This week you’ll find a ton of posts about Imbolc (aka Candlemas or Groundhog Day). If you need some basics, they’ll will be easy to find. For example, check Circle Sanctuary. https://www.circlesanctuary.org.
I wasn’t even going to post because, well, when it comes to Imbolic it’s all been said. Then I remembered:
Imbolc means “in the belly.”
And I do have something that’s new. I’ve been burying the lead for the Belly Witch blog. For a long time. Like saving my nice shoes for an occasion that never comes.
First of all, “In the Belly” refers to the wintering seeds that are deep in the earth and beginning to vibrate with the change in the light. They’re waking up. As a flower farmer, I love that image. But…
What Women Really Need to Look at Today
What’s more important for us today is to see Imbolc as something other than the traditional symbols: wheat or the Goddess Brigid, or clearing your house as you take down your Yule tree.
Seeds in the belly of the earth are nice and meaningful and all. But, this is one of the most feminine holy-days.
Imbolc asks what seeds are waking up in your belly?
What wants to be born in you?
And why hasn’t it yet?
Let’s Have a Belly Conversation
In our culture (Western, American, patriarchal)
- flat abs are ok, bulging bellies aren’t
- pregnant bellies are cute and temporary but the dreaded “menopot” is neither
- six pack is ok, muffin top is not
- belly bump is ok, post-baby weight is not
- sucking it in is expected, being in relaxed soft belly pose is not (unless you’re in savasana and nobody sees you)
- life cycles and changes are inevitable but nobody wants to see them all laid out on women’s bodies
And even though I live, and write, and KNOW about this stuff I just struggled for ten minutes to zip the broken zipper on the gym hoodie that would hid the roll of fat in my middle.
When I got to the gym I asked my trainer (who is 25 years younger than me,) “Do women still hate their bodies even after the body positive movement? “Is there progress?”
“There is some movement in the right direction.”
“But the stat that when polled 99% of women HATE their bodies? Is it still true?”
“1000%” Allysa said.
How do we listen to a belly we hate? How do we dig into the deeper meaning of these incarnate, God-made-fleshy selves while feeling so uncomfortable in them?
It Goes Deeper
There is a spiritual meaning for everything about your body, whether it is your weight, rough skin, cramps in your hands, symptoms, belly aches, gas, GERD, or asthma. Check out the late, great Louise Hay and her book You Can Heal Your Body for more on this. It’s here at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/You-Can-Heal-Your-Life/dp/0937611018/
The Wheel of the Body
Imbolc is part of the Wheel of the Year. But, on the wheel of life we go round and round hourly, daily, monthly, annually and in those bigger sweeps of time that we call youth, middle age and “of a certain age.” (A euphemism for “old.”)
Being on the old side of the wheel of life is rough.
If you must to do it, it’s much more hip and “wild woman sisterhood” and boho to be the beautiful witch of a certain ageless age — you’ve seen her: she’s slim and her gray hair flows like a girl’s. Her wrinkles accentuate her eyes, she’s got the good genes.
What’s not okay is to be the old hag out by the hedgerow. What’s even better is to just stay young and a zillion products out there will help you do it!
Think about all the changes your body went though when you were a girl. How’d you feel about your body?
I remember showing up at Cedar Beach one day the summer I was sixteen. My best friend Mary Jo was already there. “You got your period.” she said, squinting up at me from her towel.
“I can tell in your belly.”
When Bobby strolled over to sit next to us I sucked that belly in so hard I almost passed out from not breathing.
Later that same summer Bobby came over my place where I was tanning naked on the roof of the potting shed. I got dressed and climbed down in that same bikini and I cringed because his eyes were glued to my middle. I thought he was staring at my fat belly. It was years before he told me what he’d really been thinking that day about the girl in the blue-striped string bikini.
My mother never lost a small belly after she gave birth to two kids. One day my father asked me about it. “Is there something wrong with your mother? Look at her stomach.” He didn’t think something was wrong. He didn’t like it. Don’t you think that teenager got that message?
Interesting that I just found a well-hidden button on the Old Navy website where you can see how that pair of skinny jeans modeled by the size 0 will look on your size 16 body. Needless to say I didn’t order any.
The Mother, the Giver
If you’re around the middle of life, you’re a professional, a mother a house-holder, a few gray hairs are showing up, maybe you have some disappointments in your past. You probably also have some wins under your belt.
It’s a time of life when our belly changes more. Pregnancy, hormones, too much wine or ice cream, not enough of something else.
Sometimes your middle grows and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Not the gym or the food tracker. Not Noom. Not crunches, planks or a personal trainer. Not going gluten free, giving up alcohol, not even trying to love your body and bless your belly and positive intention your weight loss. And definitely not ignoring it – that doesn’t work either.
Your belly and your whole body responds to life: when we get pregnant and when we can’t get pregnant. When we lose pregnancies. When we lose lovers and opportunities. When we’re unhappy and eating emotionally. When we aren’t looking. When we are blissfully in love. When we are getting a divorce. Our bellies respond to everything. And all we want them to do is disappear. The lengths we go to in order for that to happen are the subjects of entire books and probably med school courses.
Then we shift into peri-menopause and whatever belly or weight or physical condition we were in, we are more in than ever.
