by Annelinde Metzner
I am the sheath of the sword. I am toothed, armed, and ready to bite. I have the power to defend, to keep women safe. I am not passive, accepting, ready to be filled. I am aware, watchful, ready to reject what I don’t want and to seize what I will.
Listen to me and I will tell you how safe we are, right now, in this moment. When we are secure, I am open and receptive, moist and inviting. When we feel threatened, I become cold and hard, hot and tight, irritated, and inflamed. If the danger goes on and on, I weep, I am overrun.
In health and joy, I am a rich and thriving ecosystem: friendly yeasts, beneficial bacteria, and a generous assortment of slippery, slidey lubricants thrive in my tangy-tasting depths.
I am stretchy. I am expansive. Fill me and I yearn for more. I am yielding; I melt, I surrender. Yet in yielding, I deliver. I am the victor. I clench my fist and grab the prize. Mine. Continue reading "Grandmother Speaks… The Vagina (Part 2)"
This summer, I made a Crone’s garden. Not with plants, but with fabric. In July, I found myself on a silent retreat entitled Gardens of the Spirit, at Woodbrooke, the Quaker College in Birmingham. I’d booked it months before, attracted mainly by the silence and the working method - I forgot all about the theme until the detailed information about the programme arrived a couple of weeks before. I was not pleased – I’d spent quite a lot of time in the previous six weeks trying to create some order in my own overgrown garden and the last thing I wanted was more gardening. Or so I thought.
The course started with a plethora of postcards –we had to wander round and choose two each, which would travel through the retreat with us. Or, more accurately, let two choose us. And this one chose me. Quite obviously Crone – wise, insightful, benign, but also shrewd, a stander-of-no-nonsense. From then on, the retreat went Her way. Quite clearly, she had to have a garden. I bent the gentle suggestions of the facilitators to suit.
Having found my Crone I started to feel for what kind of garden she would have. Woodbrooke has a good art room so there was a lot to play with. I found a straightforward piece of embroidery fabric in the bottom of a box of bits and then collected lots of other things. I was intrigued that I didn't feel the garden ought to have walls. Fuzzy boundaries through fraying the fabric felt right. Being frayed at the edges feels fairly normal, to me…. Continue reading "A Crone’s Garden"
Kathy Jones invited me to be one of eight older women to offer some “Crone Wisdom” at this Crone Conference. I am choosing to bring you my Crone Wisdom mainly through poetry. I love the work of many different poets. As Rose Flint said in her talk yesterday, most published poets are men. However, things are slowly changing. We now have a woman Poet Laureate here in the UK - the wonderful Carol Ann Duffy. I have included three out of eight women writers in my choice of poems.
Sadly, I myself do not have the gift of being able to write poetry – but poetry (and indeed, good literature) is one of my passions. I agree with Starhawk, who spoke yesterday about the importance of words and metaphors. The other themes of my talk are enthusiasms in old age and networking by older people.
My talk today is like a bunch of flowers - which I offer to all of you. To quote the 16th Century French writer, Michel de Montaigne (1533 -1592) - “I have gathered a bunch of other men’s flowers & all that is mine is the thread that binds them”. Each poem I’ve chosen is a flower. The thread that binds them can be, in itself, an important thing and I believe that the Goddess gave me particular gifts in the areas of connecting, binding together and networking. I love to connect things, to connect ideas, to connect people and to be a networker. As a classic “Virgo Rising” I pay attention to details and I enjoy facilitating all kinds of connections and links - introducing people to new places, to new experiences & to each other. In doing these things, I firmly believe in the saying that - “Success is the sum of a lot of small things - correctly done”.
The last article I wrote for the Goddess Pages in issue 14 was about my thoughts on entering menopause and the ‘magical dance’ that occurs during this time. Recently I have further considered the messages that this stage in my life has given me and wanted to update my thoughts and share them with you.
The last few months particularly have held some interesting experiences, thoughts and events for me. It has made me think over big issues – you know the kind I mean: Life, the Universe and Everything!! First of all in the spring, we lost a couple of pets to illness and old age, and I was aware of some very tragic events that occurred to people I know, losing precious young family members to accidents and other sad situations. Then I fell ill to a very nasty attack of the flu and for a few weeks was really unable to do anything more than lie in bed and rest. This gave me a lot of time to think. Although I wasn’t anywhere near death’s door, I still observed that as I grow older, things don’t always work as well as they used to and maybe I needed to take more care of my body and health. Continue reading "The Time of the Crone"
For Witches, such as myself, Pagans and other followers of the Old Ways, Hallows (also known as Samhain or Halloween, among other names) marks the third, final harvest and a new year. It is a time of introspection, withdrawal and honoring the Goddesses known as "dark", the Crone or Hag. As Winter draws near, we begin that journey down and within. The scent of woodsmoke, drying herbs, apples and spices fill the air. Out of doors, the temperature has dropped and chill winds begin to stir; leaves crackle beneath our feet as we walk through field and forest, drawing in the aroma of the season, a not unpleasant decay. Autumn, the Grand Dame, makes Herself known to us.
