans have wondered how we got here, how we can survive, and what happens when we die. Then as now, all of existence functioned within combinations of individual, overlapping, and synchronistic cycles of Birth, Life, and Death into Rebirth.

These mysteries are mirrored in the phases of the lunation cycle, mythologized in the Deities, and can be accessed through the observation, handling, and actualization of the transfunctional attributes of the Serpent.

With focus and practice, I have discovered that I am completely immersed in the law of the cycle, living as a daughter of the moon with the serpents who are one of Her totem animals.

My affinity with snakes, as well as belly dancing, and struggles with my blood moons, are some of the individual cycles comprising my personal mythology and connecting me to the collective unconscious.

The difference is that now I am aware and willing to live fully in the unknowingness of life. Most of my life's experiences have been about my rebirth to Goddess within me, coming to terms with my human and imperfect sacred feminine, embracing my Triple Goddess journey as Virgin, Woman, and Crone, and recognizing that I can be of service to Her.

My journey into the healing of my own personal pain, through the death of my fertility, was somehow necessary in order for me to understand the truth that the Dark Moon rebirths as the waxing Crescent Moon.

Coming out on the other side, I am grateful and consider myself a blessed daughter of Goddess.

I may never have children, yet I have birthed and am nurturing a career that is soul satisfying--that of being a Serpentess, a Temple Belly Dancer, and a teacher of these practices that honor and access the lunar energies. I believe our species has evolved with a will and a mind that reasons and creates, so that we can learn to live in reverence on an Earth that exists within the cyclical paradox of life feeding on life. This recognition has granted me peace and reinforced my conviction to express the ancient rituals of the Serpent, the Moon, and Goddess.

Serpentessa (Gretchen Brown) is a belly dancing Snake Priestess who has been living with Serpents for over 20 years. Her workshops, temple belly dance classes, rituals and ritual theatre focus on reclaiming the Sacred Feminine in mind, body and soul. Serpentessa lives in gratitude for the bountiful blessings, lessons, experiences and relationships that enter her life on a daily level through being a Serpentess and caring for these wild yet humble, powerful yet peaceful beings who are her Teachers. Performing with Snakes is a privilege and responsibility she takes very seriously. She has studied Belly Dance with Jehan, Serena, the late Ibrahim Farrah and Navida before branching out into performing other forms of dance and theatre. She is a member of the highly acclaimed Off-Broadway show GODDESSDANCE. Her choreography, performances and rituals incorporate a mythological viewpoint experienced in a current perspective.

Wise Woman Center -- Workshops for Women
Join us this year for spirit healing and herbal medicine workshops, intensives, and apprenticeships with Susun Weed and other Wise Woman teachers. The Wise Woman Center in Woodstock NY exists to re-weave the healing cloak of the Ancients. This land, this sacred sanctuary for women is a place for the teachings of the Wise Woman way. The Goddess lives here, as do goats, fairies, green witches, and elders. Located between Woodstock and Saugerties, 5 miles from the NYS Thruway, the Wise Woman Center is easily accessible while private enough for nude swimming. You'll receive a map and directions when you register. Nourishing wild-food vegetarian meals are included with all workshops.

See the Calendar of Events & Workshop schedule (and to register) for this year, click here.



Weed Wanderings herbal ezine is sponsored by www.susunweed.com and www.wisewomanbookshop.com

Women's Health Books at Ash Tree Publishing

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