I was ritually acknowledged and proclaimed a Crone and Wisewoman of my spiritual community on my 58th birthday, April 18th of this year. About 30 people were there, including some non-Pagan as well as Pagan friends. It was a truly wonderful and joyous experience for me. Two Crones of our community were there, and played the crucial roles of admitting me to their sisterhood and advising me as a new Crone -- I am immensely honored and grateful. Two of my closest friends, two very powerful fellow priestesses, organized and lead the ritual -- again, I am immensely honored and grateful. There were gifts. Another couple of dear friends declared, "Nothing says 'I love you' like public humiliation!" and plopped a marvellous, wide-brimmed, uncompromisingly brillian red hat bedecked with a purple scarf on my head. I love it, and took delight in wearing it the next day to the OKCA Knife Show, and on several other occasions since then.
The ritual began without my presence. Once the circle was cast and they were ready, a Crone came to me and lead me to the edge of the circle. There I was challenged:
"How do you enter this circle?"
My response was more or less what you will find behind the following cut. Speaking it brought tears to my eyes.
I enter this circle as who and what I am: a woman beyond childbearing, my father's daughter, a priestess of the Goddess and God, a pythia of Apollo.
I come with my WiseBlood now held within, having poured its full measure of years from my woman's body --
I come in a body marked with the signs of the events of my lifetime, the passage of time, the unceasing pull of the Earth, the dance of my life...
I come with the accumulated experience of years, bearing wisdom from Crones and Sages before me, and a treasure of memories and knowledge, with room for more.
I enter this Circle with love for All within this circle and for All that is, born of the love I have received.
In the ritual, I was asked to declaim the Charge of the Crone Goddess. I asked to adapt the one written in the ritual script, as I had found and studied several. Behind the following cut is what I came up with (a good deal of it cut-and-pasted from Charges written by others, in fine Pagan tradition.)
CHARGE of the CRONE
Whenever you seek wisdom, at the time of the Darkening Moon, come together in love and trust and learn of Me, who am the Wisest of Crones...
I have been the Maiden, and I remember that joy.
I have been the Mother, and I recall that pleasure and pain.
But age has changed me,
and taught me the mysteries of the Wheel that is ever turning, the Wheel that is life, death, and rebirth.
With age comes an understanding of the past, and a glimpse of the future. For, in the turning of the Wheel, the past is the future,
and the future is the past. I am the Learned One, the Teacher, the Bringer of Inevitable Change.
I am the whirling tornado, the erupting volcano, the rising tidal wave, the trembling of the earth's crust.
I am the Queen of Magick and the dark of the Moon, hidden in the deepest night. I am the mystery of the Otherworlds and the fear that coils about your heart in the times of your trials. I am the soul of nature that gives form to the universe; it is I who awaits you at the end of the spiral dance.
Those who seek power over the earth are afraid to face my wisdom and my unalterable truth. But I am not malicious, and my touch, however harsh, is love.
Behold! I am the Dark Goddess Who Has Hidden You Under Her Hair—and my dark blood is already poured out upon the Earth.
Therefore You shall be free even in fear, and as a sign that you be free, you shall open yourselves to Me.
Go deeper, seek farther, and open to what you can not see—all for My sake; for Mine is the soul’s descent into Darkness and Mine also is its joy upon return; for My law is “All Things Must Die; and All Things Must Be Reborn.”
Let my worship be within the heart that has truly tasted life, the heart that knows holy awe, for behold, all acts of transformation are my rituals, and my greatest ritual is love itself. Therefore let there be beauty in your strength, compassion in your wrath, power in your humility, discipline balanced with mirth, and reverence for All That Is within you.
For I am the dolmen arch beyond which stretch the mysteries of infinity. I am the silence before birth and after death. I am the clouded mirror in which you scry your own soul.
All things come to Me in the end, and yet I am the beginning of all. I meet you at the crossroads, I lead you through the darkness, My hand you grasp in the passage between the worlds. To those that toy with Me am I an instrument of self-destruction. Yet to the true seeker do I bring knowledge beyond mortal comprehension.
I Who am the Depths of the Dark Cave and the Blackness Between the Stars, and the Bottomless Well... I Who am Most Ancient among Gods and mortals -- I call unto your Souls. Descend—and come unto Me for I am Raven-Winged Death Who giveth rebirth to the Universe. Beneath My Veil, which covereth alike Gods and humankind, let thine innermost Divine self be enfolded in the rapture of My Ineffable, Perfect Mystery.
