Did you notice the elaborate protocols set in place for the ten
days following the death of Queen Elizabeth?
Every step has been prescribed, within an hour of her death, from the different locations for her body to lie in state, to precise timing, and the sequence for Prince Charles to step fully into his role as King Charles the Third.
Did you wonder why?
Transitions can be turbulent times, potentially dangerous even. When an old order ends and a new order has not yet been established, anything can happen. Anarchy may break out.
In the case of British royalty, accession rituals ensure that certainty steps in quickly and stability is maintained.
Seasonal transitions can be turbulent as well, especially the shift from winter into spring, which is full of sudden reversals. Frost or snow nips many a tender bud that was enticed by the lure of warmth. Icy winds threaten new lambs, snatching away any gentle welcome into life.
Nature is not subject to rules of accession
This is why from ancient times people have needed rituals to provide steadiness and assurance during times of seasonal transition. Rituals help us to participate in the changeover, to release the season that is passing and with faith, welcome in the new.
It is the same with life transitions
Death can occur in any season. My older sister died half a day before the Queen and I was unprepared for a strange feeling that rushed in with the grief.
As I wandered from one room to another, I realised the feeling was disorientation. An old order had been disrupted.
As head of the family of five children, my sister had felt like a protector, the one in charge. Without her, we needed to re-constellate. There were no prescribed steps for doing this, and no accession guidelines for families. However, a spontaneous reaching out to one another is taking place, and new connections are being formed.
Photo credit: Anne Ruffell
The Queen’s role
On a much larger scale, for her loyal subjects, the Queen represented a protector. There are, of course, those who saw her as a figurehead of an obsolete institution; yet for many, she was someone who touched their lives in a personal and memorable way.
In 2018 I had a glimpse of that side of the Queen. She was in the Tower of London, being interviewed for a BBC documentary as she watched film footage of her 1953 Coronation.
Out of their case came the crown jewels, and as the Queen held in her hand two pearls that belonged to the doomed Mary, Queen of Scots, she commented rather wistfully that the pearls were ‘not very happy.’
‘They’ve just been hanging out here for years,’ she continued. ‘It’s rather sad . . . the trouble is that pearls are sort of living things and they need warming.’
The Queen knew her pearls. Every day she wore a triple string, one of three that she owned. She knew how to keep living things warm in the face of disruptions and hurts, attacks and loss.
She knew how to keep the Throne warm and alive, a place of stability.
For this, she is remembered with affection.
A blessing for you at equinox
There is a moment in the seasonal change when balance occurs. At equinox, light and dark are equal in both northern and southern hemispheres.
May you find balance at equinox, wherever you are.
In the north, may you find relief from the heat.
In the south, may you find relief from the cold and the floods.
May you find a place within that brings stability through all seasons.
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature
— the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.
Books for the seasons of life
For guidance in aligning with the season of life that you are in, or about to be in, my Seasons of Life books are there to help you.
The Pomegranate Journal: the art of getting older one day at a time is my latest book, described by one reviewer as ‘a lovely book: intensely personal and intimate, yet providing so much space for the reader to engage with. . . . a treasure and absolute pleasure to read!’
Growing into Wisdom will guide you through the significant midlife crossing that most people experience in their late 40s or through their 50s.
Spirited Ageing will take you into your 60s and beyond, and prepare you for a life-enhancing approach to growing older.