Crowning the Crone

In 2019, I led a series of workshops that were planted at Imbolc with ‘Seeds of Intention’. Every eight weeks a group of beautiful beings gathered for mindful connection, meditation, and personal growth as we marked the changing seasons. When the pandemic entered our lives, a number of my ‘sacred gardeners’ chose to continue meeting weekly, to stave off the sense of isolation that covid-19 threatened.

[Image created via collaboration with Dean and Delaney Delp with MidJourney]

Three years later, despite every member being vaccinated and boosted, for some reason we had not made efforts to return to meeting in person. Every Saturday we nurtured our commitment to gathering in sacred, safe, and brave ‘virtual’ space. Each gathering started and ended with an oracle card that might inspire conversation or speak to a mood that often resonated with many. In recent months, one of those cards offered a message that reminded me of how one of my sacred gardeners had inspired, supported, and nudged me into creating those workshops that gave birth to this group. It felt like a new nudge from the universe to return to a physical sacred space.

One intention I had been considering for some time was the idea of my own croning. A croning is a rite of passage in the life of a woman when she moves beyond her former roles as a maiden and mother. As I have gotten to know these women on such an intimate level over the past few years, I was aware that many of us were on similar journeys at varying stages of aging. So, the suggestion was made, it was well received, and then a date was set.

Once the focus of our first in-person gathering was decided, the synchronicities began to arrive, as they do, to affirm that we were on the right path. From oracle cards pulled in weekly gatherings to random social media posts, guidance, inspiration, and messages kept rising to help build the outline for our rite.

I knew that for a hands-on craft, we would create our own crowns. I had a very simple idea for a floral circlet, but I wondered if I could find other, less practiced ideas to share. I found a few generous designers on YouTube who demonstrated the task, shared with my group for feedback, and then called a couple of experts for a slumber party crown experiment.

If you are truly blessed in life, you will have at least two life-long, childhood friends who are always ready for adventure. They gladly embraced the task of a crafting rehearsal, to see if it felt possible to do this work as a group within a reasonable timeframe. As we measured, nipped, smoothed, and twisted aluminum wire, we discussed the concept of croning.

In the life of a woman, she moves through three stages that mirror the moon. She is the maiden throughout her youth, a glorious waxing stage of innocence and discovery. She is the mother when she has moved into her fullness, not only by giving birth (which many of us choose not to do), but by creating a path, a home, a career, a purpose. And she is the crone when she is ready to leave behind what wisdom has taught her no longer matters, as she moves into the waning phase.

Three of my gardeners argued that they were not sure they were worthy of croning. They felt unsure of their readiness to claim it when they felt there was so much more to learn, or there were still young-adult children in the house. But when I read to them the inspiration piece for the power portion of the ceremony, they each changed their minds.

I understand that some may argue with my logic, but I know this to be true. The time of croning can be when a woman’s blood has stopped flowing. Another time may be at her second Saturn Return, around age 56 (depending on her astrological natal chart). It can be when she retires from the working world, or simply when she is ready to evolve into a deeper life experience. I stopped bleeding at 48 (thank the gods!), retired from the corporate world to care for my parents, and walked my father through the end of his life (to walk with death is an undeniable crone journey).

Our youngest is 51 and our eldest is 86. We are all in varying stages of cronedom. We are either serving our parents through the end of life, or preparing for our own. We are learning that we no longer carry the burden of worrying about pleasing others with how we look or behave, and are focused on learning how to please ourselves and love who we’ve become, especially after a lifetime of trying to be something society expected of us. With the war of beating ourselves with the unrealistic expectations of others, we are done!

We spent our Saturday virtual gatherings in the weeks leading up to our big event discussing who we were as maidens and as mothers, and what from each stage of our development we would choose to leave behind.

Our lives and stories were different in many ways and similar in others. I found myself reflecting on my youth and could immediately see so much that felt unpleasant. I could see my innocence as naivete, my longing as weakness, and my moments of confidence as arrogance. On first reflection, I found mostly regret in my ignorance, while a few others saw their maiden experiences as nearly idyllic, some, quite the opposite with a lost youth having to parent a parent. It took me a while to dig through my own darkness to reveal the buried treasure of being young. That process informed me of what I was prepared to discard from my maiden phase, and what to hold onto.

