Keep reading books, but remember that a book is only a book, and you should learn to think for yourself. –Maxim Gorky
I am a book junkie. Give me anything in the realms of birth, motherhood, female shamanism, relationships, communication or women’s wisdom and I’m in. Women are always asking me to recommend books and I have a beautiful home library full of my fav’s. Here’s a list of 16 of my fav’s for the empowered woman. Many on this list are geared to moon time wisdom and menstruation, birth and hormones/self-care.
Demetra George is in her 70’s now, and I have deep admiration for the work she’s done in the world through her writing. Mysteries of the Dark Moon is an all encompassing look at the Dark Goddess: the shadow, menstruation, death and rebirth and the wisdom of the crone. She highlights the ways in which our society has disconnected from the experience by shunning anything that reminds us of death, or invites us to look deeper at a feminine power. This book is an invitation for women (and some very rare men) to cultivate their own inner wisdom, reclaim the power that resides within them and begin to honor the darkness for its potent offering of transformation and renewal.
“Exploring the mystery, wisdom, and power of the dark phase of the moon’s cycle–a lunar-based model for moving through the dark times in our lives with understanding, consciousness, and faith in renewal.
The moon’s dark phase has traditionally been a time of fear and superstition, a time associated with death and isolation. The mythical embodiment of these fears is the Dark Goddess. Known around the world by many names–Lilith, Kali, Hecate, and Morgana–the archetypal Dark Goddess represents death, sexuality, and the unconscious–the little understood, often feared aspects of life.
Demetra George combines psychological, mythical, and spiritual perspective on the shadowy, feminine symbolism of the dark moon to reclaim the darkness from oppressive, fear-based images. George offers rites for rebirth and transformation that teach us to tap into the power of our dark times, maximizing the potential for renewal inherent in our inevitable periods of loss, depression, and anger.”
When I picked this book up in 2014 it was on a whim, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Shakti Woman turned out to be one of my all time favorite books, and when I introduced it to Heather, it became her bible. Between the two of us, we have a lot to share about this one. It’s really important to me that the books I read on female shamanism and women’s history are written by women shamans, healers and ethnographers. There’s a lot of mis-information about women’s history recorded by men who see through a masculine lens, and women in this field are doing the work to bring truth to the surface and highlight the ways in which women were not only contributors, but major leaders and respected elders in communities throughout early history.
“In our present-day Western culture, menstrual blood is taboo. We are expected not to pay any particular attention to it, other than hiding it, shielding ourselves from its flow, and shielding others from any experience of it. When we bleed we try to go about our business as if nothing of of the ordinary is happening. Since men have made it clear that they find us difficult at “that time of the month”, we also try to perform our usual tasks without any undue expression of anger or emotion that might arise from our hormonal state. This is a tremendous pressure and undoubtedly contributes significantly to what our society called PMS (premenstrual syndrome).” – Shakti Woman, Vicki Noble
What a book this is. I breezed through it in a week because again, I couldn’t put it down. I feel like Woman in a Shamans body and Shakti Woman should be sisters, or best friends – either way, they’re on the same wave-length and deserve to be shared far and wide. Similar to what I said about Vicki Noble’s book, I believe it’s especially important to study the writing of female ethnographers and support what they’re doing to help us reclaim our place in history. This book does a remarkable job at steering us in that direction, clearing myths about women’s history and revealing new findings on the place women held as the original shamans and healers.
4. The Optimized Woman by Miranda Gray
I started tracking my cycle daily in 2012 on my own with a notepad on my phone after becoming fascinated by women’s health and menstruation. Coming upon this book helped deepen my perspective and attune myself to the archetypal wisdom embedded within my own monthly cycle. As you can see the book is old and tattered, it’s been around! I’d consider this a great book for beginners, her information is simple and straight forward and there’s some great visuals for understanding how the cycle works week-by-week.
“With current self-development techniques we are forced into a masculine way of thinking, creating the seeds of failure before we even start towards our goals. And in the business world, rigid working structures ignore our cyclic nature, losing businesses the best creative resource they may have – us! When we do work in awareness of our abilities and talents as they occur during the month, we can become exceptionally productive and perceptive members of a working team and experience levels of achievement and personal fulfillment beyond our expectations, in our personal and work life.
5. The Way of the Happy Woman by Sara Avant Stover
I just love Sara and all of her work – she’s down to earth, so honest and real. Her books are easy to read and practical enough that any woman can glean insights from her writing no matter where she is in her journey.
This book is about wrapping your arms around yourself in a thousand different delicious, embodied ways. This is sacred self-care, and doing it is urgently important.
