One of the most pivotal points in my life as a woman came on Labor Day Weekend 1996 in a natural meadow surrounded by Western red cedar and Douglas fir trees with a creek running nearby. To get to this retreat, we had to walk down a long, winding dirt drive with all of our gear.
What I learned about being a woman that weekend changed my life. Because I was over 51 years of age and had not had my menses in the past year, I was automatically a crone.
Crones were so special! We were not to go any place unescorted in case we needed help. I had come down with a respiratory infection and someone took me to a naturopathic physician who gave me something to help me heal.
It was wonderful...helped me sleep, feel better...echinacea. I’d never had it before.
I slept a lot, virtually every break found me back in the tent, dozing, dreaming, and visioning my life to be. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so safe and so cared for. My totem animal came to me in visions. She flew to me with messages that I was loved; cared for, safe, creative...had wonderful things waiting for me in my life.
In reality hawks and eagles flew overhead, blessing us with their presence and messages of vision, prayerful joy, future, and new beginnings. We talked, ate, drummed, sang, shared, created, and then did it again. By the end of the weekend, I was changed.
One might ask how a weekend, camping in a meadow with almost 100 other women could change me so completely. The answer is simple and yet very complex.
I was in the company of women.
Women who were filled with joy and acceptance.
Women who were celebrating who they were and the stage of life they were in.
Women who made sacred space for each other.
Women, who supported, accepted, trusted, shared, and encouraged each other. Perhaps in the beginning it manifested externally but by the end of our time together we were giving support, acceptance, trust, and encouragement to ourselves.
We started gathering on Friday afternoon/evening. By Saturday evening we had celebrated two of the three stages of womanhood (maiden, matron) and were ready to celebrate being crones. Each crone was anointed with rose oil, drank sage tea, and given gifts of sage wands and a crone staff. However the most important gift to me was the time to stand before everyone and speak my truth while everyone truly listened to what I was saying.
I couldn’t remember ever feeling so honored in a group before. The words that flowed forth that evening were about how different my life would have been if when I had experienced my first blood, I had been welcomed with a celebration. And if each year I had returned for yet another celebration through all of the years and stages.
‘Who would I be now?’ I asked myself in front of these women.
'Who would each of us be if this celebration/ceremony had been a part of each of our lives as women?'
I made a commitment to myself that night that I have been mindful of keeping.
That commitment was not just to me but also to my two granddaughters. That commitment was that they would have a 14th Moon Celebration of their coming into their womanhood. They would have the blessings, acceptance, support, trust, and encouragement from the beginning. They would see and experience for themselves the power of being in the company of women, in a circle where they are honored and respected for being themselves...for being.
Each day I make an effort to let them know that they are loved and cherished, that being a ‘girl’ is special and that being a girl means that they are smart, valued, special, and beautiful. Their beauty may be on the surface but their goodness comes from within and gives them their glow.
So, the ways in which I was changed that weekend include my use of natural healing products and processes as an adjunct to my use of ‘modern’ medicine; my understanding of (at a later stage in my life) how different my life would have been if being a girl/woman had been perceived by me, my family, and society to have been of value/importance; that there are places in the world and times in my life that I can be completely safe and secure and it feels wonderful and is worth seeking out for myself; and that honoring and respecting others and their ways of doing things is at the core of peace and harmony.
I am not one who likes being without running water and flush toilets. However, I do look forward to camping out for one weekend a year, to come together in a circle, to share, celebrate, and honor myself and each other...to be in the company of women.