How real women are claiming the wisdom of their years
If your definition of a crone is a withered old woman or hag, you might need to update your dictionary. Thanks to a grassroots movement that is sweeping the nation, women are no longer denying their age, but embracing their crone years and redefining the word. You see, in ancient civilizations, long before Botox injections and breast implants, older women (crones) were actually revered, not for their wrinkle-free faces and unnaturally perfect bodies, but for the depth of their wisdom and power. This is not to say that Miss Clairol doesn't have her place or that a little nip/tuck should be outlawed. (Thank God for modern miracles!) But it is to recognize the inner strength and character development that comes only through years of living.
The croning ceremony honors a woman's passage into the third phase of life, often associated with menopause or the end of her fertility. According to croning.org, the timing depends more on personal readiness than biological factors. Although it is generally accepted that age 49 is the minimum, many women choose to be croned later.
"For the first time in history, enormous numbers of women are traveling through the gate of menopause and looking forward to a lifespan of some 30 more years," said Ann Kreilkamp, founder of Crone Chronicles. "We women have a certain hard-won wisdom, gleaned through consciously processing the experiences of our long and fruitful lives. What are we going to do with this wisdom? Play golf? Get our hair done? We begin to glimpse the opportunity, and the responsibility."
"Croning is about women coming into their power, a power that arises from within, that is fueled with passionate concern for our planet, tempered by compassion for ourselves and all beings," said Bayla Bower, who has been active in the crone movement since 1993. "Croning is about empowering ourselves to share our wisdom, to live our values, and to act in harmony with both."
The crowning of a local crone
According to Hilton Head Island resident, Judy Baker, up until now, her 50th birthday was the best ever. (She retired and moved to the beach.) Piece of cake! But the next milestone was a slightly different story. "The 60 number was really freaking me out," she said. "I don't feel 60; I don't think I look 60; I don't think 60. But all of my friends kept asking me what I was going to do to celebrate. I wanted to just kind of let it slip under the door. But the more I got to thinking about it, I thought, that's like really denying who you are and what you are. So I made this decision to claim my age, claim my power and claim my wisdom. Because that's exactly what you have to do as you get older."
Relating her personal view of croning, Judy explained the concept of the triple goddess, beginning with maidenhood, then motherhood/adulthood. "The third part is the crone where you claim the wisdom and your power," she said.
Setting the date and intending to plan the ceremony herself, Judy mentioned her idea to her spiritual study/support group of eight friends, asking them to help her hostess. From there, they took the ball and ran with it. While Judy was away with her husband on a month-long trip to Turkey, the group met every week and orchestrated an incredible ritual to honor her.
Attending were 34 friends from all over and from various stages of Judy's life. The gathering was a weekend-long event that included plenty of spontaneous fun. But on the evening of the ceremony, the sincerity of purpose came into focus. At the croning, the planning group all wore white with elegant purple sashes, while the other participants were simply instructed to wear skirts. Each woman wore a name tag with a brief explanation of her connection to Judy. In addition, each person was asked to bring something to share: a reading, a blessing, a story, a song, a dance or any activity they wanted. The celebration-a magical mix of friendship, love and support-included a throne and crown for Judy, a goddess cake, music, dancing, poetry, prayer flags, "crone stones" and much more.
"What fascinated me was how the different people took different roles. No one was really in charge," said planning group member, Harriet Reimers. "It was more a matter of people naturally determining, 'This is what I'm good at'-never saying that-it just happened. Women were setting up food, making prayer flags, decorating the room. It took off. It was a very like-minded group of women who were there to honor Judy."
Describing the event, Judy said, "It was fun; it was poignant; it was empowering. It was an unbelievable kind of feeling. But I didn't want it to be just for me. I wanted everyone there to claim, as women, how powerful we are. There were women there as young as 45 and as old as 73. It was like a transformational thing for all of us. After it was over, I felt so gifted. We all were gifting each other-it was an incredible exchange of energy. I want to tell everybody I'm 60, and I'm a crone!"
As a newly-crowned crone, Judy wrote her own vows. The following is an excerpt:
"I claim my age, wisdom, power, not with fear, not with trepidation and not with denial, dread or with the resignation that I will just become an old woman. Instead, I vow to claim my cronedom with curiosity, joy and passion. I vow to take my place in offering to myself, to others, and to the world, the wisdom and knowledge that I now possess of the oneness and unity of all things and to act accordingly.
I vow to be fully alive; I vow to acknowledge my power, but not power over anyone. Instead, I acknowledge a power that is a feeling of inner strength that I will take with me everywhere. I vow to express the freedom that is my birthright, to be exactly who I am, to say "This is how I am showing up now," and love myself for it. I vow to live a life of passion, caring deeply about my world, and serving it in some way, great or small. I vow to offer compassion to myself, others and the world, to do the work and inquire when my judgments and thoughts prevent me from knowing who I really am. I vow to practice simplicity and live lightly in the world. I vow to practice living in the present moment, to be fully present, fully alive, fully Goddess Crone."
Calling all crones: A croning ceremony can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. It can be private, or it can be shared with a group. Want help planning your own unique croning? For free guidance and support, contact Judy at (843) 363-3663 or Harriet at (843) 422-2411, or visit www.croning.org for more information, resources and ideas.