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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The Divine Mother

Happy Mother's Day - to those who have biologically procreated, to those of us who failed in that quest, to those who had to let go and say goodbye to children for a multitude of reasons and circumstances, to those of us who cherish and mother projects, humans, animals and the Earth Mother Herself.

On my pilgrimage around southwest England I noted images of the Divine Mother at Chalice Well Gardens and various churches and cathedrals. For many pagans, and those who have harsh experiences of institutional religion, visiting Christian sites may be anathema. I have my peace, most times, with my religious upbringing. And, truth be told, in England and Ireland, you would miss interesting traces of the old religion as it mixed in with the new. So I was happy to chase around cathedrals trying to discover Sheela-na-gigs and Green Men, as well as witnessing the Madonna at pagan sites of pilgrimage like Chalice Well Garden and the White Well in Glastonbury where there is a Black Madonna 'Lady Chapel' in an alcove.



And not explicitly iconographic, you can sense it from the proximity of the Madonna and Child shrine to the Red Spring and Birthing Pool.





People tend to think of Sheela na Gigs as strictly pagan. But they are only found in Christian churches and cathedrals. They seem to have been a response by masons and clergy who may have embraced the new religion, but remembered the universal and eternal truths of the old one. You can find both a Green Man and a Sheela na gig on the tomb of an Archbishop in Kildare Cathedral. They are discreet - let's face it I had to lie flat on my back on stone slabs to find Sheela on his stone sacophagus! But those statements are there.


My friend Pat and I hared around Litchfield and Wells cathedrals to find two Sheelas. I had to dowse for one. And there she was above a miserichord, quite close to the high altar in Litchfield. The staff at Wells didn't even know of the twin Sheela's existence, but we found them and now they DO know!




What really astonished me though was the Madonna and Child being celebrated as part of the High Altar piece in Wells Cathedral. The conventional altarpiece features the crucifixion, but in this case it is the Incarnation. And somehow, I felt really, really pleased to see Her there. You cannot kill the Spirit. She will out!



And Incarnation is the essence of Mothering Sunday, as it is called in England. So celebrate incarnation in all its multiplicity of forms today. All Hail the Divine Mother!

Here is a modern day 'Marion Shrine' tucked away in Lough Key Forest, near Boyle, Co. Roscommon. Veneration of the Divine Mother lives on, although how it is expressed changes over time and political tideline.




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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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