Of you shall I demand the utter truth of all that you are, and in return shall I give you all that you may be, all that I am. For My wisdom is beyond the Ages, and knowledge of My Secrets is power over self, over fear, over death. Nor do I demand aught of you which you cannot give. For I am the Mother of Mysteries, and as you know Me, so shall you learn to know yourself.
A very important part of the ritual was the requirement that I speak to those assembled, both telling them and commiting myself the Crone's Work I am called to do. "Keep it brief!" my friend (who knows me well) warned. That was hard.
I had previously begun writing down my calling, and even unfinished, it was long. I excerpted parts of it, to speak in the ritual -- those will be the highlighted parts. Behind the following cut is the whole thing, not just what I spoke in the ritual.
My Calling: An Apologia
My Priestessing is calling me to sell our home, buy and move onto rural land, build an energy-efficient cob home within a sustainable, permaculture-based homestead, where I can assume my crone status and wisewoman role by taking care of other people's kids (including adult ones) and shaping the changing human culture that must evolve in the face of post-peak fossil fuels, global warming, etc.
That is a very long, run-on sentence incapsulating a large and complex reality. For that reason, and because so many seem to not understand how moving to the country and becoming more self-sufficient are important parts of my priestessly calling, I will attempt here to write an explanation. In so doing, I will probably clarify the relationship between my calling and our moving plans to myself as well as others.
First, the basic relevant facts regarding myself as a priestess:
I am a Wiccan, a Pagan priestess, and a Pythia of Apollon. I practice a form of earth-based nature spirituality in which the Divine is immanent within all that is, as well as trancendent beyond all that is. I experience the Divine as female as well as male, Goddess as well as God, and having many different aspects and names. The very Earth itself (Herself) is sacred, Divine, a Mother Goddess, upon and within whom walks the wild and loving God of Nature. The creation of all that is was not so much an act of making by Divine hands, as a Great Birthing, resulting from the passionate love and joining of Goddess and God. It was one helluva Big Bang.
We humans were born, along with plants, other animals, planets, stars, stones, water and so on, in that Great Birthing. We are a part of All That Is. We are Children, along with all other beings, of Goddess and God. All beings, ourselves included, are inextricably interconnected and ultimately interdependent.
That’s enough for a start.
Now, the basic relevant facts regarding our human world and the Earth that is our mother and home:
The Sun, gravity, and nuclear reactions within the Earth's core are ultimately the sole sources of energy available to humans. Of these, energy from the Sun is by far the most important. (Gravity enters into hydropower, energy generated from flowing, falling water, and the tides. Geothermal power derives from the heat within the earth's core.)
Until a few hundred years ago, human beings could not overspend the energy budget provided us (primarily by the sun, directly or indirectly) and survive. We lived within our means, replenishing the food fuels, animal power, water and wind power, wood and other fuels we used to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves, in a more-or-less sustainable manner. Through the vast majority of human existence, any method of feeding ourselves which required more input of energy (calories) than it provided would sooner or later lead to starvation, or abandonment of the inefficient means of producing/acquiring food.
All that changed when human beings learned to exploit fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas) are formed from the bodies of the most efficient transformers of solar radiation into energy known to exist: plants. Specifically, fossil fuels were created from the bodies of incredibly ancient single-cell or simple, primitive multi-celled photosynthesizing organisms laid down in layers by primeval seas. These layers collected over millions of years, and only in certain, special conditions of pressure and heat, over billions of years, were they transformed into the limited, finite beds of coal, oil, natural gas found in Earth. The special conditions and the time period it takes to produce these fossil fuels makes them nonrenewable resources, from a practical human-scale perspective.
Earth's deposits of coal, oil, and natural gas are superconcentrated reservoirs of solar energy, collected by billions of plants over millions of years, and when they are gone, they are gone. There is no other source of energy like them: they give an amazing bang for the buck, and for a short blip in time, they have allowed human beings to perform miracles, living far beyond our ongoing energy budget with seeming impunity, and growing our population exponentially in response to the temporary bounty produced.
Our numbers now exceed the carrying capacity of the Earth to sustain us (without fossil fuels) by two- to six-fold, and our population world-wide continues to increase.
Western industrialized societies consume disproportionately huge amounts of energy from fossil fuels, and the demand for energy continues to grow. Countries with enormous human populations, India and China, rush to adopt our energy-intensive ways, increasing the demand for fossil fuels.
Demand is now outstripping production, as we have used half of all the oil (and soon, natural gas) in the Earth. That first half was the easiest half get; the stuff left will be harder. If we convert more to coal use, its availability will peak perhaps before this century is over. Gasoline prices are already sky-rocketing and becoming increasingly labile, taking all other prices up with them, so dependent are we upon fossil fuels in our global economy.
