Crown the Crone!
Last month I turned 46. That’s when people start saying things like “oops, you are on the wrong side of 40 now” or “50 is coming soon”. Often disguised as a joke, but every so often with a serious tone of voice. It was the same when I turned 40. To be honest I didn’t really care, on the contrary: I gave a big party to celebrate it and had a great time! If someone says ‘you are getting old’ I always reply with ‘I hope so!’ Of course getting older isn’t all fun and games, but I refuse to give in to the negative stereotype of ‘the older woman’. People (but especially women) are tricked into being afraid to grow older. ‘Old’ being the synonym of obsolete, outdated, ugly, or worse. Commercials and adverts are trying to make us hate our aging body and be ashamed of wrinkles and grey hair. I still embrace my inner child, but growing older brings a lot of good things too. My mother often sighed: “oooh, to be young again and know what I know now…” Understandable, but I wouldn’t want to go back to when I was younger. I had a wonderful time then and horrible times too, but together it made me into what I am now. Over time I’ve learned to accept myself with all my virtues and vices. Still a work in progress though, but that’s okay. I’m slowly shifting into a new phase, and I hope I’ll be a proud and dashing crone one day!
If you google ‘crone’ the first you get is this:
The etymology is full of negative annotations: old, useless, carcass, carrion (the decaying flesh of dead animals), etc. Not a nice picture at all… but a crone is (can be) more!
Barbara G. Walters, author of ‘The Crone’, says:
“The crone’s title was related to the word crown, and she represented the power of the ancient tribal matriarch who made the moral and legal decisions for her subjects and descendants. It was the medieval metamorphosis of the wise woman into the witch that changed the word Crone from a compliment to an insult and established the stereotype of malevolent old womanhood that continues to haunt elder women today…”
In the pagan community the word ‘crone’ has a different meaning. The goddess and in her image a woman goes through three phases in order of age: maiden, mother, crone. So yes, a crone is an old(er) woman, but not the useless, ugly person from the dictionary. Quite the opposite: a crone is a valued member of society, a wise woman who earns respect. She is a teacher and a mentor.
Or, as Wikipedia explains it:
“The crone is a stock character in folklore and fairy tale, an old woman. In some stories, she is disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with magical or supernatural associations that can make her either helpful or obstructing. The Crone is also an archetypal figure, a Wise Woman. She is marginalized by her exclusion from the reproductive cycle, and her proximity to death places her in contact with occult wisdom. As a character type, the crone shares characteristics with the hag. The word “crone” is a less common synonym for “old woman”, and is more likely to appear in reference to traditional narratives than in contemporary everyday usage. The word became further specialized as the third aspect of the Triple Goddess popularized by Robert Graves and subsequently in some forms of neopaganism, particularly Wicca in which she symbolizes the Dark Goddess, the dark of the moon, the end of a cycle. In New Age and Feminist spiritual circles, a ‘Croning’ is a ritual rite of passage into an era of wisdom, freedom, and personal power.”
Does this apply to women only? No, of course not. Although society seems to judge less about aging men than it condemns aging women, it’s no secret that nowadays men are also ‘targeted’ in the same way. More and more commercials, adverts, articles and the like are focusing on men. They too are encouraged to dye their grey hair, get a facelift, lose weight and look younger in any way possible. Of course there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and your health and appearance, but there’s no need (or at least there shouldn’t be) to hide or be ashamed of getting older. Not for women, not for men.
The sage is the masculine form of ‘The Wise One’ and thus the male counterpart for the crone. You know me, all about balance. 😉 Some time ago when I was looking for chants I found a new couplet to Zsusanna Budapest’s song ‘We all come from the goddess”. Author/source unknown unfortunately, but the lyrics (sung in the melody of ‘Hoof and horn’) are:
Both crone and sage are regarded as ‘pagan elders’. They have a lifetime of experience and most of them are very willing to share their knowledge. Personally I love to listen to people who have witnessed things I only know from history books. I try to listen to them, learn and pay attention. Not only in the pagan community, but also in everyday society. I feel we should value elderly people for what they are, give them the respect they deserve, hear their stories and pass them on. When we are honouring our ancestors, let’s not forget the living ones!
Sources and interesting links:
Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crone
book: Crones Don’t Whine by Jean Shinoda Bolen – I like this review: http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.nl/2013/08/sunday-salon-shes-crone.html
book: The Crone by Barbara G. Walker – review by Ana Rundic: http://rimstead-cours.espaceweb.usherbrooke.ca/ANG553H9/Ana%20Rundic.pdf
blog: A Rolling Crone – http://arollingcrone.blogspot.nl/2009/09/what-is-crone-anyway.html
Crones Council – http://www.cronescounsel.org/
lyrics-image found on http://merrymeet.tumblr.com/