Although there is no set rule, most women I know who refer to themselves as a Crone are well over sixty and prepared to embrace their role as an Elder. They have created children, homes, businesses, and have come to intimately know their sovereignty, the value of their voice and themselves.
Recently, in a gesture of respect, an organizer at a school of Magick called me a Crone. For me, who resonates more as the Queen Face of the Goddess, this felt premature as claiming the venerated Crone title feels like grabbing the Holy Grail before its offered. I suspect my perspective is steeped in the fact that I have watched a sacred initiation into the Crone’s Corner for thirteen consecutive years…
As the logs crackle, the witches cackle and flames dance in the first bonfire at the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium, the event’s emcee asks the Crones to stand. I am typically seated in a camp chair and beam at the silver-haired women who rise and smile benevolently at the gathering of 400 women and children. Crone derives from the word crown and I swear you can almost see shimmering, jewel-encrusted circlets resting on their heads. We applaud their radiance.
As the clapping dies down, the emcee invites the youngest maidens, those who have not begun their menses, to choose a Crone whom they will serve lunch during the special ceremony where the cronies gather on soft couches and share their life stories. The little girls jump up from around the camp ring and scramble to the Crone to whom they are most attracted. Some maidens choose women they know as family and other girls approach perfect strangers. I wonder what universal force draws these pairs together. Each elder receives her symposium daughter as if she’s greeting a favorite grandchild. Often these pairings will form a bond over the weekend that will last long after the closing ceremony: my mother and her maiden have been pen pals for many moons after their auspicious meeting.
On the second day, the Elder Crone, a designated woman who has devoted her life to the Divine Feminine, leads her Crones in the crafting of their besoms, or Witches’ brooms. You can hear their cackling throughout the grounds of the symposium. It sounds so comforting to know women’s wisdom is being respected and shared.
When the sun brushes the tops of the black oak trees on our final evening, the Crones, dressed in their finest regalia, come to sweep the gaggle of Mothers, Queens, Aunties, and children to the Maiden ceremony.
Three towering 10-foot-tall paper mâché puppets, whose faces, hair and colorful clothing represent the Mother, Maiden and Crone, the three phases of the Goddess, lead a parade. One woman holds the body of the puppets and two women to direct the waving arms with long poles. We follow the puppets singing, drumming, shaking rattles and hooting our joy. The parade ends with us holding hands in a large circle around a meadow. Howls ring out as the wild, sacred women feel the power rising.
The Crones divide into four groups and stand as sentinels to the four directions. As one, they intone a welcome to the Guardians and Spirits of the East, South, West and North. The gathering of women and children turn to face each direction with palms open to receive the blessings. The young women who have just recently begun their menses wear red dresses and form an inner circle as we witness their ceremonial welcome into the tribe of Women.
Then a throne, covered in soft, black material, is brought to the middle of the meadow. The Crones form a circle around the throne and we gather closer, forming a tight outer circle around our Elders.
A bowl of something lip-smacking good is passed around the Crone circle. I assume it must be delicious because all the Crones literally smack their lips and a slow, easy smile graces their lined faces. As each Crone takes the bowl, she raises it high above her and claims, “I AM CRONE!” She drinks deeply, then passes the bowl to her Crone Sister. And so it goes around the circle of Sages, Elders and Crones as they each proclaim themselves the very vessel of wisdom.
One woman is chosen to speak. She takes her seat on the throne, flowers crown her head, and she is gifted something exquisite. Most often the Crone is humbled by this honor, but she always, always has something profound to say. We lean in close, not wanting to miss a morsel of Her wisdom and advice.
When the Crone is done sharing the gifts of her experiences, we cheer then looping arms with our symposium sisters, we swing each other around in hedonistic delight as we sing. “May the Circle be open but unbroken. May the Love of the Goddess be ever in your Heart. Merry Meet and Merry Part. Merry Meet Again.”
The reverence given to Crones makes me unafraid to age.
This ceremony lives in my heart as permanent resident and imparts the knowledge that when youth falls away from me, instead of fear or helplessness, I will be cloaked with a powerful mantle of self-knowledge and the crown of wisdom to call myself Crone.