November 5-9, 2014 – St. George, Utah
Wow! Wow! Wow! What a stellar gathering we all just experienced. We say Thank You to every woman who showed up, laughed and cried, danced and sang, and shared the many sacred moments of Crones Counsel 22 in St. George, Utah. Women came from 16 states and three countries! We had 17 new women from St. George, Utah and another 5 or 6 new women from Salt Lake and Ft. Collins respectively. From New York to California, you came to play.
A good many of you have written about what you experienced.
Cathy Rockwell, daughter of Betty Rockwell who is a long-time attendee of Counsel, wrote:
It was my first time, and it was a blast. I had fun, as well as uplifting spiritual experiences; I met interesting women, and just clicked with the leader of my wisdom group (Sandy Eno). I’m still singing “Woman I am” and “Eyes of Light” to myself.
Cheryl Graves had this to say:
I am home and back to work with all of the boys. I must thank you all for the most amazing opportunity to be with you, recharge and be able to come back and remain centered, calm and at peace. My re-entry has been the best I have ever had in all the years I have worked in this environment. I have to think some of it is coming from the discussion about honoring men too and looking at it from a different perspective. So, much love and gratitude to all of you for creating such a loving sacred space.
Our dear Enid Williams, who did such a superb job with Christina and Julie Horst on the Follies, wrote:
When I think of ALL the planning and diligent, unending work that went into the preparation, I am dazzled.
I was especially touched by the Ceremony in Snow Canyon, which I will never forget, it was just heavenly.
Camille Chitolie, attending for the first time, wrote:
Attending the conference, getting to know members of my Wisdom Circle and the other women in the large group was one of the most wonderful experiences I have had in my life time. The entire time I was there I was walking on air; I cannot explain it but I was overwhelmed with contentment and joy. My sister and I thank you for the great experience and the opportunity to fellowship with you. I will see you all next conference.
Lani Phillips said: “It was the best five days of my life.”
And it goes on. Letters on Face Book and beautiful pictures of the events are flying through the airwaves. How grateful we all are for the ability to have a Gathering like the one we have just experienced.
There are so many women to thank. A grateful thank you goes to the entire registration and hospitality teams who handled a very complicated registration and lunch and beverage tickets system with immense skill. A lovely new first-timer, Patty Lindsey, was the dispenser of scarves. (The scarves were an idea presented by our Vice-President, Janet Morrissey. The luminous material was purchased, cut and serged by Susan Ann. Thank you Ladies!)
The Opening Ceremony/Calling of the Directions by the Colorado Crones was simple and elegant. It was a beautiful and quiet way to open our Gathering. The Closing Ceremony was equally beautiful. annie Lehto wishes us to know that “it was an honor to plan the opening and closing ceremonies. Others were involved in the actual ceremony and received much appreciated feedback that the ceremonies were just right – spiritual, meaningful, and just the right length. Thank you all for being a part of that.”
The Altar Piece crafted and sculpted by Pam Bird of St. George, Utah was nothing short of exquisite. We had originally thought we might auction the altar piece. It is too beautiful. We are keeping it as a treasure. But women can order directly from Pam reproductions of the artwork.
All of the events of the Opening Night were fabulous. We have another cultural centerpiece (women who are incredibly valuable to Crones Counsel), our own singing bard, Laurie Dameron. Wasn’t it great to shop in the Artisan Hall and nibble and drink wine on the Opening Night while listening to Laurie? A big thank you to Marta Quest – who is absolutely indispensable in the Artisan Hall coordinating and managing all that goes on there – and all of the craftswomen who came to Counsel. We love and admire each and every one of you. The space was tight this year for our artisan’s, but in usual crone fashion, they made it work. Thank you very much.
A big thank you to Kaye Chatterton who was our Storycatcher this year. She is marvelous. We are so happy to have her re-join us after a few years of being away doing very powerful work in the world. And, a thank you to another of our cultural centerpieces, ila Benavidez-Heaster, who graced our gathering (several times) with her powerful spirit dancing.
