Croning and Crones

Women’s Wisdom: Our Heritage

For millennia women’s wisdom was honored; crones were revered. Today women are reclaiming the identity and status of the ancient crone. We are coming of age, accessing our wisdom and acting upon it. Croning is the process of becoming active wise women.

Croning can begin at any age and is particularly relevant for women 45 and older. Personal experiences of aging and ageism provide the impetus to recognize and reverse the negative images (internal and external) of old women. We can activate our potential as wisdom carriers and guardians of the future by learning of our ancient crone heritage, honoring the cycles and seasons, respecting the web of life.

Engaged in the process of Croning, we can act in ways that embody the changes we want to take place in the world, in our communities, families, relationships, and within ourselves. When we apply our wisdom to effect positive change, we improve our own lives and leave a legacy for future generations.

Crone: Wise, Empowered, Self-Defined

The crone eludes precise definition. Some traditions, organizations, and individuals variously define the crone as a woman who is 50, 52, or 56, post-menopausal, consciously aging, willing to acknowledge her shadow. Crone is a term used to describe an ancient archetype, an aspect of the triple goddess (maiden, mother, crone), and the third phrase of a woman’s life. When a woman is near, in, or past menopause, she is potentially a crone. The designation refers to a perspective or point of view rather than age or biological change.

A woman who calls herself crone is willing to acknowledge her age, wisdom, and power. Through conscious self-definition, she helps to reverse hundreds of years of oppression, degradation, and abuse aimed at old women. Although she may prefer to be called elder, grandmother, or wise woman, she does not dismiss, disavow, or use pejoratively terms such as crone, witch or hag. The wise woman/ crone/ grandmother realizes that the true meaning of these terms, and the woman-centered traditions from which they originate, have been obscured and distorted by patriarchal systems.

In ancient times, the crone was revered as an old woman who embodied wisdom and knew the truth of cyclic existence. Crones cared for the dying and were spiritual midwives at the end of life, the link in the cycle of death and rebirth. They were healers, teachers, way-showers, bearers of sacred power, knowers of mysteries, mediators between the world of spirit and the world of form. In prepatriarchal societies, women’s wisdom had healing power, and crone wisdom was the most potent of all. For nearly thirty thousand years, old women were strong, powerful sources of wisdom. Crones were respected and honored in their communities.

Then patriarchy demanded obedience to outer authority and acceptance of linear concepts. Death became a finality, the end of the line. Because crones followed inner guidance and knew the truth of the cycle of life, they were dangerous to the hierarchy. Old women were persecuted, shunned, and denigrated. Although our forecrones resisted, persisted, and adapted in any way they could, most of our traditions have been lost. The lineage of crone teachings, herbal remedies, sacred practices, and wise-woman ways was broken when the information was burned, buried, and otherwise silenced.

Crone consciousness is on the rise today, spreading in a grassroots movement around the globe. We are awakening the ancient crone within ourselves, and learning to trust the power of our inner knowing. We will not become invisible, trivialized, or shamed by a society obsessed with youth and terrified of aging.

We honor each person’s wisdom, and take part in dismantling the ageist, ableist, racist, classist, sexist, heterosexist and other hierarchical structures that separate us from ourselves, our forecrones, one another and our connection with all beings. We teach, speak, and quietly inspire one another, all women, and all peoples who wish to embrace the totality of life.

We respect the crones who preceded us and pass on our wisdom to those who will follow. We tell our sacred stories one-to-one, in small and large gatherings, at meetings, events, and conferences. We name our blessings and challenges, the truths and treasures of our lives, sharing the harvest of our life experience. Empowered from within and strengthened by our growing numbers, we claim our place as wise-woman elders in our families, communities and groups. We are women of age, power, and wisdom. We are honored to be known as crones.

Bayla Bower is an eco-crone, ritualist, frame drummer, and emerging gourd artist. She has been active in the crone movement since 1993 and has organized national conferences, and convened croning ceremonies.