In this video I share an experience I had with a Crone Weaving Goddess. One of the things that struck me about this experience was not only how incredible it was, but also how strange it was that I had never heard of this Goddess before. I started to wonder, why was that?
One of the things I learned was that our elder Goddesses in particular have been deliberately erased from history. Now it’s true that all the “Old Gods” have been erased to some extinct, but in this post I will examine how our Crone Goddesses in particular have been subjected to character assassination of the worst kind. I will also make an argument for why this has happened.
In the 15th century Christian painting “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Bosch, we see all manner of pagan depictions, seamlessly worked into a Christian theme. In Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” we see Charon in the foreground, apparently acting in harmony with Christianity. In fact it’s not uncommon to look at Medieval Christian art and see Neptune hanging out in the background.
As many scholars have pointed out, old pagan Gods, myths, and traditions were readily integrated into early Christianity. The one exception to this would be the Crone Goddess.
The concept of a Crone Goddess goes all the way back to paleolithic times and seems to have been an essential ingredient in the earliest religions. We see her along with the Fertility Goddess, Warrior / Hunter, and Divine Trickster. Although once considered a core figure in one’s spiritual life, we now see her all but erased. You can still find glimpses of her, but it’s not good.
During my search for the Crone Goddess I found that she has been consistently transformed from Goddess into demonic “old hag”. Baba Yaga is probably the best example of this.
Baba Yaga was once an ancient Slavic Goddess. Her transformation into “scary old witch” is so complete, that anthropologists do not know her original Goddess name or her original attributes. It seems it has been permanently lost to time in a successful campaign of character assassination.
I plan on doing another blog post in the near future where I examine the term “witch” and why I’m personally okay with using that terminology for myself. But for now, we will continue to explore the history and transformation of our ancient Crone Goddesses.
Another example is the Irish Banshee. Once the revered crone Goddess Morrigan, she was reduced to a shrieking ghost. This is a pattern we see again and again. So what happened here?
Ancient peoples lived closely with nature. In fact, their survival largely depended on an understanding of nature, it’s predictable cycles, and accurately translating the meaning of it’s signs. This is still true today. Perhaps the earliest observations ancient people made was that you cannot have death without life, but you also cannot have life without death.
I once watched a science documentary that noted that without death the planet would have very quickly become choked out by life and made uninhabitable. There would also be zero evolution or transformation without death. In particular, we owe life on this planet to the fungi kingdom. Fungi and mushrooms break down organic matter and allow it to be re-used as nutrients for new life. They are indeed the agents of death and rebirth. If you scroll back up to the picture of Baba Yaga, you will see that she is surrounded by rotting wood and mushrooms.
People watched as the plants died back in the winter, just to be reborn in the Spring as bigger better versions of their old selves. It was understood that we too are part of this cosmic forest and that our own death wasn’t an ending or something to be feared. Death was just part of the journey.
When we look at Crone Goddesses, typically we see them associated with death, karma, wisdom, prophesy, and weaving. When I was a little girl, my teacher taught us that everything in the environment was connected together like an invisible spider web. Ancient people too understood that there was a great cosmic spider web or tapestry that connected us all together.
Grandmother Spider and Mother Holda are probably the two most well-known examples of Crone Goddesses. Mother Holda has Germanic origins and is another Goddess with paleolithic origins. Her name roughly translates to “Gracious One” and the country Holland is named after her. Her feast day was December 25th and during the “12 days of Christmas” she would travel the world in a cosmic carriage bestowing gifts and good fortune.
Holda was also associated with karma. In ancient times another lesson our ancestors would have learned early on is “you reap what you sow”. By late December it would have become clear if you had worked hard enough during the growing season to put away enough food to last you the winter. It’s also a fact of nature that most people die during the winter. December 25th may have offered one last opportunity to feast and see loved ones before Mother Holda escorted them away.
There was a time when old age was not scary. If anything it was a badge of achievement. You had survived through life and learned many things along the way. With the advent of Christianity, we see things start to change. Jesus was believed to have only been 33 when he died. His disciples were most-likely similarly aged. Although Mother Mary would have been at least 50 when her son died, in Michelangelo’s Pieta, we see her appearing no older than about 19.
Mother May is depicted as the eternal youth; the eternal virgin. We see her as the combination of both mother and maiden, while a Crone aspect is completely absent. Mary is not the only example of this. Female Saints are too often depicted as youths. We start to see a clear cultural shift where, at least in women, youth is associated with purity and old age is associated with wickedness.
