What is a Crone, and Why Read a Crone's Reflections?


"Crone" is a word that sounds harsh to the ear, and yet without the crone, it is arguable that humankind would not have survived this long.

The word "crone" is supposed to have appeared in the English language in the late 1300s, as an insulting term for an older woman, connoting cantankerousness. But we women can see through this insult. Older women no longer have to please men as an occupation, and doubtless this change produces a certain independent and straight-talking attitude that no doubt strikes those who feel entitled to the care of adult women as irritating or even threatening. The witch hunts of the Middle Ages are testament to this.

However, many scholars have argued that the presence of women past childbearing age was the key to human survival and progress. Indeed, this argument even has its own moniker: "the grandmother hypothesis." The skills, wisdom, and care provided by older women ensure the safety and wellbeing of their grandchildren. This has been demonstrated in numerous empirical studies. One might think such findings would not apply to more stable and wealthy societies, but you would be wrong. Indeed, the average adult American lives less than 20 miles from their mother. Some suggest this evolutionary advantage is what may explain why the average woman lives longer than the average man.

When we think of the "elders" of a society, we might immediately picture older men, but in fact the elders who hold families and communities together are women. As one writer has expressed it, old women "tend to be the ones who keep the family together, who pass on the traditions, who know the remedies that would cure the different illnesses." Their practical knowledge, combined with longstanding habits of love and care, give them a wisdom and a power that qualifies them to be seen as valued elders of the group.

Indeed, there are a number of cultures in which older women are treated as Wise Women, whose advice is sought on matters large and small. Sometimes they were even given a formal role in governing the society, such as the Six Nations tribes whose Wise Women chose the ruling chief and who could also depose him.

The Crone is also an archetype; indeed, the troika of Maiden, Mother, and Crone is found in one form or another worldwide; these figures are the symbols of women's life stages. Of the three, the Crone is the one least celebrated in male-focused cultures. However, the Crone archetype has been described in this way: "The crone represents wisdom, inner knowing, and intuition. The crone uses her wisdom as transformative justice. The crone helps us through transitions, drawing us inward during difficult times and bringing meaning to the shadow side of us that dies and comes to life again." The Crone is the life stage of women most closely associated with Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom.

One elderly woman put it thus: "The crone is finished with [mothering] work and now her work extends way beyond the family. She is looking at the whole picture, what is good for the whole not just my immediate family. I know what my gifts are and I don’t have to waste a lot of energy and talk because I am inner-directed. So I get my energy and I get my insights from deep within. And out here, all the chatter out here influences me a lot less. With the crone, the crone is comfortable saying no or deciding if this is something I want to do or don’t want to do. I am really awake, not being motivated by my unconscious ego that could be fear driven. So she [the crone] is open hearted, but she recognizes nonsense, when she hears it. I think often times her world becomes much bigger, it is not just the family anymore. It’s much broader; it’s kind of the human community, the earth community . . . If we don’t wake up we will destroy ourselves, and the crone sees that. When you get to this point in life [crone age], you really don’t care what people think. Anybody that doesn’t care about what people think is very dangerous."

Yes, indeed. And at this stage in world history, we need dangerous crones. Instead of making our crones invisible, we should endeavor to amplify their voices and listen to them. So this latterday crone is going to take a first step in that direction . . . we hope you will join us. We'll talk about ideas, we'll talk books, we'll talk about politics, all within the framework of sincere belief in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Part of this effort is to create an online community. That phrase may seem oxymoronic, but in an alienated and atomistic time period, where we are more separated and socially distant than ever, we all need a space for community. So we've enabled comments, so as to grow that community. The comments will be moderated, for the most sustainable online communities cannot but be moderated in these days of rage. But please come and share your thoughts, and come away a little more warmed, with a little more hope, than before.

This effort is an experiment. If it seems to be a fruitless effort, or an overwhelming effort, we'll pull the plug. But let's give it a go, shall we?