The Queen of My Self


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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

With best blessings for a beautiful and pure spring,


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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





An unprecedented number — nearly one fourth — of Baby Boom women chose not to bear and raise children. But we were archetypal Mothers, nonetheless. We gave birth to something of our passion — a business, a career, an art form, a political involvement, a spiritual practice — and nurtured it to keep it alive.

We created our own ways of being and served as role models, mentors, and teachers to the generations of young women who followed us. Who benefited from our endeavors and learned from our examples. Or rejected them.

Those of us who did have children are now experiencing an empty nest or anticipating one. We are no longer 24/7 mothers and have a completely different relationship to our kids. Many of us are grandmothers. (Who would have ever imagined that?)

And now as we reach a certain age and our own mothers are passing from this life, we are called upon to mother ourselves.

I invite you to share your thoughts, stories, and experiences of the many modes and moods of motherhood.


I went to a Catholic Church on Mothers Day and the priest asked all mothers to come to the front of the church for a special blessing. Even though I do not have children, I went up to be blessed as a mother. Since I have been performing as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I felt free to receive this blessing.

I have always made art about my life. Now that I have Dystonia (a neurological movement disorder in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures), I have made videos about it and performances about it and more recently, found myself “being” Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as a performance. When I put on the Mother Teresa white sari with blue trim, apply the make up and play the audiotape of her talking about the poorest of the poor, I feel as if I am doing a real and positive honor to her memory.

My body goes into a big spasm as soon as I put on the costume. My experience while doing this performance is that I have the freedom to twist and turn and shake and am not self-conscious or embarassed by my tremors or stooped posture, because I am just a person with a movement disorder! In fact, I am not just any person but as Mother Teresa, I am a saint who has aged and is cramped up from having served millions of people all her life! The movement disorder in this case becomes a badge of courage and symbol of holiness, not something that is shameful or to be hidden!

So again, I have used my life, to make good art and I thank Mother Teresa of Calcutta for letting me see through her eyes. Maybe she will even heal me???

– Linda Montano, NY

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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




By Susan Snapp 

I decided to clean up my home. I hadn’t been able to do “heavy” cleaning since March 2007 because of injuries so you can imagine how dirty it is/was.

I started it all by deciding to install an in-wall medicine cabinet in my bathroom. I already had one, which I was going to use in my house (that I don’t have the money to finish building) and thought I might as well enjoy it now. I picked up my reciprocating saw and set to cut a hole in the wall over the sink. It’s still not finished, mainly because I don’t quite know what I’m doing. The “knowledge” is in my head but there seem to be interruptions between brain and hand. It’s in, but the wall on the left side of it is kind of….. well, not perfect, ya’ know? I’m still working on the doors to it. In amongst my dusty stained glass supplies, I found a piece of glass that looks FABULOUS in the one smaller door, so that was good. I have to sand them so they won’t hit each other when they close.

Repainting the walls with the same color paint surprised me as the original paint had become so dingy and faded that the new paint almost looked like the wrong color!! It also surprised me that it made the rest of the house look dingy and faded as well as dusty and dirty. That medicine cabinet project started the ongoing “refreshment” of my home – end to end.

I’m the type of person who can’t just stay on one task until it’s done. I just can’t do it. I get frustrated and so move on to something else that can be done. My bathroom, my bedroom, the living room and the “other” bathroom are in the midst of being cleaned, repainted and generally fixed up. I now have a purple bedroom! It looks great! (When I Am Old I Shall Sleep In A Purple Bedroom!) I always have been a the-walls-have-to-be-off-white type of woman; anything goes with it except white-white. Now, however, after having seen the inside of a new younger friend’s house with the beautiful colors on the walls of her home, I thought I’d defy that “law” and paint colors on my walls. My living room is now a dusty rose color, with “Natural Linen” on the ceiling. Well, part of the ceiling anyway. That still needs to be finished.

I’m also purging my belongings; a good 30% of my clothing has gone into the Salvation Army box. It feels good to “unload” stuff. I picked up each individual article and made one of three decisions; 1) I wear it and like it so will keep it; 2) I don’t wear it, but it’s in good shape and I like it so will give it to a person I know; 3) I never wear it, it’s not that good, so into the SA box. Don’t get me wrong here; my closet is still packed with stuff.

On Monday, my sister, my brother-in-law and my daughter, Ashley, are coming out to help me move some of the furniture, etc., out to the building that was going to be my house. AKA the garage. The buffet of the dining room set which was my grandmother’s, the table of that same set, the table of “my” dining room set which had been waiting to be placed in the dining room of the house, two brass single bed frames, several book shelves, a bedroom dresser and boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff; camping gear, fishing gear, two extra sets of dishes, my stained glass supplies and instruments, tents and gazebos, candle making supplies.

The beginning of what I see as a general purging of belongings, spiritual aspects, bodily aspects and maybe emotional ones, too, that just no longer serve me.

Come to think of it, some of them never did.
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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




Earth and woman share a correspondence of function, a facility for creativity and abundance, a worldly wisdom. Each is primary and potent. Even in appearance, are they the same. Just as the roundness of the earth and Her cyclical seasons resonate in every woman, the surface shapes and internal configurations of the earth are defined by the physical attributes of the female physique.

