Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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Bee Smith

Bee Smith

Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    

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Lunasa Dreamtime

It is Lunasa in a week's time. Here in Ireland the hints of autumn have come early. The billberries are already plump. My husband has cut down some rye grass for me to make harvest decorations. The rowan berries are already reddening.  Everything in nature feels a bit rushing the season, early, out of sync somehow. The actual weather has been bucking previous summer trends as well.  We have had long spells without heavy rain, only soft smatterings, more extended bursts of sunshine than unusual, but also warmer and more humid spells, with lots of oppressive low cloud. Which may not be so unusual since our celestrial, astrological weather is pretty maverick right now, too. But this summer season has also felt like an extended dreamtime to me.

I know that in some places readers are drowning in record rainfall. My friend in Arizona has endured 50C/120F days with only water condensers to cool them down. The hot, humid NE USA means my friend with MS is very grateful for supermarkets that are open 24/7; she has to avoid the heat of the day to do shopping since that might trigger an episode.

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The Cailleach, the Cloak and Motherlines

You might not think an academic conference would be the best place to go and drink from the well of the Cailleach, to gather her cloak of belonging about yourself, to celebrate your motherline - but actually, it is the very best place as I found over this weekend's Full Moon. Over the course of the conference (July 6-9,2017) the themes of making visible the invisible, giving voice to those who have been silenced, and naming the nameless recurred again and again for me.

I have come reeling back from NUI Galway, fresh from the Motherlines conference instigated by MIRCI (Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement.) Back in the spring I was invited by Prof. Andrea O'Reilly to speak on a keynote panel with my presentation entitled "What My Mother Taught Me." But what a wealth of thought provoking feminist presentations to stretch one spiritually, intellectually, psychologically!

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Danu, Crones and Discernment

The long days and short nights bring a whirl of external activities. Shortly before Summer Solstice, on 18th June, was the feast of the goddess Danu, for whom I have a special devotion. I consider her the local goddess since it is said that her tribe, the Tuatha dé Danaan, landed in what became known as Erin, in the mountain bounding the parish I live in. I think of Danu as the Crone of Crones, the Grandmother Goddess over all. Over a period of spiritual discernment I perceived her as matron over what I call The Age of the Crone.

Slieve Anieran, or the Iron Mountain, overlooks Ballinagleragh and Drumshambo in County Leitrim, and it is atop this mountain it is said their ships of silver and gold landed. But they burnt their boats and stayed until they disappeared into the sídh after the Second Battle of Moytura when the Milesians defeated them. The Bronze Age had truly arrived I suppose. Perhaps this was when Danu's feast day was on the wane and Solstice celebrations came to the fore. The Grand Old Woman, the gift giver, began to be less valued. New gods and goddesses came to be worshipped.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith says #
    It is all grist to the story mill. Since it is pre-history there is neither propaganda or any written record. Just the stones and
  • Andrew
    Andrew says #
    I've always thought of the defeat of the Tuatha as the coming of the Iron Age because of the Fae hatred of iron. The Tuatha retrea
  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith says #
    The Iron Age is a bit of a late comer at 700BC. It isn't that the Fae hate iron. They need iron to break ties irrevocably with a p
  • Andrew
    Andrew says #
    But isn't iron considered deadly to the Fae, or at least allergic to it? There is also contention as to when Celts (Milesians, be
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    This is very beautiful and I really liked the part about discernment. It made me tik, and appreciate the ability hat develops over

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A Council of Crones

Even wise women need wise women. Life likes to mix things up. Including messages. People are complex critters. If only they could be as straightforward as taming feral cats! To navigate life I have my council of crones.

I am that most fortunate of women who has collected and maintained connections with smart, savvy, talentd, empathic and compassionate women who are scattered across many continents. They come from varied life and professional experience.  Not all have grey hair yet. But what they share is the wisdom of the cailleach. Each has been to the brink, eyeballed the abyss, didn't blink, and come back to tell the tale.

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Bealtaine In Bloom

Just in perfect timing for Bealtaine cross-quarter day, on our bank holiday weekend here in Ireland, the hawthorn blossomed in all its blushing beauty. I was over at Newgrange for Wise Woman Ireland Weekend. Walking along the lane that leads to the Brú, the air was heady and heavy with the blossom's scent.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Newgrange.jpg

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Celebrating Aging at Bealtaine

The maidenly May Queen. The fecundity of the land. The sacred union of masculine and feminine.  It seemed a bit counterintuitive that in Ireland, Bealtaine, the month of May, is a month celebrating creativity in people who are well over the age of 50. Beataine is the time of year when crones rock!

All over Ireland there are arts activities aimed at those who are of pensionable age. For instance, the Hawkswell Theatre in Sligo is offering weekly acting classes in May for €30! That is completely affordable for someone on a state pension. All over Ireland there are arts activities that celebrate our creativity as we age.

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A Crone's Sponsers

After autumn equinox I consciously looked for crone models as 'sponsors' for my croning. When I had my confirmation at age 12 I had a sponsor's hand on my shoulder. Now I wanted that virtual, spiritual hand on my shoulder as I crossed this threshold place. I needed some Wise Women at my shoulder. So I went researching, meditating and seeking my sponsers in the weeks before my Samhain croning ceremony.

The Cailleach Beara is an obvious starting point and certainly fulfilled the sponsorship role for my fellow crone.  But I had this intuitive niggle that it wasn't quite right.  On some level I needed not just a mythic witch or goddess. And then I went to Yorkshire on a visit and visited Mother Shipton's Well in Knaresborough.

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