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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

Life Begins at 42

posted by Donna Henes

Saint Hildegard’s Guide to Becoming a Midlife Powerfrau
By Mary Sharratt

We live in a youth-obsessed culture. The cosmetic industry pushes wrinkle creams and hair dye on us while celebrities resort to Botox and surgery to preserve an illusion of eternal girlhood. We live longer than ever before, yet advancing age, once a mark of honour, has become a source of shame.

But what happens when women embrace midlife as an inner awakening and call to power?

One such woman was Saint Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), powerfrau and late bloomer par excellence.

Her youth was dire. Offered to the Church at the age of eight, she was entombed in an anchorage. Though she had been haunted by luminous visions since earliest childhood, she didn’t dare speak of them. Her entire existence was bent on silent submission to her superior, Jutta von Sponheim, an ascetic whose regime of fasting and mortification of the flesh eventually killed her.

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Only after Jutta’s demise could Hildegard step out of the shadows and carve out a spiritual life based not on suffering but on celebrating life in all its burgeoning green beauty. Even so she might have remained obscure, lost to history.

But when she was forty-two, everything changed. “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.”

Dazzling visionary experiences descended upon Hildegard, along with the divine summons to write and speak of her revelations. Reluctantly at first she embarked on her first book of theology, Scivias, or Know the Ways. After putting quill to parchment, she could never go back.

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Hildegard went on to found two monasteries, go on four preaching tours, compose an entire corpus of sacred music, and write nine books on subjects as diverse as cosmology, botany, medicine, and human sexuality, thus leaving her indelible mark on history.

Most of us believe we live in a more enlightened age than Hildegard’s—after all, children are no longer offered as tithes to monasteries. Yet many young women find themselves in modern and secular forms of servitude—dead end relationships, soul-crippling jobs, credit card debt, a life of junk food and junk television—all the sadness and waste of an unexamined life.

We don’t need to be visionaries to break free. We just need to remember who we are, that we all serve some higher purpose. Each of us has our own unique gift to give the world.

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In youth, it’s easy to be beguiled by the glamour of the surface of things—if we get the right job, the right partner, the right clothes we’ll be happy forever.

But in midlife we are gifted with the maturity to see through the false scripts consumer society hands to us. After a certain age we can see just how absurd it is to kill ourselves to emulate airbrushed supermodels. We realize that the greatest lover in the world can’t fulfill us until we are at peace with ourselves. And so we can let ourselves go. Paint the pictures we’ve always longed to paint. Learn French and travel the world. Dance under the stars. Play the saxophone. Offer our own song to the vast symphony of life.

Remember, it’s never too early or too late to embrace your inner powerfrau.

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

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De Sancta Maria

posted by Donna Henes

Hail to you, O greenest, most fertile branch!
You budded forth amidst breezes and winds
in search of the knowledge of all that is holy.
When the time was ripe
your own branch brought forth blossoms.
Hail greetings to you!
The heat of the sun exudes sweat from you
like the balsam’s perfume.
In you, the most stunning flower has blossomed
and gives off its sweet odor to all the herbs and roots,
which were dry and thirsting before your arrival.
Because of you, the heavens give dew to the grass,
the whole Earth rejoices;
abundance of grain comes from Earth’s womb
and on its stalks and branches birds nest.
And, because of you, nourishment is given the human family
and great rejoicing to those gathered around the table.
And so, in you O gentle Virgin,
is every fullness of joy, everything that Eve rejected.
Now let endless praise resound to the Most High!

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–Hildegard of Bingen
11th Century German Mystic

* ***
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

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Nature, Our Mother

posted by Donna Henes

In the beginning, there was woman. And she was versatile. She breathed, she stretched, she strode, she sat, she foraged, she trapped, she planted, she cooked, she ate, she bled, she danced, she laughed, she slept, she dreamed, she played, she prayed. She made art, she made ceremonies, she made love, she made babies. Our modern minds automatically make a connection between these last two activities. But this is only a relatively recent conception, if you’ll pardon my pun.

Woman, like the female of every species, produces young. And she appears to do so with out any particular help. Parthenogenic. Of course, we now know that this feat is accomplished with a certain modest participation by the male, but the outcome of copulation was not always apparent. What was perfectly clear and obvious, was that she was somehow able to fashion from herself the stuff of life. To bear from her own blood and body a new generation. And, as if that wasn’t wondrous enough, she could also manufacture the substance of sustenance so that she could continue to nurture her consummate creations.

