I look in the mirror and see the bags under my eyes, the crows feet and lines around my mouth (the same as my mother’s) my jowls hang lower than they used to and the skin under my chin sags. Then there are those hairs that seem to grow from one moment to the next.
When I turned forty, my mother-in-law at the time, gave me a Nora Ephron book for my birthday. I don’t remember the name of the book but in the first chapter she talked about the idea of having plastic surgery on the loose skin on her neck. How it was inevitable. I don’t know how it all played out, I didn’t get any further. I understand that most public figures, especially women, wouldn’t be able to continue their careers without altering their looks when they get old, but that’s not the world I live in. I’ve never even worn make-up. I just couldn’t relate, wasn’t interested. And now, twelve years later, as I watch my own skin give into gravity and age, I still feel like I can’t relate.
But what I am thinking about is The Crone.
Before the idea of the one male god, there were many gods and goddesses. And the work of life and death belonged to the goddess. Different Goddesses in different cultures, but it was, the work of a female, not a male to bring life into the world (Not hard to see where that idea came from).
The Goddess was all three Virgin, Mother and Crone. Along the way, they got separated. The Crone became the ugly, evil, old lady. And the Virgin and Mother are seen in figures such as the Virgin Mary. Barbara Walker in Red Moon Passage, writes how Mary has her power and divinity taken from her through the idea of the Immaculate Conception. Suddenly the goddess is merely human and can only experience god through divine intervention.
I couldn’t help thinking of the TV shows Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie,which I grew up watching. Both women had magical powers that their husbands refused them to use. And both of these women agreed to give up their powers, but actually didn’t. (I guess if they did, it would have been a pretty boring TV show.) Helps me have faith that the Goddess was just lying low for a while, waiting for her chance to re-emerge.
So yes, the Crone is scary and brings death, but she’s not the evil thing we’ve come to see her as. She brings death as the natural cycle of life. And as Walker writes, ” The Crone is the most powerful female figure humanity has ever known”. ” …sometimes we need to scare people to get their attention”.
I remember hearing how in the Iroquois Nation it was the post menopausal women who made the important decisions for the tribe. I’ve since read that this is true of many ancient cultures also. I can imagine men wanting a piece of this power. And the way they took it was by trying to destroy The Crone. Mostly by co-opting and bad mouthing her.
So for me, it’s time to take The Crone back. She’s not something for me to fear or try to repress. She’s something to look forward to, to embrace to work at.
I can already see my Crone power emerging. In my ability to create the life I want for myself and say no to the things that aren’t good for me. But I want it to go further than just me. I think that’s an important part of being a Crone. I don’t know how this will manifest. Most likely through my art, but you never know what will happen when you open yourself up to it.
When I think of the Crone I keep seeing a picture from a nursery book I had as a kid of a witch flying in front of the full moon. It was one of those images that used to scare me, but that I also couldn’t stop looking at. Now, the older I get, the more I can see myself stirring the cauldron.