Patricia Weller, our Wisdom Circle Coordinator, worked in a dedicated manner to ensure our Wisdom Circles were successful. She worked very hard to bring new women to the Gathering and has been an ardent supporter of Crones Counsel for many years now. She said: “Aside from the usual challenge to find enough spaces for Circles to meet, the feedback I received is that most women found their circle valuable and enjoyable. One woman mentioned to me that she sees that there is power in the circle, a space for sharing one’s deepest concerns and challenges, and for gaining strength and focus. As I sat in my own circle, I found that my enjoyment of the Gathering was also enhanced.”
For all of the women who volunteered workshops we say “Kudos!” “Kudos!” The workshops were purposeful and deeply in alignment with Crone Work and our theme “Luminous with Age.” Della Huber, who organized the workshops, shared with us these thoughts: “I want to thank all of the workshop presenters for sharing so generously their time and knowledge. We were given the opportunity to consider the environment as well as ways to heal the planet, to discuss what it means to be a Crone, to sensibly prepare for dying, the make a bead bracelet, to focus on our legacy, to journal in another way, share our wisdom and to honor a poet.”
Crone Poets Rising, the poetry fest, was a huge success. Thanks go to Kianna Bader and Claudia van Gerven for suggesting we separate the poetry from the Follies. It was a powerful, powerful event, one that many of you suggested we continue to do as a yearly event. Every poem read and every poetess who spoke were magnificent. What gifted women we have in Counsel.
And the Follies. Well, we have never seen anything quite like it. Christina Horst and her lovely daughter, Julie, were such a dynamic duo. The cleverness of what they did was stupendous. And, End? Again, we are blessed to have her with us and share her exquisite being. Many, many women have told us that they have “never laughed so hard in their lives.” To all who contributed to that evening a big hurrah! Big and loud applause! It was quite a show!
There is not a Thank You big enough for the women (and men) who helped with the Snow Canyon Ceremonies. Carol Martin, Barb Smith, and Sherrie Goldsberry, three first time attendees from St. George, planned and worked and planned and worked to the edges of their hearts. Sherrie in her sari and the two others were indeed beautiful Goddesses.
Barb Smith sewed and filled every one of those little pouches, decorated every table, and served as escort to the elder women. Thank you, Barb. Sherrie brought her pink quartz water feature, chairs, and tablecloths. Carol brought chairs, lugged tables around, built the fires and sprinkled and whispered in each woman’s ears. Never before have we heard the directions summoned more powerfully than Naomi Silverstone was able to do that afternoon. Her entire body was afire in the spirit of the moment. Kaye Chatterton shared her profound wisdom again during the Croning Ceremony. Many women have commented on her words, the beauty and the truth in the words she spoke. What lies do you tell yourself? This is a profoundly deep question.
And, we would be remiss if we did not thank Michael Stauffer, husband of Susan Ann, who set up the sound system, rented a U-haul to bring chairs up to the site, then tore it all down, and who offered a helping hand at every turn. He endured through three months of a wife not interested in anything but Crones Counsel. This man deserves a gold star on his forehead.
Never again will we think that a bunch of women cannot get themselves in their cars and arrive at a destination ready to rock and roll. Every part of that ceremony seemed blessed and sanctified. The elder women are treasure-houses, storehouses of humor, wisdom, and delight. That we had a young 18-year old with us says something about the direction in which Counsel is moving. As older women we can and must love and respect our youngest sisters and every age in between. The numbers of women ready to claim crone attest to that.
And the line dancing. Oh my gosh! For those of you who missed that, it was a feast. Alice Yee was the star of Boot- Scooting Boogie and Lu Zemlich and several others were not far behind. It was amazing. These crone women have a hell of a lot of life in their bones. The drumming and dancing afterwards was pretty wild as well. Those who were able to participate in that were well rewarded with a good night’s sleep, we are sure of that.