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She was prolific, capable of repeating the entire miraculous process again and again. In fact it was — and still is in large parts of the world today — quite common for a woman to wean one child only to immediately conceive the next. Our own grandparents commonly came from families with eight, ten, twelve children. Mme. Vassilet, a nineteenth century Russian peasant is the undefeated record holder in the World Fertility Cup. It is well documented that her twenty-seven full term pregnancies produced sixty-nine children, most of whom grew to adulthood. She gave birth to sixteen pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. Mother Vassilet was well known in her time and was honored at the imperial court of Czar Alexander II.

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Is this not the way of Nature Herself? Does She not constantly produce and provide? Reproduce and recycle? Engender and embrace? The Earth is alive with the fruit of Her fecundity — nconceivable multitudes of animals, vegetables and minerals. There are more than a million species of animals, 4,000 species of mammals alone. There are more than 350,000 species of plants, 100,000 species of fungi, 100,000 species of protista (algae and the like) and 10,000 species of monera, including bacteria. Each species made up of how many families, how many individuals?

Nature, then, must be female: Mother Nature, Mother Earth. Father Earth was a totally nonexistent concept and has forever remained so. I have never heard, read or dreamed even one reference to him. Have you? Herodotus wrote that all of the known names for the Earth were female. “Nature is our mother,” the Latin proverb proclaims. The Gypsies say, “The Earth is our mother. . .the secret of life comes from the ground.” Asase Ya is the Earth Mother of the African Ashanti. They tell, “We got everything from Asase Ya, food, water: we rest upon Her when we die.”

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The land is a mother that never dies.
- Maori Proverb

Humankind, in its infancy, clung to the primal comprehension of a maternal Earth, in the same way that any completely dependent child hangs onto her mother’s hip. The reality of our utter reliance incontrovertible, we held on for dear life.

Until only five, six thousand years ago, the archetypal Great Mother, creatrix of all existence, matriarch of the races of god/desses, reigned supreme everywhere. Homer sang her praises, “I shall sing of Gaia, Universal Mother, firmly founded, Oldest of all the Holy Ones.” Foremost in all early religions, She was personified and identified in many ways, but always everywhere She was regarded with reverence and deference as a living mother.

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But now, we, her naughty children, have managed to deface Her every surface and sully her beneficent life-giving gifts. Have we no shame? Like bad seed, humankind seems hell-bent on matricide. Unless we — the Mothers, the Grandmothers, the Queens — have our say and demand our way. It is up to us. W have the whole world in our hands.
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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

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Spring Cleaning

posted by Donna Henes

Happy Spring!

In winter, we spend inordinate amounts of time inside, dwelling, stewing, stagnating in enforced inactivity. When our hibernating energy finally re-awakens in the spring, it is with a pronounced case of morning breath. After the dust, the must, the rust of winter, a thorough spring cleaning is called for.

The promise of renewed life prompts us to prepare a sacred and auspicious way for its anticipated arrival. We are moved to purge and purify ourselves, to cleanse and make our selves worthy of the grace implied in a fresh start. We make a clean sweep of our surroundings — internal and external, body and soul.

In washing, we symbolically shed the old, discard the past, toss it out with the bath water. Thus removed of any spiritual pollution, we emerge refreshed, restored and recharged. Our slates are wiped clean. Naked and pure, purged and protected, we stand sanctified, ready to step confidently into the new season.

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We come to this world awash in saline womb waters and are greeted upon the moment of our first breath with a warm bath. When we die we are bathed again. We wash before we eat, before we sleep, before we pray. Most cultures, in fact, require washing before worship. Here, the ablution marks the transition from the profane sector of life to the sacred.

Islam requires the worshipper to wash before each of the five daily prayers performed facing toward Mecca. Muslims cleanse their mouths so that their prayers will be sanctified, and their ears so that they might better hear the will of Allah.

The Sweat Lodge Ceremony, the Inipi, as it is known to the peoples of the Great Plains, was prevalent throughout Native North America. It was, and still is, undertaken as a preparatory ritual of purification before a major spiritual endeavor, such as the Vision Quest, the Sun Dance or the Spirit-calling Ceremonies.

