Episode 37: Croning – A Ritual for a Woman of a Certain Age

 

Proud Crone

She's a woman of “a certain age.”  Our culture thinks those words are better than saying “she’s old.” Well, I am a woman of a certain age. I am certain of who I am,  certain of what I want, and certain of what I have to offer. I’m 72 and I’m a crone. I claimed that title in a ritual called croning. 

Last month, I spoke to the Women’s Mystical Collective in Austin, Texas — via Zoom.  One of the organizers, K, had found my website and podcast through an Internet search. She asked if I would speak to the group about rituals. 

It wasn’t until the night of my presentation that I learned that K’s Internet search was born of personal frustration.  She was looking for a ritual that honored one of the most dramatic changes in a woman’s life. Because of posts I had written about the triple Goddess known as Maiden, Mother, Crone, Google directed her to me.  

In the course of a lifetime, humans undergo various rites of passage. Some are dictated by culture or religion. Among them, a bar or bat mitzvah, a quinceanera, a confirmation. Some rites of passage are universal, such as  a wedding or the birth of a child. Each of those events involves at least one other person. In most cases, all of the events involve giving gifts. The giving of gifts is one of the ways society recognizes the significance of these events.

A croning ritual is different. 

For one thing, a woman can perform her own croning ritual, all by herself. Still, as with any rite of passage, it’s good to have family and friends  witness the transformation.  Continue reading

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Episode 36: Colored – A Black Lives Matter Ritual

 

At 9 years old, I didn’t care that my mother wasn’t funny like Lucille Ball, or that she didn’t wear circle skirts and twirl around the house like Loretta Young, or that she was no longer pretty like Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke. I wanted my mother to be brave, like Annie Oakley. Not long after Rosa Parks sat on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in the whites-only section, I found out how brave my mother really was — and that Black Lives Matter. 

Let me set the scene…

On the afternoon of Dec 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress in a local department store, got on a public bus and took a seat in the section reserved for white people. Her actions, her arrest, and the bus boycott that followed became a landmark event in the Civil Rights Movement. 

I was the oldest of three girls, living in the suburbs of Portsmouth, Virginia, with my parents and sisters, Laurie, age 6, and Eileen, age 3. My dad was in the Navy and my mother didn’t drive. When we needed groceries and my dad was at sea, one of the other Navy wives drove my mother to the commissary on the base. When we needed something from the “civilian” world, we walked to the end of our street and waited for the city bus that would take us downtown. It came by several times a day.  

We didn’t go downtown often, maybe once every other month, if that. When we did, it was an event. Getting everyone dressed and fed in time for the morning bus brought its own challenges. My mother often sent me ahead to flag down the bus. Not because she dawdled.  She simply couldn’t walk fast any more.  Continue reading

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Episode 35 / Fairies: How I See Them. How You Can, Too.

 

On April 29, I received an email from Singapore. The writer said that people in her country don’t believe in fairies. She does. But when she talks about fairies, people think she’s crazy. She wanted to know “how to find, see, meet the fairies during Beltane.” 

I answered her from my heart. I doubt it was what she wanted to hear. 

To me, fairies are thought forms of good energy — helpful spirits — invisible and accessible. My belief was shaped in childhood. As a girl, I had a vivid imagination.  I remember when my dad planted a tree in our front yard. He said it was a Chinese Elm. I was certain that the roots went all the way to China, and that if I wanted to go there, all I had to do was dig under the tree.  I remember when a traveling photographer took my little sister's photo dressed in a cowboy outfit, sitting on the photographer's pony. He gave my sister a horseshoe. Later, when my father told my sister she could absolutely not have a pony, she planted the horseshoe under the elm, believing she could grow a pony. At the wise age of seven, I knew horses came from farms, not trees. But what if there was a horse farm in China?  

My dad planted two gardenia bushes by the front steps. On summer nights, when the gardenias were in full bloom, I would sit on the steps, snip off a green, waxy leaf, and use my fingernails to carve out a face. I was certain that there were spirits trapped in the leaves and that if I could give them a face, they would have a voice and be free. The hardest part to make was the mouth. I had to break the backbone of the leaf. The kids who lived in the house behind ours had an abusive father. Often, after being beaten, the girl who was my age would come looking for me. I got used to seeing the swelling, the burns, the bruises and belt welts. I showed her how to make a face in a gardenia leaf. Continue reading

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Episode 34: Love Knots – A Nautical Wedding Ritual

Actual knots used in a wedding ritual for a couple who loves to sail.

