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Rites of Passage for Cronehood

The information below is for becoming a Crone...

The Crone


The Crone's title was related to the word crown and she represented the power of the ancient tribal matriarch who made the moral and legal decisions for her subjects and descendants. It was the medieval metamorphosis of the wise woman into the witch that changed the word Crone from a compliment to an insult and established the stereotype of malevolent old womanhood that continues to haunt elder women today.

-- Barbara Walker, The Crone (Women of Age, Wisdom and Power)

Researching rituals for this section of the "Rites of Passage" has proven to be a rite of passage, itself! While there are ample rituals dedicated to the Maiden and Mother in us, there is a large void of those dedicated to Croning.

Perhaps this is because the ancient Crone archetype has been buried for thousands of years; replaced by the "old hag" as defined by Webster's Dictionary. Perhaps we are hesitant to delve into this archetype because of Her juxtaposition to death; or perhaps it's because she is the embodiment of life's wisdom, and therefore, threatening to society.

Women are beginning to awaken to the realization that turning Crone doesn't mean one is on death's door. Nor does it mean the end of power, beauty, and sexuality. Celebrating the Crone is all about understanding and accepting that one is now at the threshold of the fulfillment of female life experience and wisdom - that one is now becoming a fully actualized woman. While this time of life is often the most feared and disregarded in today's society, it is paradoxically the richest in feminist potential.

We are beginning to see an unprecedented number of women embrace cronehood, thanks to us babyboomers. We are women of power and influence; women who have broken out of the old mold society had cast for us, thanks to the efforts of our mothers and grandmothers. We are beginning to talk openly about menopause, sex, and female-specific, age-related cancers and other health issues. We are exerting pressure on the medical field to turn attention to our bodies and our needs; to research medicines and therapies to aid us in this transition, and to research dosages of medicines already on the market for tolerance and efficacy levels in women. For far too long the medical field has been dominated by men, with therapies designed for and tested on men; the results then extrapolated to fit women. This is now changing. While we boomers may not reap the full rewards in our lifetime, we can at least know that we have left a legacy for our daughters.

Women are also turning towards the old ways in record numbers today. Some are embracing the old Pagan religions, immersing themselves in Goddess spirituality and finding a peace and strength they'd thought long lost. Some women are fighting for the feminine to be recognized and celebrated within their own lifelong religions, and are making long strides towards that end. Many women are supplementing medicines and therapies prescribed by doctors with herbs, minerals, foods, and healing techniques as taught for centuries by the wise women of many lands. We are creating a new society for ourselves; a society that is redefining women in terms of intellectuality, wisdom, creativity, and strength rather than through age, hair color, and body weight.

Evidence of this redefinition is no farther than the ubiquitous television set, no less! A recent episode of "Dharma and Greg" showed a brief croning ceremony, firmly ensconced within a humorous skit. While humor is most important through all Life's phases, I find it sad that croning ceremonies are so new to our society that they must be introduced to us through comedy, in order to avoid society's unreasonable fear of the unknown.

There have been other plays, as well. "The Three Wise Women" chronicles the conversation of the wives of the three Magi who set off to find the baby Jesus. As more and more of these plays, comedies, and dramas find their way into our lives, once more women can openly embrace this stage of their lives with confidence, eagerness, and anticipation.




When our elders step across the threshold of the Grandmother Lodge, leaving their bleeding behind them, they become the Keepers of the Law. No longer is their attention consumed with the creation and rearing of their own family... Thus their attention turns to the children of all Our Relations: not just their own children, or the children of their friends, their clan or tribe, but the children of all the hoops: the Two-Leggeds, the Four-Leggeds, the Wingeds, the Finned, the Green-Growing Ones, and all others. Our relationship with this great circle of Life rests ultimately in their hands. They must give away this responsibility by modeling, teaching, and sharing the living of this law -- in everyday life -- to men, women, children -- that all might come into balance.

-- Brooke Medicine Eagle, Women Of The 14th Moon

The Charge of the Crone
by: gypsy


Hear the words of the Grandmother of Time:
She who has been known as
Hecate, Erishkagel, Cerridwen, Kali-Ma,
Anna, Perenna, Spider Woman,
and many other names
- some feared, and some loved,
but none ever ignored.
She it is who brings wisdom and
the awareness of eternity.