Self care opens pathways for the energy, insight and determination we need to face up to our global plight and find our particular way to make a difference.
Whenever you’re feeling out of sorts, one of the best ways to get back on track is to realign with your daily rituals because they restore your basic sleep/wake, rest/activity/focus/wander rhythms.”
6. Moon Time by Lucy Pearce
This is a quick read with some beautiful spiritual wisdom on moon time and the menstrual cycle.
Women are the primary resource of the planet. They give birth, we come from them. They are mothers, they are visionaries, they are the future. If we can figure out how to make women feel safe and honor women, it would be parallel or equal to honoring life itself.
7. Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Dr. Claudia Welsch
My all time favorite book on hormones. I have recommended this book and gifted it to many women along the way because it’s truly a game changer. Whereas I was once intimidated by hormones because of their intricate nature, I finished this book with a sense of deep understanding and felt really empowered to practice self-care in a whole new way. I wish every woman could read this book.
“Our hormonal activity reflects the level of satisfaction we have with the choices we’e made and the lives we are living. They are inextricably linked. Imagine if, as girls and young women, we were educated in how to protect, appreciate, and nourish our yin. (My footnote: feminine energy/sex hormones like estrogen, oxytocin and prolactin.)
What if we were taught how to manage stress to avoid overusing and depleting yang through excess demand on our stress hormones? By the time we reach thirty five – about halfway into the second stage of life – we could be well established in lives that reflected our values, lives that were full but peaceful. We would have some foresight and begin to slow down as we moved forward. We would stop and smell the roses. We would enjoy our lives. How many thirty five year old women do you know who live like that?
Preparing for a healthy second half of live could not only pave the way for a more pleasant menopause and retirement, it could enhance the quality of the first half of our lives. It could keep our bones and hearts strong, our breasts healthy, our choices true. It could help us find our destinies and love our lives”.
8. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Long before I became a birth doula myself, I was virtually obsessed with reading about and understanding the spiritual nature of birth. This book also doubles as an empowerment book for all women – whether they choose to ever have a child or not. I’ve drawn upon wisdom in this book to get through a really challenging yoga class. I’m sure anyone who’s actually given birth will slap me for that comment, but hey, it’s the truth! Aside from that, I encourage all women to at least understand the potent medicine in birth that is available to women to remove the fear and conditioning we’ve accepted in our society so we can all create a healthier birth culture together.
“Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”
“There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ they would brag about it. So should we.”
9. The Return of the Feminine Dr. Rebecca Orleane
This is a deeper look at patriarchal constructs and unravelling women’s power, spirituality and feminine wisdom.
“Unlike the Western calendar that dictates time of rest, calendar consciousness was first developed by and in women from their natural menstrual body calendar.
Chinese women established a lunar calendar 3000 years ago; Mayan women saw a relationship between the great Mayan calendar and women’s cycles; in Gaelic the words for “menstruation” and “calendar” are the same.
Yet with all this ancient recognition of a woman’s natural cycle, modern society has chosen to try to manipulate it or ignore it.
If we are not I’m tune with our own rhythm, then we experience sharp and inappropriate breaks or alterations in our life’s flow, expressed by many women as PMS.”
10. Moon Mysteries by Nikiah Seeds
I began working with Nikiah Seeds in 2016 when I was invited to join the Red Moon Mystery School and embark on the Priestess path. Her work is so courageous and I honor the gifts she has to share with women at this time.
“As women, we bleed monthly for most of our lives. In some indigenous cultures the medicine women or the healers of the tribe would begin their training at the start of their first menstruation, and they would not complete their training until menopause, when their moon blood ceased. Menstruation is a powerful teacher in this system.
It took the majority of these women’s lives, approximately forty years, before they could fully comprehend the medicine of the earth and their feminine relationship to that power. Your menses are part of your body’s personal magic, your body is a part of the earth, and you can spend your whole life continuing to learn about yourself here.
If you find you do not understand the inner workings of your body and your menstrual cycle immediately or a year down the road, or even five years down the road, then have patience; and remember, this is a life-long journey into yourself. It is a cyclical, ceremonial approach toward the accumulated power and wisdom of the clan elder, considered an honored grandmother, or crone.”
11. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
This book is one of my all time favorites! It touched me so deeply, I read the entire book cover to cover in two days. I could not put it down and nearly wept when it ended so quickly! I’ve spoken with other women who had the same experience, and others who just couldn’t get into it so this book is about timing. Anita spent years researching while writing this book. This was her offering to women, a way of giving voice to the women in the bible stories that were never told. She told the story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph. The Red Tent goes down for me as one of the best, rich with emotionality and depth that touched me at the core of my being as a woman.
