In the past, like most Americans, I have seen getting older as something undesirable. You can probably relate. After all, who wants grey hair, wrinkles, varicose veins, or joint issues, right? (You may have some other aging symptoms to put on the list.) What we forget, however, is that as we age, we get wiser. That’s definitely a desirable quality to possess.
I had the chance this past week to explore this concept. To my great joy, I spent a day and a half with my best friends in all the world—the members of my Women of Wisdom (WOW) spiritual support group in Atlanta. The 12 of us have known each other for 20 years.
As I looked around the circle of women I hadn’t seen in almost 10 years, I noticed how, indeed, some of us had aged. In general, though, we all looked about the same. We seemed timeless.
What had changed was the degree of wisdom we brought to the circle.
We had become Crones.
What is a Crone?
You might think being called a “Crone” is an insult. The word—indeed even the definition—implies a wrinkled, hunchbacked, unwanted and unloved old woman. Who wants to be a useless hag? This state or stage of life seems like nothing to celebrate.
In the Wikkan and Native American traditions, and even in many New Age circles, the path women take goes from Maiden to Mother to Crone. The Maiden represents the virgin. The Mother is self-explanatory—the time spent as a parent. And the Crone is the female elder or wise woman. Often the Crone serves as the healer, the teacher, or the imparter of knowledge in a community. In some traditions, crones mediated disputes, influenced tribal leaders, and cared for the dying.
You can see why reaching the status of Crone is a major milestone. As women all over the world—women from all traditions—reclaim this status and name in a positive way, they acknowledge that the last third of life is one to welcome joyfully. Indeed, it allows you to claim your position as an elder—a wise woman.
To celebrate our passage into the late 50s and onward, my friends and I decided to conduct a “Croning ceremony.” Any woman can have a Croning ceremony, which have become quite popular all over the world. In some traditions, this rite of passage happens at the age of fifty or older, partly because of the changes in women’s body. In others, you are deemed a Crone after menopause—whenever that occurs.
My WOW group created its own ceremony. We each wore flowered or bejeweled headpieces, participated in a brief meditation, and were then led through an arch. As we passed under the arch and into the candle-lit room, we were asked if we realized we were about to undergo a transformation. If we replied “Yes,” indicating that we agreed to that transformation, we passed through and sat down in a chair. One of the women then poured warm water was poured over each of our feet and into a bowl, and another one of the women bathed our feet (one “attendant” per person being croned). Another women “smudged” us with sage in the Native American tradition as lovely angelic music played in the background. Our feet were dried, and we were anointed with oil on the third eye (forehead), the top of the head, and the hands.
After this, we stood in a circle. Inside the circle a ribbon had been placed on the floor to represent a womb. We each took a turn entering the circle. As we did so, we lit a candle to represent our intention, and then we spoke that intention. We each verbalized how we would now stand or move in the world. We described how we intended to put our new status as Crones to use. Then we left the womb—we entered the world anew as Crones.
When I turned 50, I organized two ceremonies to help me move through this lifecycle event. One was secular but spiritual. The other ceremony, called a simchat hochmah was religious and involved a name change. (I took on a new Hebrew name, Kohenet, which means priestess.) These were no less important to me than the Croning ceremony, which took place just two weeks before my 55th birthday.
It felt important to focus on the fact that I was—I am—moving into the latter part of my life. And this, I discovered, does not restrict me in the least. In fact, by embracing my Cronehood, I discovered a new sense of freedom—freedom to choose how I show up in the world.
It’s imperative to acknowledge that you have wisdom that goes with age. It’s even more important to realize you need to use that wisdom, to tap into it and put it to good use. It’s powerful to realize you are a sage woman with the ability to serve in new and unique ways.
Maybe the biggest transformation really came in my mindset—and in the mindset of each one of us who took part in the Croning ceremony. We acknowledged that we were not old at all. In fact, none of us felt old. We were just getting wiser. And we were willing to embrace that.
And that fact is amazing. We were not Crones by the old definitions or stereotypes. We were wonderful and powerful Women of Wisdome…WOW!
As I sat on the airplane headed home to California, I took stock once more of my experience. What other transformations had occurred during that Croning ceremony? I wrote down these three things:
I now am ready to be me—to be authentic.
I now am ready to express my wisdom and my authenticity.
I now am ready to walk in the world in a powerful way.
If you are a woman moving into the latter part of your life, transform yourself into a sage woman—a Woman of Wisdom—and experience the WOW of that new state of being. It’s a powerful lifecycle events you that will impact how you are seen and how you show up going forward.
Have you gone through a Croning ceremony? Tell me about it in a comment below.