From The Wreckage

She was magnificent. And then. She wasn’t.

The Peter Iredale was a majestic four-masted steel barque sailing vessel. She ran aground on the north Oregon coast on October 25th, 1906. As I stood on the beach looking at her steel frame that has survived more than one hundred years, I couldn’t help but think about our nation.

We are floundering. We are running aground. Miraculously, no lives were lost on the Peter Iredale but in our shipwreck the loss of life – all life – is staggering. Will the structure of our democracy, of our country, of our values survive the wreckage of this time? What will we salvage from the wreckage?

Judith –

Call Yourself A Hag. I Dare You!

When I wrote the Crone book, A Call To Crone; Weaving Wisdom With Threads of Irish Heritage, I thought I was writing it for women around my age, sixty-eight, or older. However it seems that is not entirely true.

Just after it was printed, I got an email from a woman who had just purchased the book at Courtney Davis’ studio/art gallery and was hoping I might sign it when I was on the Hill of Tara for a workshop. I know this woman a bit. She’s in her forties. And my first reaction was, “You can’t buy the book! You’re not old enough.” It was just a harbinger of things to come.

Although I’m pretty clear that the Ireland journeys and workshops I offer are for elders, young women are constantly wanting to sign up. “I’m not old, but I’m an old soul. Does that count?” was one email I recently received. No, it doesn’t count. There is really no magic age for becoming Elder or Hag or Crone. But age implies life experiences and those are essential. Also essential is knowing that you are now in the final journey of your life, a journey that will end in death. This is not a place younger women stand, yet so many aspire to be Crone. And I am fascinated by those that truly believe all women have an inner Crone. No. They don’t. There may be seeds germinating, but these women have not begun to imagine, let alone cross, that threshold to the final journey.

I just watched a video in which a young woman, probably early forties, reads a poem, Call me a hag. I dare you! It’s long, much longer than the following few lines.

When I look at you
I see you turning into
Beauty, time, wisdom
And suffering overcome.
I see the woman I aspire to be
Endless spark of wit and fun.
You are a marvel of the universe
More beautiful every day.

If you can’t be put in a box
And refuse to comply
With how others tell you
You should live your own life
If you respect all of nature
And call it your friend
And think maybe this life isn’t where it all ends
Tell me, what is wrong with that?

No. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, as well intended as this piece might be, it feels condescending, like a pat on the head. A young woman’s myopic vision of what it means to be an Elder, Hag, and Crone. And unfortunately at this point in the piece the author moves from ‘you’ to ‘we’, claiming for herself the wisdom of the hag. Just NO!

And so once again I sit with the question, what’s going on that young women so aspire to be Crone and claim Elder wisdom? Why are they so anxious to name themselves Hag? Because they are not. They have not yet begun to step onto this journey of older age, often a rocky road. And thus the challenge.

Call yourself a hag. I dare you.

Judith –

Young Lights. Old Lights.

Greta Thunberg is shining a bright light on our environmental crisis. She is lighting a fire of attention and action around the world, especially among young people. Amazing. And a powerful reminder of the power of one. Yes. We are in trouble. The scientific evidence is both daunting and compelling.

In the narrative of this crisis, there is the accelerating loss of our natural environments. In the narrative of this crisis, there is the devastation of habitat and the loss of so many animals. In the narrative of this crisis there is the question of whether humanity will survive.

Yet largely missing in this narrative is the devastating loss of sacred relationship with the Earth – the devastating loss of human soul. This is a loss that has been forged through centuries of believing that we have dominion over the Earth. Believing that we are somehow separate from and superior to the Earth. Believing that somehow our intellect and our science will save us. 

We have disparaged, discarded, and now forgotten what the ancestors knew. And now we are paying the price. Yes. We need the young lights like Greta. We also need the old lights of ancestor wisdom. The soul of the Earth depends on it. Our souls depend on it. For indeed there is only one soul. 

Judith –

Your Genius

Hag. Crone. Genius. Just three of the many words consigned a distorted meaning on the ash heap of modern culture. There is ancient knowing that echoes in these words. Wisdom for these times. Of course I’ve written about the roots of hag and crone. Hag originally signifying holy and crone signifying crown, especially that aura of wisdom light that surrounded ancient wise women. 

I’ve also written about genius as the spirit that dwells in a landscape. The soul of a place that was present in the animals, plants, trees, wells, and rivers. Our ancestors knew the natural world to be alive with a profound spiritual essence that was both omnipotent and omnipresent. And they lived in deep spiritual connection with it. They were woven with it. And so there is this genius in us as well. Michael Meade writes about this…

The basic meaning of genius is the spirit that’s already there. The second oldest meaning is that which is just born. So when each of us is born, we’re born with a spirit that’s already there. That was in us before we came. And the strongest word in the Western world for that is genius. In India you might hear someone say Dharma. The oldest meaning of Dharma is the law written in your soul. So genius is our Dharma and the law written in us, the way we’re intended to be. …

Everyone is a genius by virtue of being born. Everyone brings a genius into the world with them. Or looked at mythologically, the genius brings each of us into the world because the genius knows why we’re here. Certainly our families don’t. Most educational institutions don’t. Most churches don’t. Most partners don’t. The genius does.