She has been the Maiden, and remembers that joy.
She has been the Mother, and recalls that pleasure.
But age has changed her,
and taught her the mysteries of
the Wheel that is ever turning,
the Wheel that is life, death, and rebirth.
She is the whirling tornado, the erupting volcano,
the rising tidal wave, the trembling of the earth's crust.
With age comes an understanding of the past,
and a glimpse of the future.
For, in the turning of the Wheel,
the past is the future,
and the future is the past.
She is the Learned One, the Teacher,
the Bringer of Inevitable Change.

She is the Dark of the Moon, the Hidden One,
the invisible unknown that lies ahead.
But do not fear her for she is not malicious,
and her touch, however harsh, is love.

Only in ignorance is she scorned and reviled.
Those who do not know her,
parody her as the ugly old woman
whose powers were said to blight crops
and sour the milk in the cow.
It is fear that turns her age into abomination,
her wrinkles into hideous deformity,
and her voice into an evil and manipulative cackle.
For those who sought power over the earth were afraid
to face her wisdom and her unalterable truth.

But in the old days, we sat at her feet to learn the most ancient lore.
From her came the knowledge of the healing herbs,
and the chants and songs that shaped our lives.
She sat in honour at our councils, our marketplaces, in our homes.
She governed our governing, and interpreted our laws.
She gave focus to our changing seasons.
She was our teacher, our oracle, our promise of rebirth.

Come, honour her as of old,
listen now to the words of the Wise One,
the ancient Seer, the Crone!

A Croning Ritual


I think a Croning should be a wonderfully green celebration! It should take place in the sunlight, or on a warm spring evening, there should be flowers on the altar and a feast of fresh fruit.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • A crown for the Crone/Elder--go for sweet grass and/or flowers Either rainbow candles or a white and a black candle A cauldron! (Symbol of the Crone) Wine (or some other appropriate drink) Pictures to pass around of the Crone/Elder, of key points in their life. A special gift for the Crone/Elder: A traditional crone gift would be a crystal or crystal ball, or a special cauldron or, if they are very herbal minded, a "lab" in which to mix and make their own herbal potions, or a special medicine pouch.

  • In addition, each guest should bring a small, personal gift (A bottle of essential oil, a special candle--or each guest can give of themselves, presenting a song, a dance, a poem).

  • You might also want to have a special, Croning cake topped with little black candles.

CLEANSING:

Our Elder should go through a special self-cleaning ritual of their choice.

CAST THE CIRCLE:

Call on the Quarters, and the gods--as decided on by our Elder -- who/what they want there.

PURPOSE:

HP/S States purpose of ritual. Bringing forward the Elder/Crone to be seated in a place of Honor to the North, likely before the Altar.

BODY:

Now, at this point, there are several things that can be done. I would suggest a bottle of wine (or other appropriate drink) passed around OR pass round a black candle OR the pictures of our Crone/Elder. As they're passed around, each person relates a story about our Crone/Elder, and asks the Crone/Elder for a memory about a time in their life. This is the essence, after all, of the Croning; that our Crone/Elder has gone through every state, that they are all ages, and yet beyond all.

Or, you may make the ritual short and simple by getting right to the "Croning" itself--our Crone/Elder kneels before the HP/S who, with appropriate (and short!) words, then crowns him/her (if kneeling is a problem, the HP/S can make sure they are "higher" than the crone/elder--up on a step or stone--and set the crown upon their head that way).

One suggestion I was offered on what to say at this point (or at the beginning of the ritual) comes from Tzipora Klein's book "Celebrating Life - Rites of Passage for All Ages":


"The paths you have walked have presented you with many options. Your life has been rich with experience, and filled with both sorrow and joy. Your teachers have gone on, and now you must assume their role. There are many who look to you now, eyes filled with wonder, hearts open, ready to learn. Now you must decide whether or not to honor your own teachers by following their steps. You possess more than just the answers. You have learned the questions."

After our Elder/Crone has been crowned, they are reseated, and each person comes forward, bowing or dropping to a knee, and gives them a croning gift, explaining it's significance; they should then rise and bless the crone as they might a baby in a Wiccaning, only with more whimsical wishes ("may you win the Nobel Prize"), and exchange with him/her a kiss and hug.

Last should be the HP/S, presenting to the Crone/Elder his/her crystal/Crystal ball/cauldron/medicine bag.

Crone/Elder should say a few words, and then lead everyone in raising up the cone of power: new, ageless, reborn energy to be sent out.

Open the circle and party!

