Edition #61: Weaving Webs and Turning Over Stones
Creating The Webbd Wheel: Elders
I grew up without healthy elders or healthy parents. I am not alone. Few live in multigeneration family groups and our unhappy culture of superficiality and consumerism is not a context in which human connection easily roots or thrives. I envy those who have wise and seasoned elders of any kind in their life. I’ve always longed for a grandmother, an aunt, or any kind of elder from whom I could receive guidance and understanding.
I don’t have deep roots in my family. I can’t make a connection with the few names and faces of ancestors I know about. If my own parents and grandparents find or found me unlikeable, if not unlovable, it’s hard to imagine any of my ancestors wanting to acknowledge me as family. I never thought of myself as an orphan – I’ve always known I’m not -- but I’ve never seen myself as anything other than unwanted by my family.
In spite of this, I have found mentors and elders in books. In stories. In mythology. The first of these powerful guides was Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Women Who Run With the Wolves was given to me, ironically, by my father when I was a young woman. I still have that original, battered, dog-eared, highlighted copy. It was a revelation. It opened up a whole new world. And it introduced me to the power of oral stories with their rich symbology, archetypes, cultural texture, and layered meaning.
Even before that, though, as a child, I adopted elders from the stories I read, from the Green Knowe series by L.M. Boston to Mary Poppins.
The Webbd Wheel is all about connection and I’ve woven together handfuls of threads from various cultural mythologies, exploring family connections and disconnections, tracing relationships, creating bonds of friendship and love between a wide cast of characters. In post #61, Jenny finds in Minerva a teacher and, ultimately, a friend. Essentially an orphan who has only known true affection from Rumplestiltskin, Jenny has lacked elders to show her the way into self-sufficient, confident womanhood. She’s lacked a model and a guide old enough to have learned some wisdom.
I believe many of us are like Jenny. We long for elders to teach us, ground us, and connect us to generational history, wisdom and stories. Old age has become a burdensome thing, a time in which we understand we’re no longer relevant. We have nothing to contribute, nothing to offer. The lifetime of experience we’ve accrued is without value. The generational connection is disrupted, if not amputated, and young and old alike are impoverished. Elders need young people and young people need elders.
I also believe boys are in desperate need of healthy men to show them how to become men themselves. As a single mother, I was vividly aware of the turning point when my sons were teenagers and outgrew what I could give them in terms of guidance. They will always need my love, certainly, but I could not teach them how to be healthy men.
The same is true for girls. Girls need healthy women to teach them what they need to know. This is why Rumplestiltskin has released Jenny to Minerva. It’s time for him to pass on her education and care to a woman. He has protected Jenny, watched over her, companioned her, and loved her, but he cannot teach her how to realize her potential as a spinner or a woman. His ability to recognize this and leave her signifies the depth of his love.
I love a pantheon, a collection of gods and goddesses. “Pantheon” is defined as divine figures of a people or religion collectively. Maybe what I have is a super-pantheon. I see no reason why Baba Yaga (Slavic) should not interact with Odin (Nordic), for example.
If my need is reclamation and regeneration, I can turn to Nephthys, so old she’s returned to childhood. If I want no-nonsense, straight-talking, bawdy guidance through the brutal realities of life, Baba Yaga is the one I seek. If I need to return to my body and remember to laugh, the trickster Buabo can help me. Hecate stands at crossroads waiting for me to make a choice. Blodeuwedd reminds me to be wild, to be free, to be unashamed. Demeter and Mother Mary can assist with the anguish of motherhood, the dullness of depression, and the full expression of nurture and abundance. For every need I can find an elder to call upon, and I do. This is a big part of my spiritual practice: researching, reading, imagining, petitioning, and bringing these archetypal faces of the Divine to life in my mind and in my stories.
They are my spiritual family, my soul family. We are women together.
Some species of spiders, during their life cycle, lay egg sacs and die, leaving their webs to drift and drape like old lace. When the babies hatch, the wind blows them hither and thither in a process called ballooning, allowing them to find a new place in which to grow, spin webs, hunt, and mate. Sometimes the web of family we’re born into cannot sustain us or itself, and we must hold tight to a strand of silk and leap into the world, the wind, the water, to find a place to build a web we can call our own, a strong web of good silk that will hold us for as long as we need it.
Turning Over Stones
Whom have you turned to in times of confusion or trouble?
Who has been a healthy elder in your life?
Who is your favorite god or goddess?
What kind of elder would you like to be? What wisdom could you teach?
Leave a comment below!