Creating this Honouring the Crone Ceremony was a process. I spent a lot of time thinking about what would be most meaningful to our mother and how I could use ceremony to soften some of the growing pains she was feeling with entering into this new decade. At first, my mother thought this ceremony would be about aging and getting old and I needed to reassure her that it would be positive, powerful and beneficial. I am glad she surrendered and trusted us in planning this beautiful afternoon and evening for her. I have three siblings and each of us brought our special talents and contributions.I was in charge of writing the ceremony with input from my siblings and so this post will be about that.
Our mother is an avid gardener. Although she is a devout Catholic and goes to church every Sunday, she might agree that being in her garden elevates her spiritually more than anything. It is like a drug and something she must do on an almost daily basis as soon as the thaw happens sometime in April each year. She craves being in her garden and shares it with anyone who has interest; generously giving plants to those who wish to start or enhance their own garden. It seemed appropriate then to have each guest bring a perennial to add to her garden and I created an earth mixing ritual to go along with these gifts. Everyone was instructed to wear purple as this is the colour of wisdom and each guest was given a handkerchief to catch their tears which were sure to fall throughout the ceremony. My sister, Stephanie, stitched a lavender sprig on each one and also added a drop of essential lavender oil to honour our mother’s love of this plant.
In preparation for the ceremony, I created an altar that symbolized our mother’s life (her childhood, her life as a young woman, as a mother and finally now, as a crone). Each section of the altar was decorated with photos, a candle to be lit during the ceremony to welcome the directions and the elements which represents each direction. As well, tiny bottles of earth were displayed throughout the altar. A week before the ceremony, my father and I took a little road trip and I collected earth from significant places in my mother’s life~ from the place where she and my dad danced when they were dating, from her original family homestead, from a second family home which was also previously her schoolhouse, from the church where my parents were married and from her parents’ grave. My dad also pulled over on the side of the road where he kissed my mom for the first time! It was important to honour my mother’s lineage and so a section was dedicated to her female ancestors and we welcomed their spirits to our circle by lighting an ancestral candle. A photo of my mother’s mother as a young woman in a logging camp as well as a photo of her childhood homestead accompanied this special candle. The purple candle stood proudly by the Crone statue (handmade by my sister, Stephanie) and a piece of raw amethyst. The purple candle was lit by mom to welcome the guests to this sacred gathering.
The ceremony began with welcoming words and the purpose and intention of the ceremony. Each woman introduced herself in relation to her female lineage (“I am Julie, daughter of Donna, grand daughter of Pearl and Delima and mother to Meredith.”)
And then we welcomed the four directions:
“Blessed be this Wise Woman with the gifts of the East. The eastern spirit of the sun brings warmth and light. It is the place of beginnings. It is represented by the element of AIR for openness and breath, communication of the heart and purity of the mind and body. From the east you receive the gift of a new beginning with the rising of each Sun and the understanding that each day is a new opportunity for growth. This candle is placed in the area of our altar that honours the beginning of your life and your childhood.”
“Blessed be this Wise Woman with the gifts of the South,represented by the element of FIRE, for energy, passion, creativity and the warmth of a loving home. From the fire within, you generate light, which you share generously and willingly providing warmth to all who need it as a wife, mother, grandmother, friend and also for many years in your career as a nurse. This candle is placed in the area of our altar that honours you as a young woman, vibrant and full of life. You found passion and a deep, lifelong love with Stan with whom you created a family and a home.”
“Blessed be this Wise Woman with the gifts of the West represented by the element of WATER for your capacity to feel emotion and to mother four children brought forth from the waters of your womb. You have always had the ability to keep your heart open in both joy and sorrow and have raised your children with love and gentleness. This candle has been placed in the area of our altar that honours you as a Mother.”
