The Time of the Crone

by Rachel Mayatt

The Initiation of the Crone, by Rachel MayattThe 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.

And then in the last week of March, my first real spiritual teacher and High Priestess of the Coven I was trained in, passed to the summer lands. Sylvia had reached a good old age, well past three-score years and ten, and had lived an interesting and eventful life, so not an unexpected event when her life finally ended. Even so, it gave my heart cause to grieve at her loss. She was a Great Lady, trained and advised a great many people who entered her circles, and was a wonderful role model for many Witches and Pagans.

In my own family, my parents are in their 80s now and although fairly healthy, I have become aware that their time is limited and one day I shall have to encounter a personal grief when I lose them. So many things are going on – as well as my own aging. My 50th birthday is approaching as I write this article and although I don’t consider that very old, it is still a landmark age to me. Add to that the fact I am very menopausal now and experiencing another more personal loss – that of my fertility, I can honestly say I have a great deal to reflect upon ….

It’s a time when I feel I want to look at my life and where I am now, and what is possibly to come. I’m aware that certain birthdays can initiate these feelings and make you feel that they should be acknowledged. However at the moment it seems more than that. I strongly feel the call of the crow as she calls me to pull the dark robe of the Crone over my shoulders and follow Her path. I’m sure (well, I hope!) I have many more years to go before I am called to cross the Styx, but it feels almost like I am entering a cave for another initiation that I have only just started to become aware of.

When I originally trained in Sylvia's coven Moonshadow, back in the late 80s I was eager to learn, work through and take the formal initiation ceremonies available to me. Over 3 or 4 years I learned, practiced and ceremonially took the 1st 2nd and finally 3rd degree initiations to allow me to become an elder of her coven and eventually form my own groups and circles.  My understanding then was that the 1st degree was akin to connecting to the Maiden aspect of the Goddess. Then the 2nd was connection to the Mother and finally the 3rd degree was that of the Crone. And as a 3rd degree initiate I could call myself that!

Ah, the arrogance of the young! (well actually I had just reached 30 when I finally took the 3rd degree initiation - but still had a lot to learn on my spiritual path). I can see that my initiations to the Maiden and the Mother could well connect to the Maiden and Mother Goddess as I had lived as both, I had - obviously, been a Maiden and had already had the first 2 of my 3 children so had experience of motherhood. I think I could also say there would have been some identification with the Mother in my role of running and teaching a coven, often 'mothering' some of my circle members.

For a long time I have celebrated the seasons of the year – the witches’ and druid celebrations. Sometimes I have also enjoyed celebrating certain Goddess days and events too. More lately I have begun to look at the seasons of life. Not just the idea of each person having a personal spring, summer, autumn and winter. But that events and experiences in our lives can be seasonal too. Relationships can have seasons, work patterns. Places where we live or settle. Even the raising of our children will have their seasons and cycles.

My years as a child, teen, young adult, maiden and mother have all been seasons that stand alone, but also had their own inner seasons and cycles. And I have had the more obvious seasonal experiences of being the Maiden and then the Mother with my own relationships, marriage and motherhood.

However, the only real experience I had of the time of the Crone was that of observer - with family or friends. I could read as much as I wanted about women experiencing their own Crone time, but without being immersed in it myself, I could only guess at what it really means to be there.

And strangely enough, I feel it has crept up on me. Or maybe it wasn’t obvious to me because of all the experiences I needed to have before my body started its journey to becoming the Crone. Mental, emotional, physical and spiritual experiences, from the end of my marriage, the descent into my own personal dark night of the soul that lasted for several years, and the birth of my last child. I have spent the last few years still in the mother phase - and this will stay fairly intense for several more years yet as my youngest daughter is only 8 years old. However, I have also become a Grandmother. My periods have stopped and have only reappeared once in the last 12 months and I am regularly woken with amazing rushes of heat as I ride the power surges that are my journey into the realm of the Crone.

And then as I mentioned previously, as I write this, I am on the precipice of my 50th birthday which is also astrologically the time of my Chiron return. Maybe a new time of Healing is offered, or I may discover other aspects to my path that have lain dormant until now.

I have also found I am more aware of the passing of time. Can you remember as a child how slowly time passed, of the agony of waiting for a long anticipated event. And later, as you grew it seemed time would speed up a little, until suddenly – just a short while later it seems, grandchildren arrive and …. goodness, where did the time go? I still find it amazing to comprehend that I have reached my half a century. 100 years ago on my birth date the Titanic sank! I was born on its 50th anniversary.

And now as I look ahead to another maybe 30 or 40 years of life left to live, that I have no guarantee of that time left to me. As a young adult I was immortal, no thoughts of the time when I would no longer be physically here. Now as I think of things I want to do with my life, the urgency of actually making an effort to do them is greater.

Death and endings are always around us but I have also become more aware of them lately as they have been people or animals I know and care for. I can sense a new awareness of the Crone as she beckons her wizened finger to me to enter her Cavern and begin a new time of learning. I am apprehensive - am I ready? Will I be able to sufficiently rise to this challenge? Actually I think I will. I think whatever is on this new path to be trod; will be particular to me and my experiences.

Funnily enough, as I have got older, I had begun to shed the layers of should, should nots and must or must nots that we often encumber ourselves with during our spiritual journey. I don’t see myself as not being equal to the tasks ahead. As all my experiences, all my feelings and expectations are right as they are. Any feelings of inadequacy or concern are waves of negative energy that I can either indulge in, or waft away. I am all that I should be. I can be more or less if I wish.

Maybe that is one of the biggest lessons to learn as a Crone.

But whatever is waiting for me in Her cave, I know now that the experience is what will truly initiate me and give me the right to call myself Crone.

 

Rachel Mayatt

Rachel writes: I'm a 50 year old mother, artist, witch and author. I trained in a coven in Essex during the late 1980s after studying as a solitary since 1973, afterwards running workshops and magical groups in East Anglia. I also trained in Reiki and became a Master in 1998. In 1999 I relocated back to Kent where I now work at the University of Kent at Canterbury.My path has included working in ceremonial magic and Celtic shamanism and is fairly eclectic in its nature. My first book Nature's Children - celebrating the seasons in a pagan family (Capall Bann UK) was published in 2007 and my latest - The Silver Hearth Witches Workbook was published by lulu.com in 2008. Currently working on 2 further writing projects and a series of Goddess artworks, I am hoping to begin a new circle in the Canterbury area in the near future. I can be contacted via my website: www.raewytch.blogspot.co.uk.