Cerridwen’s Menopause Medicine Wheel of Transformation: Into the Darkness

Cerridwen’s Menopause Medicine Wheel of Transformation: Into the Darkness

Medical Herbalist Edwina Hodkinson continues her deeper exploration of the aspects of menopause which she introduced in her article ‘Cerridwen’s Menopause Medicine Wheel.’

The midlife woman looks in the mirror. She sees her outward appearance start to change, a few more lines develop, her hair texture changes and her skin becomes drier. Her body shape starts to alter, and her waistline thickens. She feels different inside too and may be experiencing the irregularity in her menstruation or the permanent end of it.  

Life is changing and she is changing. It can often feel overwhelming, leaving her feeling angry,  anxious and panicky. This can sometimes feel a little scary as she plunges into the darkness feeling fearful, confused and unable to cope with normal life. She is drawn to spending time alone away from others. She feels lost in a liminal zone,  with no maps to guide her journey. 


Cerridwen – Goddess of Transformation

Cerridwen stands beside her. She knows the midlife woman needs to go through this time of deconstruction as part of her metamorphosis to the wise woman. It is hard for her to watch her daughter struggle, especially as the woman has no idea that this is an ancient rite of passage that modern women have forgotten the wisdom of. Cerridwen can only hold her in the darkness, sit beside her and hope the woman can hear the  whisper of wisdom of who she will become.

As Goddess of transformation, Cerridwen watches over all women who are undertaking the wisewoman initiation. It is a journey that has been taken for thousands of years by women who live to midlife. Cerridwen knows this is an important process that will challenge the midlife woman to the core of her being and ultimately transform her to a wise woman elder. She knows that as with the caterpillar that goes into the chrysalis to eventually emerge as a butterfly, the woman will do this too.  Cerridwen cannot interfere, so instead holds her tight and whispers words of encouragement and magic that she hopes the woman will hear. Standing beside her, she guides her in the deep knowing of what it is to transform into a wise woman.


Menopausal Anxiety

Many women struggle with anxiety and panic during the menopausal transition as well as nights of not sleeping, hot flushes, night sweats, depression, anxiety, rage and sometimes grief for the loss of her fertile years. As oestrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate and drop, many parts of her body dependent on oestrogen to plug into their receptors feel this change. For many women the drop in oestrogen can affect the mood centres of the brain and production of feel good chemicals such as serotonin plummet affecting mental wellness. This can have a massive impact on how a woman feels emotionally and many struggle with  anxiety, panic attacks, depression and insomnia . Many women  find it difficult to cope with normal life. Added to this there are often big changes in a woman’s life such as personal relationships breaking down, children leaving home and elderly parents getting sick or dying.

Menopause can negatively affect women’s lives and their ability to work. It is estimated that there are 13 million peri or post menopausal women in the UK and 1 in 4 will experience debilitating symptoms.(https://menopausesupport.co.uk/)



In going through my own menopausal transition, I managed my hot flushes with herbal medicine and diet from the first onset of symptoms, but it was the sudden and unexpected impact of anxiety, panic attacks and overwhelming darkness that hit me hard.  I had never encountered this before; it was frightening and I found it hard to function. Then I realised what was happening to me and why. I increased my intake of the amino acid tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin and added extra B vitamins. I did this using diet and  supplements.  Within days, I felt I was back to normal.


Entering the Darkness

The next time it happened, I was on holiday in Cornwall. Work had been busy and life stressful. The nine hour drive from the North exhausted me. Walking on the coast path in a place of beauty, I felt overwhelmed with fear and transfixed with panic.  Finding some Mugwort and Wood Betony on the campsite, I made a tea. It felt better just to ingest some calming herbs that instantly took the edge of my panic. 

Later that afternoon, I entered the darkness.  I crawled into the side chamber of Boleigh Fogou; a constructed small tunnel from the iron age that goes into the earth. Sitting in solitude enveloped in the darkness,  I prayed to Cerridwen to help me. The chamber smelled earthy and knowing that people had experienced visions and  had deep spiritual experiences in here I felt a little unsettled but I knew this was my medicine. As I settled into the chamber, praying to Cerridwen, Isoon noticed a presence beside me, bringing me comfort and support as the anxiety eased. I cried to feel her and know that I was not alone. I felt so much calmer as I emerged into the afternoon sunshine.