Croning Ritual/Entering the Wise Age


This ritual occurs when a woman has reached the point in her life when her Saturn has returned twice to her natal point. This happens to everybody at the age of 56. Saturn is the teaching planet, slow and complete; we celebrate the effects of this celestial event on the woman's life by the Croning ritual.

Call a party for the young Crone, friends and relatives can cooperate with the invitations. Try to have some entertainment as well; invite a woman who plays an instrument or recites poetry. When all arrive, the group holds hands in a circle and sings a song to unify the group soul.

Lady Lady listen to my hearts song
Lady Lady listen to my hearts song
I will never forget you, I will never forsake you,
I will never forget you, I will never forsake you!

After a couple of rounds of this, when the time is right, the priestess of the event steps out to address the rest. This priestess can be anyone who loves the new Crone.

Priestess:

We gathered together to celebrate (name) becoming 56 years old, and entering the Wise Age. Her proper title is from now on among women "Young Crone".

Who is the Crone you ask? A Crone is a woman who has reached wisdom in her heart, who is called on in disputes to arbitrate, who is called on in despair to sooth the wounds, a young Crone who is everybody's older sister.

Who else is the Crone you ask? a young Crone is the Goddess in her third aspect; she is Magera, she is Hecate, she is the Goddess of unbound power.

Folklore has it that Crones bring good luck when you see them on the streets, if they smile on you, you will have a very good day. They appear in important times to show the grace of the goddess. Crones' wishes must be respected for the Goddess demands this from the younger generation.

Crones enjoy special favors, their magic is stronger, their spells are faster, their loves are stronger.

All: Bless you (name) with good health, happiness, and long life!

Now the youngest of the group starts a circle of white candles, previously set out in the middle of the room; 56 of them, one for each year of the Crone's life. Others can help after the Nymph starts. the woman priestess has a bell with which she will ring out 56 times again for each year that has passed. If the Crone would like to give a speech, here is a good place to do it.

When the circle of light is done, the Young Crone steps into it and the bell tolls out 56 times, after which a round of applause from everyone is heard. Congratulations and good wishes are showered on the woman in the circle. As a special feature, the young Crone receives her Crone Jewel. This jewel can be a broach, a necklace, a ring; as long as it has a nice purple stone in it. The color of purple is that of synthesis. It is a royal color, a learning color, and a powerful color.

Priestess:

I present you with your Crone Jewel, to remind you that you are our teacher, our beloved sister, and Crone of the Goddess.

Young Crone:

I traveled the road from my mother's breasts to Cronehood. I thank the Goddess for the good seasons that passed, and, oh, I toast the good seasons to come! Blessed be!

All enjoy the party, dance, perform, enjoy.



Holy Book of Women's Mysteries, Part Two; Zsuzsanna Emese Budapest, Susan B. Anthony Coven Number One, 1980. Croning Ritual, Page 62.


Croning Ceremony


The ritual begins with smudging, addressing the four directions, and opening the circle. The group of wimmin (close friends and acquaintances) sat around and listened to stories of the crones' lives. The Crones brought photos documenting specific times during the years, and these were passed around while the tales were told. Most interesting were the Crones' stores of lessons learned in their lifetimes. Because there were two womyn being croned, this was a long (but enjoyable), process.

We then took turns giving affirmations and telling stories of our experiences with the Crones. Toasts were given and libations were poured, accomplishments were spoken of, and elder Crones attending the gathering were acknowledged and praised. flower wreaths were placed on the heads of the two Crones. They also spoke of their wishes and hopes from this group of friends, and from life in general. Plaques commemorating this special day can be made by participants and given to the Crone(s) at this time.

The group proceeded to move outside, where the Crones were presented with gifts. Some wimmin gave material gifts, some danced or sang songs, one womon gave a video of the celebration. large amethyst crystals were given to represent the Crone Jewels.

As Priestess, I presented these crystals, saying, "We honor you, our Crones, with these crystals; may they always remind you that you are Goddess, our sisters, and wise wimmin. Blessed be the Crone aspects of The Goddess - Fortress wisdom, Cutter and Taker of life."

One womon danced a special dance, another sang a song, still another played her harp. Musicians engaged for occasion played dance music during the ritual and afterwards for the party.

The circle was closed, directions thanked, and the feasting and merriment continued.



Wild Witches Don't Get the Blues, Ffiona Morgan, Daughters of the Moon Publishing, 1991, 1992, Croning Ritual, Page 192.

