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Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lights to Welcome Lakshmi

On November 3rd of this year, the Hindu festival of Diwali will begin. The 3rd day of Diwali is devoted to the Goddess Lakshmi. She is the supreme Mother of Earth and the wife of Vishnu who is God’s aspect of continuity (of the three persons of God, Vishnu is the one who maintains our world).
Lakshmi rose from the ocean when the gods stirred its depths using a mountain spun by pulling on a snake wrapped around its base. Appearing from the foam, she was standing in the cup of a lotus and holding one in her hand. The most beautiful of all the goddesses, she is golden-skinned, dark haired and wears a red sari and a crown. 

           Lakshmi is the intercessor for prayers to Vishnu. She is the heart of the god, and all things happen through her. The embodiment of love, she is the force that moves through all being. She brings material fortune, spiritual fulfillment, and fertility. She is Mother Earth and provides everything in it. It is as if Vishnu is an intention while Lakshmi is the power that fulfills his desire. 
           The red of Lakshmi's sari is an aspect of femininity. It is the color of the heart's river, pulsing through all creatures. Red is also the color of success in ancient cultures. Red's warmth and fire link it to the power of the Sun - the life force of the universe. Lakshmi is wearing the red of life, love, and light.
           One of this goddess's many names is Padma, the Sanskrit for the lotus flower. This is a symbol of transformation. Growing from the pond or river's bottom, the plant sends a stem shooting up into the sunlight, and crowns it with a bowl of soft petals.The flower represents the soul's release from the earth's attachments. Lakshmi is the purity  and release of life from the darkness of decay; she holds the gift of enlightenment.
            Her iconography is reminiscent of Venus. Arising from the waves as splendid women is certainly appropriate, since their births are surrounded by the waters of Earth’s womb. Lakshmi and Venus are born as adult women, fully matured and ready to bring life to the world. As an expression of ultimate beauty, they assure us that men will surrender their hearts and increase their fertility with their ardor.
A woman’s power is not oppressive, but to suggest that the godess is not as powerful as a god is to miss the point. Her skills are nurturance, providence and intercession, but nothing is possible without her cooperation. Vishnu is impotent if Lakshmi does not provide a conduit for his life force. And this form of creativity is spiritual as much or more than it is physical. If we are tempted to view a woman’s role as the power behind a ruler’s throne, we are buying into an illusion. The true source of power is hers. The fact that a man can sit in a glorious place of authority is only because the goddess has created the room, made the chair, and invited the god to have a seat! And if she is not out front, it may be that she has no need for the adulation. Content with her place and the manifestation of all of life as a gift from her being, she can find her joy in Nature and the people she births and blesses. Why sit on a throne when she can float above it on a flower?
           During her festival day in India, all houses are made scrupulously clean for purity is her abode. Lamps are lit all around the outside of the house, small lamps shine in the  windows and halls; they beckon Lakshmi from her home in the heavens. When she visits, she brings good fortune and golden coins to her worshippers.
Knowing of Lakshmi’s holy day, some of my own traditions of fall now remind me of her festival. That extra deep cleaning is done before the cold settles in and the windows are sealed for the winter. Candles decorate the mantle and table, and warm-weather comfort foods are on the menu again. Comforters , sweaters and flannel shirts reappear from the back of the closet.  And as I put my gardens to bed for the winter, I trim the dead stems so that the plant’s life force will be concentrated and unspent during the dark days to come. In my way, I am worshipping Lakshmi and preparing to ask her to bless and sustain the world.
On November 6, I will light my candles and put lanterns outside both doors. A new tradition will begin for me this year – welcoming Lakshmi to my home.

** The beliefs of different cultures and their female deities has become a source of inspiration to me. It is my own voyage of discovery, so this article is one of personal interpretation. My principal sources are:
             “Diwali” on Wikipedia. 
Diwali  - the festival of  lights. Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India,
  Patricia Monaghan’s The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, 3rd ed. 2000.Print.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Witch Hazel blooming, as it does, at the stub of the year.

