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Friday, 01 June 2007

From First Holy Communion to Community Croning

By Colleen Redman at Loose Leaf Notes

PRELUDE: Maybe age is a clock to wake us from dreaming. Or maybe it is the dream, like counting the number of pages in a book - when we should be reading the story.

Croning_2 The smell of sage drifted in the air. Later, it was the frankincense oil we were anointed with as we were welcomed into the circle of elder women. Nineteen of us being honored were sequestered off to a room in the private home where the ceremony took place while final preparations were made. Then, one by one, we passed through a sheer purple curtain as a younger woman, acting like a gateway keeper between two worlds, spoke our names.

According to my friend Mara’s poem, published later that month in our community newsletter, a bell rang as we walked down the center of two lines of about twenty-five women on either side. I don’t remember the bell, but I think I heard the women singing. Looking into each one’s eyes, I walked slowly and intently, savoring their smiles as I wound my way through their human tunnel.

After receiving gifts and words of wisdom from the more seasoned crones, each honored woman took turns sharing a talent with the group. One played the banjo, another played the guitar and sang. In past years women have danced and done skits. This year there was much poetry and speaking from the heart. I was on the edge of my throne, I mean seat.

The joke was that I didn’t want to be croned. I wanted a crown and I got one. After the ceremony and during the feasting I spotted a shiny gold paper crown next to a platter of food on the dining room table. As I was filling my plate with one spoonful of everything, I thought to myself, “I would love to have that crown.”

Later, as someone placed it on my head, I was told that it was made for me by the children of the house earlier in the day. I guess the word had gotten out that I wanted to be crowned instead of croned because I was finding it easier to think of myself as a Queen rather than a Crone.

The poem I read, about turning 50, revealed how much fun I’ve had over the years confusing my friends about my age. I’ve been known to lie about it. “It runs in my family,” I told the crowd. “I had several older aunts who after they died we found out their real ages and were shocked. I, on the other hand, only like to shave off a year. It gives me a little time to get used to the chronological number. I only lie by one year because I don’t want people saying, “doesn’t she looks old for her age?”

The truth is sometimes I forget what age I am.

Women in their 50’s are hardly crones. We live longer than we did in the past, and some feel that the triple spiral, representing the three stages of women lives, “maiden, mother, and crone,” should evolve a new swirl that incorporates “matriarch” into the mix. But that’s getting technical. The child before the maiden isn’t included in the trinity either. And I’m not about to decline an invitation to be honored by a roomful of adoring women by claiming to be too young.

I’ve worn white ceremoniously on three momentous occasions. When I made my First Holy Communion, at the age of seven, I felt that I was being seen for my true self, beautiful like a bride or a princess in my lacey white dress and matching veil.

Unfortunately, I got distracted with the struggles and activities of life and wouldn’t feel that way again for nearly 40 years. In 1996, when my husband, Joe, and I were married in the presence of friends and family on Blue Ridge Parkway, I resisted my habit of deflecting attention. In my long white tiered dress and with the sun setting and the full moon rising, I let myself embody my own sense of worthiness and be recognized.

My intuition to wear white for this third rite of passage, turned out to be the thread that tied the stages of my life together. It awakened my awareness of the child, the young woman, and mother within me. The act of being recognized by a community of supportive women gave way to a sense of fullness, which overrode the sense of loss for my youth that I thought I might feel.

Our local woman’s community is strong. I’m grateful to those who tend to it by creating space for its expression, a service that benefits us all. Not only did the ceremony allow me to experience a personal integration of the stages of my life, I felt an integration of the various aged women in the room. As I stood before them like the queen of my own life, reading my poem, I knew that I was modeling the positive possibilities for the younger women in the room, just as the women who had been honored in years past had done for me.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I love the idea of being croned!

Me too! I'm way overdue for that!

Very sweet. :)

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