Motherhood was oddly easier for me to review. I’ve never been pregnant and am very happily childless, but I did give birth to a tribe in my mid-twenties (and I guess I did it all over again in my late 40s). That has long felt like one of the most important things I’ve done. I nurtured and cared for three bosses over three decades who gave me a sense of identity and purpose, they were my sacred beings to nurture and support.

So much light came through a sense of belonging and opportunities to contribute to something larger than myself. I found my people and myself during those formative years. But I also struggled with self-love and acceptance. I fought a long battle of self-loathing for never being thin enough, attractive enough, organized enough, or loved enough. It took me so long to figure out that every little thing that could deliver true happiness was always mine to give myself. I knew that I was ready to claim my cronedom when I stopped objectifying myself and yearning for the validation of others to believe I was worthy of being loved.

[Image created via collaboration with Dean and Delaney Delp with MidJourney]

As we collaborated on crafting a communal croning ceremony, we also discussed music that spoke to us, and how we would honor the elements and archetypes of the divine that resonated with each of us, and of the wise women in our lives who had nurtured and inspired us.

Among the many synchronicities that crossed my screen was ‘The Thanksgiving Address, A gift from the Haudenosaunee to the World’, which I first discovered while reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s remarkably beautiful book, Braiding Sweetgrass. We realized that it had everything one could seek in honoring the sacred within us and which surrounds us. It would work for casting the circle, calling the quarters, and invoking the light of truth. I would love to begin every gathering with these blessing words.

The morsel of goodness that was the foundation of our rite and the climax of our journey was a post that offered a declaration from Dr. Shefali’s book called Radical Awakening. It prompted me to purchase the book, and hear it in her own voice through Audible. It feels like an assertion of defiance to internalized patriarchy. I hope you’ll look her up for yourself. I adapted her words to meet our needs, designed to roll more easily off the tongue. I’m grateful to Poet’s Corner for posting them.

I don’t think I had imagined how it would feel to welcome 12 sacred souls, live and in-person, into the sanctuary of my home. It has been so long since more than two extra people have graced this space. Their arrival, by ones, twos, and threes felt warm and momentous. We were all helpers that day. Some helped set the perfect spaces for our togetherness, some helped prepare the food for our sustenance, some helped by driving our loved ones who are no longer driving, some helped with crafting supplies, some helped with financial donations, one drove four hours partially through rush-hour traffic to get here the day before, and absolutely everyone held space for the truth and beauty of each and every life journey that was shared, with reverence and grace. That feeling, I was reminded, was the warmth of love, the support of family, and after a very long absence, it felt like a homecoming.

In the beginning, we agreed that the beauty of becoming the crone meant that we would not be attached to outcome. If we had intentions for this gathering that were forgotten or failed to manifest due to timing, that would only mean that we would have exactly the experience we meant for us.

We passed the script of ‘Thankfulness’ until every paragraph had been spoken, until ‘Our Minds [Were] One’. We spoke of the women in our lives (or men) who offered us wisdom and nurturing, and we brought into the circle the archetypes of the goddesses who most resonated with our souls. Surrounded by images in artwork, mine were obvious. It was the young Persephone that I called into the birthing of my Tribe at Imbolc of 1994, and she in her underworldly guise, as I studied holding space at the end of life and walked my father through it. And it was Artemis, who found me in 1999 through a Drawing Down the Moon ritual with my Tribe, and never stopped revealing herself through my own independence, fierce loyalty to my Tribe, a constant sense of being protected, and a groundedness that has served this archer well.

We chose nourishment and connectedness before starting our work of crafting crowns, and then moved outside to the tables where we took our time in the act of creation. My life-long friends, having practiced the elven circlet made from aluminum wire, offered support and guidance to those who chose that style, while others took to other materials. The idea of choosing simplicity at this stage of life bears great resonance. Whatever each woman chose for herself was exactly right and a work of perfection.