Long ago, when sailors navigated by the stars, when seabirds carried the spirits of sailors lost at sea, and when everyone knew that the bust of a naked woman on the bow of a ship could calm rough waters, a sailor would carry a cord with three knots. Bound in each was the wind itself. 

As a writer, I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” After three historical romance novels, a novella, a play, and several print and online magazine articles, I’ve learned to recognize the fertile soil where ideas grow. Several years ago, when one of my couples, Chelsea and Bill, told me they loved sailing and that their ceremony would be held on the waterfront of the historic seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, I got an idea. 

Thanks to another project I’m working on, I have a small library of books on maritime lore. With a little research, I selected the knots I wanted to use in the wedding. I watched videos on YouTube to learn how to tie them. The first two were easy. The knot in the shape of a heart proved more challenging. 

I practiced with ribbon, clothesline rope, and shoelaces. Finally, with a rustic heart in hand, I went to Home Depot. I explained my situation to one of the clerks. He enlisted help from another. Together, they found the perfect rope — flexible with a white pearl finish appropriate for a wedding. 

On the day of the wedding, I met with the three people Chelsea and Bill had selected to participate in the ritual. I gave each a pre-fashioned knot and a card with a corresponding blessing for the bride and groom. 

Here’s how I introduced the ritual during the ceremony: 

Here in Mystic Seaport, the history and lore of sailing surrounds us. Knots are a big part of that world. We associate knots with sailors, but they aren’t the only people known for tying knots. Knots are a part of our lives, too. We tie ribbons in hair, cord on packages, and laces on shoes. Some knots are for utility, some for beauty. 

It was the same in the Old World, too. Back then, when a sailor put out to sea, he carried a knot he had tied on a windy day. Should he veer from the Tradewinds and get stuck on the doldrums without wind to fill his sails, he would untie the knot and free the wind.  Continue reading

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Episode 33 |A Gathering of Ancestors

Collage of vintage wedding and family photos

On the wind, you dreamed

On the water, you traveled

On the land, you settled

On my family tree, you grew

Famines, fires and floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, wars, genocide, persecutions and plagues and more.  

Centuries of these catastrophes have left their marks all over the world. “Death counts” are estimated, declared, and recorded for posterity

What about the “life counts”?  That’s how I describe those who avoided, escaped, endured, somehow survived the catastrophes of their lifetime. These are the healthy, the strong, the resourceful, the resilient, the skilled, and of course, the lucky. Somewhere among them are your ancestors. Whether or not you know who sits on the branches of your family tree, they existed. You are the living proof.

Cultures the world over believe in the power of the ancestors to influence the lives of the living. So, in times of trouble — like now — it’s good to call on your ancestors for help. How? Through ritual. 

 

SEEING THE ANCESTORS 

It helps to know how some cultures “see” their ancestors. In many of the seasonal rituals I lead, I invite the spirits of the ancestors. Cultures all over the world recognize their ancestors. Some see them in:

  • Butterflies, especially the ghostly white ones
  • Massive old trees
  • Sacred mountains
  • Stones
  • Stars, especially those in the Milky Way
  • Plants that reseed themselves, such as corn and grain

Many cultures see white butterflies as ancestors.

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Episode 32 | “Imagine: For All the People” |a ritual for the pandemic

Listen to the podcast or watch the original interview with Mary Ann Handley on YouTube.

It's mid-March, 2020. The corona virus known as COVID 19 has been declared a pandemic. This post is not to provide information about the virus. I'm not qualified.  This post is to share information about the “Spanish Flu” of 1918, as told to me nearly two years ago in an interview on my show, Page 1.  

It was May, 2018. My guest was Mary Ann Handley, a retired history professor and retired state senator from Connecticut. A few days earlier, I had heard her speak at the Manchester Historical Society on the subject of the “Spanish Flu” of 1918, the third pandemic in world history. 

I was, and still am,  working on a novel that takes place during that time period. As a writer, I know that research can unearth the kind of details needed to make characters believable, plot plausible, setting vivid, and conflict compelling.  Because Page 1 is a show for writers, I framed the interview with them in mind. My idea was to explore the details from an event in history and find viable story seeds. 