Our food, clothing, housing materials and other goods and materials are made in distant places and transported to us. For the most part, we no longer grow our own food, make our own clothing and shelter, or process and manufacture our own materials and goods. We live out of supermarkets, restaurants, malls, and Big Box Stores. Our throw-away economy generates enormous waste. What food we grow is largely in monocultures in huge fossil-fuel dependent agribusinesses that poison and deplete our soil, both in quantity and quality, to raise crops for export.
Many humans now live in places that were largely unfit for human habitation before fossil fuel dependent technology gave us air conditioners and drilled wells with electric pumps and massive irrigation systems. Water tables are dropping in aquifers around the world. In China, whole rivers are drying up.
We westerners did such an abysmally poor job of sanitation -- dealing with our shit and urine -- that we thought dumping it into water was an improvement and we invented the flush toilet. Now the valuable nutrients we take from the earth and eat are no longer returned to it, and the crops grown in our robbed soils are less and less nutritious as time goes by. The feces and urine and other things we flush into our sewers and septic systems are fouling our groundwater, streams, rivers and seas. The drugs we excrete are making their effects known on aquatic life. For example, some fish and amphibians have been found with unnatural combinations of both male and female sexual characteristics as a consequence of the residues of hormonal medications we excrete. We have yet to learn that there is no "away" to which we can flush our "wastes".
Far, far too many of us have become so dependent upon stores, markets, service people and agencies, governments and "experts" to meet our needs that we no longer learn basic skills of living or basic bodies of knowledge, such as growing and preserving food, raising, training, and slaughtering animals, building shelters, tending wounds and illness, defending ourselves, making clothing, etc. We turn to laws and agencies to keep us safe and defend us from lawlessness, when laws and agencies simply cannot effect such ends.
The potential harmful consequences for ourselves are great, and the consequences for our planet and fellow life forms even greater.
Global warming as a consequence of widespread use of fossil fuels was first predicted by a scientist back in the 1800's. Now, it is a clear and well-documented reality, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Despite obvious signs (such as the melting of glaciers and tundra permafrost, the revisions of growing zones maps to reflect a steady and ongoing migration northward of each zone as temperatures raise and seasonal patterns change) there are still people who deny the reality of global climate change. Some simply argue that it is not a consequence of human behaviors, but part of long-standing cycles of climate change. That matters little, in a way. Whether we have contributed to the heating of the planet or not, glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, sea levels are going to rise 20' to 200', the sea currents of the Atlantic may stop and reverse, bringing a new ice age to Europe, and the freqency and intensity of storms such as hurricanes are already increasing. We humans must adapt to these changes or perish.
If we are to avert a run-away Greenhouse Effect that would render Earth another Venus, we humans will need to change how we are impacting our planet and its atmosphere -- now.
Add to these yet another converging catastrophe -- an over-heated "consumer" economy based on a false notion that continued growth is not only possible, but desirable -- and we are faced with one overwhelming certainty:
Big changes are coming -- changes that will be very challenging, and will render our current way of life impossible. It is inevitable.
What we are doing now, how we are living our lives, is simply unsustainable.
I am a Pagan Priestess, one of the spiritual leaders of our community. The Earth is sacred, and all life is our family. I am called to make the necessary changes for not only the survival of my loved ones and myself, and my fellow Pagans, but also for humanity and other life-forms, and the Earth as our home.
Each and every individual one of us is a part of shaping the future, whether we wish to do so or not. This has always been so. Now we are come to a crucial and unprecedented turning point in the history of humankind, and even our planet.
We are not so powerful as to be able to destroy Earth, or even all life upon it (probably). Life has proven to be incredibly tough, once it evolves. But life can also be fragile -- by far the most common fate among all life forms that have ever evolved, is extinction.
Similarly, the most common fate of complex societies is collapse. We are not immune to collapse of our society, nor extinction of our species -- and we are already taking a great many other species with us. A mass extinction event similar in magnitude to that which wiped out the dinosaurs is currently underway, caused directly or indirectly by human activity.
Each and every one of us is a part of shaping the future. We are living now in a future we took part in shaping earlier in our lives, and our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will have to live in the future we shape -- or fail to survive it.
In order to create a desirable sustainable future we must relearn and reclaim wisdom and knowledge held by crones and sages long ago, too long now disparaged and abandoned. We must combine the ancient wisdom with the best, most useful of such new true knowledge and wisdom as we have been able to discover in the temporary blip of super-abundant energy of the fading fossil fuels era. We must remember and take to heart that there is no such thing as unending growth, and unceasing consumption without replenishment of that which we consume. We must remember the cycle of Birth, Death, and Rebirth.
