This post is going to be a musing on the story-telling traditions and implications of witches, blood magic and the moon. Many cultures link a woman’s menstrual cycle to the phases of the moon, and links the powers of witches to the same cycle. Many stories have a pubescent witch coming into her powers with her first menstrual bloods. So what happens to a witch when she goes through menopause?
When I think of menopausal witches, I think of the long-suffering protagonist, Jenny Waynest, of Barbara Hambly’s Winterland series. Jenny’s less-than-spectacular powers wane and wax while she suffers hot flushes. I read this book before I went into menopause, and had little insight that menopause felt like you are going through puberty backwards. I now know that Hambly’s descriptions were spot on. The helplessness that Jenny feels is a perfect metaphor for the feelings of inadequacy that come with menopause. And yet Hambly’s Jenny seems to be the only example I can find in my own library of a middle aged witch going through menopause. The next closest character is Wanda in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. The witch Thessaly can call on the power of the moon. Poor Wanda from A Game of You – who knows soul deep that she is a woman trapped in an inappropriate masculine body – isn’t allowed to walk the Moon’s road because her rejected masculinity. This made Wanda my favourite character, because of her humanity and her flaws.
So, what would happen to a post-menopausal witch whose powers no longer wax and wane with the moon? Would she lo longer have any powers at all? This makes no sense to me, as this would mean a woman’s power only comes from her sexuality, and that isn’t Feminist thinking.
Then there is the power of three, the maiden, the mother and the crone. It might surprise you to learn that – though three women representing Fate is quite common for most belief systems – the trilogy of maiden, mother & crone is a relatively modern twist to the mythology. (It just feels so right, though.) Of course, the crone has to be a post menopausal woman. Her powers come from her connection to the other women in her coven of three, as do their powers. I feel this is closer to a Feminist ideal with uniquely talented women working together to achieve their goals.