The soil, smoothly moist and rich, arid, cracked and parched, is Her skin; and the lush foliage, the fuzzy moss, the spindled grasses, are Her many splendid tresses. The trees are arms, legs, limbs, which reach out and dance in all directions. The roots, feet firm on the ground. Gems and crystalline minerals make Her strong skeletal system; and the rivers, creeks and streams are the blood that flows through Her veins.

The air is Her hot breath, Her holy exhalation. The seeds of plants are Her sacred monthly flow. Her pregnant belly is indicated in the rounded hills and Her mountainous breasts swell all the way to the sky. The valleys reflect the soft shapes of Her cradling elbows and comforting lap. The ocean is Her womb, the saline-rich source of all life. Rock clefts like labia, and vulvic caves are passageways into Her cavernous interior; the power of Her hallowed deep places, palpable.

Mother Earth, Mother Nature, has Her moods as well as any woman might. Her emotions, like the weather, are mutable and span the full spectrum. She rainbow-glows, radiant in health and beauty. She twinkles like the stars; sparkles with good humor. She grows overcast, gets dark, oblique, breezy and cool. She weeps with dew. She simmers and hisses on slow burn. She vents her steam. She quakes in anger. She rumbles and grumbles and tears the house down. She sparks, bursts, erupts, explodes, implodes in passion. She can be gentle, generous, humorous, dependable, destructive and very, very scary. Hell, indeed, hath no fury like an earthy woman scorned.

Mother Earth, universally worshipped as the fertile, female provider, protector and parent, was always treated with great dignity and care. Cultivated fields were left to rest one year in seven lest they become worn out with the never ending work of producing food, and wars were routinely put on hold during the planting season. Woman was cherished as the incarnate daughter of the Great Cosmic Queen, because she embodied the same supreme capability of life. Her natural understanding was held in esteem, and her body, its terrestrial contours reminiscent of those of Mother Earth, was respected. Once upon a time, that is.

A rather bizarre form of pornography, known as pornotopia, was produced during the Victorian period in England. Mother Earth was personified as a voluptuous female landscape laid bare to the voyeuristic viewing pleasure of man who surveys the scene before him from the perspective of a fly promenading upon Her full-figured splendor. Her hills and caves, rises and recesses, were described in somewhat smarmy terms which were meant to elicit the fascinating, fearsome, forbidden Oedipal fantasy of a man mounting his own mother in lust. Where in the past, the Earth had once been revered, She was here reviled, defiled, desecrated. Stripped bare of Her powers, She was reduced to a passive sexual object, sacked and soiled.

Today the body of the Earth, our first mother, is routinely bruised and abused. Raped and burned; dug and dammed; dynamited and nuked. As many as one hundred distinct species of plants and animals are disappearing from existence each day, directly or indirectly due to human domination. And the bodies of women everywhere fare no better.

How in the world did The Good Earth — the very material (from the Latin, mater, meaning, “mother”) of life itself — get to be a dirty word? Or “Mutha,” for that matter? According to the esteemed Oxford English Dictionary, dirt means, “grime,” “stain,” “smut.” Dirty is “lewd,” “defiled,” “contaminated,” “dingy,” “unsanitary,” “filthy,” “polluted,” “foul.” Not one mention of dirt as the flesh of the Goddess, as the source of the nutrients that nourish us, as the bosom of the Mother that will cradle us when we die. How did it come to pass that the Earth Mother whose grace we depend upon for absolutely everything has become so thoroughly sullied? And more important, how can we repair the damage?

We can begin by commemorating Earth Day in Her honor. Since 1971, Earth Day has been celebrated to remind the people of the world of the need for continuing care which is vital to Earth’s safety and our own. The vernal equinox was originally chosen as the official date to honor Earth for its symbolism — equilibrium and balance — in order to encourage and inspire a universal sense of interdependence, cooperation, and unity. Now we celebrate it on April 22, which has, heretofore, been Arbor Day. 

The vernal equinox calls on all mankind to recognize and respect Earth’s beautiful systems of balance, between the presence of animals on land, the fish in the sea, birds in the air, mankind, water, air, and land. Most importantly there must always be awareness of the actions by people that can disturb this precious balance.

– Margaret Mead

On Earth Day the United Nations Peace Bell is rung to initiate a moment of global equipoise when people worldwide can join in a renewed heartfelt commitment to the protection and care of our planet. The United Nations Earth Day event is the centerpiece of an annual global holiday that strives to awaken a common objective of local and global harmony with nature and neighbors.

The original Earth Day proclamation states, “All individuals and institutions have a mutual responsibility to act as Trustees of Earth, seeking the choices in ecology, economics, and ethics that will eliminate pollution, poverty, and violence; foster peaceful progress; awaken the wonder of life; and realize the best potential for the future of the human adventure.”

Last month, two billion people worldwide participated in Earth Hour by turning off their lights as a visual demonstration of the dramatic difference made possible by each individual coupled with the efforts of others. But one hour, one day is barely a beginning. Let one hour, one day inspire two, twenty, two hundred. Let every day be Earth Day.

With every blessing from Mother Earth and every blessing for Her,


There is no social-change fairy. There is only change made by the hands of individuals.
–Winona LaDuke


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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



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