elder

Spiralled Edges

March, 2016

Spiralled Edges – What Makes a Crone?

Mid-February I celebrated by 50th birthday, a full half century of living. As I have moved towards this mark, I have turned my thoughts to who I am and what I want to be in my life. Now more than ever I face my own mortality as I have realised I most likely have more years behind me than in front of me.

I am okay with this. I am ready to take my place as an elder, as a crone, both in the Pagan community and in the world at large.

Who am I to self-proclaim: I am an Elder!

Is it age alone, or something more that makes one an Elder? What makes a crone, I ask myself.

So, I look to see what others have said on the subject…

  • A crone is a woman who has past her 50th, or 55th, or 60th year.
  • A crone is a woman who has gone through menopause.
  • A crone is a woman who has grandchildren.
  • An elder is someone with X number years of experience.
  • An elder has wisdom.

And, I ask myself, do I fit these definitions? Can I declare myself to be a village elder/crone or is this yet another title of respect that should rightly be bestowed by the community?

For the most part, yes. I’m post-menopausal. I have over 20 years’ experience as a healer and Pagan witch. I have just hit my 50th year of life. No grandchildren yet. And no village/community/coven group to bestow a title upon me. Wisdom? If finally understanding that there is no magical age upon which one finally knows and understands all, and accepting this with patience and confidence counts as wisdom, then yes I have it.

I am a crone and I wear this title along with my head of grey hair as a crown of honour. It is an honorific that I have earned and I have been working towards for many years.

Now that I am accepting and wearing my crown many idiosyncrasies from my past are finally making sense. Mother Goddess, Modron moving away and telling me that Her time as my Patron Goddess has come to an end. Brigid making herself known as a Patron Goddess, but saying as well that She is not the one I will be following. The blue-faced mask of Mareninka which I created over 15 years ago. The hag stones collected and carefully kept for just as long. Blue-faced Kali being on the periphery of my work as a critical care nurse 20 years ago, but not showing up again as I begin doing my life work as a Soul Midwife and facilitator of healing for women. The beautiful owl butterfly, merging owl with butterfly as a symbol of transformation, wisdom, and the healing work I am now doing. And always over everything as awareness of a great, ancient crone who is both awe-some (to be filled with awe) and terrifying and has been setting me challenges to be met for more years than I was aware.

In the past week, as I contemplated this article and also a ceremony to mark this rite of passage in my own life, She made Herself known to me clearly, and I realised She had been speaking to me all along. Accepting my role as crone also means accepting the mantle of being Her Priestess. (While I have had Patron Gods and Goddesses, I have never been called to dedicate myself to the service of one in particular. – Until now.)

I am speaking of the Crone of crones, the ancient Hag of the British Isles, The Cailleach.

I find that I am excited about what the future may hold for me in my waning years. And excited about where my practice and work as a Priestess of The Cailleach may take me.

MagickalArts

December, 2015

To Join (or Not to Join) A Magickal Group

This is an article I wrote many years ago and I’ve decided to share it in this month’s column. As the community and spiritual paths of pagan practice become increasingly more available, so too are the opportunities to become intimately a part of that expanding community. What that participation looks like and how in depth are multi-faceted. It is particularly timely for me since I have been in process of Hiving and forming a new coven within our Tradition, The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. And, so in this spirit I pose the question that should be explored before committing to any one path of spiritual community.

The choice to remain a solitary practitioner or join a magickal group, coven or lodge is a very personal matter. Both offer benefits and detriments. Even if you consider yourself to be a solitary practitioner, there will be celebrations and stages in your development that will generate a desire to share, commune and connect. Similarly, those who choose to join a group will have specific times in their path of journey where they may wish to celebrate and/or practice in private; leaving group work behind.
Solitary Practice

Many pagans choose to walk a Solitary path. In former years this could be a very lonely, albeit a fulfilling one. We are fortunate to be on the Path at this particular time as there are many festivals and open events that both solitary and group affiliated members can attend. Meet-up Groups that have a pagan flavor are in abundance throughout the United States and the opportunity to interact without the deeper commitment of joining any organization has never been more accessible.
For some, group work and the structure needed to have things run smoothly is too restricting and limiting. For others, jobs, lifestyles or family obligations prevent the individual from attending group functions (there is usually a minimum requirement of events throughout the year that a group member would be expected to attend, unless there are emergencies), and this creates stress for both the group and the member. If a ritual at 2:00am is all you can easily fit into your schedule, most groups will not be accommodating to that and the pressures of having to fulfill attendance obligations can often sour the group experience.
Those who work as solitary practitioners often develop a very creative outlook that is largely self-directed. This is primarily because everything they do ritually or devotionally is generally self-generated and created and therefore they become quite adept at improvising. Working alone also guarantees that everything will be done at your own pace, in your own way and ultimately makes you solely responsible for your own experience, success and failures. Many prefer this freedom to connect to their spirituality by creating their own traditions and ways of offering up devotion to those deity and spiritual beings they commune with.
Group Work

