When I sit in a coffee shop people-watching other older women, I am often drawn to two main types. First there is the older woman keen to retain an image of youth to whom ageing successfully is to be seen to be as young as possible for as long as possible by whatever means. This is the woman who is trying to tread a familiar feminine path but her feet are aching in those wretched high heels and she is longing to get home and give a sigh of relief as she chucks her bra across the bedroom.
Then there is the woman who seems a little beaten by life and has little interest in maintaining any vestiges of a false youth. This is the woman that appears to have stumbled along in the later journey and ultimately gave up trying to find a way through it all despite her sensible shoes. She is bound up in brambles and has mud and leaves in her hair. When she gets home she will eat a packet of biscuits in front of the television.
The one thing these women have in common is that they can both appear a bit lost. Like a rabbit dazzled in the headlights of an oncoming car they have no idea which way to turn. They have no role models on how to age in a culture where ageing and all its accompaniments is despised. Contemporary ageing has become associated with wrinkles, dementia, loss of hope, uselessness, illness, false teeth, incontinence and death – this is backed up by images, information and stereotypes portrayed in the mainstream. So who can blame anyone for wanting to hold back the years or becoming disconnected when the onslaught of the female ageing process becomes too much to handle.
It wasn’t always like this for older women in the Western world. Once they were very much revered for their wisdom, their knowledge and their healing. They were mediators in disputes, brought new life into the world and cared for the dying. The image of the Crone then was a positive one, where an older woman knew her place in the world and that she still had her part to play. Reaching the status of Crone was a joyful recognition of her position as an Elder within a community and all the respect that came with that status. She didn’t shrink from the role of a Crone but embraced it.
The embodiment of Cronedom began to fade as they burned and hanged these wise old women as witches. Their status gradually changed along with the overall image of women as Christianity made its impact. No longer were younger women Goddesses but whores, no longer were older women wise but evil and that evilness had to be destroyed. Part of this false youth movement today is very much a fear of Cronedom and what that word now entails.
Today many women might be horrified to be described as a Crone as it has such different connotations from its origins. Yet, accepting and crossing the threshold into Cronehood can be a major event. It can be celebration of all your achievement and all that you’ve learned and experienced along the way. It can be a time to make new commitments and vows, a time where an ageing body is just as beautiful as a younger one simply because of the beauty it contains within.
The word Crone was once a word of power. So, we need to once again embrace that power by dismissing more modern notions of the word and celebrating the knowledge, skills and beauty this time of life can gift us.
By this point you are probably querying what Cronedom has to do with Nature Therapy. Well, we work with women of different ages. These are women they could potentially help tread down a new path through the cycle of life into Cronedom and beyond. Women where nature is the tool for feeling emotionally and physically connected to the much bigger picture, where nature helps with soothing balms and salves, and where nature offers insights into our own unique way of being.
I am proud to take ownership of the term Crone. I have certainly earned that name after many years of living a wonderful life seeing souls into this world, and out, and caring for them in between. Hopefully I, and others, who own their power, can really celebrate Cronedom so that the next generations of ageing women have a clear path to tread – a path that will lead them through the woods and out into the fields beyond.
We are currently working on a nature-based project for women to own their Cronedom and celebrate their Elder power.
Image: Ceridwen by Christopher Williams
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Dave Darby March 24th, 2016
For me, the problem has always been about empire – a system that sucks wealth from ordinary communities and concentrates it in the hands of a tiny minority. In the middle ages it was a Christian / feudal empire – nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus – it was about organised religion and hereditary power. The tythes and bodies of ordinary people were used to build cathedrals and palaces and to fight imperial wars.
It meant that no respect could be allowed for the indigenous elders of the community, only for the imposed priests and lords of the manor. They couldn’t allow their authority to be challenged locally, so crones were viciously targeted.
Nowadays money and power is concentrated at the top of the corporate hierarchy, and becoming more concentrated each year.
Crones aren’t a problem to them as communities have been sanitised, with corporate branches sucking money out and most people at home plugged into their TVs, and communities are nowhere near as integrated and self-sufficient as they were.
Everybody knows this now, but probably the majority think that it’s inevitable. There’s a small movement in the opposite direction (although the tide is still corporate). At Lowimpact, we’ll do everything we can to help that movement grow.
And I do hope we reclaim that word – go crones! [NB I think there’s an old beauty and a young beauty, and cosmetic surgery means that old beauty is lost in a futile attempt to retain young beauty]
2Kim Brown March 24th, 2016
Thank you for your wonderful and insightful comment Dave. There is indeed an ethereal beauty in an ageing face that can be clearly seen by those that have loved that person over a lifetime. This stunning old beauty can be lost through the plumping of lips and erasing of those heart warming laughter lines to achieve a corporate branded look devoid of any unique personality.
The loss of the old beauty results in face that can no longer be read like a comforting leather bound book of knowledge. It speaks not of glowing log fires, embracing sofas, gentle tinkling rain and the smell of something delicious cooking – but of corporate moulding, concrete centres, bank balances and marketing.
Embracing the image of a crone without is simply a joyous celebration of the crone within.
3Theresa March 24th, 2016
I like this. Thanks.
4AnnieV March 24th, 2016
While I am wary of the idea that old people were once venerated at some lost point in history, especially old women, I agree with the general message of the article. But I think the main problem is that a woman’s value and status is bound up in popular culture with her value as a sex object. Those of us who don’t follow the path of fashion/makeup/high-heels/anti-ageing voodoo are invisible in the media, which relentlessly pushes the idea that successful women must conform to a very rigid image of straight attractiveness. Billions of pounds depend on ensuring that women buy humungous amounts of chemicals, clothes and surgical procedures in an attempt to remain sexually attractive to the straight, conservative, mainly white men who run the world. This is the Patriarchy and it’s alive and well. Millions of women (and drag queens and transgender people like Caitlin Jenner) have fallen for this toxic lie: a proper woman must strive to look young, thin, sexy and fashionable. And of course this is linked to capitalism and the trashing of our planet. And it pisses me off.
5Dave Darby March 24th, 2016
Hi Annie. Yes – I think that those of us who don’t subscribe to those ideas have to develop a different concept of what’s ‘successful’. There are lots of places we can get a foothold – not consuming their media is one – or their products (and celebrating cronedom is another). But there’s a huge amount of money to be made from those chemicals, clothes and surgical procedures. A lot of women are making money from it too, and a lot of men are starting to fall for it. I think the patriarchy is weakening but the corporate empire is getting stronger – unfortunately I think that a lot of women see the route to emancipation as beating men at their own hierarchical, competitive game, and climbing the imperial ladder, and it’s a real shame.
6Noelle Jane Gerard May 29th, 2016
I had the honour to work with a lady today who was 79, she was bright, upright in her posture and very sharp. I joked with her, ” whatever you are on give me some..” She laughed and said, ” I have always thought ‘ young’, I have never felt old. ” And it showed, she was a Crone that was pure Light.
7Kim Brown May 29th, 2016
It is a real honour to be able to see and feel that light and thank you for sharing