Tag Archives: Purpose

A Year of Becoming Crone

Crone woman in mosaicI marked sixty years of life last month. I am relishing the milestone. True, a trace of mourning for my lost youth still lingers around my edges, but the circle turns ever onward and aging is life. I find I spend more time imagining my crone years stretching out before me, who I want to be as Crone, and what legacy I want to create.

The triple goddess archetype of Maiden, Mother and Crone has been much misunderstood and often reimagined. I see it as a broad metaphor, not to be applied literally, nor its increments marked so precisely to biological functions in the life span of a woman.

The Maiden embodies youthful spirit of adventure and exploration, she is unfettered and carefree. Her energy is the awakening of and to life and in that respect she is ageless.

The Mother is the perpetuator of life. She has the potential to grow a child, give birth and care for the child, but that potential need not be actualized by the process of physical birth. The Mother is Creatrix of all life. Her energy is to bring change, to keep things moving forward, to create the unfolding of life, especially her own.

The Crone, of course, is the woman of experience. She is a vault of knowledge gained though life’s lessons—often hard learned. The Crone sees the bigger picture, her energy is of comprehension, compassion, and temperance. She has, perhaps, the most revealing of all vision, that of hindsight. The Crone brings closure, a laying down of burdens too long carried.

The passage from one life stage to the next, does not erase the former. We carry with us all the ages we have been. Neither are the transitions set hard and fast in the flush or loss of hormones. Some women enter their croning earlier, some after they are much older. Becoming Crone is not about age, it’s knowing, in your deepest place, when you have arrived.

I have been hearing the Crone whispers for some time now, but events of the past few weeks have turned up the volume. The voice inside me calls, “Don the mantle and cloak, enter the circle of Crones. Your time is at hand.”

But what does that mean? Sit on my porch swing and wait for younger seekers to come ask my advice? Check my inbox for an invitation to the circle? I’m thinking not. So, like I’ve done with most everything in my life, I’m jumping in feet first. The plan is to spend this year defining the parameters of my Croneship.

Many modern adaptations of the Maiden, Mother, Crone life cycle have expanded it beyond the three archetypal phases. Two models stand out as revolutionary and the books that introduced them have become timeless classics:  The Queen of Myself by Donna Henes and The Women’s Wheel of Life by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard.

Ah, but of course! The three stages of the Triple Goddess are not the only points along the way. As on a beautiful color wheel, they are the primary hues, and between them are all of the beautiful blends—some in equal amounts, yes, but also those with a bit more of this than that, to give us all the colors of the spectrum.

The Queen lies directly between Mother and Crone. She is a powerful woman with much of the warrior about her, fighting for the right to her own sovereignty and for that of all women. From advocate to activist, she is a brave force in whatever causes she takes up.

In The Women’s Wheel of Life, Davis and Leonard give us thirteen unique archetypes, all distinct stages of the progression of blood mysteries, but again like the color wheel, the energies of each archetype strengthen the opposite aspect on the wheel. There are no less than five stages between Mother and Crone—Midwife, Matriarch, Amazon, Priestess and Sorceress.

In the Triple Goddess model, I have been more Crone than Mother for some time now. Queen felt right with her empowerment energy and capacity for the work of shaping society, but my urge to pass the scepter and crown to the next generation has become strong of late. While age alone and the death of my own mother makes me a Matriarch, the energy of Priestess and Sorceress feels much more visceral.

This makes sense to me. The Matriarch bears much of the Queenly qualities, still shaping and nurturing her family and community, while the Priestess and Sorceress are channels of Spirit. Their solo journey takes them through the deserts or to the mountain tops, they walk in the dark places, carefully listening, stirring past experience with divine truth, distilling the message that will be shared as Crone wisdom.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that true croning has almost nothing to do with natural age progression. True croning is an emergence from the depths of our self reckoning and the integration of our shadow and light, a beautiful blend allowing for all the tones. Where once we thought we knew everything, Crone shows us how narrow our vision has been.

The particular Crone energy I’m feeling is one of understanding, compassion, and acceptance that there are many paths to the same end. Between right and wrong action is a wide, gray chasm of potential for harm. I want to choose the way of least harm to myself—this precious, mortal vessel deserves at least as much love and care as I have given to others throughout my life.