Depending on the Tradition you are interested in joining there will generally be a specific length of time and protocol specified to facilitate the orientation process. Within our coven and Tradition we require at minimum a six-month “getting to know you” period where the prospective dedicant (newly dedicated member) attends open events and interacts with the other members of the coven and Tradition. Other groups accept members immediately and are less structured in their process of fully integrating you into the group and/or specific Tradition and still others have a lengthy process of education and training and when and if you are felt to be an acceptable candidate you are then invited to join as a member of the group.
Working within a group provides opportunity for direct sharing, access to those who are more experienced than you and the feeling of an energetic community and bonds to those who are your spiritual family. You will also have greater opportunity to network and meet others if the group you select holds open or sister events in collaboration with others in the Tradition, Coven or Lodge. Ritual work becomes a group effort in which you are able to be simply the participant and are able to open yourself in a deeper way since you are not the sole person responsible for the workings at hand. It provides the ability to see how others structure their practice and exchange ideas and suggestions about different approaches and subtleties. Now, of course, these are all things a solitary practitioner can experience in an open ritual; but the depth and openness that is shared between those within a group often occurs at those times when you are setting up or preparing for ritual before guests arrive or sitting in a group- only social event.
Some considerations you should have as you decide on what group is the best fit:
The group you select to petition for membership should offer a stable and fair structure of spiritual progress with resources to further and enhance your personal growth. Working within the group should feel like a spiritual family and these should be people that you trust to see you at your best and your worst. The energetic connection that you weave with this group of people will strengthen and build as you continue to work together and it is a very intimate relationship that requires respect between all of membership.
You should never feel pressured to do anything that you do not consider to be safe or is coercive in nature. Unfortunately, not all groups are ethical in their actions and offer up empty promises of the gifting of great powers and knowledge of the mysteries in exchange for sexual, monetary or other favors. Some traditions do work skyclad (naked) and perform sex magick as part of their magickal rites, but do so with the consent of all concerned and are up front from the very beginning, ensuring that everyone is on board. Bottom line is- if it doesn’t feel right to you and is not in accord with your beliefs you will probably not make much spiritual headway.
The leadership of the group should be people who live by example those teachings that they have been entrusted to pass along. There should be a comfortable exchange between leadership and membership such that any discord, or misunderstandings can be discussed and resolved in an ethical, intelligent and mature manner. Respect is key here, on both sides.  Respect that leadership has the best interest of the group, Tradition and its members always in sight. And, respect that membership will be supportive and helpful in maintaining a positive working environment and good intent for those they work with.
There should be encouragement of all members within the group to excel and progress in their magickal studies at a pace that will provide challenge but also allow for life events to take priority as needed. And, although healthy and constructive criticism is a great motivator there should never be an ill-intended push or encouragement towards unhealthy competition for recognition, roles or initiations among members. There will be many times when you will feel challenged unjustly and perhaps even feel as though you are not progressing in the way or at the speed at which you feel you should. A good barometer is to step back from the situation for a moment and ask yourself if you are just annoyed at the inconvenience or is there something truly and viably wrong.
It has been my experience that frequently the people who are meant to become members of our group, find their way to us through a synchronistic moment. They happen to be in the right place at the right time, find our website and decide to come to an open event or become interested through a friend who is already a member. Don’t be afraid to be selective. Take the time that you need to make an informed decision and never allow yourself to be pressured into joining a group. If a group is that desperate for new members, there are most likely other areas in which they will exert or force their will on the existing members- the number one “no-no” in pagan philosophy and ethics.

The bottom line is that if the group is a viable and healthy one, they will want to take their time in getting to know more about the potential members who come knocking on their door, and if the fit is right there is no need to hurry matters.  Neither your nor their interest in having you join them will diminish or lessen. If it does, perhaps it was not the place for you after all. The commitment to a group should be entered with the thought that this will be a place of working and growing for several years. There is no short track to magickal mastery and those who frequently leave and join groups, as well as groups who have a fast moving revolving door usually do not stand the test of time and longevity.