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Water is considered to be the most efficacious purifying agent by Hindus because when it runs, it absorbs and it carries away pollution. For this reason, rivers and other moving waters are considered to be especially cleansing. The Ganges, although filthy, is the most holy of all. It is the intention of every devout pilgrim to wash in its soul-cleansing substance.

The priestesses and priests of Babylonia cleansed themselves with water from the Tigris or Euphrates rivers before performing their religious functions. In ancient Egypt, as well, the pharaoh would purify his body for prayer by sprinkling himself with the “water of life and good fortune.” Ceremonial ablutions in the sea were used to initiate participants in a process of spiritual rebirth during the Eleusinian Mysteries, the oldest of the Greco-Roman Goddess mystery cults.

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Proselytes to Judaism were bathed as an initiation rite, which sanctified the start of their new lives, reborn as true believers, members of the chosen people of the God of Israel, Yahweh. It was essential for the candidate to be completely immersed so that s/he might be truly cleansed of heathenish worship.

The Baptism rites of Protestant and Catholic alike, cleanse the way for a worshipper to move from the polluted world to the holy church, from the earthly plane to grace, from sin to salvation. Ultimately it is an initiation into the kingdom of God.

…I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those
religious people feel about holy water… The longer
I lay there in the clear hot water the purer I felt,
and when I stepped out at last and wrapped myself
in one of those big, soft, white, hotel bath towels
I felt pure and sweet, as a new baby.”
– Sylvia Plath

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Cleanliness is widely perceived as being next to Godliness. The Christian concept of heaven, like the paradise envisioned by Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, is a place of absolute purity and brilliant cleanliness, while hell is seen as a stinking foul pit.

People have always used clean water to prepare for reverent engagement with the divine. But these days, really clean water is in shockingly short supply. We have sullied our rich resources with obtuse abuse, and the very elements, which have the power to cleanse and purify have now, themselves, been poisoned.

Picture this: In the Arctic Ocean there is an uninhabited — never been inhabited — island. In the center of the island is a lake. Can you possibly imagine a more pristine image? A recent water sample from that lake revealed the presence of fifty-two chemicals. There is, after all, no wall underground to ward off contamination. And there is no such place as Away.

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It’s time to clean up our act, don’t you think? In fact, let’s start this spring.

He had a mania for washing and disinfecting
himself…. For him the only danger came from
the microbes which attack the body. He had
not studied the microbe of conscience which
eats into the soul.
- Anaïs Nin

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

 

 

Previous Posts

Life Begins at 42
Saint Hildegard’s Guide to Becoming a Midlife Powerfrau By Mary Sharratt We live in a youth-obsessed culture. The cosmetic industry pushes wrinkle creams and hair dye on us while celebrities resort to Botox and surgery to preserve an illusion of eternal girlhood. We live longer than ever befo

posted 6:00:00am Mar. 27, 2015 | read full post »

De Sancta Maria
Hail to you, O greenest, most fertile branch! You budded forth amidst breezes and winds in search of the knowledge of all that is holy. When the time was ripe your own branch brought forth blossoms. Hail greetings to you! The heat of the sun exudes sweat from you like the balsam’s perfume.

posted 6:00:55am Mar. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Nature, Our Mother
In the beginning, there was woman. And she was versatile. She breathed, she stretched, she strode, she sat, she foraged, she trapped, she planted, she cooked, she ate, she bled, she danced, she laughed, she slept, she dreamed, she played, she prayed. She made art, she made ceremonies, she made love,

posted 6:00:25am Mar. 23, 2015 | read full post »

Spring Cleaning
Happy Spring! In winter, we spend inordinate amounts of time inside, dwelling, stewing, stagnating in enforced inactivity. When our hibernating energy finally re-awakens in the spring, it is with a pronounced case of morning breath. After the dust, the must, the rust of winter, a thorough spring

posted 6:00:14am Mar. 20, 2015 | read full post »

Friends for Life
I love working and playing in groups of women. I was never in a college sorority, so my first experience was in the feminist consciousness-raising group that I joined in the late 1960s. And what an eye-opening, empowering experience it was. We were a very diverse group brought together by our Boh

posted 6:00:39am Mar. 18, 2015 | read full post »

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