I am quite ready to lay down the sword of the Amazon & Warrior, to pass the scepter and crown of the Queen to the next generation, knowing that it doesn’t mean ceding territory already hard-won. I have no doubt there are still many lessons to learn, but I believe they will be of a less corporeal and more transcendent nature.

Whether short or long, my journey to becoming Crone has begun.

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Historical Trauma Is Not A Free Pass for Creating More Harm

Reaching for the LightI belong to a lot of online communities, among them groups for writers, groups for artists, and groups for spiritual seekers. I mention these three because they come together in a hybrid practice of seeking deeper relationship with the Divine as we each know it, through creative expression.

Like other communities (both online and off) dealing with endeavors in creative and intellectual spirituality, there are sometimes concerns over cultural appropriation. Those advocating against dipping into and borrowing from culture practices not your own, encourage seekers to dig down and find their own roots, find the traditions of their heritage and culture, and practice in alignment. To do otherwise causes harm to cultures that have been historically oppressed and/or enslaved, suffered cultural genocide and/or are disadvantaged in a marketplace where white European descendants are more favored and white privilege gives advantages non-whites do not enjoy.

If you want to better understand cultural appropriation with good examples , read Pulitzer Prize Winning author’s, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Arguments Over The Appropriation of Culture Have Deep Roots.

As might be expected, there is room for disagreement and misunderstanding at every level. What exactly is appropriation? How does it cause harm? What about freedom to practice the religion or spirituality of my choice?

One example, that of Indigenous Americans’ ritual of smudging, has been talked about in every group community I belong to (note that burning herbs and incense to purify person, spirit or space is found in many cultures from ancient times to modern).

In popular culture, we think of smudging as burning sage in an abalone shell, using an eagle feather to move the smoke. But there is much more to the Native American practice of purification, including the use of not only sage, but sweetgrass, tobacco and cedar for different purposes. 

If you are not of Native American bloodlines, or were not specifically taught the practice by a Native American, it is considered appropriation to smudge in this fashion. To do so without understanding the deeper meanings and various uses does not honor the practice. Widespread practice without proper knowledge dilutes the deeper meaning. Appropriating and sharing the practice as a teacher or facilitator, even writing about it results in profit or gain, whether financially or simply by building credentials.ricky-turner-585075-unsplash (1)

I will disclose here that I have Native American (matrilineal) bloodline, Ojibwe. Though not a percentage sufficient to be enrolled in a tribe, I have been taught by a tribal member how to smudge and gifted the tools to do so. Still, what does it matter if I make that declaration? I can’t prove it. I don’t carry around a gold edge certificate stating I received the right instruction, or that I was named by an elder and welcomed by the community, nor that I participate in spiritual ceremony with them. I can’t credit my indigenous mentors when I perform the ceremony (as is often suggested) because they are private people, they don’t want their names bandied about social media or in public. Even if I were to give names of teachers, few people outside the tribal community would know who they are.

I don’t look Ojibwe. If I’m smudging outside of my personal practice and I’m questioned about appropriation, I can answer honestly that I followed the respectful path. But, so can anybody who hasn’t followed a respectful path—how is it to be proved or disproved?

Unless we want to go so far as saying that cultural practices shall only be performed by those that are obviously (visibly) of said culture as to not question their heritage, there is no way to regulate it. I don’t think anybody wants to travel down the slippery slope of entitlement or restriction per cultural identity.

This is just one example of the a chasm of ambiguity that troubles me. Any online group or community can urge right practice, they can urge refraining from cultural appropriation, teachers and facilitators can lead by example, but when compliance depends on making assumptions about another’s cultural heritage, how do we rightly proceed? Will those of us putting ourselves out there as mentors, teachers, and leaders all wear armbands issued from some authority designating what we may and may not practice?

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The thing is, there are no cultural or spirituality police in this country or within the online community—at least not any with actual authority for enforcement. Nobody is going to come break down my door and confiscate all of my herbs, my sage or incense, crystals, prayer beads, or rosaries. It won’t happen even if I’m teaching others. The choice not to engage in cultural misappropriation is entirely individual and depends entirely on the honor system—and enforcement (even attempted) is in direct opposition to honor.

