I’m scared, but not as scared as I was while waiting for the first few ceremonies to begin. I have decided that no matter what the shaman offers me in his little silver cup, I will drink only a modest mouthful of the Ayahuasca brew. I wait for my turn in the circle to come, and pad over in my bare feet to where the shaman sits. He confers briefly with his assistant, and hands me the tiny cup. It contains just exactly a mouthful of the brown, lumpy goo known as The Medicine.
I walk back to my mat within the circle, suppressing the urge to vomit. I note that the taste of Ayahuasca is getting less tolerable for me each time I drink it. I sit up straight and call my Guides to me. Snake has been a long time friend and teacher, and he sits curled in front of my crossed legs when I close my eyes to check in. This will be the last time he ever sits there, although I am unaware of that now. I pray, once again, for gentleness as I wait for the Medicine to arrive.
I begin to rock back and forth as the telltale ringing begins in my ears. The shaman’s voice is huge, rippling, as he sings. Colors come then- jagged geometric shapes of intense teal, aqua, blue- all around my head. Lovely. The colors are accompanied by nausea, and I think I may vomit, but I do not. I hear a whisper inside my head, softly at first but then louder. Repeating, like a mantra “trust the Medicine, trust the Medicine”. I recognize that this is the voice of the vine- of the Grandmother herself, and I am honored and humbled. The vivid colors now make shapes like a Spirograph, a game from my childhood. The shapes turn and spin and shimmer, wildly kaleidoscopic. Nausea comes and goes. I lie down and cover myself with a blanket.
How long I lay there with the colors I cannot say. When I come back to some awareness, I am crying. Actually, I am not crying in the traditional way, with choking sobs and moans. Instead, my eyes are simply crying for me. A constant stream of hot, salty tears run down my cheeks, wetting my neck and pillow. I understand that I have been holding onto a lot of sadness, and have a lot of crying to catch up on. Grandmother whispers to me that my body can care for itself, and it does. For the rest of the 4 hour ceremony, my eyes cry for me, steadily and constantly, with or without my attendance.
During this stretch of time, I receive many teachings from the Medicine. The primary message to me this day is that it is time to say goodbye to the woman I have been for the past 30 years. Time to release the blood, the cycle, the bonds of being woman. Time to step up into the place of the Elder, the Wise Woman. There, she told me, femininity is about dignity and power, softness and understanding. I cry for my woman-self, curled up on my mat with the last of the days light streaming though the open window. I cry deeply, sobbing into my pillow to muffle the sounds of my heartache. I cry all my regrets, all my shortcomings, all my bad choices. I feel held as I cry- held by the singing of my sisters around me, held by Grandmother. There is no hurry, I can cry for her. When my sobs diminish I find myself standing at the edge of a new pathway…
Maiden, Mother and Crone, the three phases of being a woman. The transition is sometimes painful from one phase to the next. We leave our innocent childhood behind as our bodies begin to bleed. We then spend 35 or 40 years in the Mother stage of womanhood, a place of fertility and sexuality, where many of us are focused on reproduction, family, and our mate(s). During these years we bleed in concert with the Moon, every 28 days, caught in a reproductive cycle and governed by our hormones. Maybe we give birth to children, maybe we don’t. We might have careers, perhaps not. Regardless, we are the mothers, lovers and caregivers of the world.
The Crone traditionally has two faces in our culture. She is the ugly, wrinkled and wart-riddled protagonist in so many fairy tales. Crone is the scary, long nailed and bent fingered witch who flies in the night. Crone can help you or hurt you at her whim. Conversely, Crone is the grandmother, in her apron, baking cookies. She is sweet, docile, fragile. Neither of these archetypes describe the reality of today’s Crone.
Crone is the wise woman who has seen a bit of everything and has achieved wisdom to accompany her knowledge. She is no longer slave to her cycles and hormones. Crone has often learned how to live simply and in solitude with deep satisfaction. Crone is the elder who now has time to dive deeply into the Gifts of the Divine Feminine: Intuition, magic, wisdom.
I always thought I would age gracefully. I had been told in previous conversations with my own Spirit Helpers that I would not reach my full potential as a Healer until menopause. And yet, as my hair starts to grey and lines appear in my face, I sometimes find myself mourning my woman-self as I face the transition into Crone. I miss my estrogen- the ups and downs of it, the roller coaster ride- even as I sink deeply into the relief of being more grounded with less of it.
We are living longer these days, and retirement has a new meaning. Women are retiring from being moms and wives and finding new and meaningful careers. People 55 and older represent the highest number of new business owners. Many women in their later years win hard-fought battles with illness and disease, and find themselves with the gift of 20 or 30 more productive years ahead. Other women completely discard the cloaks they have worn previously and discover entirely new ways of being in the world. The world needs empowered women of all types if we are to re-balance the patriarchal energies that currently dominate our Earth home. Go on, Crone, own your power. The world needs you.
[Author's Note: My purpose in these writings is to share my personal experiences. I am not suggesting that working with plant entheogens is an appropriate path for everyone. In fact, I caution anyone who wishes to work with these plants to do so only after great consideration. All people considering this path of exploration should work diligently to find authentic healers to work with. Persons with addiction issues, those who have been diagnosed with mental illness and people with deep emotional issues should work directly with healers who have the knowledge and professional background to address after-effects that may arise from this profound work. All photos posted are attributed to their original source(s) and are not mine.]