A Timely Choice

Just as all of life’s experiences change and flow as you change and grow in years and time, the decision to remain solitary or join a group will follow its own meandering course as well. Many start as Solitary workers; come to a crossroads where the progress they require includes working with others in a committed way, and when the lessons are integrated go back to Solitary practice. This is the nature of all spiritual growth regardless of tradition.
The start of your journey is begun of your own accord and decisions about how and in which direction it moves are formulated by you and you alone. As you move along the path of your making there will come a point in the road where the need to offer the mysteries learned in a broader and more communal sense rises to the surface. The yearning to share and exchange this wisdom with like-minded people and the security of feeling that you are part of something larger than yourself is the gentle rise of the hill ahead that offers no glimpse of what lay on the other side. You reach the summit of this path and begin the process of gathering to yourself all of the outer influences, interactions, joys and sorrows you have experienced. You take in new sights from this higher vantage point. These spread out before you in panoramic view. And, as the choices blur and thin in detail in the vastness of what can be, you look around and see that you have returned to the space of standing alone and quiet in your inner sanctum; new choices ahead and new paths to walk. And, so the cycle begins anew.
It doesn’t really matter whether you choose to join a group or remain a solitary practitioner. The important thing is that you continue your practice. That you seek out the resources you are guided to when and where you are led. And, when the time is right, you gather with like- minded individuals as one in celebration of the Pagan Path.
Blessings on your journey!

Provoking Thoughts

August, 2006

So You Call Yourself an Elder?

For any of us who have found this path on our own, we know how hard it can be to find someone to work with us in learning our craft. In some ways it can feel like the impossible task to find a qualified person in the community that teaches or mentors.

I was recently speaking with a fellow Wiccan, with whom I am currently mentoring, and she told me a story that really bothered me. We have spent many nights talking about how hard it is to find someone to work with who is trustworthy and not psychotic. She was talking about a time when she was actively searching for someone in the community to learn from and she spoke with an elder in the Pagan community who was doing readings at a local shop. When asking about locating elders in our community she was told that many of the elders are “going or have gone into hiding” because of the influx of “newbies” joining the path with misguided information.

Upon hearing this story I was immediately shocked and then it made me angry to hear that someone said this to my friend as if it was ok. I mean, isn’t that what is wrong with the movement as it is right now?

Needless to say, it was a discouraging experience for her and I can only imagine the others who have asked the same question and gotten the same result.

It is right that the Wiccan community is growing by leaps and bounds right now and, as a result, there are many out there who cannot find an appropriate teacher to study with. This is one of the many things that can lead a person to be “misguided”, so to speak, because they are going to books that may or may not be accurate and some are settling for teachers who are not equipped to teach.

I am one of many who have found themselves in a situation with a “teacher” who was deceitful and misleading. After over a year of study with this person I got the information I needed. After investigating a little and mustering the courage to move on, I rescued myself from an unhealthy situation. It was not at that moment but years later that I came to the realization that I had something very valuable to pass on to others.

It was through that experience that I learned the value of healthy mentors and elders in the Pagan community. There is a need and the need continues to grow.

You can find information about invocations, goddesses, quarter calls, circle casts and whatever in books and on the internet but what about the ethics? Where do you find that in a way that it is completely and thoroughly explained? That is one of the major roles of the teachers and elders in our communities.

Elders have a duty to the community at large. So, in my humble opinion, if someone is quick to call him or herself an elder but not willing to teach in the community something doesn’t add up. There are many ways to contribute to the community and they can’t find any?

Let us follow this thought through for a moment here. If more people continue to come to this path then we have the reality of a steady growth in our “religion”. We currently have a large population of our community that is untrained and have not had the opportunity to be taught by real life elders.

If this cycle continues we can fast forward to a time very shortly in the future where it is that same group of people teaching the newer groups coming in. And before long we have total chaos and a large division between the foundation of Wicca and what is being taught and practiced. If the mysteries of the craft are not passed along, they will be lost.

In twenty years our path as we know it could be long gone.

So, with that in mind, we have more at stake than a little bit of our time. So let’s look at what is needed to act as an elder or mentor in our community.

A genuine sense of self and your own spiritual
Appropriate knowledge and training
A small commitment of time
A willingness to give back to the community
A commitment to the divine to pass on trustworthy and honorable information
Humility

If you are one of those elders who are in hiding, I am calling you out. We need you here. Your people need your knowledge and wisdom. As they say in AA, “you give it away to keep it”.
Maybe those who are unwilling to support others in our community shouldn’t complain about who is misguiding who. Why don’t we ponder that for a while…

***

author bio:

Rev. Cyrstal


amethystsage@sbcglobal.net


I am a 29-year-old Pagan mother, been married for seven years. I am very close to my family and my parents. I work full-time in the drug and alcohol treatment field. I have been a practicing Pagan for about four years. I consider myself to be an eclectic Wiccan/Pagan. I try not to limit or label myself. My passions in life are my family, enjoying a good book, learning what life has to offer, connecting with my spiritual self, giving back to my community and spending time with good friends.