Sunday, July 13, 2014


At the height of my career as a witch, I spent a lot of time designing rituals. I was part of the planning for most of our public solar rituals but also officiated at many a private initiation ritual. Initiation is a sacred drama, a ritualized shamanic death and rebirth. I've spent many years thinking about the structure of these events, the energies that should be present. Rituals are meant to trigger transformation. I've thought in depth about how to set the stage for transformation. I experimented with different forms, I learned from other ritual planners.

I know my rituals is I guess what I'm trying to say. Or at least some of them.

What I've learned over time, since I left that life behind, is that I don't have to plan and create transformational rituals. Life is one big ole ritual, from the cleansing ablutions of morning (tooth brushing, showering, and such) to soothing bedtime rituals (setting the alarm, washing the face, plumping up the pillows, etc.) We humans ritualize so much of our existence. When we do it consciously, all of life can be meaningful, even the smallest event. All of life can be transformational.

I thought there had to be plans and ritual outlines and a lot of fuss and practice to access the transformative possibilities of ritual, but I was wrong. Of course some rituals must be planned, like weddings for instance, but in many cases, the rituals come right to us. We don't have to do all the planning. We do have to pay attention, in order to benefit from them. That's the hard part, should say. Paying attention.

My soul retrieval at the Eiffel tower is a perfect example of a moment of transformation, ritualized by sacred drama, that created itself in a nearly unbelievable way (that the sun would come out just as I rattled and danced, that the woman would give me the Euro - c'mon - you can't plan for this sort of thing.) I was paying attention, yet it still took a couple of weeks before I realized what had happened, that a soul bit, tucked away in the realms of light for safekeeping, had returned to my body/soul. Miraculous.

When I arrived, it was overcast.

As I danced and rattled, the sky suddenly cleared.

Light rolled down the tower, into my body. It was palpable.
Then the woman gave me a Euro. It was a spectacular, unplanned, transformational moment.

I'm thinking about this because I've realized that saying goodbye to my old client a couple of weeks ago was a ritual of initiation into my cronehood. I've been preparing for this moment for a few years, not consciously. As I look back on the changes I've made, I see that my work has been consistent, almost methodical, as if by a plan. One by one, I've been letting go of the relationships in which I attempt to nurture people who, for one reason or another, did not learn to nurture themselves.

I've had many different kinds of relationships that relied on me playing a maternal role. My marriage was one of these. In personal relationships, this kind of mothering is often nothing more than codependency - at least it was for me - but professionally I have been able to provide nurturing for clients, also for students, in a therapeutic way. It's a classic teaching role. Done well, professional nurturing provides a platform from which the client or student can learn to take care of themselves, if they choose to. Some benefit from it, others do not. I was OK playing that role for many years. I didn't have children, but I had to do some kind of mothering. It's instinctual.

In the last couple of years, I've lost my urge to be in these kinds of relationships, even the professional ones. I stopped attending births, stopped working with people who blatantly projected on me. It became so exhausting to be motherly. The title I used to refer to this kind of work, mama gaia reya, wore itself thin at last.

Saying goodbye to my client was my ritual of Croning. No human had to officiate, no one had to plan the ritual. Even so, a sacred drama unfolded that made the end of the relationship inevitable. In planned rituals there is a script and a lot of rehearsing. Everyone involved is fully read in to what's supposed to happen. When these rituals arrive unexpectedly, they can be clumsy, awkward. This experience certainly was. It was also extremely effective, as powerful as the soul retrieval at the Eiffel Tower.

I'm 61. The time was right and so it came to pass. A door was closed and locked. Big Daddy was my initiator. It marked the end of an era as clearly as the end of childhood when I had my first period. Oh my, that came as quite a shock. I knew it was immanent, but ... eeewwwwww! Moving into cronehood is equally nerve-wracking but also: such a relief!

These things do not need to be planned! Realizing that brings up in my heart a marvelous form of trust. Wow.

I know how healing it is to have someone else hold your self loathing in their hands for a little while. Many healers have done this for me. I am grateful. That was a big part of my work, personally and professionally, during my reproductive years and for some years after that. I'm a crone now; this is no longer my work.

It's going to be so interesting to see how life's circumstances shift in response to this big ritual of Cronehood. I remain curious.


  1. so how does this affect your business as a massage therapist? but I get it. we transition through stages I think, as opposed to sudden shifts. we let go one bit at a time until we look around and see the change. when I turned 50, I let go of a lot of things but I don't think I stepped solidly into cronehood. it was more of a gathering up of power. the power to recognize and then know yourself, the power to act or not act, the power to refuse to tolerate certain things and people any more, the power to recognize and refuse to participate in unhappy making things. at 64, I believe I am solidly into cronehood. it's a more balanced state. we see things from more sides through experience.

    1. The gathering up of power - yes! When mothering suited me, it fed me as well as provided something useful for the clients, but these days when I try to be mama gaia Reya, I feel sucked dry.

      I did my first day's work as a crone today. It went splendidly. There is a newfound confidence in my hands and also in my clients. I sensed a certain kind of fierceness that can never be a part of the Mama Gaia Reya persona which must always be yielding.

      I wonder if this makes any sense.

      Thank you for these great words, Ellen.

  2. I was about to wonder the same thing that Ellen just expressed: how does this new frame of mind change the way you heal others? I think the two of you answered that.
    I wonder what comes after cronehood. Maybe a return to childhood, or so they say.

    1. Cronehood is the end. After that, we die. Old age is incomprehensible because no one lives past it so no one can reflect back upon it. Also incomprehensible because it is uncommon. I need to write about this!