[My cat, Neville – blessing the crowns]

When we returned to the center of our circle, we honored those who had long ago been croned, and affirmed that in this phase of life, we are continuing to learn and grow, to release and receive, and therefore, we may choose to claim our crowns again and again. One who was croned at her second Saturn Return has now reached her third. She would be the one who anointed us all with essential oils symbolic of rebirth.

Each of my sacred gardeners were anointed, then sat to read her words of release and declaration, and then she was crowned with her own crafted headpiece by the woman seated to her right. It meant that we were going counter clockwise in circle, which felt quite right for this phase of life and moon. The following was my offering inspired by Dr. Shefali’s work, which some altered with their own deep meaning.

From the Maiden, I maintain a sense of wonder and curiosity, as I release Her sense of insecurity and not-enoughness.

From the Mother, I maintain an ability to face every challenge with patience and compassion, as I release Her need to put the needs and comfort of others before Her own.

From the Crone, I claim healthy boundaries, confidence in my knowing, and the power of my divine authenticity to expand and call forth joyful experiences of deepening growth and grand adventure.

I am a woman living in the fullness of my truth. I have curated and crafted my sovereignty.

In this moment, I release unworthiness and fear. I part with obligatory servitude and passive acceptance. I divest what is untrue to me, along with unhealthy boundaries of my own and of those who would cross them. I refuse to pretend to be something I am not in order to please others.

In this moment, I now command that I will ascend into my highest power. I will embrace my greatest autonomy. I will celebrate my deepest worth. I will embody my fiercest courage and manifest the most authentic me.

Today, I claim my crown!

[Image created via collaboration with Dean and Delaney Delp with MidJourney]

There was such power in witnessing these words through the bodies and voices of each of my sacred gardeners, and there was deep beauty, as well. Our eldest crone is 86, and living with severe vascular dementia. We have seen rapid decline in her memory and abilities over the last year. Though this was the first time they had met in person, she allowed herself to be cared for by our dear one who had driven so far to be with us. She literally took our elder under her wing and read the words of affirmation, prompting her to add her own life experience into the words provided, and then allowed her to read the words to claim her crown. It was so tender and dear, and this is why my greatest wish for all the world is to know this blessing of heartfelt belonging.

When our circle was open, a couple of dear ones had to depart, but many stayed for homemade dessert, and a mesmerizing fire. There was meant to be music and song, but that was one of the things that fell away. I will add the words of one meaningful offering that may find voice in the future, and a link to another. Both have long been sung by members of our local Unitarian Church, where many of us have also found belonging. We feel that both resonate with the gratitude we hold for the honor of being in this latter phase.

Cup of the Moon by Carole Etzler
Cup of the moon, filling, filling, shining in the night. Cup of the moon, spilling, spilling, spilling out her light. We dance in the light, in the silvery light when the moon is at her fill. And when the cup of the moon is empty, we wait her listening and still.
In the dark of the moon we grow more in tune with the earth and the sky and then, we watch and wait and find joy in knowing the cup will refill again.
We dance in the light, in the silvery light, when the moon is at her fill. And when the cup of the moon is empty, we wait for her to refill.

Carolyn’s Party by Ann Reed

It is now Monday, and evidence of our Saturday celebration in my home is less obvious. The circle of 13 seats has been broken, the kitchen is not quite as recovered as the living room, but what truly lingers is the love. For 26 years, I have hosted gatherings of women (and a few special men) in this home, and I believe it is the residue of all of that light, love, and magick that can be felt upon crossing my threshold. I am grateful for it, and enjoy basking in it. I know the energy of our communion will hold me close for all of my days.

May the season of light deliver all you need with plenty to share.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I love knowing you are here.

Author: MelissaBee

Author of Persephone's Passage: Walking My Father into the Underworld - The Spiritual Journey of an End-of-Life Doula; Joyfully exploring an authentic life as a writer, a healer, and a sacred ceremony facilitator, while caring for aging parents, with reverence and gratitude.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: