Friday Book Club: The Wisdom of the Crone.
Like ‘Elder’, the Crone is another archetype ripe for discovery and a reframe, in these modern times. As I hit my late 40s, I found Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey to be an incomplete, and at times overly gendered fit for my own wandering journey through the decades. I wondered if there was a Heroine’s Journey?
I grew curious about the female archetypes, particularly ‘The Maiden, The Mother and The Crone’* triad that some say make up the female journey. My search brought me to the writing of Jungian analyst Marion Woodman:
"In the middle ages, the word Crone meant ‘The Crown of Life’ ...the Crone is the woman who has gone through her crossroads --The crossroads represents a place where consciousness is crossed by the unconscious -- a place where you have to surrender your ego will to a higher will. A Crone can be who she is and live with the straight, flat-out, naked truth. She can afford to be honest. She discerns what is authentic and what is not authentic."
And she mostly doesn’t give a f*&^ (I added that last part ;-)
My heart sang when I read this, recognizing in it the spiritual download that I was experiencing and my yearning for freedom from societal conditioning based on what a woman is supposed to do, and to look like.
On turning 50, I declared myself a Crone-in-Training. And I dove into that decade raising my champagne glass to the moon, with an invocation to ‘Wizen me, Sista! Wizen me!’ I have been so fortunate to have Crone Mentors in the decade since then, and I have been shaped as much by the way they carry themselves as by any actual advice.
That seems key to the way Crones operate - they have presence, boundless compassion and a fierce relationship to the truth. Their bullshit meters are set high, and their self-judgments have melted into true humility. Crones know they are mortal and imperfect, responsible for their own joy and self-love. The ones I know are free from the tyranny of being a ‘someone’ or leaving a legacy. Their relationship with life is deeply personal, sacred and ordinary. They have chewed on grief and loss, disappointment and despair. Many of them have excellent recipes for eating and drinking, and stories that grow more interesting as the night wears on.
Personally, I relish the invisibility that has come, with the onset of my true Crone years, as I enter my 60s. It’s like the cloak in Harry Potter’s world, giving me enormous freedom to bloom, under the radar of expectation or performance. In the evening, I can delight in curling up with the cat, a margarita, and Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ audiobooks “The Power of the Crone” and “The Dangerous Old Woman.” Her storytelling tradition bewitches me, and I feel tucked into the silken folds of a long history of women growing older and wiser. Intimate with birth and death and all points in between.
*At MEA in 2018, we created our first women-only retreat. Ten women aged 29-77, at least one from every decade, gathered to explore these archetypes and share inter-generational perspectives. Fireside howling at the moon and dancing in red dresses, was bravely endured by Tony and fellow Y chromosomes on the team. And we made beautiful connections with local women in Pescadero also. Truly a memorable experience with the Phenomenal Women cohort of June 2018!
Vanda Marlow is a wisdom-worker, shamanic practitioner and peony grower, living liminally between San Francisco Bay and Santa Fe, with husband and cat. A long-time muse to Chip, she delighted in being asked to dream with him the beginnings of MEA and its transformational offerings.
If you enjoyed this post, you might appreciate one from November called “The Crone Jewels” by Holly Stiel.