“Blessed be this Wise Woman with the gifts of the North. The north contains the power of wisdom. Here we take time to reflect on what we began in the east, in the morning, in our youth. The North is represented by the element of EARTH which provides sustenance and security. As you embark on the north of your life, may you continue to welcome each day through the eyes of a child yet with the wisdom of the Crone, knowing that each moment must never be taken for granted. This candle is placed in the area of our altar which honours you as an elder and grandmother.”
At this time, I told the story of my mother’s life and as we moved through her story, I invited her to blend earth into a bowl. As I spoke of her birth and her childhood, she blended the earth collected from her homestead, schoolhouse/ eventual family home and from her parent’s grave. As I spoke of her adolescence and of meeting then marrying our dad, she blended earth that was collected from the property where a dance hall once stood, and from the side of the road where my dad stole his first kiss, from the old ball park where they used to make out (which is now a forest) and from the Catholic Church in Vinton, Quebec where they were married. Our mother gave birth to four healthy children who in turn have blessed her with seven grandchildren. As I spoke about her role as mother and grandmother, she blended earth that we brought from our own homesteads (from Cobden to Inkerman to Augsburg and Toronto).
The next ritual was called the “Releasing Ritual.” The intention of this ritual was to make space in this next stage of life by reflecting on those things she wished could have been different or perhaps those things that she still hung onto which no longer served a purpose. At this time, mom was given an opportunity to sit quietly for a few moments, close her eyes and think back over her life. She did not need to share those things that needed releasing. Instead, as each item came up, she simply took a pinch of salt and sprinkled it into a dish of water saying, “I release that which no longer serves me.” After each release, she would sit back and close her eyes once again, scanning through her life plucking up anything that needed to be released. The rest of us sat quietly supporting her in this ritual while soft Celtic music played in the background.
The next stage of the ceremony honoured her transformation from one stage of life to the next. I shared the following words as she was crowned with a wreath of fresh flowers and lavender sprigs and wrapped in a purple shawl. “Our attention now turns to honouring Donna as the Wise Woman she has become. You have 70 years of life experience, adventures, sorrows, joys, memories and story lines all contained within you. Every single one made you into the beautiful spirit you are today. At this time we place this wreath of flowers on your head as a symbolic crowning and we wrap you in this purple shawl as an initiation into this next stage of your life as Crone. May you move from the mindset of age-ing to sage-ing trusting that you have earned this title of Wise Woman and that you are loved by these women who surround you today.”
To honour her initiation as crone, each woman present described the perennial they had brought and why it was chosen. We originally planned to go out to the garden and plant them but it was raining so we spoke in the circle and then my mom went out to her garden and mixed the earth she had blended earlier in the ceremony into the area of her garden where she intended to plant the gifted perennials. Then I had her leave her garden and walk into the abandoned lot next door and toss the salted water from the release ritual. Everyone stood by to witness. It was very emotional and powerful to watch our mother do these two simple actions.
We returned to our seats to complete the gift giving with a “Guardian of the Blessings Mobile” ritual. Each woman had been asked to bring a strip of material that was special to them in some way to add to a mobile. The mobile would be hung in a tree branch over the perennial garden in the spring.
The final stage of completing was next. We released each of the four directions by extinguishing the corresponding candle. I them invited all of the women to gather around mom and place their hands on her while the following poem (written by Ara) was read:
“Blessings to the Crone
For she is the ancient wisdom in our veins
The drum beat of our hearts and the sacred fire of our spirit
Woven out of moon light and shamanic sage smoke
She is the beating heart of the old ways
Long may she weave her knowing within me
Long may she howl to the full moon bright.”
Of course, we all howled like the wild women we are. Everyone returned to their places and a final blessing about community was shared and our circle was opened. The ceremony was followed by some social time with signature cocktails and appi’s while a sit-down, gourmet dinner was prepared.
I know that this ceremony served it’s deepest purpose and helped my mother transition into her honourable role as Crone. Ceremony and ritual have such powerful benefits in assisting individuals, couples, families and communities transition in joy, sorrow, big and small ways.