As it stands now, within the online community, public conversations among and about teachers and facilitators who fall short of the desired standards in enforcing right cultural practice, often become heated, burning with accusation, demands that offender apologize and indignant flouncing.

Followers and students often have front row seats to the facilitator wars. Not good. It’s like sitting in the faculty lounge watching administration and teachers in a heated battle over classroom policy. As an online student, I have witnessed while one faction of self appointed cultural police have so harangued another over the title an imagery used in her marketing material, that she was forced to take the course down, even after making changes and apologizing.

The woman in question makes her living offering online classes and workshops, and was effectively hamstrung by her competitors, in the name of right practice. I am left wondering what is right about that?

In the example of smudging, I’ve seen many students sickened with shame and fear that they are doing something wrong if they practice cross cultural rituals in the privacy of their own home. Others are angered by what feels a whole lot like policing of the faith-based practices in which they can and cannot engage.

Teachers and facilitators, even thought leaders and bloggers, have an obligation to their students and followers and should take care to tread lightly in the territory of personal values and standards. The challenge is drawing clear lines between encouraging right practice among peers, and imposing personal values on impressionable students and followers.

Likewise, those offering their knowledge and skills  must take care they don’t fall under the spell of their own hubris; honestly there is no way to prove right or wrong in these issues and teachers who claim to know the only right way in matters as ambiguous as personal values are treading into troubled waters. Again using cultural appropriation as an example, how do we know that the increasing emphasis on bloodline entitlement, isn’t going to lead to even deeper division, harassment, and increasingly violent spaces?  

Even beyond values and right practice, in seeking to learn the pre-Christian spiritual practices of our ancestors, who of us knows the entirety of our cultural roots? My 95 year old patriarchal Auntie just received her DNA profile. There is only a small sliver of her pie that is not South Central European—and she knows her mother and father came to the U.S. from the same village in Yugoslavia. But you need only read the history of the multiple invasions of Slavic people throughout the centuries, or for that matter look at my own daughter and a nephew, who are often mistaken to be of Middle Eastern heritage, or my cousin with her very almond eyes, to realize Balkan people carry a rich mix of ancestry from East of their historical borders.

Further, my patriarchal name, though likely a boggled Americanization of something more Slavic, hints at an Irishman in the mix. Even if Auntie’s DNA seems to disprove this, who knows for sure? One contribution of Irish DNA several generations back, would become pretty watered down in all that Slavic blood. Yet, like my daughter, nephew and cousins who are visual throwbacks to ancient ancestors, could there not be spiritual throw backs as well? A family member unexplainably drawn to Celtic tradition?

Additionally, we must consider the incidence of non-biological children by adoption, and those by donor eggs or sperm. While were at it, lets not forget children born of secret liaisons and, yes, rape. It would seem, then, that if we are strongly attracted to a spiritual practice we have no apparent connection to, there may be (so called) good reason for it and we should be left to follow what our gut, or blood, is telling us.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there is a certain irony in all of this; spiritual seekers are generally quite accepting of the ideas of collective consciousness, Akashic records and even reincarnation, you’d think they’d also be accepting of being drawn to a cultural practice otherwise unrelated to present characteristics.

And let’s not discount the power of capitalism to influence the American Gestalt. We are experiencing a shift of consciousness, falling under the thrall of yet another feat of marketing magic. Test your DNA, find out who you really are! Trade in your lederhosen for a kilt. It seems we have gone from holding unity as an ideal, to becoming the much more interesting, flag bearing embodiment of our separate cultures. I suggest proceeding with caution. Go ahead and test your DNA if you’re curious, but not to use as a weapon in the war over who gets to rightfully smoke a peace pipe, or play a bagpipe.

If you are an online teacher, facilitator or thought leader working hard to establish and maintain an ethical standard among your peers, I respect and appreciate that, but please, don’t overlook the potential pitfalls. And please stop soft selling what is a very militant movement by saying people are being called in, not out. It may start as a call into the fold, but as soon as there is non-compliance, it quickly becomes a calling out and sometimes a tearing down —own that, don’t neutralize it to make yourself feel better about what you’re doing. 

