Be that as it may
Years ago, I realized the three springtime festivals represent three awakenings, one for each aspect of the Goddess. At Imbolc, we have the Maiden awakening; at spring equinox, the Mother awakens, and at Beltane, the awakening of the Crone. The Crone is the Goddess in her aspect of the woman who is no longer fertile. She presides over the gate of death – the passage through which life exits this world, and through which it enters.
Sex and death are linked. Before sex entered the scene, living things reproduced by making copies of themselves, and a single organism could never be said to die, as long as any of its descendents existed. Once sex enters the scene, offspring are distinctly different individuals from their parents. If the world is not to be choked with new individuals, one or the other – parent or offspring – has to die and clear the decks. And of course, without sex, there's no new life to enter the world.
Events of the past months have focused a lot of attention on end of life issues. Personal friends of mine have died. In addition, we've dealt with the death of Terri Sciavo, and of Pope John Paul II. One theme that arose during the course of these stories was that of sacrifice, and of letting go.
The case of Sciavo has been portrayed in the news as a "right to die" case. Up until the day she finally died, a significant bloc urged us to "let her go". John Paul II remained conscious and lucid until his last day, and he was able to decide for himself whether or not to continue with medical support. He decided that he would let go and move on to whatever follows this life. Both of these cases share a theme of "letting go" – of a life, either one's own or someone else's. Whatever you may think of the merits of either case, the Crone has wisdom for us on this holiday.
Wicca celebrates the Wheel of the Year. We observe the festivals to attune ourselves with the ebb and flow of the seasons, but it doesn't stop there. We also become sensitive to the Wheel in other cycles throughout existence. The Wheel of the year echoes the cycles from the vibrations of atoms to the birth and death of the universe. Inevitably, in any cycle, growth ceases and dissipation ensues. At some point, the wise will allow the cycle to close and release its contents to begin a new cycle.
It's always hard to know when to call a cycle closed, and when to release that which you've been holding on to. It's harder still the more you have of yourself invested in the cycle. Parents of a comatose woman may be fighting to save her life, or they may be afraid to give up a child that has for so long defined their roles as parents. Any man on his deathbed may be afraid to give up his own life.
There are lesser sacrifices as well. Any change involves at least a small portion of death. When a new order comes into being, the old order dies. Indeed, classically, the Tarot card "Death" almost never refers to actual death, but almost always to change. And with change comes sacrifice, willing or not. There is always a trade-off, and nothing is without cost. In the Charge, the Goddess demand no sacrifice, but Her universe does, and extracts it automatically, whether we wish it or not. Any time you make a decision, you take one path, and you sacrifice the path not taken. Nor can you escape sacrifice by refusing to decide, because deciding not to decide is also a decision. The Crone's law is self enforcing.
The Crone embodies wisdom. In this holiday, when the Crone awakens and the gates of birth and death are opened, we hope that, when we decide what to bring into our lives, or to release from our lives, we choose wisely. Whatever we choose, we will pay a price. It is up to us to ensure the changes we make are worth the sacrifice of what we must inevitably destroy.