“The great mother whom we call Innana gave a gift to woman that is not known among men, and this is the secret of blood. The flow at the dark of the moon, the healing blood of the moon’s birth – to men, this is flux and distemper, bother and pain. They imagine we suffer and consider themselves lucky. We do not disabuse them.
In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks — for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood.”
12. Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Everything about the way Clarissa writes is hauntingly beautiful and touches you right in the center of your soul. She is an American poet, Jungian psychoanalyst, post-trauma recovery specialist, author and spoken word artist – in other words, she’s a total badass. Her book is a series of stories that embody various female archetypes and life lessons.
“The way to maintain one’s connection to the wild is to ask yourself what it is that you want. This is the sorting of the seed from the dirt. One of the most important discriminations we can make in this matter is the difference between things that beckon to us and things that call from our souls.
Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the choice of mates and lovers. A lover cannot be chosen a la smorgasbord. A lover has to be chosen from soul-craving. To choose just because something mouthwatering stands before you will never satisfy the hunger of the soul-self. And that is what the intuition is for; it is the direct messenger of the soul.”
“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”
“There is a time in our lives, usually in mid-life, when a woman has to make a decision – possibly the most important psychic decision of her future life – and that is, whether to be bitter or not. Women often come to this in their late thirties or early forties. They are at the point where they are full up to their ears with everything and they’ve “had it” and “the last straw has broken the camel’s back” and they’re “pissed off and pooped out.” Their dreams of their twenties may be lying in a crumple. There may be broken hearts, broken marriages, broken promises.”
13. Dear Lover: A Womans Guide to Men, Sex and Loves Deepest Bliss by David Deida
I never finished this book but I still pull it off the shelf whenever I want to get into my body and go into the world of sacred sexuality. David Deida writes very poetically and I find his writing a bit romantic to read.
“Surrender means to love without limits. It means to relax your guard so your lover can feel your core–authentic, unhidden, and undefended. Your muscles relax. Your breath becomes full. Your body and heart willingly open to your lover. If you are hurt, then you are hurt, but in any case you practice to remain open and full, like the ocean. Surrender is the doorway to the deepest possible sex. Each purpose, each mission, is meant to be fully lived to the point where it becomes empty, boring, and useless. Then it should be discarded. This is a sign of growth, but you may mistake it for a sign of failure.”
14. The Heroines Journey
Maureen Murdock was the first to write an alternative to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey based on her work with women. She was a student of Joseph Campbell and felt the book The Hero’s Journey didn’t properly address the psycho-spiritual aspects of a woman’s experience. When Maureen showed her book to Joseph, he said: “Women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place that people are trying to get to.” I found some of this information on The Heroine’s Journey blog, so read more about it here. I’ve especially enjoyed this work for the way she explains a woman’s relationship to the masculine / feminine through the mother and father archetype and how our self-esteem is developed through these relationships.
15. Mother Daughter Wisdom by Dr. Christianne Northrup
There are so many things I could say about Dr. Christianne Northrup’s work and the impact she’s had on women, I should probably write an entire blog post about why I love her. But let’s just say, she’s an absolute pioneer and grandmother of the women’s wisdom space. Her books are gold, all of them – they are huge though, so be prepared to whip through multiple books before completing just one of hers. That said, many women refer to her books more as “bibles” and they are always a reference point for me in my own personal work and work with women.
Mother Daughter Wisdom is by far the most in depth exploration of a woman’s relationship to her mother, and the mother archetype at large. She explains so beautifully just how crucial it is that we understand how our early thoughts and feelings about our bodies are formed and how intrinsically linked we are with our mother.
16. The Book of She by Sara Avant Stover
This is Sara’s second book (Way of the Happy Woman is the first) and it’s a feminine version of the Hero’s journey. I loved this one big time and I think most women who get a chance to read it will resonate.
Your real feminine power lives “down there” – in your ovaries, uterus and yoni (the Sanskrit word for “vagina”, which I prefer to use your vagina not as a euphemism, but because it point to both its physical and divine nature). Within our pelvises live our temples of transformation, and our yogis are the gateways between our inner crestings and the outer worlds. Even if any or all of these sacred creative organs have been removed, they still maintain a strong, energetic presence in your body that you can draw upon. Unless you include your reproductive organs in your yoga and meditation practices, and in all that you create in your life, you will never be able to make magic, know and express your feminine power, or express the radiance the is your true feminine nature.