Here we are, almost to the parting of the veil. I already know it, because my dreams are full of people at a distance, some of them self-defined magical people, who are projecting themselves and their doings onto the astral plane. I've met my deceased sister-in-law Debra again, smiling in the middle of a circle of grieving woman friends. Their tears pay tribute to her staying-power, but also hold her in the white waiting room before the Great Elsewhere.

I've met the Old King in his house in the woods, surrounded by devotees and his ever-changing circle. He rules by force of will, plays Obeah Man. Haven't been there this year, but he and his charmed land call me. I want to feel the dirt, to smell the fallen leaves of the forest, to hear the tiny gray tree toads singing, to see the stone circle and touch the laughing water again. I want to see fires burn at the crone's haven on the hill, a place where elder priestesses share stories, cast spells, and sleep in trailers, tarps spread out for extra shelter beneath the young oak trees. Sometimes, they welcome me to sit with them, by their cauldron. Last night, however, it was the Old King who visited. He showed me and some others the wiring in his house, the new-built part, and how sparks could be made to leap from the outlets.

And I've rubbed my eldest granddaughter's feet, handsome feet meant for barefoot dancing on earth, for shuffling through leaves, for dappled forest paths. She is mostly silent in my dreams, turning away from my words, but she did appear last night, to sit beside me for a part of my dreamtime, a blessing simply in her young presence. She is a Graduate, suspended in the void between childhood and the rest of her life, trying her wings to discover if they are strong enough to carry her away from the maternal nest, onward to place where she will make a new nest, one that's all her own. All I can do now is wish her well, as we pass through this, the time of Witch Hazel.

~~Juliet Waldron

Historical Novels with Passion and Grit


Friday, October 11, 2013

Crone Stone Soup

Have you heard the story of Stone Soup? This is the tale as my Irish granny told me and it was, she swore, the very same one that her granny told her……
A long time ago but not that far away there was a famine in Ireland. Even the dependable potatoes had rotted in the fields and remnants of families were moving to the New World across the great cold Atlantic.
In those days there were many tramps on the roads looking for small jobs or a place to shelter from the damp. On the day of the stone soup a group of stragglers had arrived during the night and set up camp in the commons.
The women went scrounging for supplies while the men tried to find work. "No" was the only reply they heard through the long day. By late afternoon the young children were crying and the older ones were looking quite desperate.
The matriarch pulled out her cast iron kettle, filled it halfway with fresh water and put it on the campfire to heat. When the water was simmering she added a smooth stone and announced in a loud voice "Our delicious stone soup will be ready in just a bit and if there's enough we'll share with all".
Then going back around to the village doors she asked again if they had any small bits to add to the pot. One woman gave her a few carrots, another donated a handful of herbs and so it went. With all the meager contributions by sunset there was a delicious thick soup that was shared by all with some leftovers for the three town dogs.

As women together we can do so much more than any one alone
We can stitch a quilt of many colours; feed a crowd with soup made with a stone
We can share our stories, snort raucous laughter, plan outrageous schemes
Then celebrate when one succeeds beyond our wildest dreams

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mythic Stages/The Crone

Crone Henge is a place where old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not. Old women are the forgotten members of our society, but in times past, they were revered for their wisdom. In fact, both words, crone and hag, came from words meaning wisewoman. It’s good to see that older women are once again claiming their place in the world, if only in this blog.

According to Moondance, crones cared for the dying and were spiritual midwives at the end of life, the link in the cycle of death and rebirth. They were healers, teachers, way-showers, bearers of sacred power, knowers of mysteries, mediators between the world of spirit and the world of form. In pre-patriarchical societies, women’s wisdom held healing power, and crone wisdom was the most potent of all. For nearly thirty thousand years, old women were strong, powerful sources of wisdom. Crones were respected and honored in their communities. Today, a crone is variously described as a woman who is post-menopausal, consciously aging, willing to acknowledge her shadow side. Crone is a term used to describe an ancient archetype, an aspect of the triple goddess (maiden/mother/crone), and the third phase of a woman’s life. When a woman is near, in, or past menopause, she is potentially a crone. The designation refers to a perspective or point of view rather than a specific age or physical event.