Sometimes we look in the mirror and we don’t even recognize ourselves. Or, we see all the signs of growing older and we just feel ugly.
We see the third face of the Goddess: the Crone.
Her ugliness challenges our standards of what a vibrate woman looks like. Her ears and nose are long from years of gravity pulling on them.
She’s terrifying because she hasn’t disappeared the way society wants her to. But the Crone knows things. She is dangerous because she’s old, wise and ugly and she no longer gives a fuck.
“I don’t like that word, Crone,” my friend said. “I would rather be considered wise.”
Yeah, me too.
But my wisdom came with things society says aren’t attractive, moist, or interesting. Our society doesn’t like the way women age — so it ignores us. We’re not in the movies anymore. Nobody catches our eye in the store. (Thankfully, no more catcalls on the street.)
When an old Crone won’t disappear or keep her mouth shut, it’s not pretty. People don’t like it.
Having said all this, am I going to age gracefully? Stop coloring my hair, filling in my eyebrows? Not yet.
But I am looking at what they call my “menopot.” It sure looks like a pregnant belly. What wants to be born?
What am I supposed to create or express?
What’s left for me?
If this plush, full, soft gut means anything, I think it’s saying take up space. Give birth to yourself. You’re not all dried up. You’re pregnant with possibility.
Listen to Your Belly
So this thing called “Menobelly” or the “Menopot”. It comes at post-menopause and I have a theory.
- First, there is still something that wants to be born in us. For older women the belly shouldn’t be seen or heard. No bulge, gurgling, gas or growling. But there it is: proof that we have lived and are living.
2. That belly is showing you where you’ve swallowed too much bullshit.
We are fed up with what we have to deal with at work, on the street, or in relationship.
Maybe we’re blocked, stopped up, not speaking our truth, or expressing our creativity.
We’re unhappy, unfulfilled or feeling unheard, judged, not accepted, all that shows up in the body, in more ways than one.
- What is your body saying?
- What do you KNOW that you won’t let yourself know?
- Are you supposed to change something?
- What are you ignoring?
- What are you gestating but never bringing to birth?
What BS are you swallowing?
3. Lastly, that belly is responding to unmet needs. Things you want but don’t yet have. Filled up with food or drink or boredom instead of feeling full as in fulfilled, satisfied. Maybe it’s truly enjoyable sex you need. Or comfort. Or for something to change. Or someone to take care of you for a change.
Intuition Under There
I teach “listen to your belly.” But you can’t hear inner knowing when it’s under judgement, or Spanx (which are just girdles for the 21st century), or body-hatred. It can’t be clear if it’s full of junk that you tried to use to feel better. If you’re stuffing things down. Not allowing yourself to look at yourself or feel yourself in your completeness. I know, sometimes it’s damn hard to look. But we learned that. No baby is repulsed by her round belly.
Under the stretch marks and saggy skin and fat, the soft roundness, the Goddess shape — under the thing we hide with tunics and planks, or we tuck into compression leggings and those jeans with the architectural framing that “slims” and “smooths..”
Under all that is who we are in this time and place. And everything is right here to show us how to be happier, more whole, creative, free — more ourselves. And in this culture that’s a tall order. So the belly also protects us. It’s doing so much!
If you’re reading Belly Witch, you’re ready to give birth to something…
Words. Decisions. Change. Revolution. Career. Creativity. Art. Ideas. Love. Or you’re ready to barf up things you shouldn’t have swallowed. Things you should’ve already said, things you heard and embodied but can’t digest.
If you’re past child-bearing in our society there’s a lot of disappearing. The belly shows up to remind you and the world, you’re not done generating yet. You’re creating still. Or can be. You have something to still express, deliver, labor over.
Ok, you don’t love the pregnancy thing because of your gender orientation or awareness of sensitivity around this topic?
I’ll say it this way: the Divine Feminine is embodied in you and it doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you have things to create, do and say.
The Belly is the PowerHouse
The belly is the powerhouse of our bodies. The home of gut feelings, intuition and pings of fear, insight, knowing. Our bellies are the factory for neurotransmitters, bacteria and hormone production. It’s central to our physical stability: literally our CORE. It is the location of the spiritual centers of the solar plexus and the sacral chakra. What comes from those energetic points: joy, creation and creativity, autonomy, sexuality, enjoyment, life force, power.
So, dear sisters of the earth, daughters of the Divine Feminine, we are here to heal a wounded world. It’s the feminine that’s going to restore and bring us back into alignment.
First: a shift has to happen. That belly we revile, plank, hate, squeeze into Spanx, and otherwise try to make disappear is the secret powerhouse. The center of our intuitive selves. The home of our belly witchery.
It’s time to call back our power from everyone, every age, place and time and everything that made those two words bad, negative, burnable, despicable:
Belly and Witch.
Now, I’ll leave those two power words with you.
I have to say, this is a very powerful post. I had to read it a couple of times. This is wonderful and something I needed to hear. Thank you.
Well said. We are the healers. We must love ourselves and each other and do this work.
Here’s to ‘good’ women may we be them – may we know them and may we raise them. Sent from a woman who has 1 daughter and 15 granddaughters.