HAGITUDE: Sharon Blackie on the power of aging

Aug 24, 2023



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.


“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

HER BOOK: Hagitude. Reimagining the second half of life


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  1. Gwen Murphy

    I resonated with so much in this discussion, being 75, single, female, wondering “what’s next” even as my body reminds me of its limited energy. “Skeletal muscular atrophy” is a real thing. We resist it through exercise. Mental atrophy is real too. These discussions nourish in a way not found in mainstream culture. Thank you for having them!

  2. LAB

    One of the best interviews you’ve had on the podcast. A lot of insight and a refreshing take on female aging and elder women’s roles in society.

  3. Mamie Allegretti

    Hello Joseph, Lisa and Deb,
    This episode reminded me of the movie Lars and the Real Girl (again!). In the movie, the whole community (mostly women) help a young man move from childhood to maturity. There is also the idea of place (trees, woods, river, church, etc) as mother with her nurturing qualities. In the movie, Lars loses his mother at a young age and is having trouble moving into manhood. Through his relationships (mostly women) he is supported in his transition to manhood. It’s a lovely movie in that it shows that the psyche “knows” what it needs to heal itself and transform. It also illustrates the power of the community to aid that transformation. My husband often says that men need to be “scolded” or spoken to (sometimes firmly) by older women. They need the “cut through the BS” attitude or outlook that older women bring to a situation or problem. Perhaps that’s what Sharon is alluding to in her assertion that we need to embrace the hag archetype. I’m also reminded of the move Where do We go Now? (2011) in which Lebanese women are sick of their men (Christian and Muslim) always fighting. They use tricks, etc. to mitigate the fighting and try to bring peace. In the end, they come up with an interesting solution! Anyway, this episode got me thinking about the ways that women – especially older ones – can often subvert the culture and bring about peace. Thanks again for your work!

  4. Angelika Fiol

    There really are not enough films and tales about becoming an elder as compared to becoming elderly. Now with the boomers entering the realm of old age, that should become different.

    For the body I recommend orthomolecular medicine as opposed to the pharmaceutical medicine which is not bad for acute conditions, but for chronic illness and age related illness orthomolecular doctors are simply the best. I cured myself with taking nutrition supplements, low carb and exercising, when I could hardly walk any more. Exercising was not possible before I took Omega 3 pills that cured my joint pains so that I could go jogging again etc. You can even doctor yourself after testing your blood for the deficient nutrients. Due to the mass production of our food the soil is depleted of nutrients and therefore hardly any nutrients left in our daily food. Biologically grown food is also not always the solution, or not the whole solution since the soil is very low in nutrients to start with.The laboratories compare your blood tests to the average blood tests of already sick and very sick people and your doctor might tell you that your results are sufficient and give you pharmaceutical drugs with many severe side effects. Orthomolecular doctors compare the nutrients in your blood with blood samples taken from healthy sportive persons and supplement the deficiencies with astonishing results and no side effects. Books of Abram Hoffer or the Kaufmann Protocol together with enough exercise, low carb and meditation can keep you much longer alive with a good quality of life instead of suffering. Before you actually fall ill, the missing nutrients will silently work towards a chronic condition and years before you fall seriously ill you might only feel tired sooner, so better keep your nutrients filled up properly.

    For the soul I have a good movie tip: The triplettes de Belleville, you can find it on youtube

    There are so many good book tipps in “Hagitude” though, I am just beginning to check it out, but I already know that I will like many of them. If you like the poem “Sometimes a wild god” by Tom Hirons you will love Sharon Blackie’s books. They are really pure magic, as well as the TJL podcast. I really hope there will be much more of them to come, hence the health tips.

    I have changed a lot since listening to the podcast and recording and working with my dreams.
    There are simply no other podcasts that are even half as good, I learn so much here and it is also fun and a lot of laughter so that the heavy themes are not bringing you down. Quite the opposite, there is so much heart in each episode that simply listening to the podcast starts a healing process.

  5. Audrey

    Loved Loved Loved it! I am 47 and am at the threshold of menopause and the wits are scared out of me. I put the electric kettle on the gas cooker just yesterday! I notice so many very scary changes in my body and my person. Every woman of a certain age that I meet I ask her how she handled or is handling menopause. I am desperate for guidance. Guidance that is beyond medicating myself back into functionality. I have an innate sense that this has the potential to be a very powerful time in my life, but am I equipped for the journey? It feels like I could die at any turn in the road. I just ordered Sharon’s book and look forward to delving into it. Maybe you guys have had a podcast purely on menopause,? ….I’ll have a look. For now in Debs words (I think) I will ride out to meet her!


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