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March/April 2005

You might be surprised like I was to discover...
The Gifts of Being a Crone

By Janet Crump

When I lived on the East Coast, a friend invited me to her croning. I recoiled at the word. Barely 50 years of age (my friend was 56), I was not one of them. However, I decided to go (for her sake), and was determined to keep my distance.

Imagine my surprise when I found the croning ceremony to be quite beautiful and inspiring. Here were women of all ages, dressed in brightly colored flowing feminine attire, celebrating the passage to the wisdom years of women in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties. I was hooked.

I attended cronings for the next two years in my small community north of Boston. The numbers of women attending the ceremony grew. By the third year, when I called to make my reservation, I was turned away. Over 100 women had responded ahead of me, and the event was at capacity.

The Crone

When I looked up crone in Webster’s Dictionary, I was shocked with what I read: “an ugly, withered old woman, a hag.” Thank goodness I had other references that my friend had suggested I read. In them I learned that a crone is a wise female elder. The word crone implies ancient female wisdom, a sacred archetype living in each woman. The verb to crone means to enact a ritual announcing that the woman has learned to integrate her many years of seasoning into wisdom and compassion and to express her fullness for the good of all. In ancient times, Crone meant “to crown.” In modern German, krone means “crown.”
Why then, does the word crone make most people recoil?

While old and crone are not synonymous, in our youth-oriented culture they have many of the same connotations. While the real meaning of crone is a female leader, counselor, and healer, experienced and wise, outdated definitions like Webster’s reflect the derogatory image that has been created about older women in our society. Patriarchy diminished older women and feared their former power.

The Croning Ritual

Croning is a formal ritual about accepting the passage from knowledge to wisdom and recognizing that wisdom comes from experience. It is an announcement of passage, a celebration of power, passion, and purpose of ancient female wisdom.

The croning ritual is a way to support and encourage women to value growing older, to view menopause not only as an ending but a beginning. This stage of life is a time for pursuing one’s spiritual path and discovering the nature of one’s true Self.

A Grassroots Movement

In recent decades a grassroots movement has spread across the United States to revive croning as a way to reverse age discrimination against elder women in our society and to restore the original dignity and honor to the term crone and to the phase of life it represents.

After living in Grand Rapids for four years, however, I saw no evidence of this movement here. So, two years ago I approached the head of a not-for-profit organization and told her about croning and my wish to bring it to Grand Rapids. She liked the idea and suggested that we form a committee.

During its first year the group of women comprising the Croning Committee offered an evening of book reviews all related to croning, two workshops called “What Does It Mean to Be a Crone?” and held two community-wide croning ceremonies initiating a total of twenty-six women as new crones. The Committee hopes to offer workshops and croning ceremonies twice a year as long as interest warrants. To carry on the tradition, one can only be croned by a woman who has already been croned. Also according to tradition, we accept women for croning who are age 56 or older. Women of all ages and girls aged ten and up are invited to attend the croning rituals.

Gifts of Being a Crone

Those who attend a croning ritual celebration learn from the truths expressed by the crones and may look forward to their elder years with anticipation. Croning is a celebration of inner beauty, respect, support, and friendship. The ritual celebration also raises consciousness among girls and women of all ages that growing older can be a time of great happiness and satisfaction. They may be surprised to learn that later decades in life can be more rewarding than they thought possible in their younger years if they are willing to change their attitudes about aging and embrace the gifts of cronehood. Becoming a crone can be a highly significant time for any women who consciously chooses to make her elder years the most important and fulfilling years of her life.

Janet Crump is the owner of Stillpoint Yoga in Grand Rapids. Anyone interested in attending the croning workshop or croning ceremony, or in learning more about how to bring croning to her community may call Janet at 616-682-8324 or look on her website at www.stillpoint-yoga.com/croning.php.

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