Have you ever been to a Croning?
I have. But not by choice.
A Croning is a ceremony, often wicca like, where women are celebrated for reaching the status of crone, wise woman, or elder.
My younger friend Sharon invited me. It was twenty years ago and I was not ready to be a crone. I was old enough, over fifty (sixty actually), grey hair, gone through menopause and had become a grandmother, but I was not nearly wise enough.
Nor was I ready to embrace old age, I was in a new relationship and the association of crone with the word hag or witch just didn’t fit my self-image. Pictures in my childhood fairy tale books by Grimm and Anderson came to mind, hunched back old crones stalking innocent children in the forest, hags cackling over cauldrons of stewed toads. This was not my reality.
I went, but only because Sharon, who was celebrating her fiftieth birthday, and ready to welcome her cronehood, was treating me to the experience.
You know how it is when you walk into a room and everyone seems to know each other and no one hands you the play list? That was how it was for me on this day. I watched as people embraced each other, I participated in the required circle where we introduce ourselves by our matrilineal line, dutifully naming our mothers, grandmothers as far back as we could go. I had done this many times before, with passion, but I couldn’t dredge up any of it on this day.
Women’s gatherings can be welcoming, warm and infused with joy. Seeing women being free to express themselves and move unconsciously to their own rhythm is delightful. This gathering was like this, and I had a hard time getting in sync.
Most of the women at this workshop were too young to be crones in my opinion. Yes, there were a few elders, lovely white-haired women who dressed in the appropriate flowing organic cotton dresses and long strands of beads. These were women I would love to have known but I couldn’t make myself participate.
It was towards the end of the day that we held our Croning ceremony. I watched as the oldest woman in the room walked up to receive her crown of cedar and her crone blessing. Others followed. I shook my head when someone beckoned me to go up and I held myself apart from them as they chanted and twirled with scarves swirling from their outstretched hands.
There was something not quite right about the day for me, and I have never been comfortable in groups where feelings felt contrived but at the same time there was a part of me that longed to join in and to revel in the freedom they so joyously embraced.
I certainly was not ready to welcome Cronehood.
All this changed last year when I turned eighty. I had arrived at this magical age, still healthy and active with a long list of things I wanted to do. Definitely a milestone to celebrate. I could now properly claim Cronehood status. I did some research. The Unitarians had this to say about Crone ceremonies and the word Crone: link
We could perhaps define the crone as a woman that is gracefully adapting to the process of aging. She inspires others. She is comfortable in her own skin and with her spirituality. Her intuitive and creative powers are pronounced. But what really sets the crone apart is that she embodies a passion to explore meaning in her life; and she exemplifies an unselfish willingness to share her honesty, knowledge, wisdom, love, and compassion.
Honoring our wise women for the contributions of knowledge and wisdom is a tradition that has been lost over time. This ceremony acknowledges that our elders are our wisdom-keepers.
Crossing the threshold into Cronehood can be a major event in a woman’s life. It’s a celebration of all that you’ve learned, and all that you will come to know in the future. For many women, it’s a time to make new commitments and vows. This third cycle of your life is the one in which you become an Elder. The word Crone should now be a word of power for you, so celebrate it. You’ve earned it.
I took this advice to heart and celebrated my eightieth birthday with my family and a few crones. The accompanying photo shows my daughter Maureen, my friend Sharon, me and my sister Kate, all beautiful crones who are aging gracefully.
I have entered what I consider to be the fourth cycle of my life. I embrace my Cronehood as I join the legions of elders who continue writing and publishing well into their nineties.
Musings of an Island Crone