Sharon Blackie calls us to the ancient archetype of the Hag as a figure of unapologetic emergence from cultural pressures that lock us into outworn roles and limiting beliefs.
Drawing upon her transformative experiences in menopause Blackie grounds the mythic figure of the old woman who fashioned the world in her fierce determination to dissolve and reconfigure her professional and personal life. Identifying and rejecting cultural pressures to look and act a certain way as she ages, she claims the second half of her life for a post-heroic journey of intense creativity and unapologetic self-expression.
Ancient Celtic fairytales, myths, and folk stories carry the spirit of the Cailleach, the divine old woman who shapes the landscape and scourges it clean through winter storms. This Queen of Winter is sharp and wild. Those who discover the Cailleach within carry her ruthless truths as unavoidable facts that demand acknowledgment. Her stark reality strips away one’s inner illusions and avoidance of death, leaving her sharp eye facing outward. Tending the web of life becomes the great task, and acting to restore balance to the community, the central role.
The path to the Hag is hidden in stories. Blackie reminds us that reviving the ancient themes and images expands our imagination and helps us recover the dark woods we once knew well. Wise old ones revive awe and connection. Trees and plants, rivers and crows have secrets to teach us that require a depth of listening undisturbed by collective gibbering.
Elderhood can be a time to shed the roles assigned to us. Menopause can be welcomed as a rite of passage with the Hag silently waiting for us to see her. If we have learned how to recognize her, renewal and reclaiming is possible. The stories of those who have gone before us carry a strange beauty that can stir a memory in our soul and set us on the path.
HERE’S THE DREAM WE ANALYZE:
“I found myself in a cavernous room–a Baby Fostering and Adoption facility with babies waiting like young chicks in two large plastic containers. The sides weren’t high, so they could see out and could have got out, but they were packed in tight and seemed content to sit and wait. I looked over the babies to select one. I wanted to avoid the crying baby stage, so I asked the Caretaker-a middle-aged woman used to the tough work of looking after all these babies-which was their oldest baby. She extracted a girl out of the center of the first container, telling me they had had this one for a long time. So I took this girl, who was not a baby, but closer to a teenager, on a fostering basis. Next scene: we had gone from the facility into the city and stopped at a takeaway so I could buy her a meal–some relatively healthy salad, though the takeaway did not look like a healthy choice. It was just what was available. While paying at the counter, I assumed the girl was waiting behind me. I didn’t understand the currency, so I offered money to the guy behind the counter to choose from. He took some of it, then gave me back a load of coins from various currencies that I again didn’t know the value of. I accepted this exchange because I didn’t know how to sort out what I had been given. However, the girl was gone when I tumed around with the salad! I became frantic as I tried to find her. I had agreed to foster with the Caretaker Woman, so I was supposed to return the girl to her facility. Desperate to find the girl, I began crying in the crowded mall, “Help me! Help me!” I rushed into a business that looked like a drop-off daycare, explained the situation to a female staff member, and asked her to help me find the girl. She seemed like she might be able to help, but she had her domain, the daycare she was in charge of. I was beginning to realize, even more so after I woke up, that the girl had slipped away by her own choice. I wasn’t scared she had been abducted; I just panicked that she had wandered away from me independently without discussion. This left me feeling like a bumbling idiot, quite rattled because it reflected badly on my ability to take care of someone in my charge, and wondering why I had taken this work on in the first place.”
Dr. Sharon Blackie is an award-winning writer, psychologist and mythologist. Her highly acclaimed books, courses, lectures and workshops are focused on the development of the mythic imagination, and on the relevance of myth, fairy tales and folk traditions to the personal, social and environmental problems we face today. As well as writing five books of fiction and nonfiction, including the bestselling If Women Rose Rooted, her writing has appeared in several international media outlets, among them the Guardian, the Irish Times, and the Scotsman. Her books have been translated into several languages, and she has been interviewed by the BBC, US public radio and other broadcasters on her areas of expertise. Her awards include the Roger Deakin Award, and a Creative Scotland Writer’s Award. Her next book, Wise Women: Myths and folklore in celebration of older women will be published by Virago in 2024. Sharon is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and has taught and lectured at several academic institutions, Jungian organizations, retreat centers and cultural festivals around the world.
WEBSITE: Sharon Blackie
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