This is an essay I wrote for my priestess training - a requirement for the course. I don't know if anyone is interested but here it is anyway. Kathy Jones' book (Priestess of Avalon, Priestess of the Goddess) is really good if you are interested in Avalon and Glastonbury Goddess worship.
I am a teacher to refugees in further education in London and in my teacher training, I learned that people have different learning styles: visual, aural, linguistic and kinaesthetic. I am definitely the latter. I prefer to do and experience things in a sensory, practical way and so my essay answers the question through my experiences because these are how I have truly learned about the meaning of Samhain and the Crone Goddess.
Kathy Jones, in her book, speaks of the scream of the Hag into the dark night and for me, this is a very accurate depiction of the presence of the Crone. It was Samhain 2007 when I first heard Her scream. He had been cheating and I found out over the phone to him one morning on my way to work. Unable to voice through the pain, She did it for me and those wails unleashed all hell to the extent that he said he was afraid I would kill everyone he loves and leave him standing there.
All that had happened was the screams but the woman he was cheating with crashed her vehicle into a lorry at the same time as our telephone conversation (he was not in the car with her that morning). Luckily she was unhurt.
Those were true howls of injustice and yet they held great power and so I named Her Primal Woman for many years. I envisioned Her as a hibernating feminine power – raw and ancient – stirred to awakening when a woman is in pain and can no longer speak for herself. She is our surrender, skeleton woman, spider woman, storyteller, keeper of bones that have our stories etched onto them. Giver of wisdom.
Because She was so clearly one with me, and I was in my twenties, I never imagined that She could be the Crone within. I thought that a woman’s experience with the Goddess was linear and logical. I now know that we carry the many faces of the Goddess inside at all times and that these divinities will remove the hood at the required moment.
Therefore it was only until recently that I learned that my Primal Woman is the Dark Goddess of the Yew tree. Protector of women. Keridwen. Black Nolava, with her bat, sow and hawk.
I heard her scream again in 2011 when, one by one, my friends in Syria were killed by the bombs and bullets of men. Again at Samhain and again, I screamed in the scorching fire of Keridwen’s cauldron, my old skin shedding in the flames to make me new and remove everything I thought I was so that I could go back to live in Syria during the war. I had lived there from 2008-2011 and then been evacuated when my employer realized the men were coming from the South of Syria and all around the Middle East to cause chaos. The ancient land I had fled to after my break up: Damascus – guarded by seven magickal gates and the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.
It was a difficult place to live as a woman alone practicing Goddess worship but She was as alive in the dry, barren mountains that surrounded the city as She was in the green hills of Saydnaya. The only country in the Middle East where you could find an ancient mosque and church on the same road and where Christians and Muslims lived side by side, Mother Mary was a vibrant Goddess energy throughout the city. I would also travel regularly to the desert of Palmyra, strewn with Roman ruins of the rule of the third century warrior queen Zenobia.
I lived those years in Syria with love for the ancient land, the people and the men too. But the Syrians had their voices hushed and tongues cut out by a brutal dictatorship.
I don’t know how I came to go back to living in Syria during the war. I only remember finding out about the death of my beloved friend whilst back in London at Samhain, 2011. I can still hear Her screams and feel the burning as Keridwen held me in Her cauldron. I still didn’t know She was the Crone so I called Her Primal woman and Death and told people that She had taken me back to Syria. I spent the next year and a half there, working for a charity for Iraqi refugees and trying to stay alive. Syria was stirred in the cauldron by the hands of Keridwen and the Crone’s black rod struck the land over and over. Where people had been afraid to say the word president, they now asked if others were for or against him. There was an unprecedented reclaiming of voices but where they had previously been filled with love, they now stopped and started like bullets and in turn, people separated and I heard the desert groan as it split apart to give birth to the new and the different.
The war was Syria’s hibernation period. It brought a darkness that could only end in regeneration and transformation because that is the circle of life. I am not sure why I ended up experiencing a part of that but as Kathy Jones says, facing Black Nolava is the acceptance of the dark as well as the light. In fact, this is what I left that experience with: a refusal to fracture myself for the comfort of others. It made many people uncomfortable to hear me speak of my experiences but I know that this is their fear of death, of the shadows, of the night and the loneliness of it and I think this has negatively impacted my voice. If I cannot speak of the night, I would rather say nothing at all than speak of the morning to comfort others because I don't want to partake in voicing untruth about the Goddess. She is dark and light, morning and night, our joy and our fear. In a culture of separation, I want to be the invitation to everything.
Kathy Jones speaks of the blessings of Mazoe who takes us into our shadow selves to face all that is hidden and unacknowledged. Maybe it was Her who tested me out in Syria and my commitment to helping other women to see if I would endure and persist to get to know Her. In fact, a dream I had out there has bothered me for years. I dreamed that I was looking at a frog but I was not present in a bodily form. A woman’s voice spoke to me as we both observed it and she told me I was going to ‘Heaven’. Although I do not know what she meant by that, to discover that Mazoe is associated with the frog answers a lot of the questions I had. I believe I was truly guided by the Crone.
This Samhain I am ready to enter the cauldron again because I have realized that I don’t really know who I am. Strangely enough, the biggest influences on me have been the two experiences I have described here. Who am I without the suffering and beauty of Syria within me? Who am I without those memories of chaos, death and destruction? And I have remained single for the ten years since my relationship ended.
I have an intuition that it would be futile to try to identify myself amongst these memories of the Death Crone, because She is I and I am Her.