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Croning Circle Ritual

 
Before we start, we all will exit outside to the labyrinth and begin our silence. Walk the labyrinth to the center and back out while meditating on quieting and listening to the Divine within. As you exit the labyrinth, please keep silence as you go back to the meeting circle and continue your meditation. The silence will end with the sound of the bell.

After the Meditation

Celebrant or volunteer reader:

We want to look at the closing of our maiden and mother years as a passage to be celebrated, and to look at the years ahead as a time filled with possibility. We are no longer who we were before. Now is the time to step over the threshold into the fullness of being a crone.
 
Today we are going to say goodbye to our childbearing and child rearing years. We are going to celebrate being free from pregnancy, menstruation and cramps, but we are also going to honor those things as well. And we are going to visualize a future in which our happiness comes from within and is based on the confidence and knowledge that our years have given us.
 
This ritual has four parts. First, on the Via Positiva, we cast a sacred circle as we acknowledge the magic of our childbearing capability, whether or not we’ve ever given physical birth. Then we’ll read wisdom to each other from diverse sources.

Following the Via Negativa, we will say goodbye to the things we are ready to leave behind.

In the Via Creativa, we will chant and move, and in doing this we will replace our old things with new, creative energy and unmatched wisdom – the energy and wisdom that can only be gained with age and experience and community.

Lastly, we enter the Via Transformativa, time to take our change out into the world by celebrating the Agape meal, nourishing each other in soul and body.

We use the white candle, because it symbolizes the moon, which has traditionally been associated with the feminine…. Intuition, feeling and the cycles of nature.
 
Opening the Circle
 

  • Light the candles of the four directions starting with the white candle in the middle
  • Celebrant:

     (white candle lit)

    Ancient Goddess, Mother of All Life, we stand at a threshold. Behind us are our childbearing and child rearing years. Ahead of us are doors through which we cannot see.
     
    Group of Crone Initiates:
     
    (All turn to face the East, yellow candle lit)

    Spirit of the East, element of Air, through your energy I was able to bring forth new life, as does the sun when it rises in the East.
     
    (Turn to face the South, green candle is lit)

    Spirit of the South, element of Fire, through your energy I was able to make a tinny spark into the flame of life.
     
    (Turn to face the West, black candle is lit)

    Spirit of the West, element of Water, through your energy I was able to contain and nurture new life inside my body.
     
    (Turn to face the North, purple candle is lit)

    Spirit of the North, element of Earth, through your energy I was able to unite spirit and matter into a new life, feeding and giving growth as our mother earth nurtures us.
     
    (Return to face the East)

    But the wheel has turned and my blood no longer flows as it did before. My time for growing new life has ended. Behind me are the days of the flesh. Ahead of me are the days of the spirit.

    Readings of Wisdom

    Celebrant:

    What we have done is to cast a sacred circle. Now that we are within the circle, we will share readings of Wisdom by taking turns reading them out loud.
     
    (A basket of readings is passed and read out loud, one person at a time, until all wisdom readings have been shared)
     
    Closing the Circle as Crones

    Eternal Wisdom, source of our being and center of all our longing, in You our sisters have lived to a strong age; women of dignity and wit, in loving insight now blessed crones. May the phase into which they have entered bear the marks of your spirit. May they ever be borne up by the fierce and tender love of friends and by You, most intimate friend; and clothed in your light, may they grow in grace as they advance their years. Amen
     
    (Medicine bags are given at this time), take this medicine bag as a tool of power for your spiritual journey. The contents are totems for this new stage of life. The moon rocks represent the wisdom you receive from your Divine connection to the Universe, the stars remind you to lift up your ideas, and the leaves remind you to stay grounded in the Earth, our Mother. Keep the bag close to you, fill it with your intent, and grow as a crone.
     
    Spoken as group:
     
    (All face to the East, the yellow candle)

    May this be the day of my rebirth freed from the burdens of the past. This is the beginning of a new life, guided by the gifts of clear thinking, inspiration and experience.
     
