Post-CRONES COUNSEL, Part I: How it began, and how it continues!

I sit here in my brother-in-law’s house. John is the widower of Mary, my dear sister, who died three years ago this past weekend after 40 years battling various forms of cancer. See the many posts concerning her dying process, under The Grieving Time. Here’s the final one in that series:

Thinking about Sister Mary, how she wanted to postpone death indefinitely — until she didn’t!

It is a misty, grey Seattle morning. John is at work. I have walked his dogs, one at a time. And now I sit down, to begin to absorb the extraordinarily rich fullness of this year’s Crones Counsel, the 26th year of this annual event that magnetizes crone women of various ages, many of whom have been coming for years and years and years. Or like me, skipping a few years, then joining in again. The last Counsel I attended was four years ago, in St. George Utah. This one was held in Bellingham, 85 miles north. I went with my dearest female friend, Claudia, who lives on Vashon Island, and runs a store there called Cronos, which holds an atmosphere very much like the one we intend for Green Acres Village, a welcoming center of love and allowing. Claudia and I have been co-counseling each other since we met, in 1985, when I was giving an astrology talk in Marin County on the millennial energies and how they intersect with the Pluto in Leo generation (1938-58).

Claudia had walked in late, and sat directly across from me, from where she proceeded to give me energy (“Not that you needed it,” she says now) during my entire talk. The hostess had wanted me to be costumed as a wizard; she had wrapped my head in a turban and put me in a robe. Amazingly enough I allowed it! But then, within minutes of Claudia’s arrival, I whipped off the turban and language took flight.

This public event was the first that I had ever done as a professional astrologer outside of my then hometown of Jackson Wyoming. I had been invited by a woman whose chart I had read from a distance; she figured a lot of her friends would like this service as well, and wanted me to travel there.

The next day I read Claudia’s chart for her, and she told me afterwards that I was the first person who had ever seen her. She then suggested that she might help me as well, some day. I dismissed the thought. Such was my mid-40s arrogance!

The next year I returned, and at her invitation, stayed with her in the Castro District of San Francisco. This was the era of AIDS, and my clientele turned out to be gay males, mostly, either sick or attending their sick friends. It was an intense time. I went back year after year. Meanwhile, she and I began to talk about, and then gradually, to deeply process, our inner lives; I can say now that if it wasn’t for Claudia, I might not have been able to heal my deeply conflicted relationship with my father. Moreover, in our co-counseling, her main source of information was dreams. I learned from her to take dreams seriously, by recognizing the dimension within which they live as deeply meaningful, coloring waking life in mysterious ways.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year’s Crones Counsel, when I got up as the first 5-minute speaker during our first morning’s traditional, and deeply revered, Storytime, and told the Crones Counsel origin story, again — indeed, I tell this story every time I attend a Crones Counsel, both to remind us of how this event began, and to help initiate newbies (about 30 of the 140 total were newbies this year, typical; there’s always a flow — some women getting too old to travel, or dying, and others moving in).

My first words into the microphone were a scream: ‘WAKE UP! WAKE UP! IT’S TIME! IT’S TIME!” That did wake them up, the newbies who were still wondering why they were here, and the others grinning in recognition. YES! Here we go again, responding to the Call, the Caw of the Raven that had disturbed my sleep back in 1989, and woke me up, it’s talons gripping my shoulders from behind. I knew, instantly, that the Raven symbolized the Crone; She was unearthing herself from having been buried for hundreds of years. She was activating her massive winged archetype, and apparently I — me, who as a little girl had always wanted to be 65! (“Why?” Adults would ask. “Because by that time I can be myself and no one will care!”) — had to help. “Wake up! It’s Time!” I repeated, a bit softer now, and then proceeded to tell the story of that Raven Dream, and how it had ignited both the Crone Chronicles in 1989 and the Crones Counsel in 1991. 

(The magazine, Crone Chronicles, A Journal of Conscious Aging, ran from 1989 through the Spring of 2001. The first Crones Counsel was in September 1992. Another Crone magazine, this one published by Anne Niven of Sagewoman Magazine, and, at her request, with me as Founding Editor, ran for five years starting in 2007.)

Last Thursday morning, before telling the origin story, I remarked: “My mentor once said (I didn’t mention that my mentor was the philosopher Wittgenstein), “It’s hard to go back to the beginning and not go further back.” At this remark many in the audience nodded their heads, aware of how they themselves, as conscious old women, as CRONES, have been recapitulating their long lives, savoring memory, descending deeper and deeper to uncover larger and larger meaning.

I then pointed to Claudia, and told of how her influence on me had ignited my own deepened awareness of the significance of my dreaming life, and indeed, was, I would say, responsible for how that Raven dream had then, in turn, ignited a new reality which is going strong in 2018, with the 26th Crones Counsel, and is, in fact, now spawning a new iteration of Crone Chronicles, as a book this time, which will be called The Crone Chronicles 20-20, full of stories of crones. I had found out about this projected book earlier that morning, and so mentioned how the archetypal Crone energy continues, on a homeopathic level, to charge this impoverished culture still fixated on youth and ignorance with something entirely Other, a frequency field wider and deeper and much more allowing and compassionate.

For that’s what happens at this Counsel, with our focus on compassionate listening to each other. Our mirroring of the enormous aliveness expressing uniquely through each of us recharges batteries, so that we can go back to our communities and function for yet another year as not just old, but as activated Crones, wise ones, here to listen, and to help wherever needed, lending our skills and learning from life’s hard lessons to young ones just getting started as well as those who find themselves mid-way, or even at the end, lost.

One thing that struck me enormously this year at the 26th Counsel is how we now have our own collective memory stream, with various experiences from former years being recapitulated for ourselves and others.

For example, Gaye, a nearly blind old woman who walks with a walker, got up during that first Storytelling morning to remind us of how, back in 2008 at a Counsel that was also held in the Seattle area (one that I attended), we women who happened to be sitting at lunch across from a room which held a psychic fair, noticed that a gang of rough looking males had entered the hotel and was heading for that room. The situation felt dangerous. All of a sudden Gaye stood up and approached the men. Then, within seconds, all of the women, without a word being said, stood up from their tables, walked to link arms and form a phalanx behind her.

Then we proceeded to peacefully and with great determination slowly usher this rough gang back out of the hotel.

This event had followed a story the morning before, when Mahtowin, one of our esteemed Native American elders who is too ill now to travel, had told of how the Native American women once escorted I think it was the National Guard who had been called to some kind of Native uprising, and situation looked dangerous, until one of the women asked one of the soldiers to please escort her down the hill. Then one by one, the other elderwomen did the same. The situation was peacefully resolved.

Gaye’s story meant the world to all of us, again. She reminded us, again, of who we are, and of just what marvels we humans are capable of, when we lend our individuality to loving communion during trying times.

Below, centered in the photo, Alice, one of our revered elders, speaks. Now our eldest, at 99 years old, she had told us during Storytelling one morning that she had buried her husband back in June. “He was only 92,” she said . . . “I picked a younger man.” Of course we all laughed. She wanted us to know she is fine, that he had led a wonderful life and was ready to go.

Here Alice sits at the Elder’s table on Friday evening, when we both honored the 26 elders over 80 and held a croning ceremony for those who have never been croned. And then, afterwards, High Tea!

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