This past weekend was my second to last herbal class weekend. We meet again in three weeks for our final weekend together. Throughout our nine months together we have discussed the archetypes of maiden, mother/middlewoman, and elder/crone/wise woman. As we find ourselves in autumn, moving towards winter, we naturally discussed the later stages of a woman’s life–the elder/wise woman years. Our teacher Donna summarized each archetype as “A maiden meet her wisdom, a middlewoman practices her wisdom, and a crone keeps her wisdom within.”
Towards the end of our discussion on how older women are viewed in our culture, we had a “letting go” ritual. On a piece of mushroom paper Donna had made (mushrooms being great decomposers), we wrote what we felt we needed to let go of in our life right now. I wrote down “the need to control.” It causes me so much stress in my life when I try to control how my children will act, how my day will unfold, and so many other little things in my life. The wisdom deep within me knows that it is senseless and unnecessary to be so rigid. And so these are the years for me to practice letting go of holding on so tight to the reins that really are just imaginary anyway. After writing down our symbol or words on the paper, we took turns burning the paper and throwing it in the cast iron pot to burn.
I was listening to the Sparkle Story “Someone Else’s Dragon” earlier today in which the mother has her daughter practice a ritual of letting go of the fears she has taken on that are not hers. It got me thinking about rituals. I was thinking how growing up in the Catholic Church I was awed by the ritual of the Eucharist. I knew something magical was happening when the alter boy or girl rang the bells as the priest held up the Eucharist. I remember the times when I felt the Holy Spirit very present in the Church, knowing the host and wine truly became Christ’s body and blood. And in more recent years, as I’ve attended Mass sporadically in various churches, the ritual has lost its power for me. I don’t think it’s because I’ve lost my belief, but rather I felt a disconnection from the community around me. I think what feels different about the circle of women I join each month is that despite our various beliefs, we hold the space with love for each other. There are so many churches I’ve visited in recent years that have felt so empty, and I wonder if it’s because the people have forgotten how to really connect and love one another. And so I choose now to practice other rituals, some of my own making, because wisdom resides in all of us.