This crone stage is a great new journey for women as they get older, but I intend to youth, not age. The way I figure, I did the mother stage first. By the time I was five, I could cook simple meals, clean house, do laundry, feed babies their bottles, and change diapers. By the time I was eighteen, I’d changed more diapers than most women do in a lifetime. (Sounds unbelievable, I know, but it’s true. I seldom admit it, but I was the oldest girl in a very large family.)

A few years after I met the man with whom I would spend the middle third of my life, his health took a turn for the worse. I wasn’t much of a healer, but I was a stayer — I stayed with him until he died. I also helped out when my mother died. I’m now staying with my 96-year-old father. When this stage of my life’s journey is done --- this crone stage --- the only stage left for me is maidenhood. And so I am youthing. (Youth-ing, not you-thing.) I am doing what I can to foster a spirit of adventure, to challenge myself; to attempt new things; to look at life as if I am a child again, lost in its wonders.

A crone is someone who is willing to acknowledge her age, wisdom and power, but me, as I continue my mythic journey, I am acknowledging my youth, wonder, and mystery.

Whether I become a maiden or not, I’m looking forward to this next stage of my life. It will be interesting to see what I become.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Riding to Enlightenment

At least, of the geriatric variety.

Went on Saturday morning early by granny bike across town to our favorite, small local grocery store. The goat milk had come in a day earlier, and I hadn't yet picked mine up. Now, don't imagine a bucolic ride through the suburbs. I have to ride a major east/west highway where the breakdown lanes whimsically come and go, where my companions are 18 wheelers and lost tourists in RVs wobbling along with their steps down and pissed off locals in SUVs speeding with cell phones clamped to their ears, toward their kid's baseball/soccer/football/ games.

At our once famous factory, there are incursions of loose gravel and dirt humps left by deconstruction along the margins the human-powered vehicles are supposed to use. In the middle of town, where I need to travel south, I must cross two lanes of traffic in order to get to the turning lane. All that, and my rear-view mirror is busted, so I'm stealing looks over my shoulder which makes the bike wobble. After that turn is negotiated, I can take the townies' way through the neighborhoods, but this year almost every street has been torn up for sewer repairs, so there's yet more gravel, potholes, etc. to negotiate. Then, out onto the another big east/west road where the breakdown lane disappears the block before the last across traffic turn I have to make in order to reach my goal.  Here there is a small, not very useful bike rack to which I lock up, but I'm grateful to have even this provided.

I buy what I need, with a side trip to the pharmacy next door to pick up the inevitable oldster medications. Then, it's time to see whether my bags will contain a half gallon of goat milk and a head of broccoli before climbing back on the bike again. This time, fully loaded, I decide to take the back road home, through neighborhoods and the bike path. Of course, a bike path means not only something that's too narrow and not very well-maintained, but also an enormously steep hill which is tough on my less-than-perfect knees, but it's either that or brave the same traffic in reverse,  now an hour later into Saturday morning in this busy tourist town. I push my bike up the last hill, puffing away, but there are ducks down in the low water creek, amiably dabbling away, and a nice breeze ruffling the leaves of the handsome old sycamores which makes up for it.

Even the more trafficked ride into town has benefits. For me, it's a meditation on survival and a task which involves, in the strictest way, that my attention focus on the now. There's no place for small worries or for rumination--or even for fear--when those 18 wheelers go rumbling past and I'm negotiating yet another gravel patch. I'm tired when I reach home, even though it was just a few miles, and sweaty, too. Still, there's a sense of mastery, and even of tranquility, when I complete this mundane trip. After all, my body can still work for me, and I made it safely home again.


Juliet Waldron
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