One of the challenges around the flu of 1918 was that information was not as readily available as it is today. Because the news couldn't be disseminated with a tweet, preventing the spread of the virus proved impossible. We know now that people should have been self-quarantined. Instead, they gathered for parades and other large, public events.

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Keys: A Ritual for Weddings, First Looks, and Personal Talismans (Episode 31)

Couples getting married often use a key as a motif for their wedding. It makes sense. The mere presence of a key indicates something of value, a treasure worth protecting. That understanding is what inspired me to create a wedding ceremony ritual I call “The Key to My Heart.”

Throughout time, keys have protected physical items such as gold, silver, currency, crops. Keys have also been associated with knowledge and success, freedom and liberation, authority and power. Such associations have been around for centuries. For example, keys on a coat of arms indicate a lineage known for trust and loyalty.

Keys and Cultural Traditions

Cultures all over the world have stories about keys. In Ireland, many folktales feature magical keys that can open any door, especially doors to the fairy realm. That’s where mortals are known to go in search of health, wealth, and love.  Continue reading

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Episode 30 ~ Maiden, Mother, Crone (updated)

podcast graphic episode 30

Every Maiden isn't young. Every Mother doesn't have a child. Every Crone isn't old. what distinguishes them is not age, but energy.

Beginning in 1996 and nearly every summer for the next 20 years, I spent a week with hundreds of women writers from all over the world. The gathering is the annual conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild.  They ranged in age from teens to 90s! It wasn’t uncommon for mothers to bring their daughters. One year, we had four generations from one family, though one generation was still in utero.  

For at least seven years, I designed the closing ritual for the conference. In 2008, I wanted the ritual to honor the many Maidens, Mothers, and Crones who had come to share the stories they had written and the stories they had lived. In fact, for some of the women, reading their work out loud at that conference was the first time they had shared their voices in public.

The ceremony was held in a college auditorium. Picture a raked floor with two aisles, running from the top level down to the stage. Unlike many of the DIY rituals I’ve shared on my podcast, Ritual Recipes, this conference ritual was more of a production. For one thing, I needed music. I chose the song Diety by Wendy Rule. Both the lyrics and the melody are fiercely powerful. The song includes these three lines:  I am the Maiden. I am the Mother. I am the Crone.  

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The Blessing Box Ritual for a New Home / Interfaith Weddings, Chuppahs, Archangels, Astrology, and the Four Royal Stars of Persia – Episode 29

 

A Jewish bride and a Catholic groom.  As their officiant, what could I say in their wedding ceremony that would honor both spiritual paths — not only for the couple, but for their families?  In episode #29 of Ritual Recipes, I talk about interfaith wedding ceremonies, the four Royal Stars of Persia, archangels, and the elements of earth, air, fire and water. I also offer The Blessing Box ritual for a new “home.” 

 The need for ritual is as old as time. They reflect a person’s beliefs which, in turn, helps us find our tribe. So, it’s no surprise that rituals are performed in most, if not all, religions. 

A sudden downpour threatened this chuppa

Over the years, I’ve created wedding ceremonies for couples who come from two different religions or spiritual paths, or have forged their own path, or follow no path. Still, the couple might want spiritual elements to make the ceremony both meaningful and comfortable for their parents. That was the case in a wedding of a Jewish bride and a Catholic groom.

The bride’s family wanted her to be married under a chuppah. The groom had no issue with the chuppah. Neither did his family. But the bride’s mother was a thoughtful woman, sensitive to their feelings of the groom’s family. She asked if I could somehow honor both religions.  

Here’s a modified version of what I wrote for their ceremony:

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Game of Thrones and the Wedding Ritual of Circling – Episode 27

Full Moon / Photo by Andy Watkins of Unsplash

He calls her  “Moon of my Life.” She calls him her “Sun and Stars.”

He is Khal Drogo, the testosterone heavy, alpha male leader of the Dothraki warrior tribe. Very Mars. He’s proud, fearless, and ruthless, at least in the beginning. 

She is Daenerys Targaryen, his estrogen aplenty wife given to him in exchange for an army.  She’s beautiful. Very Venus. She’s also innocent, compassionate, and submissive, at least in the beginning.  

These characters are from Game of Thrones, a television series on HBO based on the medieval fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin. I watched Season 1 and  was struck by the symbolism in the names Drogo and Daenerys had for each other… and in what I saw as a connection to the wedding ritual of “circling.”

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