The Astrology of Menopause
Between the ages of 42 and 59 there is a revolution in women’s lives that doctor’s call menopause. Astrologers have three names for it: the Uranus Opposition around the age of 42, the Chiron Return at 51, and the Second Saturn Return around 59.
These three stages that span the entire menopausal experience are the rites of passage into our wise woman years. Like any journey they have their merciless moments of drama as well as quiet epiphanies.
But how might menopause be different if these times came with an instruction manual like some of us received when we turned 13? “This is menstruation! Welcome to Becoming a Woman.” How might it be different if we did get a menopausal map?
Astrology offers us the closest thing to a wise woman’s survival guide of these times that I’ve ever seen, although the links between these three stages of menopause hasn’t been truly explored. I’m going to touch on this huge subject and offer a few insights, although the exact timing of these events is best explored with your own astrologer.
At the first stage of the Uranus Opposition we begin our journey by being slightly unnerved and restless. The body’s electrical energy system begins to get reved up—fired by new messages from our glandular system. Uranus rules the electrical circuitry in our bodies, and the evolutionary purpose of Uranus is to create change—our life opens up; we see new options and possibilities. Our culture calls these years “peri-menopause” but astrologers see this as the time when we begin to be more true to ourselves, and do things differently. We may be shocked because repressed aspects of ourselves and long-forgotten dreams now come forth and demand expression. The unconscious stirs as we hear ourselves speak raw and out-spoken truths in a way that startles even us. This is the same energy that makes us feel even sexier and stronger as we become serious truth-tellers.
Peri-menopause is powerful and underestimated, especially since it creeps us on us undetected. It’s as if our internal “shit-detectors” are amped up, and we can smell a rat or hear a lie a mile away. At this first entrance into the menopausal journey it’s time to consciously make new plans, craft new intentions, de-clutter our inner psyches and outer homes, and prepare for a new life. The Uranus Opposition is the first call towards what the Jungian psychologists call individuation; towards becoming who you truly are. Trying to maintain the status-quo at this time is the worst thing one can do. Let this be your motto: “Let’s do something different.”
As we move through our forties into menopause, it’s as if we’re being stripped of the Teflon coating of hormonal agreeableness, as we’re being catapulted into a time of intense honesty punctuated with times of intense irritation. The worst physical culprits, such as loss of sleep and hot sweats exhaust us, allowing the emotional rollercoaster of moodiness to have its way with us. When we’re awake and sweating at 3:00 AM, we may find ourselves contemplating the limits of sanity, divorce or freedom even when we’ve actually had had a good mind, a good marriage or good job—or so we think, up till now. Reflecting and reframing our lives is best done at 9:00 AM with our best friend over coffee, when we can exaggerate our “wet sheets story” just enough to get a good laugh and a tender hug.
The age of 51 is the average age for menopause to occur, although the process that leads up to it is as powerful as the actual ceasing of our periods. This is the turning point into our wise woman years, and many of us find ourselves coming into our own power and personhood more in our 50’s than ever before. We’ve already been experimenting and finding out what works for us and what doesn’t. We’ve made changes—physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are keenly aware that our life is already more than half-lived.
As we move towards the Chiron Return at age 51, the electric and truth-seeking trials of Uranus link up with the archetype of Chiron. The changes we’ve made and the healing we’ve done stand us in good stead as we approach the time when our periods actually stop, usually around the time of the Chiron Return.
Chiron can be seen as the mythological image of the “wounded healer.”As we round the corner past 50, we’ve gained some experiences and wisdom that can be helpful to others. The mythology of the planetoid Chiron is fascinating to read. The essence of it is that Chiron, the mythological god who was unable to heal himself, can now heal others. Through the process of experimentation and self-healing he learned how to become a useful mentor, healer, and teacher although he was never able to completely heal himself. Chiron is like all of us who struggle with menopause and its many cures in an effort to heal and be whole. We delve into new remedies and new lives seeking to find physical relief and the best life, but perfect healing may allude us. We do the best we can as we struggle through it. Menopause is sloppy in all the ways of imperfection, but if we take good mental notes on our process we learn a great deal. We learn that change can be good and that open-heartedness and experimentation lead to healing. We find our way, and then we are able to help others do the same.