I turn 40 in a few months and this has naturally led to some thoughts about getting older. I remember when Paris Hilton turned 30, I watched as people in the media mocked her mercilessly for “being old”. When I turned 30 just a couple years later, I felt nothing but relief.
The 20s, often depicted as “the best years of your life”, were not a great time for me. I was getting a graduate degree while working full time, while doing an internship full time, while trying to find someone to spend my life with. Turning 30 felt like an absolute achievement, especially considering there was a time in my life where things were so out-of-control that I honestly didn’t think that I would live that long. I did not feel bad at all about leaving my 20s behind.
Now I’m facing “the dreaded 40” and am equally perplexed why this is seen as a bad thing. I definitely don’t feel old or think I look bad. If anything there is a feeling of “smooth sailing” from here on out. Although disaster can strike at any age, statistically speaking it is far more likely to happen under the age of 40. By 40 you pretty much know how to handle things and there’s a feeling of self-confidence that results from that.
Something that has held true in my life is that every decade is better than the last. Teen years were definitely better than being a child; 20s were better than teens; and the 30s have been great. Why wouldn’t there be an expectation that things would only get better and better?
One of the objections that are inevitably raised at this point is that we experience decline as we age. This is seen as a given. However, as you travel through life, you do start to encounter a growing list of exceptions. Something I started to notice in my 30s was that there seemed to be no shortage of people 70+ who were just as active and healthy as I was. I started to question if it was true that aging inevitably led to both mental and physical decline. I was curious what the research said.
It turns out that a lot of the current beliefs about aging are based off of really old science that is no longer considered valid. Kind of like how you’ll still hear people say that you “only use 10% of your brain” even though that statement was based off of research from the 1920s that has long since been debunked. We now know from MRIs that you use 100% of your brain 100% of the time. What are we believing about old age that is also simply not true?
Less than 5% of elders end up in nursing homes. Most are able to live independent healthy lives. Another thing I found interesting is that although it’s true that reaction times decrease as we age, older adults can actually out-perform younger adults on intelligence tests. Consider that the average age for Nobel Prize winners is 70. There really is something to be said for a life time of accumulated wisdom.
Other information I found is that like me, people do tend to become more satisfied with their lives the older they get. People continue to learn new things and express creativity throughout the lifespan.
Obviously there are some individuals that find themselves physically impaired and facing cognitive decline in old age. From what I read, not only are these not even close to the majority of elders, but is more likely to be due to obesity, smoking, and Type II Diabetes, rather than age. We can’t prevent aging, but fortunately we don’t need to.
One thing to address is that old age does indeed mean that we are marching closer to death. There was a time in history that death was just another honored milestone and signaled the transition to a better state of being. As civilization evolved and became more complex, we see humanity turning away from this belief.
In Revelations it is said that only 140,000 individuals will be allowed into Heaven. If this something you believe, then you don’t have to be good at math to know that that means that most people will be going to Hell. There are many who believe that an otherwise good person can be banished to Hell simply on a technicality. Following this logic, for most people, death no longer symbolizes the transition into a better existence. Death has become villainized, as has the Crone that has come to be associated with it.
Women’s wisdom in general has been subject to villainization. It was Eve after all who gifted Adam with knowledge and thus sentenced him to a lifetime of suffering. Women’s wisdom, along with our Crone Goddesses, became associated with the demonic. When not demonized, we see it minimized. Terms like “old wives tales”, “Madame Folly”, and “hysteria”, are all examples that readily come to mind.
So how do we reclaim our Crone Goddesses? I think at the very least we as individuals need to work on our own mindset regarding aging. Celebrate your milestones with pride and don’t apologize for your age. Start to see the lines on your face as a reflection of the life you’ve lived. Those crows feet and smile lines are evidence of a lot of good times. Brow lines are the battle scars of the difficulties you’ve overcome.
One thing that I do want to make clear is that I’m not trying to say that women have more wisdom than men do. Obviously men and women have equal amounts of wisdom, as well as different strengths and weaknesses. The reason for the focus of this article is simply to bring awareness to a lost archetype of the Sacred Feminine.
The Divine Masculine is certainly a worthy topic to be explored, but as a woman I feel that there are better authors for that subject than me.
If there is a natural part of who you are, whether we are talking male or female, young or old, that you feel has been demonized by society or the larger culture, I want you to understand that you do not have to accept that. The first step however is to understand how those negative messages may have been internalized and encoded into your own core beliefs.
Challenge those beliefs. Everything has a flip side. Lean into your weaknesses until they become strengths. This is part of the path.