Boise, Idaho, October 24-27, 1996
“Many arrived by airplane, some drove, and one hitchhiked from Washington, D.C. This was as natural and instinctive a migration as any bird or animal makes each year. We were drawn together in this place as if returning to the great womb of Mother Earth. There was an ancient and sacred connection between us that reminded us of our relatedness.”
“There was in us a greening, as we gathered moisture from a wave of consciousness that built as we were offered, time after time, opportunity to come together. Storytelling was the beginning, and seemed to be at the base of all that we did. From hour to hour we walked the labyrinth, beginning a descent into that chamber beneath the cathedral where the wellspring of the Goddess lies, and we drew deeply from it, becoming emotionally alive.”
“Each time we meet in Counsel, a different aspect of the nature of the Crone comes to the fore. In Jackson Hole, when we met for the first time in 1993, we looked into each others’ eyes and saw that it was good. We assembled, talked, cheered, cried, and recognized the strengths we shared. We sat in a darkened room, and learned that pain and sorrow could be offered as gifts, and that we could only answer those gifts with unconditional love. We learned that it is good and right and indeed ‘our bounden duty” to sing, dance, laugh and cry at any age, and to ask for and receive ‘a standing ovation.’ The time of ‘The Crone–Women of Wisdom’ was at hand and we were ready.
“By the time of Boise, our 4th Counsel, we knew who we are, we are secure in that knowledge; without reservation we are learning to make gifts of our selves. We can rejoice in another’s healing though our own pain may persist. Storytelling is no longer merely a listening, sharing time–it has become a sacred ritual of joys and sorrows shared.”
“The times I enjoyed the most were the morning when we gathered for Storytelling, as women came forward to speak their truths. Too often their stories were filled with pain and shame. They spoke of abandonment at birth and being molested as small children. There were stories of rejection by society and family because of their sexual orientation or how as older women they were invisible and led to believe that they had nothing left to offer. We heard stories of caretaking loved ones and friends as they prepared to transition. There were tears, huge, and standing ovations. Each woman shared her story and as she did I realized that her story was also mine.
“On the second day I shared a story from my life and felt myself being embraced by the spirit of these women. As I walked down the hallway a woman placed a twist of sweetgrass in my hand. I was gifted with a pair of earrings, a powerful amber necklace, a lovely book of poetry, and a hat I admired. I was overwhelmed by their generosity. The give-a-way is part of everyday life among Native people. It is a physical symbol of our gratitude and also speaks of our belief that we are provided for in all ways. Here I was in the midst of what appeared to be a very Anglo mix of women who, from their very hearts, knew the meaning of the giveaway I was ashamed of myself for having expected less of these women. I realized that I had been carrying a type of prejudice within myself of which I had never been aware. I am grateful to these women for showing me that there are no real differences among us–we are truly all related.”
“….on the third day a woman took the microphone and said that she had recently obtained a copy of her birth certificate on which the appellation “illegitimate” appeared. This woman called on other women so labeled to come forward and stand with her, and they did. She then called upon everyone present to honor them. Immediately there was a standing ovation, and spontaneously women began to gather around these women, and lay their hands on them, and put their arms around them. Someone began to sing ‘How could anyone ever tell you/that you were anything less than beautiful?/How could anyone ever tell you you are less than whole?’ Then a spiraling out of women came from that core of women as we began to link hands all around the room, with everyone singing the song in wave after wave of harmonic attunement to the heart; awakening in us the power of the Crone.”
“The weekend was filled with free flowing workshops. There was powerful drumming and rattling, yoga, walking the labyrinth, poetry, and dancing. One could learn about herbal healing or the Goddess energy, could create a shield, explore the beauty of nature, plan estates, discuss caretaking, or ancient culture, visit the vendors’ room of women’s cottage industry crafts. There was time to be together in circle, visit one to one or in small intimate groups. There was no right or wrong way to be or do anything. Each woman was encouraged to seek out what she needed to fill herself with the magic of the event.”
“I was astonished by the raucous, pithy wit, the sexy, juicy, brazen hussy quality of much of Saturday night’s No Talent show. Though only a few individuals and groups had signed up beforehand, the evening extended on and on, as one after another “act” boldly stepped forward to offer singing, dancing, satire–all ending, as in other years, with dancing to Simone LaDrumma’s deep dynamic drumming. That evening’s show was the most hilarious and exciting I have EVER participated in.
“When the hotel manager came in to be thanked, our standing ovation overcame him. He made it only a few feet into the room before fleeing! Doubtless the staff had wondered about the record consumption of tissue in the public rooms, but some employees said they sensed a unified power emanating from our gathering, and claimed it was their favorite group of clients ever.”
CLOSING CEREMONY: HONORING THE CRONE
“Votive candles in small glass globes twinkled in groups arranged by color–teal, burgundy, spruce–surrounding a lone purple candle. Two hundred women, seated according to the decades of their ages, listened attentively as, with clear, powerful voice, a Crone intoned encomiums to those who had gone before and exhorted all who follow. She spoke as from some ancient, timeworn text, her words punctuated with an occasional solemn thump or a tomtom, or with a phrase from some Native American tongue repeated as a refrain. ‘And the whispering of women was heard in the caves….”
“Each phase of Cronehood was described, suggesting grace, authority and dignity. The Crone emcee took note of the ever-younger women seeking membership, and of the modern lifespan making crone years so disproportionate to the other stages of our lives. Some proposed that we insert into the triad of Maiden/Mother/Crone an extra stage called the Matriarch.
“The eldest crone in attendance was ushered to the throne by her daughter, upon which she presided as Honored Ancestress. Her purple candle lit all the candles that followed, as those in their 80s shared her honor, and then those in their 70s were called forward to light teal candles and chose brief blessings to bestow on all.
“Those in their 60s were next, honoring and thanking their elders, and then the 50-somethings lit candles yet green, as their work as grandmothers and even mothers continues still. Finally emcee Susan Mattos turned to the Group of white candles as she read the names of the youngest crones, telling them their candles would remain unlit, for theirs is a waiting, watching role, in silence to absorb wisdom and experience until the time of their own croning.”
“As I took the hands of each Elder and looked into her eyes I saw her as holding the place for my mother and grandmothers who are no longer here. They filled in me a place that has been empty for too long.
“This honoring of women of age and wisdom is new in our time, but it is as ancient as the beginning of time. I will never look at an Elder in quite the same way again. I have looked into their eyes and seen their spirit selves and all they have to offer me and the world. I have a responsibility to each of these women to live my life in a way which is respectful and honoring of theirs.
“I will never be quite the same again.”
Mnimaka lives in San Diego, CA. Maggie Rowlett lives in Loveland, CO. Ann Kreilkamp is the editor of Crone Chronicles.
Excerpts from Phyllis Clifton are reprinted with permission from Crone of Greater Skagit Valley.
Excerpts from Mahtowin are reprinted with permission from Buffalo Women’s Vision.
Excerpts from Ann Kreilkamp Reprinted with permission from Crone Chronicles