I'm now officially part of the gang. My sixtieth birthday was in the middle of August and although I stopped celebrating them years ago, I made an exception this year because it was time for me to become a Crone.
Most of you are now reeling about saying “How can she call herself that?” or imagining the stereotype of a warty, hook-nosed, humpy-backed ancient woman muttering to herself as she brews up vile concoctions. Nope! Nose is a bit Roman, no warts at all and my back still shows signs of my old military training. Only the scoliosis stops it being ramrod straight.
I'm talking about a genuine Crone.
That's a mark of respect, a rank, a badge of honour, somewhat akin to a nun becoming a Reverend Mother from a Sister. You see, for a long time I was a Wiccan. That is a form of paganism, an Earth-based religion revering the Mother Goddess and her consort. I worked my way up through the ranks to High Priestess before moving away from my coven and discovering that I'm much less a team player than a solitaire.
These days I'm the village healer which suits me much better. However, some traditions get stuck under the skin and with my 60th approaching, I started getting nudges that I really should respect the Croning. It started with my dear old pentagram which I had worn since my initiation. For more than twenty years it hadn't left my neck apart from during operations. Suddenly, it began to break free of its fixing and throw itself on the floor. No matter how often the Ancient Mariner repaired it, off it went again.
Out with the old...
Then it hit me!
For a long time I had been entitled to wear the triple pent, mark of the High Priestess but, of couse, I hadn't because I considered myself out of the game. Digging around in my box of “religious symbols of all kinds” I found one and put it on a silk cord. OK, I can take a hint and this was obviously what I was supposed to do.
Croning is coming back into fashion again as we seem to have lost the respect of the old, wise woman of yesteryear. We call the elders silly names and make jokes about them. Some of us are taking back the right to be revered and observing this rite of passage. My own, of my own devising, was very simple, down by the river in my village, near my favourite trees. I gave back to the river some symbols of things I had outgrown, including my original witch-name, Raven. A corvid feather floated into the water to be carried away. It was very liberating to find that everything I needed for my new rôle was already within me and I could shed a great deal of “stuff” like the sloughing snake which our cat had brought into the house a couple of days before.
That was a comical scene with Mr. Nuclear Deterrant hopping from foot to foot, Piston daring me to touch it and me heaving a long-suffering sigh as I picked up the dead serpent to take it back to the earth.