When engaged in a controversial topic, stop counting those likes on your comments—accept that being in the majority on social media posts might represent a false endorsement, because those who don’t agree are either afraid to speak up or have simply grown weary of being dismissed out of hand and just scroll on by.

Admit that you are using your loud voice (because we all know what a loud voice is online even without the shouty caps), and that doing so along with with the many other loud voices of dogged insistence comes across as intimidation, regardless of the intention—own that, too. Do not soften it by calling it educating. I wouldn’t stand for an educator treating any student that way in a brick and mortar classroom.

If you, or others you know offer sound advice and information in the comments of social media posts, please refrain from later declaring that some people deserve to be paid via their Patreon or other similar monetizing sites for their contribution to the conversation. I have been a consultant in the business world. Would that I could drop facts and helpful information on people, completely unsolicited, and then send them a bill for payment.

This is not to say those who are offering insights don’t have valuable information worth monetary compensation, but perhaps a more professional approach would better serve their cause and their credibility. “I believe I have some helpful information. Here’s a link to my site with info on my experience and credentials, my hourly fees, and a payment link. If (X-number) of donations are made (or X-dolllar amount reached) I will join in the conversation.” Barring that, understand that any advice given is given freely. If he conversation doesn’t go your way and the game is no longer fun, you can’t demand payment for your ball before taking it home. 

And can I just say, if you are an expert working in your field, you should be too busy actually working to spend a day repeatedly commenting on social media.

Not that giving a tip, or buying a coffee should be off the table, we can all use the little extra income. Likewise there is a better way to encourage others to do the same“Hey, peeps. I was recently in a discussion where (name) dropped some real pearls of wisdom on us and I’m visiting (site) to buy her a a cup of coffee.” 

Finally, if you are taking it upon yourself to facilitate groups, please understand the weight of your responsibility regarding impressionable students and followers. Consider providing a concise, written/downloadable/printable statement, easily accessible in your marketing materials and also provided by email at course sign-up, listing your values, standards, and expectations in your online classrooms. Consider directing students to a well written, easily digested explanation of cultural appropriation (and anything else of import). Encourage them to do their own work, inform themselves and make their own decisions on right practice.

When debate arises within your own community of leaders and facilitators, please do not carry it over into your instructional spaces. If you feel you must make a statement, because you previously endorsed an individual or program you no longer wish to recommend, keep it simple—”I am no longer endorsing (teacher/program) because she doesn’t align with my values regarding (xyz).” Refer students and others with questions back to your provided statement of values and standards, and remind them that they have to do their own work and arrive at their own decisions.

Finally, given the room for so many unknowns in cultural heritage, please consider the fact that as altruistic and ardent as you may be in the cause, there is a huge potential for turning your passion into a bully pulpit, regardless of all good intention. Understand that we are all on individual journeys to spiritual fulfillment, and there are many different points along the way, some of us are more ready for the hard work than others. Each of us should have a wide array of online class choices to meet our current need when we are paying for personal enrichment.

Remember, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Your students will find you and you them.

As for myself, I stand firm in my conviction that past harm is not a carte blanche excuse for creating more of the same. Today’s bloodline entitlement is tomorrow’s discrimination. If all we manage to change is which culture or group is being oppressed or restricted in their choices, then there is no change at all. It is not progress and it is not healing

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Comments for this post are disabled—not because I’m avoiding dissenting opinions, nor did I write this for any ego boost derived from “likes” and positive comments. I’m not allowing comments because I don’t want this to become another showcase for the problematic behaviors that concern me.

I also want to thank those who have informed my understanding of cultural appropriation thus far (there is always more to learn), and those whose ethics classes gave me solid foundations, but I’m not going to name any—you know who you are, you are doing your work and you are encouraging and allowing me to do mine.


By the Numbers & In the Cards

Numerology Path 8

Visit http://www.buildingbeautifulsouls.com for more numerology

For a good long time in my life, I have been fascinated by the mystical—blame it on my Catholic immersion, nine years of elementary education in a Catholic school attached to a diocese cathedral. Throw in a smattering of attendance at my father’s Christian Orthodox church and you’d be hard pressed to find a more acceptable and mainstream model of ritual and magic.

