I’m back from my first Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG). The clothes (Ticks! So many ticks!) and car (How wet can one tent possibly be!?) have been unpacked, but I’m still unpacking the experience. I expect I shall be for days and weeks to come, making meaning and realizing connections that I’m as yet only dimly perceiving if at all.
When it comes to immersive week-long experiences, my approach is “take small bites and chew thoroughly”; that is, I don’t try to do everything. I’m at peace with missing out on some—or many—opportunities, choosing instead something that particularly captures my interest and lazering in on that. For me, this past week was all about the Crone.
At every decade mark, I’ve had something going on in my life that was a major distraction. At 10, a messy, angry divorce supernovaed across my little universe and landed me in my grandparents’ house. At 20, I was gloriously absorbed in the “commune”. At 30, the birth of my first child by emergency C-section; 40, an emergency hysterectomy; 50, the complicated task of moving across the country for my spouse’s job. I was too immersed in my life to pay attention to the decades slipping through me, too focused on the next task to have time for a midlife crisis.
But 60 has been different. Aside from the usual Winter Solstice activities, there was nothing going on in my life to distract me from hitting this milestone, and it felt odd. Like I should do something to mark the beginning of this next decade. And while I could have written a Croning Rite of Passage for myself, I didn’t particularly want to. A co-founder and Priestess of our Earth-centered Kindred, I knew that if I were to perform a Croning Ritual with our Kindred I would end up taking the lead on every aspect of the evening from set-up to tear-down, and I didn’t want that. I wanted something where, for once, I could simply receive.
And so it was that I entered the Crone Temple of Wisdom for a week of preparation and reflection, culminating in a Rite of Passage Ceremony held before the PSG community. I came perhaps seeking not so much transformation as an acknowledgement of a transformation that had already occurred, and I received that confirmation in mundane, somewhat painful, and seemingly disconnected ways—except, of course, it’s all connected.
I had taken with me a couple of bells-and-whistles kinds of things including a favorite oversized, wide-mouth ceramic mug that I had painted, and my staff, Blind Bear, a 6’ tall, deliciously twisty fallen branch I had decorated with ribbons and bells and crystals and a large glass witch’s ball stoppered with a crescent moon finial. I knew I would have to be careful with the breakables but figured, being a fairly hyper-vigilant person, that I’d be able to keep My Preciouses safe and secure. I expect you already know where this is going.
I had asked for acknowledgement of a transformation that I knew had already taken place but I as yet could not really feel. The first beloved object to go was the witch’s ball on my staff. One of my campmates reached down to move Blind Bear from the top of the coolers not realizing that the witch’s ball swung freely on the hook to which it was attached. Even as she was saying “I’m going to move this”—really, almost the moment she touched it—the witch’s ball smashed into jagged, irreparable pieces. One minute it was there; the next it was gone.
My mug, the one I had painted stamped with moons and stars, lightning bolts and squiggles, the one I had brought for its inaugural use during PSG, literally bit the dust the next night when a side tarp snapped in from a pre-storm wind and knocked over a table and the box of supplies on it. Were there breakables that belonged to my two campmates in the box? Yes. Did they also break? No. Just mine. “Why is it just MY stuff that is being destroyed!?” I wailed to the Universe. “Seriously, why is this happening?” I asked my campmates. “Maybe because you are making a break from who you have been” replied one of them.
Oh. Of course. It’s all connected.
The night of the massive thunderstorm, whose tent was the only one to flood? That would be mine. I bailed as much water as I could before heading to Crone class where the element we discussed was—you guessed it—water. Here, though—in my “three”—I had a moment of profound transformation. After class I returned to my tent to continue bailing water from the lowest corner of my tent. I looked over to the other low spot, fully ponded, and wished I could somehow get that water to roll all the way downhill to the lowest corner. I walked over to figure it out, and the water began to flow to where I was standing.
Now, this is just physics. By standing close to the ponded spot I had created another low area further down the incline and the water simply sought the lowest spot. That is its nature. A few steps later (it’s a big tent) and all of the water had followed me down to the lowest corner. Again, nothing magical about it per se. But that flash of insight moment, that moment when I realized I could bend the element of water to my will by working in tandem with its properties? That was a magical moment of transformed perception. A moment that completely shifted my understanding of my relationship with the elements. Everything was as it had always been; I simply saw it all differently. I was the one who had changed.
What happens in Crone Temple stays in Crone Temple, but what happens as a result of a week of intense personal reflection and radical openness to change is wildly unbound, opulently untrammeled. I’m strongly reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, the final book of his Narnia series, spoken by Reepicheep, leader of the talking mice: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it ‘til now . . . Come further up, come further in!”
So Mote It Be for Thee and Me.