I am who and what I am: a Pagan priestess who sees the sacred in the Great Interconnected All That Is, a psychologist who has become increasingly convinced that our modern western way of life is not good for us, a displaced country girl who grew up eating foods grown on our own land, and a daughter of a very bright, life-loving engineer who saw this all coming long ago. I have certain strengths to bring to the task of shaping the future in the face of the coming unavoidable changes and challenges.
Firstly, I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge of all kinds, whether it appears immediately useful or not. Some people collect stamps, or coins, or crystals -- I collect knowledge, and those things that contain knowledge. I cannot possibly know all there is to know (though I can sure try!) But I can read voraciously, research insatiably, share what I learn with others, collect one hell of a library, and seek out other knowledgeable folks, and arrange for them to share their knowledge. There is a great need for knowledge, and teachers.
Secondly, I love to learn, not only bodies of knowledge, but also skills, perspectives, etc. I need to continue learning until the day I die, and beyond, if possible. We will all need to learn and re-learn skills, ways of thought and action that are new to us.
Thirdly, I also have a knack for understanding current situations by putting them into the context of what has gone before. I seek to understand the present by learning from the past. I truly believe that we who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it (at least until we no longer have the fossil fuels or other resources that make a particular kind of mistake possible). Humankind has been very understandably human, and we've made some really big mistakes now. We simply cannot afford to repeat them.
Finally, I have a strong sense of Connection - the interconnections, relationships between us and all that is, how we are all part of something greater than ourselves.
These strengths I have to offer, and I am called to do so. I, like everyone else, need other people who have strengths I lack, to bring to the Great Work of shaping the future. I am greatly blessed to already have among my husband and friends, people with their own complementary strengths to join in the work of manifesting a vision for a desirable, sustainable future. We call the place we invision building "Haven", and the life we hope to build there "living happily ever after." (Why not?)
Haven will be sacred land, stewarded, shaped, nurtured, and cultivated as seems necessary and wise, and protected, to provide an abundant ecosystem for its inhabitants. We will plant and/or adapt edible forest gardens, and vegetable and herb gardens. We will raise animals, caring for them in return for their meat, fleece, and assistance with clearing land, hauling, pest control, and companionship. We will use permaculture principles to design the ecosystem to self-sustainably meet our needs with a minimum of labor -- in time. There will be plenty of work required in the beginning.
We will build our shelters with our own hands of the clay soil beneath our feet, sand, and straw -- cob -- and other predominantly local materials. We will design them to benefit from passive solar heating and cooling, supplemented at need by highly efficient mass heating rocket stoves we build ourselves, fueled by renewable wood from our own forests. We will harness the energy of flowing water, and possibly wind and/or sunlight to provide renewable electricty to meet our needs. We will strive to build a mutually supportive community of neighbors, and a local economy to meet the community's needs.
We will build a temple to Apollo, and to all the Gods and Goddesses. We will create shrines, and places for spiritual retreat.
It will be a challenge, but we will strive to locate Haven so as to minimize commuting for those among us who are employed for money outside of its borders. We will seek to manage Haven and our lives so that we will reduce and eventually eliminate our debt load, and no longer require both parties of a couple to work outside of the home to make ends meet. We hope and plan for a time when the writer can write, the spinstress and gardener spin and garden, the blacksmith forge, the priestess practice her calling, the jeweler create, and the deerhounds run.
We will build a place for gatherings: for sharing coffee or homebrews, for work parties, rituals, problem-solving, story-telling, music-making, classes on skills related to sustainable living, spiritual practices, whatever... And we will invite others to learn with us, and to teach us.
The consumer culture has held out the false promise that by producing and consuming ever more, we can grow the economy without any end, and have the freedom of ever increasing incomes, bigger homes, and more stuff. The result has been slavery. The Crone teaches us that by acknowledging and respecting limits, we can have more true freedom and satisfaction.
Our western culture seeks through science and technology to eliminate disease, prolong youth and postpone death indefinitely, but has delivered chronic stress, chronic diseases related to unhealthy lifestyle and environment, and enormous medical costs. The Crone reminds us that death is a part of life, and the gateway to rebirth. By helping us to face and accept our mortality, the Crone teaches us more than we could ever otherwise know about our immortality -- and so gives us more abundant life than we could otherwise have.
I really, really like being a Crone!