For many of us crone conjures up an image of a hag, a witch, a bent-over, wizened old woman who spends most of her time in a rocking chair or hobbling around with a cane or a crook. She may be that, but she's much, much more than that. There are many stages of cronedom, just as there are many stages of maidenhood and motherhood. (Some of us have one foot in two realms. I can't help but think the crone wisdom helps me be a better mother to my 13-year-old maiden.)
The word crone, which is the third aspect of the triple goddess, often represented by the Greek goddess, Hecate, derives from the word "crown." As in the queen who wears the crown, the crowning of a life. We enter the crone years at about the age of 50 or when menopause occurs. In ancient times and in many indigenous cultures today, that is when women held their greatest power, because the blood did not flow anymore, and the "wise blood" of life was contained within. The word witch comes from the word for "wise" and the word hag from haggia or "holy." So, you see, at one time, before the patriarchal religions took hold, the female elders, the women past childbearing years, were considered the wise ones, the healers, La Que Sabe -- the one who knows.
It is time we re-appropriated the word crone that was bastardized and demonized by the patriarchy and elevated it to its former status as a good word, a name to be proud of since it represents a stage of life denoting wisdom, experience, power, a place of seeing, knowing, intuiting, understanding. We, who are crones, got here through hard knocks, suffering, loss, pain, as well as through life's pleasures, joys, creating life and art and words and experiences; by being maidens and mothers (even if we didn't give birth literally, all women give birth figuratively).
I had the pleasure of leading a group of women on retreat last weekend through a workshop called, "Embracing the Crone -- the Crowning of a Life." These women -- now all in their crone years -- have been meeting in circle for some 30 years, witnessing births, deaths, divorces, children growing up, graduating, marrying, births of grandchildren -- the cycle of life. And through it all they have been meeting monthly, going to the beach together, and going on yearly retreats together, where they laugh, cry, sing, dance, tell stories, play games, share their lives, and support one another through thick and thin.
During this retreat, we gathered and shared our stories, journeyed, made SoulCollage® cards to honor the Crone, danced the NIA Dance of the Crone under a full moon, beat drums and rattled, sang and chanted, made crowns, declared our power and purpose, let go of what no longer served us into the fire, and crowned ourselves with a naming ceremony honoring the Crone within.
This is the poem we created together:
Women are creators… We make families and string generations together.
Women are weavers… We weave the tapestry of life from the plain cloth of daily existence into glorious brocades of heartfelt expressions.
Women are protectors… We can be fierce in the face of adversity.
Women are healers… We accept and support each other.
Women are lovers… We embrace, nurture, and accept all mankind and Mother Earth.
Women are journeyers… We explore our inner and outer realities.
Women are alchemists… We hold the space for change and carry the story forward.
Women are singers, dancers, prophets, poets… We sing our songs, dance our dreams, intuit what lies beneath the surface, and make poetry of life.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have met these strong, wonderful women and to have shared their journey for a weekend. And I am grateful to all of the women in my life with whom I have sat in circle and who have allowed me to be Me no matter where I was on the wheel -- Maiden, Mother, Crone -- the full circle of a woman's life, full of beauty and mystery, ever unfolding.