There is so much to say. So many of you to thank. We could go on and on. So, for all of you, who came, who participated, who told story, who mistressed of ceremony, who taught Tai Chi, who handled microphones, who gave tributes, who served up wine, who reset up chairs, who stayed after ceremony to leave the Snow Canyon site as pristine as it was found we say THANK YOU! THANK YOU to everyone. Each and every one of you deserves a thank you for none of it happens without YOU!
To all of you who took pictures, who documented the moments of this gathering, we are sincerely grateful. Watching the pictures fly around Facebook has been a like feasting at a veritable smorgasbord. There are so many photos that caught such prime moments in time and that will serve as memories deep in the soul body. Thanks go to every one of you who chose to participate in this way. Download photos via Dropbox from Lynne Ericksson: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/09dbajtxsircs4h/AABq07NJUc25-xASsDfeMBxXa Please send any photos to Marta Quest at firstname.lastname@example.org for use in the 2015 Calendar.
If you don’t have Dropbox, you can sign up for free here: https://www.dropbox.com/
Susan Ann Stauffer, Janet Morrissey, Carol Friedrich, and Suzanne Gruba can say without reservation that we are happy, gratified and satisfied. We are deeply grateful to each other for the commitment we gave and the joy we are now experiencing. With your help we did it! And, several of our deepest wishes and desires came to fruition. We have a new Treasurer, Kay Bouma, and a new Secretary, Kathy Puffer. These two women are goddess-sends. For sure. We welcome them and ask for each of you to lend them your support as well. We now have the board we need to fulfill our legal and advisory commitments. This is huge. Thank you Kay and Kathy.
Please take a few minutes to answer the questions in this brief survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HCKGXX2
To Melinda Field Perlman and Lani Phillips we say a million times Thank You. These two women have been working diligently to secure a location (Mt. Shasta) for next year. Yes, Mt. Shasta, California. None of this is set in stone yet, but we can say it is looking pretty darn for sure. These two women have an abundance of energy as well as expertise. We say; Fly. Soar. Fly and we will be the breath beneath your wings.
You were born with potential.
You were born with goodness and trust.
You were born with ideals and dreams.
You were born with wings.
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings.
Learn to use them and fly.
By Joanne Casey
One hundred thirty women flock together from fifteen states and three countries to gather in St. George, Utah, for the Croning – a celebration to honor the elders. The women proudly proclaim themselves to be crones in defiance of the common understanding of a crone as a worthless old hag, a witch, or ugly, useless old woman. They promote a new archetype of the crone as a woman of age who carries a stature of vast worth. They claim crone is a woman crowned with light, wisdom and understanding gained from all their years of life experience and reflected in a crown of graying, sliver white hair. They appreciate the profound significance of collective female wisdom and the presence and power of their unique gifts, abilities and contributions. The elderly and not yet elderly women (fondly called cronettes) gather to share their stories, their smiles, their hugs, friendship, tears, laughter, love and support.
On Friday afternoon, they pile into cars and caravan to the ceremonial site in Snow Canyon, a Utah State Park that is the intersection of the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin Desert and the Colorado Plateau. They turn north and proceed up the canyon and are greeted by a Red Navaho Sandstone monolith named Island in the Sky, which contrasts with hills capped with the black, jagged rocks left by the 20,000 year old Santa Clara lava flow from now extinct volcanoes, and the soft white sand of the canyon floor evidence of eons of erosion.
As the caravan proceeds up the canyon, some notice the sparse vegetation, sagebrush, rabbitbrush, creosote shrubs, some stunted junipers and debris from a spring flood. This ancient canyon is home to the endangered Desert Tortoise nesting Peregrine Falcons, coyotes and other wildlife. It was once home to the ancient Puebloans who lived there sometime between 2,000 to 30,000 years ago, depending on who you ask. Later, the Piute Tribe called it home for 700 years or more, before it was “discovered” by early Mormon settlers and named Snow Canyon, after them and not the petrified white sand dunes that resemble snow covered hills.