    (To the North, the purple candle)

    This is my new beginning, receiving the gifts of strength and solidarity.

    (To the West, the black candle)

    Behold I am reborn, receiving gifts of intuition and knowledge.
     
    (To the South, the green candle)

    Behold I am born anew, receiving gifts of creativity and energy.
     
    (Return to the East)

    The circle is now closed and the passage is complete.
     
    Chant

    (drummer leads the chant and the spiral dance outside for the Agape meal; the last dancer takes the white candle)

    We are the flow. We are the ebb. We are the weavers. We are the web.
     
    Agape

    Celebrant
     
    As we walk the Via Transfomativa, we know we are called to put our faith and change into action. Here is a story for us to remember:
     

    As she dreamed, a woman was walking through a lush green forest, full of tall trees.

    She sensed an opening ahead, a meadow, and in the corner of the meadow,

    a tent, where three very old men were knitting sweaters. She watched one

    of the old men intently, and was amazed to see that he had no pattern.

    “How do you do it?” she asked.

    “Oh, I have a pattern. It’s in that ancient book enthroned in the meadow,

    which is filled with religious poems. We pray and reflect on an ancient

    poem, and that gives us a pattern for the sweater. Would you like to have one?”

    “Oh, yes!” the woman cried, though she thought in her heart that such a sweater would be very costly.

    The old man then added, “It’s free. I will make one just for you.”

    When she woke she knew there was a weaving together inside of her that would end up being something beautiful.

     

    Today’s Agape meal, in honor of our crones, will consist of spring water that has basked in the light of the full moon and of chocolate from the earth.
     
    (Each person holds the plate for her neighbor who breaks off her own piece of chocolate while her server tells her)
     

    • Like this chocolate we enter the sweetening stage of our life.

     

    (The chalice of moon water is passed as each says)

  • Like this moon water, we turn our creative energy to birthing the spirit in the world.
  •  
    Celebrant

    As we close this ritual, let us remember the words of Marian Woodman who wrote:

    “The crone is the woman who has faced crossroads in her life and has chosen to live with acceptance and love, rather than closing down with resentment.  She has expanded into life, losing the ego drive and opening to the full energy of the unconscious. She is a surrendered instrument through which the god and goddess energy moves. She comes from love, rather than from ego power.  The dark side of the crone is power, because she has intuitive powers that can give her control of other people if she wants to use them in that way. The other side of the crone is the love flowing through her that is an immense healing presence. She has a very finely developed masculinity. A highly developed discrimination, discernment, capacity to act. She is like a tuning fork in an environment. Because of who she is, her environment is different because she is there.”

    (candles are extinguished)
     
    Amen
     
    References:
    Rites of Passage by Rev. Amy E. Long
    Dreaming in the Dark by Starhawk
    The Wisdom of Women by Carol LaRusso
    Crossing to Avalon by Jean Shinoda Bolen
    Life Prayers by Gail Ricciuti
    Weaving the Threads of Our Lives by Carol Bialock, RSCJ

    Crone Wisdom Readings

    These can be printed on individual papers, rolled up with a ribbon, and placed in a basket for the ritual

      

    Perhaps middle age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells: the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, and the shell of the ego. Perhaps one can shed at this stage in life as one sheds in beach living: one’s pride, one’s false ambitions, one’s mask, and one’s armor. Was that armor put on to protect one from the competitive world? If one ceases to compete, does one need it? Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, be completely oneself. And what a liberation that would be!

    Anne Morrow Lindbergh

    Midlife brings with it an invitation to accept ourselves as we truly are, embracing the darker sides of ourselves as well as the good, the dark sides of our cultures as well as the good. We have an instinctive fear of facing the dark mysteries. The shadow or unknown parts of us belong to an inner world that is usually suppressed in the first half of life…. But by confronting our mysterious and shadowy center, we tap into life’s revitalizing energies and gain access to our innermost self, which contains the key to a new understanding of our life’s meaning.