Now, all of this may sound a bit macabre and not very festive, but if you consider carefully, it is indeed a joyful time. We are able, on some level, to reconnect with those who have crossed the veil. The Ancestors of our Way (Witchcraft) and the Hidden Company (those who once practiced our arts, they are no longer physically with us, but assist those who practice those Old Ways) along with family and friends are, perhaps, easier to connect with. For these reasons, various divinatory tools, such as scrying or black mirror, tarot cards, runes, stones and bones, are wisely used to make contact and obtain answers and gain wisdom. These tools seem to come alive, at this time, in a special and more powerful way. Used respectfully, wisely, we can find answers and guidance for the year ahead.
A chance conversation on the 8th March reminded me again of something I had been stirred into writing after the last Glastonbury Goddess Conference where the maiden in us and the maidens among us were being lauded and applauded – yet something deep inside my soul, a kind of susurration, a frisson of discomfort, was rising to voice something then inarticulate. I went home after the Conference, the puzzle still on the threshold of consciousness – you know that odd feeling you get when you know you know something – but actually can’t put words to what it is? Well, I woke the following morning and followed the thought until it ran all the way home. It was ME I was sounding. The story unfolded just like this:
Once upon a time the wild maiden danced free and bright over the pathways of the dark hollows following the damp tracks of badger, hedgehog, fox and vole. For the longest time she walked, until she walked right into the fire and the fear; a fugitive, forgetting her future as she lost her past. Fire burnt her motherboard; fear short-circuited her software – and she forgot. Hundreds of years walled up against her and she lost her voice.
This April I turned sixty thus achieving cronehood, but I felt my journey began two years before in the summer of 2007, when what is known as my second Saturn return (Crone’s male counterpart) really kicked in; and boy did it kick in! Saturn returns are slow, grinding and thorough re-evaluations of our values and structures, often restrictive and lasting around two years.
That summer was the end of the cycle and I was shaken by the revelation that a lifelong friendship which I’d fully expected to last through old age, had run its course. I felt Saturn placed a scythe in my hand and I had to sever the cord that bound us together. Like someone said, once out, I couldn’t put the cork back in the bottle. It was inevitably fraught and painful as we separated our commitments over several months, and decades of sharing our lives, work and our spiritual journeys were all flung apart to distant memory.
When we are mourning the recent loss of a beloved person, animal, object or situation, we often feel like hell. Frequently we feel that life isn’t worth living any more, that there is no point to life, that we’d rather die, that we’ll never stop feeling as miserable as we currently do, and that we’ll never get over the loss or feel happy again.
Been there? I have, many times. We almost all will, some of us many times, before we come to be the one to die, the one who is lost and grieved rather than the one who is left and grieving. The Goddess cannot take this pain away from us. Believing in her will not save us from going through our own excruciating grief. She will not even take the sharp edge off it. She neither can nor should rescue us from our grieving, because it is our healing process. To be human is to feel loss and grief. But she can make an enormous difference to how we get through it, if we ask for her help.
In memory of Ronald Henry Smith, 14th September 1929 to 17th August 2007 and for ‘She who births us, and waits for us at the end of a life, to take us to another shore’1
And when life can no longer hold you let the red and white springs sing you home …2
I thought long and hard about whether to write this article; death is such an intimate, personal thing that I thought perhaps it would be a betrayal of my father, who I loved more dearly than I can ever say. And yet, when I think about the days and months before his death, about the honesty, openness, dignity, and humour with which he approached his final moment I know that he would say that it was ok. That if it helped others to be less afraid then his death should be shared. Ultimately, his final journey was his alone, and I can only relate my experience of it, so perhaps there can be no betrayal after all. The secrets of that journey have gone with him and I can only share what I know. From my own perspective I do know that death should not be hidden, as is so encouraged in our society, and that the strongest memory I have of those last hours, and the days following it, are of the savage beauty and fierce love to be found at the heart of the Crone.