By Kate Irving
I was initiated as a Crone on my 60th birthday in 2018. On a glorious November day by the ocean at high tide. Surrounded and held by the elements of FIRE (sun and candle), EARTH (rocks, trees, fallen leaves), WATER (ocean and stream) and AIR (wind, feathers and breath). And by family and friends, skilled celebrants, and the energetic support of those not physically present.
So how did I even know to do this?
We live in a culture that has reduced the archetype of Crone to a scary and solitary figure of a woman past her usefulness. We have also lost much of our knowledge and capacity for meaningful ceremony and ritual to mark life transitions.
I had spent my fifties on a journey of personal healing and exploration. I read a lot of books. Worked with some wonderful practitioners. I discovered my inner witch. I let go of long-held beliefs that no longer served me. I stopped colouring my hair. I learned from the deaths of my father and mother-in-law, and I followed the call to become a death doula. All of this helped me understand that I needed to step into this third stage of my life with intention and purpose and ceremony.
With the support of Susan Blackwood and Shylene Schlackl of RestSure, I manifested a ceremony that helped me ask and answer the following questions: What has my legacy been so far in this life? What parts are no longer serving me? What parts do I want to carry forward? What do I want to call in?
Preparing for the ceremony and answering these questions was powerful in itself, and my responses became a set of vows to myself.
The ceremony was rooted in South American traditions, in which Susan has been trained and initiated, and in my own Celtic and Pagan lineage. Susan and I co-created it, weaving these two traditions together in a way that resonated. We recognized the wisdom and teachings of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island but did not use any of their ceremonies, as none of us had been inducted into those ways.
Susan led us in ceremony, while Shylene kept us grounded. My husband played the guardian role in the circle, welcoming each person and marking the beginning and end of our sacred time together. The other participants also had roles – they helped prepare altar-like spaces and decorate the circles on the ground that represented my stepping from an old stage of life into a new one. They also manifested the social time afterwards – bringing firewood, tea and apple crumble, and cleaning up when we were done.
Near the end, there was a rock blessing – perhaps the most meaningful ritual for me. Each person had been asked to bring a rock as a gift for me. They each spoke or breathed wishes for me into their rocks. Standing in the centre of the circle, I turned to each one and received their gift. Each person said a few words and placed the rock in a box we had collectively decorated. It was powerful. Even my grandsons, aged 3 and 5, left the game they had been playing, feeding rocks to the fire, and came and stood solemnly waiting their turn to give me their carefully chosen rocks.
Each year on my birthday, I manifest a Crone renewal ceremony for myself with family and friends. This has grown and become richer each year, as I develop my ceremonial skills and confidence. The key ritual, after I have re-read my Crone vows, is the cleansing of those blessed rocks. Washing them in water, drying them by the fire with feathers. Returning the water to the earth. My grandsons always pay attention to this part – they remember giving me the stones and they are starting to take on larger roles in this ritual. And of course we end with social time, tea and apple crumble!
I cannot overstate the importance of this Crone ceremony, and my annual renewal practice. I am manifesting what I called in, including establishing my death doula practice and offering ceremony to others. Ceremony helped me recognize and remember my true self and gain confidence in being that in the world. Not just as an individual in this life, but connected to a long lineage of women manifesting the archetype of Crone.
As a part of the Be Ceremonial community, I hope to continue to deepen my own knowledge and connections and to expand my offerings of ritual and ceremony to people I work with as a death doula and to my friends, family and community. At this Crone stage of my life, I aspire to live in ceremony – by acting and speaking only with intention and attention and great love. Creating meaning from the smallest gestures and actions of everyday life. Seeing and feeling the sacred in the ordinary. Be Ceremonial is a big help in doing that.
Many blessings and much gratitude!
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