During the study of the Ancient Celts, I learned of the Triple Goddess – the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, which is the last facet. This is more than a depiction of womanhood, but portrays the cycles of nature – birth, growth and decay. We can see this in everyday aspects from the change seasons, to a creative project and to even a love relationship.
In the Celtic tradition, the elder woman is honored and shares the same status as the revered medicine man in many native cultures, so why do we today have this perception of the Crone being an evil, horrid witch - warts, pointed fingers and no teeth - the one found in folklore which eats ill-behaved children?
One only has to look at history. The Ancient Celts were a gender equal society, men and women labored together and they battled alongside one another. Both male and female healers and shamans of the time dealt in the wisdom of nature – the plants, the land, the sky, and mostly the Otherworlds of Gods and the Ancestors. The wisdom of these shamans was sought after those in need of physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
We don’t know much of Ancient Celtic history because being a pastoral community, they left no written record, only mythology passed down from generation to generation. The history of the Celts was provided by the Romans and the Saxons who conquered and settled once Celtic lands.
The main growing bias was the Roman Catholic Church which governed during the Middle Ages with extreme patriarchy and women considered second class citizens – vehicles for procreation and recreation. In Medieval times, the older woman would have had no use, and absolutely no power, so of course, they would alter the Crone’s status as goddess to that of a witch. Their view of this aged wise woman would have considered her something of a threat, something to scare young children and in this portrayal the Crone became known as something dark and sinister, whose wisdom should not be sought.
For nearly a thousand years, aged wise shamans and healers suffered under this demeaning term of “witch”. Thankfully, this is changing. Society is once again embracing the beauty, the grace and wisdom of aging women. No longer do many feel compelled to dye their gray hair and mask their wrinkles. Reaching this state of a badge of honor and women should celebrate it.
However, even in our modern age, where we boast of being an evolved society, we still find ourselves with the similar judgments of age as the Middle Age Patriarchal Lords and Bishops, who feared the wise aged woman, and also perhaps feared death and decay.
Many women today find themselves trying desperately to fight age, a natural process, with unnatural products. Yes, beautiful young maidens have their place as they represent creation and birth, and yet as a culture we tend to miss the other major aspects of humanity. As we enter in the dark seasons of Autumn, the dark season of decay it is important to honor the Crone’s wisdom.
Aging is beautiful and decay is beautiful in the sense it represents a natural process of returning to our source, whether it be nature returning to the earth and being reborn in the Spring. As humans it represents our lessons learned in this life time and for us to be reborn into the next life with the wisdom of the past.
The important thing is for all of us (men and women) to embrace not just youth and the maiden, but this endearing aging process with love and grace. The Crone is something for woman to aspire to be. Embrace the wisdom of our elder years, our gray hairs, our wrinkles, our bodies, because as the maiden offers her beauty and body for procreation and creation, it is the Crone who has evolved beyond beauty and body. She is wisdom and is soul