Salt Lake City, Utah
October 22-25, 1998
Crones Counsel VI was organized by. Kaye Chatterton, Julien Puzey and the Salt Lake City Crones with 385 women participating. The theme was “Legacy of Crone,” as both gifted to us by our foremothers, and given by us to our daughters and granddaughters. As ever, morning Storytelling formed the heart of the Counsel, with afternoons given to workshops and evenings to ceremony and play. This year’s organizers added small group Wisdom Circles to the gathering, which was much appreciated. What follows are stories and impressions from this Counsel from both first-timers and those who have attended many times. Arrival
I arrive at the hotel from Oregon with my husband, who has come to see Salt Lake. He is to be unobtrusive, but I worry he can’t be invisible. How hidden should a man be at these gatherings? I wonder, could any of us be here if not for men?
I check out the vendor room and recognize Ann Kreilkamp. When I ask what she looks for in a writer, she says, “Your own Crone voice.” I never thought about having one. Has it crept up on me so subtly that I haven’t noticed, or has it always been there?
On my way up to my room, two hotel guests in the elevator read my Counsel name tag and ask if this is a gathering of a support group for people with Crohn’s Disease!
On the way down, two crones with short, attractive white hair get on the elevator. They give my black hair what I read as a critical look. Yikes! Maybe it’s not okay to be a crone and color my hair.
Julien Puzey’s giant cutout silhouettes of old women’s bodies, outlined in tiny lights, stand behind altars to the four directions filled with Julien’s wonderful crone dolls.
In the ballroom a cheerful woman takes the seat beside me. She tells me this is her second Counsel and it’s like the magazine only 100 times better!
Kaye’s welcome is warm, but I’m not thrilled about singing. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. (Amazingly, by the time the Counsel is over, I actually enjoy the songs and find myself singing one out loud back home.)
Shauna Adix is brought into the ballroom in a wheelchair by her sister. I don’t know this woman, but love for her swells to fill the room. She must be remarkable. [Shauna Adix was the founder of the Crones Counsels. During this Counsel she was suffering from advanced cancer and has since died.]
Wisdom Circles are formed: I wonder if I will be comfortable with this group and am surprised to be the youngest in our circle of ten. The eldest is 80. I’m thankful for the age stretch.
I can hardly believe these individuals get up in front of a group of hundreds of women, take a microphone, and speak candidly and extemporaneously. Before too long, I realize how this happens. There is an amazing overall atmosphere of love and acceptance.
Many women begin by reciting their names and those of their mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. A roller coaster of emotion ensues: laughing at Sherry’s story of her Crone Meets Hoods encounter, the next moment crying at the words of a woman whose mother has died since the last Counsel, which they had attended together.
My wisdom circle is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It feels so calming and meditative. Reflective perception precedes our words and our ears are finely tuned to listen. Nothing like my average daily conversations with women at home.
I share with my small wisdom circle how my life has recently changed: a daughter and her two young children have been living with me since her husband abandoned them just after the second baby was born. After my story they stand up and give me a standing ovation–something I did not ask for. [It is a tradition at Crones Counsels that anyone at any time can ask for a standing ovation.] I will always remember it. It gives me strength to return home and again face my commitment.
It seems there is a more positive tone to the workshops this year — more happy, creative activities (dancing, singing, drumming, making prayer shawls, writing our lives). –P.G.
At a workshop in the afternoon we write the letter we wish our fathers had written to us. I read my letter aloud. It surprises me.
Ceremony: Honoring the Elders
Starting with those in their 80s, down through the 40s, women spiral into the candlelit room, passing through gates formed by the old-woman silhouettes. Rita Bresnahan, from Seattle, leads a guided meditation where we meet our foremothers and receive a gift from them.
My foremother gives me a golden pen. I feel a powerful validation to go ahead with my writing and am moved to tears.
Memorable as usual. From Simone LaDrumma’s song, “I Will Be Your Witness” (for abused women all over the world), to Jackie Gentry’s Group singing “Has Anybody Seen My Crone?” — plus many witty monologues.
As my contribution to the Outrageous Acts category of the show, I direct a group of singers and lead the audience in a three-part round to the tune of “Frere Jacques”: The new lyrics go like this:
Our hormones never rest!
Men don’t understand it;
That is why they brand it
P – M – S!
P – M – S!
Menstruation, monthly cycles
Are all gone! We are crones!
We are through with tampons,
No more contraceptives
We are free
Participants laugh as they sang those lyrics; they laugh and cheer even more when three conference participants in their 40s rise and sing a reply:
we are cron-ettes
Can’t you see, we’re not free!
We are still flowing,
But it will be going
Then we’ll be
Crones like thee!
Women file around the darkened room, a lighted Tree of Life at the front (to be planted later in a Children’s Garden), singing softly “It’s in Everyone of us–To Be Wise.” At the tree, we leave tags with our own wishes for the gifts we’ll leave to future women, to be buried under the tree. We are given three bulbs to plant in our gardens. Like the bulbs, we will become wrinkled and dry, but within us is the power to be reborn.
Kaye speaks about her role as one of stepping into the circle and becoming part of the energy. I appreciate her words about Crones Counsel not being a man-hating or sexist group. I now believe that Crones Counsel is a place, where if I lost everything in the world that I cared about, I could come back to and feel accepted and connected.
This was my first Counsel but it will not be my last! I am already preparing for Estes Park and will bring my daughter. To be in the company of so many energetic, beautiful and wise older women was truly liberating. I have enough. I do enough. I am enough. I am ready to take my place in the Counsel Circle of the Crones, Wise Women all.
I have always felt that the true power of the universe should be in the hands of the women, the givers of life. As a Mormon, born and bred, I was taught that women were subject to the men in their lives, father, husband, son. There was always a feeling that I was not quite good enough, not quite smart enough. They deserved more simply because they were male. I needed them to tell me what to do, when to do it, what I should think and feel. I have been taking my power back for the last several years, but I always felt a little guilty or maybe even a little crazy because of the stir it caused. Those feelings are all gone! If the men in my life have a problem with having a powerful woman around they will just have to learn to deal with it. The inner child and wild woman is out of her cage! Thank you Crones!
I am 61. I am a Crone! My daughter is a Cronette! My six-year-old granddaughter wants to be a Crone when she grows up!
Contributors: Marie Buckley (Portland, OR), Peggy Gilbert (Seattle, WA) Judy Payne (Arvada, CO), Jackie Gentry (Washington, D.C.), and Diana Coonradt (Layton, UT).
Reprinted with permission from Crone Chronicles, Spring Equinox 1999, #38