07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Friday, August 3, 2012

Women of the 14th Moon

My Horse Hide Drum
Overhead an eagle circled the encampment it’s eerie cry alerting me, calling attention to its elegant flight. I lay on my sleeping bag, atop an air mattress in a tent watching the elliptical pattern of the majestic bird through an open flap. A drum beat in the background reminded me it was time to return to the circle. As I left the tent, a younger woman approached me and respectfully asked if she could escort me to my place with the crones, the elder women being honored this Labor Day Weekend. Later, at the communal meal time, I was ushered to the front of the line along with the other crones. Throughout the weekend I was given preference, was treated with deference, and was shown my value in a myriad of ways.

This magical time in my life was in the mid-90’s when I attended my first Women of the 14th Moon Ceremony or Celebration.

Friday night, we were told the history behind this gathering. Three California women from Jewish, Celtic, and Native American backgrounds were concerned that women were not celebrated or honored in our society. They did more than talk or complain. They acted. And from their creativity came the bones of The 14th Moon. The Ceremony I attended was brought back to the area by three NW women who had traveled to California to attend one sponsored by the original group.
Women of the 14th Moon is about women coming together: leaving husbands, children, significant others, jobs – their responsibilities behind. Traveling to the meeting place in cars, trucks, RV’s, they pitch tents, sleep on the ground, in the back seat of their cars, in their RV’s. They bring food to share in the communal meals. But most of all they bring themselves and a willingness to experience what it is like to be surrounded by caring compassionate women and accepted and honored for no other reason than because they are there.

The three phases of womanhood are honored: Maiden, Matron, Crone or Elder.
My first 14th Moon Ceremony had 100 women in attendance. We sat in a circle and introduced ourselves through our maternal lineage.

I am Judith Ashley, daughter of Jean Elizabeth, granddaughter of Ester, granddaughter of Grace, great granddaughter of Mary Donohue, niece of Ruth, Helen, and Margaret, Grandmother of Kayla and Mariah. I come from a long line of strong women who have endured and thrived.

Maidens, young women who have had their first menses, are introduced to the circle of women by their sponsors (mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends). They also introduce themselves and share what they bring to The Circle and the world and before they sit down they ask for what they want from the other women. Sometimes it’s as simple as a word of encouragement, sometimes it’s a bit more complicated – an idea on how they can move forward with a part of their lives. A highlight of my many 14th Moon experiences was introducing my granddaughters to the circle.

Matrons are the ‘worker bees’. They are mothers, wives, or women who are 25 years of age. They have their own special time when they are in the center of the circle and are honored for what they bring to their lives and the lives of all they touch.

My Crone or Wise Woman Staff - August 2012
And last is the ceremony for the crones. Crones are at least 51 years of age and one year has passed since their last menses. At some 14th Moons the Maidens massage scented oil into their hands and serve them sage tea. The Circle gifts first-time elders with a staff and often the other women make items to decorate them. The highlight of every 14th Moon Ceremony I’ve attended is when each Crone stands and shares her wisdom with the entire circle.
I remember vividly my first Women of the 14th Moon Crone Ceremony. I stood, holding my new staff, looked out at the assembled women, and wondered aloud what my life would have been like if, when I had my first menses, my mother had brought me to a circle of women where I would have been welcomed, honored, nurtured, mentored, and held in high-esteem for no other reason than I was a woman. 

In the years since, I’ve attended eleven 14th Moon Ceremonies. Each has been different and yet each has been the same. There have been challenges in attending some (I’m no longer eager to climb in and out of a tent and up and down off the ground or use a port-o-potty in the middle of the night) but regardless of the challenges, each has given me a gift. A gift of a time away from the realities and responsibilities of my daily life; a gift of time where I am welcomed and valued for being a woman; a gift of a few minutes where my words are listened to and honored because they came from me – an older woman, an elder, a crone or wise woman.
Judith Ashley

My first 14th Moon was held on Labor Day Weekend and there are several being held in Oregon this year on Labor Day. If you are interested in learning more, ask around. Women of the 14th Moon events are happening all over the world. If you can’t find one near you, let me know (JudithAshley@Comcast.net). If you live in the Northwest, I'll connect you to a Women of the 14th Moon celebration. And if you live elsewhere, I'll send you information so you and a group of women can host one yourself.

© 2012 Judith Ashley



B. A. Binns said...

OMG, I'm a CRONE!!

Judith Ashley said...

Otherwise known as an Honored Wise Woman...someone to be respected and sought out by younger women and men of all ages. In other times we were the leaders of our clans, tribes, societies. Our men did not go to war without first consulting us.

BTW: You make an excellent crone, elder, wise woman, BA.

Sarah Raplee said...

What a beautiful post! I could picture this lovely gathering of women and feel the love and friendship flowing.

Are these gatherings a modern take on an old tradition or did the three women come up with the idea on their own?

Sounds lovely!

Judith Ashley said...

These three women came up with the idea of celebrating being women. They looked at their own spiritual traditions for inspiration. Every 14th Moon is a bit different because the leader (or Intercessor) uses her spiritual traditions in the ceremonies.

However, the idea of honoring the phases of womanhood is old. Anita Diamant's The Red Tent is one of my favorites that shows early traditions.

Paty Jager said...

What a wonderful way for women, especially the young ones to learn about womanhood and how strong we are.

Diana Mcc. said...

Beautiful, beautiful post! What a wonderful way to spend your Labor Day weekend. Blessed Be!