Shapeshifter: Seasons of a Woman’s Life
A woman is a shapeshifter, flowing from one life stage to another, just as each season gradually becomes the next. We trace each season of a woman’s life, with all its gifts and challenges, as it resonates with each phase of the Wheel of the Year.
The Midsummer Queen and the Lammas Reaper
“Women spiral through life’s seasons like the world does: there are days of growth in youth, in midlife, in age, just as there are losses and cold in each.
There may be a concentration of spring energies in the maiden, but she can feel as well the forces of fullness and decline. Women in their prime are maids and crones at once. And every aged woman knows still the wild spring winds.”
- Patricia Monaghan, Seasons of the Witch
A woman is a shapeshifter, flowing from one life stage to another, just as each season gradually becomes the next. Year after year, women of the earth tribe mark the solar holy-days of the seasonal round, as well as the waxing and waning of the moon each month. Our own menstrual cycles echo this pattern, waxing toward ovulation, then waning to moonflow.
Most of us were raised in mainstream culture. We didn’t grow up celebrating Beltane or Lammas, or hearing about the underlying sacred themes of Halloween. We had to discover the ancient holy-days for ourselves. We learned from each other and taught each other, remembering and re-creating the old ways.
After years upon years of marking the tides of sun and moon, a day comes when a woman finds she has embodied the wisdom of the sacred round in her bones. At her very core, she is intimately acquainted with the cycle of descent and return. The tides and seasons have become so embedded in her identity that it's no longer conscious, like the mastery of a musical instrument or the craft of painting. When this day comes, she no longer celebrate the seasons. Instead, they celebrate her.
The Midsummer Queen
When Summer comes to a woman’s soul, she knows herself as Maker, as Creatrix, as the Sensual One.
Like the Solstice sun, she is at the peak of her power. Like the garden, she exults in her own ripening. Like the radiant heat of noon, she burns with lust and longing.
We see the Summer Woman in fully open, intoxicating roses, and in fragrant fields of lavender. We find her in the long days that invite us to both productivity and play.
The Summer Woman comes to adore her own body, including every wrinkle and roll of abundant flesh. She is voluptuous, zaftig, not fat. Her sexuality began to flower at Beltane, but by Midsummer, it is in full bloom. She explores the erotic in her own body, in the bodies of others, in food, in nature, in creative play.
The Summer Woman tends gardens, children, businesses. She stokes her own creative fires. She makes simple, luscious meals from vegetables picked up that day at the farmers’ market. She crafts cherry-flavored kombucha and puts up jars of blackberry jam and salsa. She takes the kids to the water and jumps in with them, slapping her tail on the water like a mermaid does. She cloud-gazes and soaks up the summer heat. Sweaty and exhausted, she cools down with refreshing mint water. In the evening, she packs a picnic dinner for the family and dances a wild trance dance to a crazy band on the park by the bay.
And yet, she struggles. Life is so full, the garden so abundant. She needs to harvest the garden now, today, or the tomatoes will be lost. This deadline must be met, then that one — and oh my, the children are growing like weeds!
She asks herself, as she tends to others: Where is the time I can take for myself? Where do I pause? When do I rest? There is never enough time to do it all, never ever enough.
But she grows wise, this Summer Woman. She learns that indeed, she does not have to do it all. It will all be there tomorrow. Her child will not be ten years old forever. She will not be at this creative peak forever. She will never have this exact moment again, when the fireflies spark the evening sky with magic.
Her struggles go even deeper, in these ripe, midlife years. The Summer Woman finds herself discarding outworn belief systems and creating new ones all her own. She begins to answer an inner calling as her soul’s destiny beckons more strongly and deeply than ever before. She redefines her own sense of who she really is. She turns away from the roles others have cast her in, the woman they want her to be. Sometimes this brings great disruption to her life. She makes mistakes. She learns.
The Lammas Reaper
Then, as the first of August approaches, she catches a scent in the wind. It is the scent of burning, of decay. The sunlit days may still be hotter than Hades, but there is death in the air. She hears a hawk’s cry, a raven’s caw. The days are shorter. The wind has turned. Dry yellow leaves crumble, fall, and drift down the river. It is time to sharpen the scythe.
As the Summer Woman turns to Lammas, she begins to notice signs of aging in her own body. Perhaps there are extra weeks between her periods of moonflow, or else it seems like she’s bleeding all the time. She tires more easily and finds to her chagrin that she’s been diagnosed with arthritis (for god’s sake!) in her left knee. Perhaps she turns 50, and she can’t bring herself to feel good about it, no matter how hard she tries. Dark circles become more pronounced under her eyes. Her breasts sag a little more than they did before. Is that a hot flash, reframed as a power surge? Damn, she thinks. This is not what I had in mind, at all. I’m not ready to embrace the Crone!
But embrace the Crone she will. Eventually. At Lammas, she becomes aware of her own mortality. She begins to wonder how much time she has left. My mother died at 68, she muses. Do I have less than 20 years left?
But here is the gift of the Lammas Woman. By this time in her life, she has encountered tragedy more than once. She has figured out who she is and what she’s meant to do with her life. She has less tolerance for molding herself to the opinions of others. She has a deep understanding of the impact of the gifts and the wounds of her birth, and of all that has happened to her so far. She swings the scythe to cut away that which no longer serves her, and to reap the harvest that will nourish others. She has taken on the mantle of the Wounded Healer, and she reaches out to help others with similar wounds.
And still, she pours forth her abundance, like the ripening fields of corn and the endless rows of raspberries.
And you — where are you on the Wheel of the Year, dear Reader? Are you experiencing a Summer phase of your life, or are you moving into Lammastide? What are you tending? What are you reaping? What hard-won wisdom is yours to share?
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