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Metta’s Rewilding

Welcome, dear readers, to another month of taking metta off the meditation cushion and out into the world.

November had me feeling all ages at once learning from a new mother in Metta’s Fourth Trimester, while December found me contemplating another female life season: cronehood.

Regular readers may remember Sowing the Seeds of Metta, which described an outdoor summer solstice ceremony celebrating the longest day of the year in June, hosted by a local goddess temple. That same group organized an indoor winter solstice ceremony celebrating the shortest day of the year this December. After several weeks hibernating in the wake of workplace politics at the organic regenerative farm I’ve been living and working at since April, an invitation to help welcome back the light felt like a good reason to venture out of my makeshift momma bear’s cave.

After the summer solstice, I became friendly with the temple mother—a term used for the woman who oversees the volunteer stewards for the temple (known as melissas)—who first introduced me to Cuda, the local Earth Mother goddess in the Cotswolds, and taught me how to invoke her when gardening. We met up from time to time at the temple or the farm or the weekend farmers’ market stall, where I helped to sell organic produce, and then, after she broke her foot a few months ago, at her flat. Covered in goddess artwork, crystals, and even a purple patchwork sofa nestled in the former fireplace, it’s as inspiring to visit as the temple itself.

Our conversations are my favorite kind, covering every topic under the sun uncensored over tea and laughter and the occasional biscuit. Before joining the temple and moving to the area after retiring from care work, she had done much spiritual exploring in various Christian denominations and was interested in hearing what had drawn me to Buddhist meditation.

Housebound until she could safely walk again, she opened up about the spiritual politics she’d encountered over the years, which echoed my own experience of politics on the organic farms where I volunteered in the last year-and-a-half. While it felt sweet to discover a kindred spirit, it also felt bittersweet to discover how female shadows seemed to crop up everywhere.

She shared her personal observation that much of the political fallout we’d both experienced was due to an imbalance of feminine and masculine energies, particularly the suppression of the feminine. Thinking back to the domestic violence, animal cruelty, frustration, game-playing, bitterness, and depletion I’d witnessed in women on this farming journey, I agreed wholeheartedly and wondered whether these were an embodiment of a more universal imbalance of how agriculture has treated the Earth over time.

When I asked what her favorite blessing or ceremony was to perform in her role as temple mother, the answer took me by surprise: purple tents! Apparently, welcoming women into their cronehood was both hugely satisfying for her and particularly helpful to women after menopause. 

Although I’d heard the term crone before it was usually derogatory, so I asked what it meant to her. She read me a touching poem she’d written about reaching a stage of no longer fearing voids or what was expected of her, whether that be an empty nest, misbehaving with integrity, or even death.

Listening to her poem sparked a happy personal epiphany of reading Clarissa Pinkola Estés’s wonderful book Women Who Run With Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype (Ballantine Books 1996) for the first time when I was 21, and prompted me to revisit what she had had to say about crones:

Clarissa Pinkola Estes suggests that the word crone may derive from the word crown (or, la corona). While a crown is known as a circlet that goes around the head and establishes one’s authority as a leader, “before this understanding, the crown, la corona, was understood to mean the halo of light around a person’s body. La corona was considered to shine more brightly when a person was clear, filled with love and justice.” Thus, Estes suggests, the Crone is one who reflects this enhanced degree of clarity and in/sight.


In our respective ways, we were both stepping back from our day-to-day realities to regain perspective and ponder next steps in the face of unexpected voids: the temple mother wondering “what next?” if the temple premises had to close in the new year due to financial pressures, and me noodling “what next?” after realizing that this organic farming chapter of my life was drawing to a close and I no longer wanted to establish my own smallholding.

And so attending the winter solstice ceremony felt a fitting opportunity to generate metta for any imbalances of light and shadow, give and take, masculine and feminine energies; yin and yang of all kinds.

On arrival at the temple on the shortest day of the year, it was heartening to see that so many women had made the effort to attend considering how frantic the run-up to Christmas and New Year’s can get for many. The youngest was six, and the eldest in her 80s.

During the ceremony, every woman present was invited to light a candle with an intention to welcome back the light for the world. As I silently mulled all I had recently learned sitting with a new mother and a new crone and my own new void, my intention distilled into “may all receive what they most need to grow.”

Over a private cup of tea with the temple mother afterward, she probed whether I had received any sense of next steps yet. I confessed that I felt frustratingly still in the dark on that score. She then gave me this wise reassurance: “If you genuinely didn’t know what next, you’d be feeling curious. Feeling frustrated, however, tells me you’re close—that some part of you already knows but hasn’t remembered yet.” 

Last month, a new mother inviting me to think of myself in labor was precisely the metta-phor I needed to let others’ dramas fall away and create some cave time for myself. And this month, a new crone reminding me that an older and wiser me already knew what my next step was was precisely the metta-phor I needed to hear to feel at peace with my personal rewilding.

One of the celebrants had mentioned that the following morning a local church would open its doors for people to walk a pagan solstice spiral. Intrigued, I turned up first thing and unexpectedly had the church to myself. I picked up an unlit tealight to carry with me as I released 2023, walked the giant spiral on the floor made of evergreen tree branches clockwise towards a central candle, lit the tealight, walked it out counter-clockwise to welcome 2024, and placed it around a world globe.

With the sun slowly dawning through the stained-glass windows all around, I welcomed the new light for each next step.

And so, dear readers, whatever inner and outer imbalances we may all be currently facing, please remember to nurture yourselves with the tenderness of a new mother and walk with the self-sovereignty of a new crone as we all step into the wilderness that is 2024.

Or, to metta-morphose the lyrics of Annie Lennox’s “Step By Step:” 

Step by step
Day by day
Mile by mile
Go your way

 Just like a new excursion
(I know you’re hurting)
Upon an open road
(I know you do)
I’ve got the
metta to take me
(I know you’re hurting)
Just where I want to go
(don’t let the bad thing get to you)

C’mon baby keep moving on
C’mon baby keep on
Keep up . . .

See more 

Crone (Wikipedia)
Toni Morrison interview on Woman.Life.Song with Clarissa Pinkola Estes and others (2000) (YouTube)
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
The Power of the Crone. . . courtesy of Clarissa Pinkola Estes (YouTube)
Warning, by Jenny Joseph (Scottish Poetry Library)

Related features from BDG

Acknowledging Anger and Developing Compassion
Spiritual Encounters: In Memory of Cui Xiuwen
Yasodhara: Retellings and Hagiographies of the Buddhist Feminine
Fearsome and Impeccably Coiffed: Centering Women in Yasodhara
The Fierce Power of the Divine Feminine: Lama Tsultrim Allione

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