They finally reach the gathering site called the Lower Galoot. It has been carefully and artfully prepared for the Croning Ceremony with an altar of rose quartz and pink sand held in small, colorful medicine bags, and tables covered with purple table cloths, red rocks, green sage and yellow wildflowers. Folding cushioned chairs were borrowed from various places for the elders to sit on in the shade of a few tall cottonwood trees. There is a microphone and speakers so they will be able to hear the ceremonies, and umbrellas and hats to shield old eyes and white skin from the bright sun.
The women walk slowly up the dirt trail as the drummers beat out a heartbeat rhythm. They are met by strikingly beautiful, white-haired women dressed in flowing ceremonial gowns who smudge them with sage and give them a mantra. “I AM here and I matter.” Sacred space is opened by a woman, a former movement therapist, who puts down her walking sticks, and dances her pain and her passion, and gratitude for life. As she dances in a tai-chi like style all her own, she sings spontaneously to the four directions. More prayers and words of wisdom are shared.
Then the honoring begins. First, the decades of the springtime of life, the maidens and daughters in their teens and twenties. Followed by the decades of the summer of life -women in their thirties, forties and fifties. Most of the women are in the decades of fifties, sixties and seventies, the golden harvest time of life. Each woman approaches the crystal cauldron and pours in her red sand to symbolically acknowledge and honor the good red road and the seasons of life that we journey through and share together as maidens, daughters, mothers, sisters, friends, mentors, matriarchs, grandmothers, great-grandmothers.
Special honors are given to the eighty and ninety year-olds, in a ceremony called “The Salt of the Earth.” They are true crones and well-seasoned sages. The salt is a metaphor for wisdom and those who add special flavor to life. Together, they represent the best and most noble elements among us and are worthy of respect. Just as salt can be a preservative, the elders hold ideals we hope to preserve and pass along to the future. Just as salt was considered as valuable as currency and is the root of the word salary, we value and are enriched by their wisdom and experience. Salt is also an ingredient in fertilizer, which is an idea to contemplate. The elders share some words of wisdom and salty advice, are given a gift, and celebrated with rounds of drumming and wild applause. Then they add their own red sand to the bowl.
Then the croning ceremony begins for those who are ready and willing to accept the croning commitment, to harvest the wisdom of one’s’ own life as well as the wisdom of others and seed it into greater society; to appreciate the profound significance of that commitment, as well as the presence and power of older women’s unique individual and collective gifts; and to claim the right to live with joy, courage, serenity and gusto as they walk the seasons of their lives. The sand that now fills the bowl is stirred and blended together by those who choose to stir things up, just as the energy of each woman has blended and contributed meaning to the entire gathering and has filled the ancient canyon with aging feminine grace. The croning is witnessed by the smooth sandstone monolith called the “turtles back”, a voluptuous petrified sand dune, very reminiscent of the Ancient Great Mother; and a pair of ravens who circle the gathering with seeming delight and wisdom of their own. It was acknowledged by the invisible sky elders, and of course, Grandmother Sun who radiated beams of shining approval and literally crowned their heads with a luminous glow.
The sands of life flow and shift. The energy has been stirred up and blessed with singing, dancing, drumming, smiling and hugging. Shining women are grateful for the chance to gather together on this sunny afternoon in November and be Luminous with Age.
By Ann Kreilkamp
I write this on day four of the 22nd nomadic annual five day event called Crones Counsel, this year held in St. George, Utah, where 136 women, most of them self-identified as either crones, cronettes, or crones-in-training, plus five or six daughters of crones, one 35-year-old single mother of twins who needs mothering from us, and at least 15 honored elders in their 80s and 90s, including one sprite who is probably everybody’s absolute favorite, Enid, almost 92, sitting here, in her usual pose of astonishment, after our Ceremony at Snow Canyon yesterday, with Rita, who routinely tells the best crone stories I’ve ever ever heard, on her left. Read more and view photos from the gathering: http://exopermaculture.com/2014/11/08/crones-counsel-xxii-photo-essay/