Genius. Growing up in this culture, especially within a university community, I learned that genius was all about the mind and thinking and knowledge. A revered status and power afforded to only a few people. Information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom. In these times, we need all the wisdom available to us.

Genius. Wisdom of the soul. They way we are intended to be. Your genius. A gift beyond imagining. And yet … imagine what might be possible.

Judith –

Time To Get Weird

Profound ancestral connections in Ireland. Although my biological ancestors were very present, they were part of a much larger host of ancestors. And ancestral wisdom is now very present for me. In my teaching. In my new book. 

Weird. As I am well down the rabbit hole of researching ancestral wisdom traditions, I found this insight from Michael Meade. It’s brilliant. And perfect for where I am and where I invite others to be on this Elder and Crone journey.

In old traditions those who acted as elders were considered to have one foot in daily life and the other foot in the otherworld. Elders acted as a bridge between the visible world and the unseen realms of spirit and soul. 

The old word for having a foot in each world is ‘weird’. The original sense of weird involved both fate and destiny. Becoming weird enough to be wise requires that a person learn to accommodate the strange way they are shaped within and aimed at the world.

An old idea suggests that those seeking for an elder should look for someone weird enough to be wise. For just as there can be no general wisdom, there are no ‘normal’ elders. Normal bespeaks the ‘norms’ that society uses to regulate people, whereas an awakened destiny always involves connections to the weird and warp of life. 

Weird enough to be wise. I love it. I aspire to it. And I invite my elder sisters and brothers to step beyond societal norms and be the weird our people need from us in these times. For indeed, it’s time to get weird.

Judith –

A Brush With Border Security

I tell people it’s so different in Ireland. Encounters with the police, if you can find them, are just generally more friendly and less confrontational. And this was just brought home to me. I still cannot imagine what the asylum seekers at our southern border are going through. But I now have a slightly better and visceral sense of it.

Seven months ago I applied for Global Entry. Like TSA PreCheck which is included, this allows me a faster and easier experience at airport security check points. Seemed like a good idea. Yes, there was the fairly intense and long Department of Homeland Security background check. But I didn’t think there would be any issues…until I went for the interview last week. 

When I arrived I was friendly, which is not abnormal for me. But they weren’t having it. They were civil. Nothing more. The interview was cool and efficient and predictable right up to the point where he scanned my fingerprints into the system. He raised his eyebrows. “Have you ever been arrested and fingerprinted before?” The blank look on my face prompted him to add, “even if it was a long time ago?”

Oh, crap. “Well, I was fingerprinted back in 1974, I think it was.” “Were you arrested?” “Yes.” “What for?” “Having two drivers licenses.” As I could tell this was not entirely plausible to him, I asked if he wanted the whole story. He did. 

Part one. At that time I was running a teen drop in center and my wallet was stolen. After I got a new drivers license, my wallet was miraculously found and returned. Without a second thought, and not knowing this was illegal, I put the old drivers license in my wallet along with my new one.

Part two. A few months later a dear friend from college was visiting with her German Shepherd. Tragically, he ran into the street and was killed. We wrapped him in a blanket, put him in the back of her station wagon, and found a wooded area to bury him. We were in the middle of this when we looked up to find ourselves surrounded by police with their guns drawn. Someone has seen and reported us carrying a body about the size of four-year-old Heidi Peterson who had been abducted and was the subject of a massive manhunt. You can imagine the adrenaline flowing through those officers. And although they discovered it was a dog, they really wanted to arrest someone. With two drivers licenses in my purse, that was me. I was booked and immediately released. Obviously my fingerprints are still on file. 

The TSA officer listened to all this and reluctantly accepted this was likely the truth. I thought the whole incident was, in retrospect, somewhat humorous. It was, after all, forty five years ago. He saw no humor in this at all and was clearly still suspicious when he told me I was approved for the Global Entry card. I walked away with the feeling that although not a proven criminal, I am defiantly a person of concern. 

Seriously? I’m a sixty-eight-year-old grey haired woman with inherent white privilege. What must it be like to be someone from a different culture seeking asylum? What must it be like to be labeled a dangerous terrorist before they even meet you? Well, we are seeing and reading stories of what it’s like. And it’s horrific. 

I grew up in a rather Norman Rockwell existence and my image of the police was much more like the Irish Gardai, there to protect and serve. But unfortunately my brush with border security tells me those days are well behind us in this country. The growing systemic attitude of shoot first and ask questions later, of racism and aggression, is palpable. Yes. There are absolutely good cops and officers in this system. I hope and pray they stay strong so that we may find our way back to a place of protecting and serving our people, not some fear driven ideology.

Judith –