Herbal support and Healing Foods

As a Medical Herbalist, I support many women through the menopausal transition and many do come to me for help with symptoms that impact on their wellbeing. All women are different and support can be complex and is always holistic.  In working with mood changes, I always try to support hormone balance by promoting adrenal health (see article in Initiatrix), prescribing hormone-balancing herbs such as Red clover, or Sage, a healthy diet which includes  phyto-oestrogens, herbs that calm and nourishing the nervous system such as Oatstraw or Vervain  diet and supplements that help raise levels of serotonin. Many foods contain the amino acid tryptophan such as nuts and seeds, eggs, tofu, milk, poultry, cheese spinach, broccoli, oats and wait for it dark chocolate or cacao. Some women prefer to use a natural supplement such as 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) and B vitamins. 


Mrs Riley’s Wisdom

When I was struggling with menopausal anxiety, I chatted about this to an elderly patient who shared her own and her mother’s experiences of menopause which included anxiety and agoraphobia. She told me of a very old lady called Mrs Riley who reassured her mother and told her that it was really good on the otherside of menopause. Mrs Riley’s words resonated with me,  reaching out over the last hundred years to my life and reassuring me.  Many women struggling with menopause have often had to do so in a culture of silence and ridicule, having to face the darkness alone. It’s good that things are changing and women are able to talk to others about this, and should do. If things get really overwhelming, and if it feels difficult to function, then it’s always good to seek help from a healthcare practitioner.


The Emerging Wise Woman

As we journey through this liminal time, we change in other ways too as we start to take on the mantle of the emerging wise woman. With a lifetime of experience, skill, developing maturity, and ability to call out the bullshit more and more, we also meet Cerridwen in her aspect as Lady of Air, seer and goddess of wise knowing.  She takes us deeper into ourselves as she teaches us and offers us the opportunity to open up to other ways of knowing such as developing our intuitive side,  psychic ability, shamanic journey work and learning natural healing modalities. For many women, midlife might be the first time they find their voice, and step into their power as teachers, activists or by working in local politics.

I sometimes think deeply about the menopausal rite of passage and wonder how we can better support women going through this with ceremonies, sister support circles and more formal rites of passage.  I realise having gone through menopause, that this IS the rite of passage in all its dissolution and challenge, and finally emerging as our wise woman selves. What we do need is to recognise menopause as the midlife woman’s rite of passage with all the sister support, navigational maps and Mrs Rileys to encourage us and embrace us as we emerge as wisewoman on the other side.


Read Edwina’s other articles in the Cerridwen’s Menopause Medicine Wheel series.


Edwina Hodkinson BSc(Hons) MNIMH

Medical Herbalist 

Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists

Bury, Lancashire UK

Edwina Hodkinson

Edwina Hodkinson. BSc (Hons) MNIMH – Medical Herbalist and second spiral  priestess of Cerridwen

I have been a medical herbalist for 12 years, having graduated with a first-class degree in Herbal Medicine at Central Lancashire University. I work as a consulting medical herbalist in private practice in Bolton or via zoom specialising in women’s health as well as working with community groups to help reconnect them to nature and the medicines growing around us. I also facilitate Wise Woman Rising workshops which help women to reconnect to the wise knowledge of menopause. I have a love for our native wild medicines and like to work with them  as much as possible which includes teaching local people about local herbs in a way that helps them reconnect to the world around them in a deeper way.

I have a background in nursing as well as having been a complementary therapist for over 25 years specialising in cancer care and working with the very sick. I am a forager, Clinical Reflexologist for 26 years, aromatherapist, Shamanic practitioner and Breath work coach.

websites: edwinahodkinsonherbalist.co.uk and weedsandwildmedicine.co.uk

Images by Edwina


Medical Disclaimer

The Herbal Allies are shown here as part of a larger pharmacopia of herbs typically used by herbalists to support women during the menopausal transition and beyond and will be explored more in further articles. They are not prescriptive in any way, nor is it suggested you use them for particular issues and menopausal symptoms. Before using any herbs it’s best to consult with a Medical Herbalist or suitably qualified practitioner as not all herbs are suitable for all women and may interact with medications.

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