Increasingly contemporary women, post menopausal and older, are referring to themselves as “Crones,” harkening back to the era of women’s spirituality–a time that preceded patriarchy and Christianity.
This era is often called “The Age of the Goddess.” It was most predominant in ancient Crete where a peaceful women-lead society thrived for thousands of years. The stages of a woman’s life were divided into maiden, mother and crone, with the crone being the most powerful because she inhabited the age of wisdom. Women were revered for their capacity to give birth, to practice compassion, and, in their old age to administer to the dying.
Once patriarchy came along, ushering in male ascendency, women’s elevated status had to be challenged. Female strengths were made pejorative. The negative label was most evident in the way the Crone became maligned. The old woman was no longer sacred. She became ugly: a hag, and a witch. She was seriously marginalized, even killed if her influence was suspect.
The Crone stereotype persists today. Where wrinkles were once a badge of honor, they are now a source of humiliation for many women. The wise, outspoken Crone who guided her village has been replaced by the stereotype of the “sweet little old lady,” who makes no waves, who makes herself practically invisible.
Barbara Walker, author of The Crone, posits that the Crone’s role of ushering people into their death threatened the male ideological denial of death. Hence it became necessary to eradicate the Crone’s connection to a sacred death.
As older women find their consciousness being raised over the ageism and sexism that diminishes them, they are looking for ways to empower themselves. Taking back the label of “Crone” is an important step on this journey.
It’s not an easy task in our youth-obsessed culture, which champions older women celebrities with youngish faces, courtesy of plastic surgery. These same women refer to age “as only a number,” negating the wisdom accumulated from a life of scars and triumphs.
If we dig deeper we can find real life Crones like Dr. Helen Caldecott, whose garnered wisdom offers a path away from war and climate destruction. For decades Caldecott has been a leading authority on the hazards of nuclear power. Angela Davis, the decades old Civil Rights activist, is a formidable crone. Judi Dench, the gifted British actress, who has eschewed plastic surgery and who freely speaks out against ageism, is another spirited Crone.
You don’t have to be famous to be a noteworthy Crone. Look around your community and you’ll discover older women who broke with convention to live independently. They write letters to the editor, join protests with their grandchildren, and speak out when the occasion calls for it. Talk to them, ask them how they’ve managed to hold their own in our ageist culture. You can learn from them and honor them by validating their Crone status.
Nurture your own inner Crone. Mediate, journal, meet with other like-minded women who will support you. Start a Crone group, replicating the Consciousness Raising groups many of us participated in as young Feminists.
Becoming a full-fledged Crone is attainable for every older woman. We owe it to ourselves to honor lives punctuated by hard-won strengths. We owe it to our daughters and granddaughters to model a positive way to age. We owe to our communities and the world to advance women-birthed peaceful responses to the new world order dominated by wars and economic injustices. It’s a big order but someone has to do it!
How do you manifest the Crone in your life?