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.
Enid will be conducting our annual Crone Follies tonight, when all sorts of acts, both individual and group, will have us in stitches and probably wetting our old lady pants. One of the characteristics that I’ve notice about the frequency field of “Crone” is a certain hilarious ribald intensity, fully in evidence around here. For example, yesterday, at the crone story time — normally sacred, or sorrowful, or vulnerable, or deeply, personally meaningful in some other way, the usual tone of the 90 minute session with which we start each morning, listening to each other’s stories of loss and love and miracle. That is, until yesterday morning, when one crone brought out an apron that she bought in Italy, and posed.
At the canyon ceremony yesterday, out to which we paraded in what someone called “akin to a funeral procession” (Death, dying, deathing, a distinct theme this year), first we were smudged by two beautiful goddesses (there’s my traveling sister Joan on the left, looking back);
then passed by a table where we picked up a little bag that contained sand and a rock;
The woman sitting next to me, one of the honored elders in their 80s and 90s we were set to honor, wore a cap that flashes in the light. “Yes, it has lots of bling,” she responded matter-of-factly, when I admired it.
Over and over again, startled by women who look a certain way on the outside, and then, I discover, are outrageously individual on the inside. This is always true about Crones Counsel, always true of women who used to say they are “claiming Crone” and are now, as Susan Ann, the current “Crone Mother” (i.e., President of the Crones Counsel board) notes, we are “being Crone.” Yes. After 22 years. It’s time.
Having not attended for three or four years, I was astounded at how ripe is now this gathering that I “co-founded,” which means, in this case, that I, the publisher of Crone Chronicles (1989-2001), in 1992 invited Shauna Adix, founder of one of the first women centers in the country at the University of Utah, to take on the job of creating a gathering of and for older women who wanted to investigate the meaning of the archetype Crone and set its unique tone. She gathered five of her friends around a round table and together they called the first Crones Counsel into manifestation, where I lived, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. All I had to do was find and work with the hotel venue, which I did.
Apparently the seed that was planted in late 1993 put down roots and sprouted, and is now flourishing. Because 22 years later, it is strong and vibrant, having integrated its own shadow material over the years. The tone of sacred intent, heart-shared vulnerability, utter honesty, and deeply held values of trust, kindness, love, and truth, still prevail. Thousands of women have been impacted over the years, encouraging them to not only value this stage of life in a culture that worships youth, but to use their unique gifts and experience to benefit the world around them.
At the ceremony yesterday, first we bowed to the four directions, plus Mother Earth and Father Sky.
Then began the actual ceremony where we honored each of the ages, women from various decades of life coming to the center to pour their sand into a big bowl, beginning with the younger ones — here’s crones in their 60s lined up —
Here’s one of the elders, 89 years old, tall, straight, and serene in her gratitude and honoring of life. A woman sitting next to me, who knows her at home, whispered, “She just recently began to age.”
After they had all finished, we stood before them to energize them with our love. The two in red hats are elders.
Kaye, who had been one of the original five women at the round table in Salt Lake City 22 years ago, then got up to speak about Crone. What is Crone, when does one become crone, the questions that many women ask. She went through several ways of looking at Crone: the third cycle of Saturn, menopause, other developmental markers, and ended up with seeing crone as a process: we are always coming into Crone, never finished. She is larger than any of our conceptions of her, and embodying her is both gift and challenge.
Later, at our dinner that night, I happened to be sitting at the same table with Kaye, and whispered in her ear my favorite definition of Crone, “She who eats her own shadow.” I.e., she who takes back her projections each time she finds them, she who integrates all the stuff that she doesn’t like about herself, over and over again, to become whole. You might call this “individuation,” the Jungian interpretation of Crone.
The afternoon ceremony, ended with a beautiful song that I can no longer remember the name of, one of many sung with and to each other during these four days. Here’s Joan, my traveling sister, helping to bring the song to a close.
Afterwards, we all hobnobbed some more until carpooling in the “funeral procession” back to the Abbey Inn/Best Western Hotel.
Dorothy from Massachusetts, with whom I talked about her practice, as an ordained minister, of holding crone ceremonies for women at the point where they have completed their 13th Moon without bleeding (one definition of the actual end of menopause), wanted her picture taken with me. Okay.
Two elder crones talk — the one on the left came to my workshop this afternoon in the same kind of outfit that she wears here. I swear, she looks like a Republican! But you wouldn’t believe what comes out of this wonderful woman’s mouth. Having grown up Mormon, she calls herself and her husband, “missionaries, for universal values.”
Well, I’d better wrap this up so I won’t be late for the Crone Follies. Aaah. One more set of pictures, of Patricia, who decided to get tattoos of falling leaves on her 75th birthday in honor of this part of her life. Once again, amazing.