Embracing My Inner Crone

My sister claims I must have a lot of karmic debt to pay off since the past five years of my life have been mostly spent taking care of the sick, dying, and aged — first helping with my mother, then my life mate/soul mate, now my father — but I have a hunch it’s more that I’m going through my crone stage a bit earlier than normal. Although “crone” has become a pejorative term, crone is one of the mythological stages of a woman’s life (maiden, mother, crone). 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.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Something to look forward to becoming — a wise woman — and yet crone is a word few women embrace, and no wonder since over the centuries, crone has come to mean “ugly old woman.”

It seems strange that there are so many derogatory words for ugly old women — witch, hag, crone, harridan, battle-ax, beldam, shrew, termagant — yet not a single derogatory to word to describe ugly old men. (At least, I can’t think of any.) And why are such wise women considered ugly, anyway? Apparently, after men have had their way with young maidens, then used up their youth in bearing and rearing children, they somehow expect women to still be attractive. Nowadays, of course, with creams and lotions and make-up and hair-dyeing and all the other beauty treatments available, most women do retain at least a semblance of their youthful looks. And yet those ancient terms for “wise old woman” still retain their pejorative connotations.

But no matter what she looks like or what she is called, a woman who calmly listens to the crotchets of the old folks, who patiently sits by the bedside of the dying, who deals with life’s unpleasant chores with a minimum of complaint, has an aura of beauty. I would be willing to be that no one who is ministered to by one of these “crones” thinks she is ugly. I bet her beauty shines through to them, if no one else.

I also bet she isn’t aware of her beauty. Like me, she is probably simply doing what needs to be done as calmly as possible.

It seems odd that so many of us who have lost our mates end up taking care of aged parents, but perhaps we are the ones who have the patience for dealing with the slow and inexorable ways of age and death.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

Growing into the Woman I Am to Become

In a previous post, Maiden/Mother/Crone — The Mythic Stages of a Woman’s Life, I talked about living my mother stage first. I was the oldest girl in a large family, and by the time I was five, I could cook simple meals, clean house, do laundry, feed babies their bottles, and change diapers. By the time I was eighteen, I’d changed more diapers than most women do in a lifetime.  Then, in my middle years, I reached the crone stage. Crones care for the dying and are spiritual midwives at the end of life, the link in the cycle of death and rebirth. A few years after I met the man with whom I would spend the middle third of my life, his health took a turn for the worse. I wasn’t much of a healer, but I was a stayer — I stayed with him until he died. I also helped out when my mother died. I’m now staying with my 95-year-old father, helping him to be as independent as he can be during his final years.

When this part of my life’s journey, this crone stage, has played itself out, the only stage left for me is maidenhood. According to Lisa Levart, author of Goddess on Earth, the maiden aspect of the Goddess is symbolic of new beginnings, youthful enthusiasm, independence, and a time when a girl is growing into the woman she is to become.

Who is this woman I will become? I already know she will be patient. I know she will be forward-looking, leaving all her “if only”s behind. I hope she will be bold and adventurous, able to embrace new beginnings, youthful enthusiasm, and independence. Most of all, I hope she will be spontaneous.

Life with someone who is chronically ill destroys your spontaneity. You have to be practical, and you have to plan, taking his limitations into consideration.  You can try to take time for yourself, but so often the constraints of his illness rule your life.

Two or three years before my life mate/soul mate died, he told me he regretted that he killed my spontaneity. He loved that I had been so spontaneous, and it saddened him that I became captive of the regimens he needed to follow to keep himself as healthy as possible. This declaration surprised me because I had never considered myself particularly spontaneous. To be honest, before I met him, I’d always been a bit careful — not timid, but not carefree, either. Meeting him brought such a surge of energy into my life (he was radiant, back then, glowing with health and happiness) that I felt emboldened to try new things. I’d never seen the point of life (though I spent my youth searching for meaning), and I never really felt comfortable in the world. After I met him, I thought that if he were in the world, it must be a wondrous place. (This was before we ever got together, before either of us realized there was an “us.”) His radiance, faded and ragged though it may have been at the end, still lit my life, and now that he is dead, so is the light. And once again I’m searching for meaning.

To honor him and the life we shared (and to honor myself), I plan to be more spontaneous. (Did you smile at that wording? So did I. Old habits are hard to break.)

Spontaneous, bold, adventurous, enthusiastic, and independent. I can hardly wait to grow into this woman I intend to become. (But what will become of that woman I become? Will she be too old to make a difference? Ah, but those are questions for another day.)

Maiden/Mother/Crone — The Mythic Stages of a Woman’s Life

floozyCrone Henge is a wonderful new blog from author Juliet Waldron. It’s a place where old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not. Old women are the forgotten members of our society, but in times past, they were revered for their wisdom. In fact, both words, crone and hag, came from words meaning wisewoman. It’s good to see that older women are once again claiming their place in the world.

According to Moondance, 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 pre-patriarchical societies, women’s wisdom held 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. Today, a crone is variously described as a woman who is either 50, 52, or 56, post-menopausal, consciously aging, willing to acknowledge her shadow side. Crone is a term used to describe an ancient archetype, an aspect of the triple goddess (maiden/mother/crone), and the third phase 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 a specific age or physical event.

This crone stage is a great new journey for women as they get older, but I intend to youth, not age. The way I figure, I did the mother stage first. By the time I was five, I could cook simple meals, clean house, do laundry, feed babies their bottles, and change diapers. By the time I was eighteen, I’d changed more diapers than most women do in a lifetime. (Sounds unbelievable, I know, but it’s true. I seldom admit it, but I was the oldest girl in a very large family.)

A few years after I met the man with whom I would spend the middle third of my life, his health took a turn for the worse. I wasn’t much of a healer, but I was a stayer — I stayed with him until he died. I also helped out when my mother died. I’m now staying with my 94-year-old father. When this stage of my life’s journey is done, this crone stage, the only stage left for me is maidenhood. And so I am youthing. (Youth-ing, not you-thing.) I am doing what I can to foster a spirit of adventure, to challenge myself; to attempt new things; to look at life as if I am a child again, lost in its wonders.

A crone is someone who is willing to acknowledge her age, wisdom and power, but me, as I continue my mythic journey, I am acknowledging my youth, wonder, and mystery.

Whether I become a maiden or not, I’m looking forward to this next stage of my life. It will be interesting to see what I become.

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