What is a Crone and Why Should You Care?

photo credit: Foxtongue via photopin cc
photo credit: Foxtongue via photopin cc

There are a lot of words that can be used to describe elder women and not all of them are flattering. They might include hag, biddy, battle-axe, shrew, and harpy. But there is a better word which we can reclaim and use to emphasize wisdom and the lessons we’ve learned throughout the first two thirds of our lives.

The word in question is Crone.

At all stages of a woman’s life, supportive men and strong women need to stand up for recognition that we are, in fact, valued human beings. This is why reclaiming a word as we age is important.

While it sounds, on the surface, that it has the same negative connotations as hag or harpy it really is a term of wisdom and admiration. There is a belief that in pre-Christian societies certain archetypes of women were honored as goddesses. These phases of a woman’s life were the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. For instance Athena, the daughter of Zeus, was a virgin goddess who embodied wisdom and learning. Without her, war would be in chaos ruled only by the anger of Ares. She represents an archetypal maiden. Mythologies from all over the world have divine mothers such as Isis, Ceres, or Gaia. But also in these ancient cultures there was a reverence for the third stage of a woman’s life: the Crone. Eventually society would marginalize the crone turning her from a wise Goddess to a feared witch.

As women in the 60s and 70s decided that they weren’t satisfied with traditional gender roles based on the way society had “always been,” the modern feminist movement was born. Those women began to take charge of their own lives and careers. Those women worked for creating a better world where the young women of today would not have to worry about their choices in life or even their value as a person.

Now these women, these early feminists, are reaching their elder years. Rather than being shuttled off into nursing homes where we are not seen and not spoken of, we want to take charge of our post-retirement lives as well. We want to reclaim the status of the Crone.

A woman in her crone years is in a position to influence others. She is the embodiment of feminine wisdom. This archetype has been repressed for far too long but women today are embracing the crone and living their values.

So why should you care about Crones, the title, or the implications?

As elders we’ve reached an age, and hopefully a status, where our voice counts. We can stand up for women of all generations. We can stand up for our own generation and change the conversation about aging in this country and around the world. We can be the example for generations to come to say no, we don’t have to feel marginalized or victimized. We are the crones, and we have reclaimed our own power.

“When you seek the truth, ask a wise woman.”

On a personal note:

My relationship with the term crone has evolved a lot over the years as I age and meet new people. In the video below, I share a story about how attending a presentation by Dr. Bill Thomas led me to see crones in a radically different light.

Along my journey to embracing my cronehood, I’ve adopted the use of the Wisdom of the Crone deck as a useful tool in navigating my life. You can learn more about these cards in the link below, as well as by checking them out for yourself here.

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  1. I long for the days when elders are respected as wise and useful.

Women For Living in Community