As we make our way through the fifties we begin to approach the Second SaturnReturn, which comes for most of us around the age of 59. This Saturn Return is typically easier than the first Saturn Return at age 29 as it ushers us into our wisdom and Elder Years. This third and last part of the menopausal journey is when any unfinished business physically or emotionally needs to be taken care of. We cannot afford to be lazy in our attention to what needs to be done at this time, especially caring for our bodies. If we put off that call to the dentist, it may not be long before we’re calling the oral surgeon. If we don’t listen to our body’s messages now we may have some tough lessons with “reality”-that’s Saturn’s job.
But don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have unfinished business – coping with aging parents, health issues, loneliness…there are old problems and perhaps new solutions. We may slow down a little, and others may say we look tired. This is the time when our culture gets us thinking about retirement, and we are shocked when we tell someone our age. Can it be true? Our mental image of what this age is about is ready to change.
This is when we need to look deeply at the anatomy of our intentions. It is indeed time to see oneself as a wise woman and to act the part with quiet dignity. But do you have any great ambitions? Have you looked at what Jupiter and Neptune in your chart is whispering in your ear? Maybe you could aim higher in your intentions? Or is it just about losing weight and interior decorating? On your death-bed will you remember poignant moments doing volunteer work at the hospital or the time when you lost (and perhaps regained) fifteen pounds?
But what are the words in our hearts as well as our heads? Intentions and affirmations may find a “disconnect” if these two are not synchronized. For example, if our heart desires a new partner and yet we’re aware that our habits and lifestyle leave no room for another person in our life, then chances are it won’t happen. Or if we are still holding a powerful longing or resentment towards a past partner, where’s the room for a new person? This is the time to avoid the seductive power of our shadow and avoid scenarios where we feel our old unconscious stuff emerging–our old tapes of “not-good-enough” or “nobody loves me.” A reality check may be called for.
Someone once told me that a good rule of thumb for this time is to “sneak a little God into your daily chow.” This means different things for everyone. And we need to add the Saturnian practicality to the chow as well—a Muslim might say: “Pray to god, but tie your camel”. Or we remember the old-fashioned phrase: “God helps those that help themselves.” The gift of the Second Saturn Return is a practical wisdom combined with a more compassionate attitude, but you can’t bring naiveté to it. It’s time to get savvy. Saturn is the archetypal planet of reality that rewards in the long run for work well done, but who, as the Lord of Time, can bring delays and occasional moments of melancholy. We lose our naiveness, but gain a larger perspective.
Having just finished this third and last stage of the Menopausal Journey, I’ve found that I still feel the occasional hot flash of Uranus, the struggle with Chiron-ian experiments in healing, as well as enjoying Saturnian moments of sitting quietly in my chair journaling. I’m finding that there is a new sanity and serenity emerging in which my ego needs are relaxing. And I’m remembering that when I’m not happy it doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong—it may be that I’m in the process of getting something right!
The Second Saturn Return also ushers us into the age of the “Yoga of Generosity.” We may find that our biggest joys come from having the chance to give whatever we can to all those “youngsters” under the age of sixty. Whether it be giving our time, money, or telling our stories, it’s time to link the pieces together into a whole, sharing our wisdom with the story of the rough road of the journey. Remember that the difference between the boring old person and the one with the love and sparkle in her eyes is that she’s done her homework of digesting her stories. She doesn’t ramble or bore you. She’s learned something from her life, and taken more responsibility—a Saturn word that allows blame and shame to be reframed by compassion and understanding.
Moving through your menopausal journey you see the links between these transiting life stages as you pick up on the dropped stitches of meaning and healing along the way. You take good care of yourself, aligning your heart’s truth with the mind’s intention, and then point the arrow of intention in the direction of your dreams and let it release. It’s no “secret” since you’ve been doing the work and taking good notes. Chances are you’ll find the Second Saturn Return to be a very pleasant surprise.