Titled: Eldering, Croning, Saging
At first I wasn’t quite sure if there would be much of a difference between elderhood ceremonies and midlife ceremonies. Shows what I know about the aging experience, doesn’t it?! Doing my research it seems almost as if the midlife rituals were rituals of independence and going inward while the elderhood rituals seem to be focused on standing in the community and providing service and affording certain privileges… the difference between dedication and ordainment.
When: A ritual of elderhood may be done at any time after midlife when a person feels it is their right and duty to take their place as an elder. This can be done upon the birth of grandchildren, retirement from a long career or other personal signals of change.
Why: This is another rite of passage that has a strong community aspect to it in that it not only offers personal change to the new elder, but asks for the recognition and respect due to elders from the community. There is a sense of tribe or community in these rituals where the new elder is taking up a position of authority, respect and leadership even if they are not clergy, as the extent of their experience and knowledge is enough to qualify them for the position.
This ritual might serve to empower elders and may allow certain privileges of dress and behavior. Since an elder no longer is expected to conform to societal norms (within reason), quirks and eccentricities picked up through the years are honored and indulged. Elders may fulfill clergy-like roles in ritual or may represent the darker deities and the cycle of death and rebirth. They become a representative of the ancestors and may need to have reached this stage to be considered for membership in certain governing councils.
One profound aspect might be similar to a vision quest where the elder is asked to spend time alone in the wilderness or asked to undergo a challenge where their fears are tested.
There may be a journey or pilgrimage involved or a particular heroic or difficult deed done.
Symbols of moving into a new stage in life or moving toward death might be given.
There may be some elements of gender as the way in which the person fulfilled their gender roles may be discussed, but other reminiscence of past tasks and accomplishments may be just as big a part.
Discussion of the new role as leader and teacher may take place
What are the general themes? Dealing with a fear of death, acknowledging wisdom, completing a destiny, black or veil imagery
An elder may, as in other rites of passage, be gifted with items from each elemental direction such as scrying mirrors, a new athame, a key, a special staff, a dark cloak or may even be given or take a new magickal name.
These rituals may be combined with a ritual for younger folk in that there may be a pairing of an elder with a youth for teaching or mentoring purposes.
Making circuits of the ritual circle as a symbol of the years past, journeys completed and lessons learned may be done.
Invoking or discussing the attributes of the crone goddesses such as Hecate, The Morrigan or Ceridwen and sage gods such as Anubis or Hephaestus may be done.
How is the person’s life changed after the rite?
After this point, the new elder should be able to fill the role of elder within their community, serving as guide, teacher, mentor, or leader. They may feel that their years have lead to a new goal in life. They may approach the subject of their own eventual death with a new kind of grace.
Whatever the change, we should always respect our elders, whether they have gone through a rite of passage or not.