I marked sixty years of life last month. I am relishing the milestone. True, a trace of mourning for my lost youth still lingers around my edges, but the circle turns ever onward and aging is life. I find I spend more time imagining my crone years stretching out before me, who I want to be as Crone, and what legacy I want to create.
The triple goddess archetype of Maiden, Mother and Crone has been much misunderstood and often reimagined. I see it as a broad metaphor, not to be applied literally, nor its increments marked so precisely to biological functions in the life span of a woman.
The Maiden embodies youthful spirit of adventure and exploration, she is unfettered and carefree. Her energy is the awakening of and to life and in that respect she is ageless.
The Mother is the perpetuator of life. She has the potential to grow a child, give birth and care for the child, but that potential need not be actualized by the process of physical birth. The Mother is Creatrix of all life. Her energy is to bring change, to keep things moving forward, to create the unfolding of life, especially her own.
The Crone, of course, is the woman of experience, the vault of knowledge given to her though life’s lessons, often hard learned. The Crone sees the bigger picture, her energy is of comprehension, compassion, and temperance. She has, perhaps, the most revealing of all vision, that of hindsight. The Crone brings closure, a laying down of burdens too long carried.
The passage from one life stage to the next, does not erase the former. We carry with us all the ages we have been. Neither are the transitions set hard and fast in the flush or loss of hormones. Some women enter their croning earlier, some after they are much older. Becoming Crone is not about age, it’s knowing, in your deepest place, when you have arrived.
I have been hearing the Crone whispers for some time now, but events of the past few weeks have turned up the volume. The voice inside me calls, “Don the mantle and cloak, enter the circle of Crones. Your time is at hand.”
But what does that mean? Sit on my porch swing and wait for younger seekers to come ask my advice? Check my inbox for an invitation to the circle? I’m thinking not. So, like I’ve done with most everything in my life, I’m jumping in feet first. The plan is to spend this year defining the parameters of my Croneship.
Many modern adaptations of the Maiden, Mother, Crone life cycle have expanded it beyond the three archetypal phases. Two models stand out as revolutionary and the books that introduced them have become timeless classics: The Queen of Myself by Donna Henes and The Women’s Wheel of Life by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard.
Ah, but of course! The three stages of the Triple Goddess are not the only points along the way. As on a beautiful color wheel, they are the primary hues, and between them are all of the beautiful blends—some in equal amounts, yes, but also those with a bit more of this than that, to give us all the colors of the spectrum.
The Queen lies directly between Mother and Crone. She is a powerful woman with much of the warrior about her, fighting for the right to her own sovereignty and for that of all women. From advocate to activist, she is a brave force in whatever causes she takes up.
In The Women’s Wheel of Life, Davis and Leonard give us thirteen unique archetypes, all distinct stages of the progression of blood mysteries, but again like the color wheel, the energies of each strengthen the opposite aspect on the wheel. There are no less than five stages between Mother and Crone—Midwife, Matriarch, Amazon, Priestess and Sorceress.
In the Triple Goddess model, I have been more Crone than Mother for some time now. Queen felt right with her empowerment energy and capacity for the work of shaping society, but my urge to pass the scepter and crown to the next generation has become strong of late. While age alone and the death of my own mother makes me a Matriarch, the energy of Priestess and Sorceress feels much more visceral.
This makes sense to me. The Matriarch bears much of the Queenly qualities, still shaping and nurturing her family and community, while the Priestess and Sorceress are channels of Spirit. Their solo journey takes them through the deserts or to the mountain tops, they walk in the dark places, carefully listening, stirring past experience with divine truth, distilling the message that will be shared as Crone wisdom.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that true croning has almost nothing to do with natural age progression. True croning is an emergence from the depths of our midlife reckoning and the integration of our shadow and light, a beautiful blend allowing for all the gray areas. Where once we thought we knew everything, Crone shows us how narrow our vision has been.
The particular Crone energy I’m feeling is one of understanding, compassion, and acceptance that there are many paths to the same end. Between right and wrong action is a wide, gray chasm of potential to cause harm. I want to choose the way of least harm done for the greatest good possible.
I am quite ready to lay down the sword of the Amazon/Warrior, to pass the scepter and crown of the Queen to the next generation, knowing that it doesn’t mean ceding territory already hard-won. I have no doubt there are still many lessons to learn, but I believe they will be of a less corporeal and more transcendent nature.
Whether short or long, my journey to becoming Crone has begun.