Yes, magic. All of the elements of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Mass, the candles, the incense, the regalia and adornment, the chanting and repetition—all of it correspond to magical ceremony. And the high holy grail of it all?  The changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ through intention, played out in a very precise ritual? That’s alchemical high magic, baby.

Still, I am a skeptic of things spiritual; whether you call it miracle or magic, afterlife or ghost realm, as much as I want to believe it all exists, I can’t quite get there. I want solid proof.

The funny thing is, I’ve had more than a fair share of personal experiences that strongly support the mystical and paranormal, too many in fact, to list them here. But like Thomas who would not believe in the risen Christ until he could poke his finger in the wounds, I want indisputable proof. I want to see my brother or my parents materialize before me and hear at least one of them tell me something nobody on this earth knows.

My doubt doesn’t stop me from being intrigued and entertained with it all. I’ve developed a sort of take on things that fits into my rigid box. Magic happens when we access parts of our deep, reptilian brain, our rooted animal instinct. I beieve the observance, connection and logical predictions occur on a level so deep we aren’t even aware of them.

But there is an uncanny accuracy to these metaphysical means of receiving information that twangs my radar for magic afoot. I’ve had my share of hours on a therapist’s couch and as far as knowing how I tick, what my motivations and my needs are, I have to say my astrological birth chart gave me all the same information at far less the time and expense. Although, I think it’s obvious, therapy serves other purposes beyond just understanding how you tick.

I don’t read my daily horoscope, instead I prefer using a tarot deck. Even though I lean way over in the direction of tarot for entertainment, it seems more than coincidence that out of 78 cards, through the years and years of drawing from the deck, I’ll see the same ones coming up over and over again. There are cards in my deck I have never drawn for myself, but they will turn up when I’m reading for somebody else. How does that happen?

Today I found myself in a conversation about using numerology to find one’s personality and soul path cards in the tarot deck. Numerology is fun, I long ago found my birth number is 8, arrived at by adding the numbers of my birth date sequentially and then adding the two digit result to arrive at a single digit.

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Star card as depicted in Rider Waite tarot deck.

There is a twist, though, when applying it to the tarot deck. Since there are 21 major arcana, only numbers above that are combined down to one digit. So my 17 corresponds to the Star in the tarot deck. One card short of the Moon, which I would have preferred. But then, my mother planned my birth date (and those of all my siblings, there’s a whole other story in this) to fall on her mother’s birthday, a day later than I actually arrived. A number that would link me with the moon. Those who know me well, know the significance in that.

In tarot, the major arcana cards lay out a journey of sorts, beginning with the Fool, who is all about youth, energy and adventure, jumping in with both feet, never testing the water first. Innocent and unscarred, the Fool is childlike, joyful and ebullient. The Star comes along after the Tower. The Tower is a total shake-up of everything, a reversal of what’s been, the representation of it all coming down—or tearing it all down.

The Star is a transition into the next leg of the journey, the first step in a more spiritual path toward enlightenment after traversing some of the harder knocks (lessons) in life. It’s often interpreted as having faith, believing that everything has meaning and happens for a purpose. The Star is a card of hope.

My soul path reverts to the added digits, or 8. This is the Strength card, something that surprised me at first. The first time this card ever turned up for me in a reading was just recently. I don’t think of myself as strong, but in honesty I have to say that I rarely let anything defeat me if I can help it, a trait that causes others to label me stubborn. I am an Aries (the ram), fiery and determined.

What’s even weirder though, is that some decks put the Justice card at this position, the only two cards that can vary from deck to deck. My father wanted to send me to law school. Turns out I should have listened—I realized too late that I would have made a great lawyer, and would have loved it. Instead, I write murder mysteries, which is way cool too.

According to this Star and Strength combination, I am the epitome of eternal hope. Strength is a fire card fanned by the air of the Star. If that translates to never giving up, never letting anything or anybody keep me down, if it means lighting fires under myself and others, then yeah, it’s pretty much me in a nutshell.

But, I don’t believe this stuff really works . . . it’s all just coincidence, right?

 

 


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