    Paula Payne Hardin
     
    Maturity involves the synthesis of all you’ve learned. It’s the time of the soul, the essence of all you are. As adolescence unleashed the mind, childhood the heart, and birth cycle the body, maturity brings out the soul. The keys to maturity are commitment and responsibility.

    It’s time to stop studying, stop preparing, stop searching and to start teaching, doing, manifesting, producing. The rehearsals are over; the show is on.

    Gabrielle Roth

    During much of the feminist movement women redesigned themselves as men and disregarded their greatest gifts: open-mindedness, flexibility, intuition. Now they are riding themselves of stereotypes and cultural myths and tuning in to what it really means to be a woman- seeing menopause as a sacred rite of passage, for example. Women are taking their gifts seriously, to gently persuade, to gently be leaders.

    Marilyn McGuire

    How would it be different if the fertility of earth and women were celebrated as expressions of divinity and if women elders were appreciated as wise women? Just as menses is a connection between women and the moon and between women and Nature, and as women retained their blood in their body for nine months to make a baby, menopause would be considered even more awesome, for now it could be said that she retained the blood in her body to make wisdom.

    Jean Shinoda Bolen
     
    In that moment you are drunk on yourself,
    You are withered, withered like autumn leaves.
    That moment you leap free of yourself,
    Winter to you appears in the dazzling robes of spring.
    Rumi
     
    Experience! Experience! Has brought me a comfort and a modesty and a devotion to inclusiveness that I would not give up for all the gold in all the mountains of the world.

    Mary Oliver
     
    Everything is laid out for you.
    Your path is straight ahead of you.
    Sometimes it’s invisible, but it’s there.
    You may not know where it’s going,
    But you have to follow the path.
    It’s the path to the creator.
    It’s the only path there is.
    Chief Leon Shenandoah
     
    Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
    No hand but yours,
    No feet but yours,
    Yours are the eyes through which is to look out
    Christ’s compassion to the world
    Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
    Doing good;
    Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.
    Teresa of Avila
     
    Each day I visit black Mary, who looks at me with her wise face, older than old and ugly in a beautiful way. It seems the crevices run deeper into her body each time I see her, that her wooden skin ages before my eyes. I never get tired of looking at her thick arm jutting out, her fist like a bulb about to explode. She is a muscle of love, this Mary.

    Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
     
    You will be teachers for each other. You will come together in circles and speak your truth to each other. The time has come for women to accept their spiritual responsibility for our planet. “Will you help us?” I asked the assembled patriarchs. “We are your brothers,” they answered…. “We no longer know the way. Our ways do not work anymore. You women must find a new way.”

    Patricia Hopkins, Sherry Rochester, The Feminine Face of God
     
    There is a goodness, a wisdom that arises, sometimes awkwardly, sometimes fiercely, but it will arise to save us if we let it, and it arises from within us, like the force that drives green shoots to break the winter ground, it will arise and drive us into a great blossoming like a pear tree, into flowering, into fragrance, fruit and song, into the wild wind dancing, sun shimmering, into the aliveness of it all, into that part of ourselves that can never be defiled, defeated, or destroyed, but that comes back to life, time and time again, that lives –always– that does not die. Into the Divine.

    China Galland, The Bond Between Women

     We long to know ourselves deeply, to know the place in which we can discover the Divine. We long to temper and hone our gifts, to put them into action in our world. When we allow ourselves to be whole, we allow new visions to emerge within us and within our cultures.

    Lauren Artress, Walking a Sacred Path

    The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome… You will love again the stranger who was yourself… Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another… Take down the love letters from the bookshelf… peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life!

    Derek Walcott

    As we work in compassion to heal the Earth, the Earth heals us. No need to wait.   As we care enough to take risks, we loosen the grip of ego and begin to come home to our true nature. The world itself, if we are bold enough to love it, acts through us. It does not ask uus to be pure or perfect, but only to care, to harness the sweet, pure intention of our deepest passions and to ‘fly’ like a bodhisattva!

    Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self

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