Cerridwen’s Transformative Menopause Wheel: Initiatrix

Cerridwen’s Transformative Menopause Wheel: Initiatrix

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

The Menopausal Initiation

The midlife woman stands at a portal. Ahead of her is a path hidden in shadow. Cerridwen, Goddess of transformation stands by her side. She is not alone, although it feels like she is on a solitary journey. She is about to take the first steps as an initiate on an ancient rite of passage; a trackway well-trodden by her fore-mothers. Here she will walk in unfamiliar places that will take her into a liminal space, deconstruct her, and change who she is forever. 

The midlife woman has felt something stir in her body. Her menstruation changes, her body heats up and her mood changes, she is starting to feel different. She knows the portal is open. Cerridwen stands at the gateway of the menopausal transition, a powerful initiation to elderhood that all women must undertake if they live to midlife. Cerridwen is the Initiatrix as she guides her through this passage of transformation and holds up the dark mirror so she can see clearly who she really is and what is not authentic in her life; it may be a loveless marriage, a dissatisfying job or aspects of herself. Cerridwen holds her as she grieves for the loss of our fertile years and the youth she thought would last forever. She feels fear and loss as she steps away from all that is familiar and comfortable and this can often feel scary and confusing.


The Menopause

The menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of menstruation in which oestrogen and progesterone levels decline. A woman is deemed post menopausal from a year after the last period. The time from when a woman notices changes in her body and menstrual cycle to a year after her last period is classed as the perimenopause. The average age for menopause is 52 and the period of transition is said to last for about five years, although many women experience this for much longer. 

Typical symptoms of the menopause include hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes, anxiety, depression, loss of libido, intimate dryness, skin and bladder changes. Every woman is different and every experience of menopause is different. Some women experience only the end of menstruation and others have symptoms so debilitating it affects their ability to lead a normal life and go to work. 

There are other much younger women who have been plummeted into early menopause due to surgery or drug therapy often with very little information that this will happen, with an experience that can be very sudden and intense. Menopause changes and challenges us physically, mentally and spiritually and sadly there has been a wall of silence amid a backdrop of embarrassment and ridicule that is thankfully now changing as society is starting to have more positive attitudes towards menopause and women are sharing experiences and information.

As a medical herbalist I work primarily with women travelling through the menopausal transition and lead many women’s circles on menopause. Working with other women and going through my own menopause has led me to see this transition as a major women’s rite of passage that is only starting to be acknowledged as we change the narrative and look for choices in management of it; such as using herbs, foods, ceremony and shared wisdom in a way that impacts on our daughters’ experience of this transition.


Falling Oestrogen Levels

During the perimenopause, levels of oestrodiol (the potent fertility form of oestrogen) can become erratic and then decline along with progesterone. As our bodies need oestrogen, and this includes men too, we start to produce a maintenance oestrogen from our adrenal glands and fat cells. For many women this changeover leaves a decline in oestrogen. As many parts of the body are dependent on a maintenance level of oestrogen (oestrone) for normal functioning such as in the mood receptor areas of our brain, temperature regulation centres of the hypothalamus as well as many other part of the body, this  leaves women experiencing many uncomfortable menopausal symptoms. 

Most Medical Herbalists work holistically and herbal support can often be complex and is always tailored to a woman as an individual.  One of the things I look to support in a woman is healthy adrenal glands and stress management. Hormones produced by the adrenal cortex such as cortisol that help the body to cope with stress have the same building blocks as oestrone. The body always gives precedence to stress hormones which is why stress, especially prolonged stress, can contribute to menopausal symptoms.

Studies done that follow women over a period of time demonstrate that long periods of stress can intensify the way women experience menopause as do cultural attitudes and lifestyle. Many of the women I see in my clinic for severe symptoms often have had a lot of stress sometimes leading to exhaustion and burn out.


Adrenal Support

In supporting the adrenal gland I like to encourage vitamin C-rich foods or a good vitamin C supplement as well as having good fats in the diet such as omega 3s or cold-pressed olive oil etc. I also like to use herbs that can build and nourish the adrenal glands. One of my favourites is dried nettle seeds and nettle leaf which can provide nourishment for the adrenal gland and support healthy function. There are a group of herbs called adaptogens which not only help with adrenal health but can also help the body to cope better or adapt to stress. These herbs include Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Siberian Ginseng, Schisandra and Liquorice. Dried nettle seeds are one of our native, abundant and freely available adaptogens in the UK.


Cerridwen as Initiatrix

As Cerridwen stands at the portal and beckons, we have the opportunity to look deeper within ourselves. We are invited to change aspects of our lives, to let go of what does not serve us and sometimes we haven’t got a choice. She calls to us to reclaim  this ancient rite of passage, to learn the old wisdom of our foremothers and to reforge our relationships with the plant allies. She calls us  to develop our own ceremonies that support us through the challenging and transformative journey to becoming wise women that our communities and culture need in these times.


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



Bury, Lancashire UK

Edwina Hodkinson

Edwina Hodkinson. BSc (Hons) MNIMH – Medical Herbalist and trainee 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, 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 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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