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UM Clergywomen Share their Wiccan Witch's Craft In Official UM Clergywomen's Publication

Excepts from Wellsprings: A Journal for United Methodist Clergywomen, by the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church

See Related Report: Woman UM Bishop Cannot Deny Personal Involvement With Other Women Clergy In Witchcraft

A Croning Ritual [Wiccan Witchcraft]

It was not just any New Years Eve, otherwise known as Old Year’s Night. Seven women gathered at the beach house to celebrate the 50 years of life with which two among them had been gifted. Within the first twelve days of the year to come, both would celebrate their 50th birthdays.

In women’s tradition, the fiftieth birthday is especially revered as being the year in which a woman becomes a "crone." Fifty years of wisdom have been gathered through all of the richness of joy and sadness, gain and loss, planting and reaping, springtime and harvest. These two clergywomen represented such wisdom to the circle of seven.

For those who organized the croning ritual much of the fun occurred in the advance preparations. A few gathered with another sister who had been croned the September before, to hear of some of her experiences. She proudly shared her memory book her circle had prepared. We then began to gather names and addresses of family members and friends of both sisters. A letter was composed, inviting them to send pictures, cards, notes, poems and embarrassing stories that they would be willing to share for this auspicious occasion. A memory book was compiled for each of them, using as much color and imagination as possible.

Since members of the circle had a clear understanding that crones have generally gotten a bad rap over the years, and that crones were nothing more than very wise women who understood the ways of the earth as well as being healers, we believed that our two sisters were crones in the finest sense of that term. Fifty inch tall crones were made from brightly colored paper, one in pink and one in purple. One sister in the group made a luminescent, stained glass kaleidoscope for each.

The evening was finally ready to begin. After gathered, whispering, and giggling on the part of those who would orchestrate the evening, favorite foods were prepared for a feast which officially began the ritual. After the feast, the two crones-to-be were asked to leave the room so that the alter could be prepared. With pink and purple crones looking on from the edges, an elegant purple patterned cloth was laid on the living room floor. Candles were placed upon it in the four directions marking north, south, east and west - the four points of the compass. Many purple candles of various sizes and shapes were lit all over the room.

The guests of honor were called, and purple cloaks were placed around them. The chorus began, "There’s a river of birds in migration, a nation of women with wings" from Libana: "Circle is Case." Harmon rose and swelled, then faded and stilled. We said aloud the names of the crones who have gone on before us as well as those who still lead us forward to "Stepping Out" on the promises (words and music by Susan Beehler).

The memory books were then presented to each crone and they each read aloud the cards, letters and poems, and giggled at the pictures. Tears and laughter was abundant as the richness of the two lives created a beautiful tapestry.

Cowrie shells are a special part of many native African rituals. They are used to symbolize blessings and gifts. The others in the circle then gathered a good handful of cowrie shells and with the Spirit leading, gave verbal gifts and blessings to our new crones, simultaneously dropping a cowrie shell into their glasses. We concluded this part by singing:

"Be like a bird, who pausing in her flight
on a limb too slight, feels its give way beneath her,
yet sings, sings, knowing she has wings;
yet sings, sings, knowing she has wings."

Libana: "The Fire Within."

These two sisters surely have wings and much, much more. They are sisters who have known how to "sing the Lord’s song in a strange land" in the days when clergywomen were rare.

Though we didn’t want to close, we said good-bye to each of the four directions, thanking them for the gifts they brought to the festive evening, closing with this blessing:

"And now, by the earth that is Her body
and the air that is her breath
and by the bright fire of Her Spirit
and the water of Her womb,
may Her Spirit go with you.
The circle is open, but unbroken.
Merry meet and merry part,
and merry meet again. Blessed be."

There is nothing magic about this croning ritual. Hymns, scripture, recorded music, smells, bells, water, flowers, earth, candles or anything that would contribute to a festive time of rejoicing at the 50 years of wisdom bestowed upon the celebrant is highly appropriate. Use the gifts She has already given you to create your own evening of storytelling. May the spirit be with you always.

Nancy J. Webb & Rebecca Ruth Richards
Baltimore-Washington Conference

Reflections From A New Crone [Wiccan Witchcraft Participant]

I live in a culture that values youthfulness, especially youthful looking women. So as I approach my 50th birthday, I became more aware that I needed to mark that transition in a way that would contrast society’s view of aging. A new wrinkle cream product was not the answer!

Fortunately, I have some wonderful friends who were more than willing to help me make this transition. We had discussed the importance of telling the stores of our foremothers, and how the names given to some of the strong women of history have been assigned very derogatory meanings like: witches, hags, spinsters, crones. Yet, isn’t it interesting that the women gifted with sensitivity and perceptions that were called witches by men who assumed that these gifts were the work of the devil! The word "hag" comes from the Greek word "hagios" whose root meaning holy; "spinsters" were the spinners and weavers of fabric and of stories; "crone" comes from the same root as "chronios" which means time.

My life felt like it was passing all too quickly and so I needed help in pausing for a moment to reflect on that half century, and all the mix of pain and joy that had filled those hours, days, and years. Aware of some of this, my friends began their spinning and weaving, which culminated in the following ritual:

First, I was reminded that I am not the first woman to reach the age of 50 and I won’t be the last! I stood in a long parade of women who have walked this way before me and who have taught me much and will teach me more. In the transition, I joined them! I was now one of the crones, one who have lived over half her life and learned many valuable things in the process. I had become a "foremother." It felt a little strange to think of myself in that way, but after trying it on, I began to like it, it felt good.

Second, I was reminded that my life is part of all creation. As we gathered in the middle of the four directions, my Native American ancestors were very much present, reminding me that I am inextricably linked to Mother Earth and Father Sun, to the elements of nature which surround me all the time, and to the moon whose cycle influences my own body’s cycle.

The Creator God of all this, gave me life and one day will claim that life and return it to the good earth. Yes, Mary Kraus is part of all time and creation! That woke me out of my 50-year limit!

Third, it was wonderful to be with people who love me just the way I am. One of the women in this circle has known me over 30 years. My friends have held my hand in painful times and celebrated with me during moments of great joy; always they are there when needed. In the vulnerable moment of completing half a century of living it was good to have some accompaniment. They celebrated that milestone and then moved me right into the next half century reminded me that time does not stand still.

As more and more of us are privileged to live long lives, it is important that we help each other through these transitions. It is important that we reclaim our foremothers and their influence in our lives. It is important that we develop new symbols and ways of marking these transitions; and it is important to celebrate the wisdom that comes with living. It is wonderful indeed. Blessed be!

Mary E. Kraus
Baltimore-Washington Conference

Excepts from: Wellsprings: A Journal for United Methodist Clergywomen, Fall 1994 * Vol. 7 No.2 is published periodically by the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 871, Nashville, TN 37202-0871

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