The Fierce Initiation of Menopause by Mary Sharratt

Modern Western culture despises aging. Aging women are held in particular contempt. Menopause is meant to be something embarrassing and uncomfortable. The pharma industry peddles hormones and other drugs meant to mask our symptoms. Few women see menopause as something to even talk about, let alone celebrate. But some women are reclaiming the dignity and transformation of menopause as a passage to power. Author and herbalist Susun Weed portrays menopause as a spiritual awakening. She likens the fierce waves of heat traveling upward to our brains to the Eastern concept of a Kundalini awakening that ultimately leads to enlightenment and spiritual liberation. Whether or not you agree with this, you will not make it through menopause without some kind of radical change taking place inside you.

I’ve experienced menopause as an initiation by fire. Having chosen not to have children, menopause has proved the most intense and radical embodied experience and transformation I’ve undergone since menarche and puberty. When a hot flash seizes me, I can no longer continue my train of monkey-mind thinking or be an efficient worker bee of global capitalism. All my old ingrained thought patterns are interrupted and come to a halt as I’m forced to focus on the embodied experience of burning up from within. What if this internal fire is literally burning through old ways of thinking and being that no longer serve me? Maybe we’re supposed to be rattled and disturbed so we can change. It’s even called The Change. So many tired old patterns are falling away from me, because I can’t keep up with them anymore. There’s this profound deepening. A sense of what truly matters.

I resist change so much. I long to remain in the comfortable old rut of the familiar, but menopause makes that impossible. It’s a take-no-prisoners wake up call to the reality of passing time and impermanence. It forces me to reexamine my values, where I truly want to spend the remaining time I have on earth. I’ve always been spiritual, but menopause has deepened my commitment to daily spiritual practice. It’s also taught me to embrace my own fierceness. To say what I mean and mean what I say. Menopausal women might find themselves losing the superficial prettiness of youth. We can no longer pass as objectified eye candy in male-stream culture. With our wrinkles and gray hair, we become something scary but also powerful. Crones and witches. We truly do become wise women if we answer the spiritual call of menopause. If we resist the lure of male-stream medicine to brainwash us into reframing this profound transformation and path of power into a disease that must be treated with hormones and face lifts. While some women benefit from hormone therapy and allopathic medicine, I’m against the generic medicalization of the natural processes in women’s lives.

Pregnant women give birth to new souls. Menopausal women give birth to their wiser selves. Like motherhood, menopause sidelines us on the relentless march towards capitalist achievement and forces us to reexamine our true priorities. We live in a 24/7 culture that expects us to be switched on and working at maximum efficiency every day of the year, as if the cycles of the seasons, sun, and moon didn’t exist. Menopause is an invitation to live in harmony with the tides and seasons of our lives. To claim our time and attention and take our lives back.

If older women truly knew how fierce and powerful we were, we could change the world.

Readers might also want to check out my essay: “Life Begins at 42: Saint Hildegard’s Guide to Becoming a Midlife Powerfrau.” 


Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history. Her most recent novel Ecstasy is about the composer Alma Schindler Mahler. If you enjoyed this article, sign up for Mary’s newsletter or visit her website.


Author: Mary Sharratt

Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history and is the author of eight acclaimed novels, including ILLUMINATIONS, drawn from the life of Hildegard von Bingen, and REVELATIONS, which delves into the intersecting lives of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, two mystics and female literary pioneers who changed history. Visit her website:

23 thoughts on “The Fierce Initiation of Menopause by Mary Sharratt”

  1. “When I was forty-two years and seven months old,” she wrote, “Heaven was opened and a fiery light of exceeding brilliance came and permeated my whole brain, and inflamed my whole heart and my whole breast, not like a burning but like a warming flame, as the sun warms anything its rays touch.” from your suggested blog on Hildegaard.

    Did this vision happen during a hot flash?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Sharratt, yes, yes and yes. Reading your blog, I am thinking I should have called my third book of dream memoir The change! Instead, it’s called Cauldron of the Feminine. The world of the mystics and midlife! Rich territory for Wise Women. Thank you for this! I shall cherish your words. At 43 I embarked on The Changes of a lifetime made deeper, richer and more difficult by the complications of clinical depression. Thank god for the works of Sylvia Perera, Esther Harding and Merlin Stone among the myriad of others including Carol Shields novel, Unless, and a strong theses advisor, I muddled through. Now at 74 in a struggle for voice in a world of shouting pharma and medical aging, we shall carry on.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! :) I loved everything you said here! Thanks!

    The fears of aging, of dying, of no longer attracting sexual attention from others (based upon a youthful appearance) cloud the minds of many women. I also chose not to have children … you brought up an interesting point about how menopause might then feel a little different for us, one I hadn’t considered before. I did write a blog post a couple years ago about my own “death” during The Change:

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Indeed we all go through this, at times in confusion what’s happening to our body, yet the most relieving part about menopause was ( at least for me), that I don’t have to battle with the monthly menstruation anymore. As far as my spirit, I believe that I have become more wise and loving the insights of myself and to others.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you, Mary for your thoughtful post about menopause. An area we are exploring and I welcome more
    menopausal women’s comments. My friends and I have found Clary Sage essential oil helpful for hot flashes. Just a whiff seems to calm them down so life can go on. Please report back if it works or not for you. Menopausal wisdom welcome here.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I went to a workshop with Susun Weed a few weeks after experiencing my first night sweats. That workshop, and her Book on menopause, meant that I saw the journey as an acventure and something to explore, rather than deplore. It made the hugest difference in my whold perimenopausal journey, and has affected me positively into menopause.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Loved this, Mary! And believe it or not, I actually enjoyed my hot flashes. They felt good to me physically. I called it “riding the Dragon”. Blessed be!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I loved hot flashes too. They continued for years and I was sad when they finally stopped. Learned to cope by wearing scarves which can easily be taken off and back on, and always believed, as some Wise Woman (probably Weed) wrote, that those flashes are the body’s way of burning up any malevolent entities, such as early cancers.

      And yes, I am so much happier, freer, more fully living my soul’s potential now — in no small part because, as Mary writes, I am now “useless” to the patriarchal capitalist system, no longer being breedable or having boundless energy.


  8. How did I miss this? Mary, thank you for your amazing post! Menopause meant freedom to me, mostly freedom from monthly cramps. I experienced Sacred Moon Time from age 11 to age 58, so I was quite ready to bid it goodbye. I read somewhere that nature permits women to live past their reproductive years so they can help bring up the next generation. Well, I’ve certainly done that, and I’ve loved it! In fact, sometimes I get the weird feeling that I’ve seen more of my grandchildren than I saw of their parents. I had to work when my children were infants.

    Agree whole-heartedly that we should resist the medicalization of this natural stage of life if we don’t need medical help. I never had a hot flash in my life, although I did seem to cry easily. The TV evening news would reduce me to tears. Also agree that we should resist patriarchal ideas of women’s attractiveness and behavior and celebrate our freedom from living under the male gaze.

    Liked by 2 people

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