Thursday, September 17, 2009

WHAT IS A CRONE, ANYWAY?





Almost a year ago, in October ‘08, I launched this blog, saying: “I will try to address issues and events that are of interest to crones over sixty, who are definitely under-served in the media. Yet we are, as a friend remarked, the pig in the python—the huge population of women who are still tuned in and creating despite (or because of) our age.”

It was daughter Eleni who came up with the inspired name “A Rolling Crone” for the blog after I had discovered that “Crone Chronicles” was already taken.

I e-mailed my friends and colleagues announcing the blog, and was surprised when I heard from several friends that they found the word “Crone” offensive and insulting to women. (Some of them added that they also were offended by being referred to as “Ladies”, when they were, in fact, women, not ladies.)

I noticed that most of the objections to the word “Crone” came from the Midwestern states—where I grew up—while friends on both coasts, in Europe and in Israel generally loved the blog’s title.

One reason I used the word “crone” was that, when I lived in Manhattan, about five of us, er, women friends, started calling ourselves the Crones back when we were in our early fifties. (Our husbands, naturally, were the Geezers.) The Crones did fun things --some athletic, like hiking or kayaking, but most of which involved sitting in a restaurant laughing so loudly that we were sometimes asked to leave.

The most fun thing we did, in my opinion was a Crone Walk from the top of Manhattan (Fort Tryon Park) to the bottom (Battery Park). Husbands were allowed to meet us for dinner on the last day. The walk took three days and involved staying in hotels (where martinis were consumed) eating in restaurants, and visiting stores, art exhibits and historic spots. Our first lunch—in Spanish Harlem—was in a restaurant where no one spoke English, only Spanish. Our last lunch was in a dim sum restaurant in Chinatown, where no one spoke English, only Chinese. (Just one of the reasons why Manhattan is my favorite city ever.)

After hearing complaints from my friends about the word Crone, I decided to research it. I was vaguely aware that some indigenous peoples considered Cronehood to be the honorable third stage of a woman’s life (Maiden, Mother, Crone) and that entry into cronehood—and menopause—was celebrated with rituals, because the crones were revered as wise women who could impart their knowledge to the tribe.

When I started researching “Crone” and “What is a crone?” on Google, I quickly realized that this is a topic for a Phd. thesis, not a single blog posting.

If you would like academic insights into the various historic personifications of the wise crone, check out a site by Kathleen Jenks, PhD, called “mythinglinks.org”, especially an essay called “Common Themes, East & West: Crones & Sages”.
She refers to Eve, the Mother of All, (holding in her hands an opened pomegranate, whose Hebrew name, rimmon, comes from the word rim, to bear a child.) She also mentions Hecate, Baba Yaga, native American rituals , tales from India’s Crone shamans—it’s a treasure chest of crone facts including a bibliography.

That led me to a lyrical and eloquent essay by a woman called “Z Budapest”-- “Crone Genesis” --that begins, “I am in my first year of Cronehood. In my sixtieth year.” Near the end of her essay she writes “We are one block of herstory, one savvy chain of generations, one strong and active generation that is going to continue to change the world. When we are done, being old will be fashionable, stories and movies about old people will be normal, and we will live a long time.”

I also discovered that women who celebrate their cronehood, especially with rituals, are often Wiccans—followers of paganism as a religion. This is not true of me and the Manhattan crones—who each probably have our own brand of religion or spirituality, although we’ve never discussed it. What joins us, I think is laughter, not a particular political or religious agenda.

But there is, I quickly learned, a growing Crone movement in this country —probably multiplying in strength as more and more women reach cronehood.

If you look up cronescounsel.org, you will see that the upcoming Fall 2009 Gathering, Crones Counsel XVII is happening Oct. 21-25 in Atlanta, GA.

That site says that the mythological Crone comes from the mists of ancient times, in the Middle East, Greece and the Balkans (30,000-10,000 BCE)… “The goddess was revered as one all-encompassing mother goddess who controlled birth, death and rebirth. This concept began to change as women themselves became increasingly under the dominion of men…Crone, hag and witch once were positive words for old women. Crone comes from Crown, indicating wisdom emanating from the head; hag comes from hagio meaning holy; and witch comes from wit meaning wise. The Crone began re-emerging into our consciousness in the early 1980’s and today many older women are embracing this connection. We are tapping into the ancient crone’s attributes of wisdom, compassion, transformation, healing laughter and bawdiness.”

So I submit that calling myself a crone and my blog “A Rolling Crone” is not insulting to my age group.

I’ve noticed, among my friends, that when a woman turns sixty, she often throws a birthday that basically is a celebration of herself, although previous birthdays and most of her party-giving efforts might have been devoted to celebrating her husband or children or parents.

I think at sixty a woman tends to step back and think “I’ve done pretty well so far, so I’m going to give myself something I’ve always wanted—a trip to Europe-- or enroll in a class to learn tap dancing or piano—or just throw a party that’s all about me and invite all my friends. (One of the New York crones rented a chateau in Tuscany and invited her friends.)

Here are some thoughts I came across from Linda Lowen who writes a blog about women’s issues. In an essay called “The Crone Movement -- Empowering Older Women”, she quotes a past member of the Crones Counsel Board who said “A Crone is a woman who has moved past mid-life and who acknowledges her survivorship, embraces her age, learns from the examined experience of her life, and, most likely, appreciates the wrinkles on her face…A Crone is a woman who is comfortable with her spiritual self, her intuition, and her creative power.”

Linda Lowen comments: “Wonderful qualities for a woman to possess at any age, but especially significant for a demographic that often feels bypassed by a society that has little use for women once they reach menopause. This Halloween, if you’re a woman 45 or older, instead of feeling tricked by the process of aging, consider the treat of making peace with yourself as you appreciate this phase of your life. Embrace your inner Crone.”

(That’s easy—Every Halloween as I wait on the porch for the influx of trick-or-treaters, I’m always dressed as a witch!)

I would like to hear from you how you feel about the word “Crone”.

4 comments:

Izzy said...

Hello there. I've been blogging about crones this morning from the celtic mists of Ireland and I came across your blog while I has having a little google. What a lovely piece. Great writing. I enjoyed it very much.
Kind regards
Izzy

Linda said...

Hello,
I am in the process of creating a "scare crone". To submit in scarecrow contest. All entries will be displayed in a public garden for entire month of August.

I wanted to depict the crone in a positive light. In addition to the scare crow each entry is also to have a small sign with the name of their entry and a short statement.

I would like to have a short positive statement about cronehood that will not be "scary" to the people in this rual area. I'm more of a visual than verbal artist. I've been "having a google" (as
Izzy would say) looking for the words to put on the sign. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

Linda said...

Hello,
I am in the process of creating a "scare crone". To submit in scarecrow contest. All entries will be displayed in a public garden for entire month of October.

I wanted to depict the crone in a positive light. In addition to the scare crow each entry is also to have a small sign with the name of their entry and a short statement.

I would like to have a short positive statement about cronehood that will not be "scary" to the people in this rual area. I'm more of a visual than verbal artist. I've been "having a google" (as
Izzy would say) looking for the words to put on the sign. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

Linda said...

Hello,
I am in the process of creating a "scare crone". To submit in scarecrow contest. All entries will be displayed in a public garden for entire month of August.

I wanted to depict the crone in a positive light. In addition to the scare crow each entry is also to have a small sign with the name of their entry and a short statement.

I would like to have a short positive statement about cronehood that will not be "scary" to the people in this rual area. I'm more of a visual than verbal artist. I've been "having a google" (as
Izzy would say) looking for the words to put on the sign. If you have any suggestions please let me know.