Celebrating the End of Menstruation


Form a circle and create an altar in the middle with four red candles and four yellow candles. Prepare it with red roses if you can, and white or yellow flowers. Use a Maiden Goddess for your center piece, Athena image, or Dianna, or Artemis. Raise energy through a song or humming. When the energy is raised (you will know when), let one of the friends act as priestess.

Priestess:

We gather together to commemorate the withdrawal of the flowing bloods from our friend. We ask the Great Mother to bless our sister with good health, vitality, and gladness. Let the flow act through the younger women now, let this woman rest, she has finished her part as the Goddess of the Bloods. She is now the Goddess of the great achievements.

Celebrant now lights her four red candles.

Celebrant:

I light this first candle for the bloods that are gone. And the second one for the children and health that flow brought me (omit if not applicable). The third red candle for the flowerings of my womanhood, and fourth for the labors ended in glory.

Priestess:

I release you, and the Goddess of the Red. I accept you, said the Goddess of the Yellow Ray. I call you into my wisdom to grow in, I call you like a new Maiden, into my sciences, into my knowledge, into dreams to be manifest!

Celebrant lights her four yellow candles now.

Celebrant:

I light this first yellow candle for the release from the Reds. This second one for the flowering of my skills. This third one for friends and support, and the fourth one for the blessings from above!

Now the circle can sing songs, entertain each other, share food and drink, exchange gifts with the celebrant. When the candles reach their natural end, cast them into a living body of water and don't look back.

All: Blessed Be! It is done!



Holy Book of Women's Mysteries, Part Two; Zsuzsanna Emese Budapest, Susan B. Anthony Coven Number One, 1980. Celebration of the End of Menstruation, Page 55.

Croning Ceremony Celebrates the Wisdom of Age
USA Today


Clad in purple, surrounded by memorabilia, Linda Sanda stood in her Urbandale, Iowa, dining room and talked about turning 50.

About 40 close friends, co-workers and family members came to mark the occasion. But there were no mocking black balloons or teasing "You're Over the Hill'' banners.

This was a croning ceremony, designed to invoke spiritual reflection, dignity and wisdom.

An ancient rite of passage to honor older women, croning ceremonies had become nearly extinct. But they are making a comeback. And they're going mainstream.

With the oldest baby boomers turning 50 this year, many women are evaluating what it means to stand on the threshold of old age. For some women, croning ceremonies serve as an ideal way to make a statement about that passage.

"I see so many people fighting the aging process,'' says Sandra Bury, another Des Moines-area woman who went through the ritual. "I wanted to celebrate that to become old is a gift. I didn't want to be afraid of it.''

The rising interest in croning ceremonies also reflects a larger movement to reassert the value of older women, says Edna Ward of Boston, editor of Celebrating Ourselves, A Crone Ritual Book (Astarte Shell Press, $6).

In ancient times, she says, old women were known as crones. They held power and enjoyed status as "the healers, the mediators, the wise of the communities.''

Gradually, that power and recognition were lost. In modern times, the old woman has become nearly invisible, pushed aside and forgotten.

"We don't listen to her. We shut her up,'' Ward says. Only a few groups - blacks, Native Americans, Asians - honor old women in this country, she notes.

To recapture the value of becoming a crone, the Feminist Spiritual Community of Portland, Maine, began holding crone rituals in the early 1980s. "Since the patriarchy isn't going to value old women, we celebrate ourselves. It's becoming quite widespread,'' says Ward, now 67 and a member of the Portland group. She had her croning ceremony in 1990.

More recently, the Crones Council was formed, drawing women from all over the USA. Last year, about 300 women attended Crones Council III in Scottsdale, Ariz., says Ann Kreilkamp, 53, a member of the council and editor of The Crone Chronicles - A Journal of Conscious Aging. As a result, crone groups are forming all over the country.

Circulation of Kreilkamp's journal also testifies to the growing interest. Started six years ago with 100 copies sent to friends, The Crone Chronicles now has 10,000 subscribers. The quarterly journal, published in Kelly, Wyo., dedicates itself to "re-activating the archetype of the Crone within contemporary Western culture.''

The magazine typically prints one crone ritual every issue, she adds. But nothing about the ceremony is prescribed. Many women write their own, though books of crone rituals are now available. And there is no preferred setting. The rituals can be done at home, in a church or outdoors. They can last 10 minutes or go on for days and include lavish feasting. Women often wear purple, the color associated with old age and wisdom.

There is also no set time to hold a crone ceremony. Some women wait until after menopause or when they turn 56 - a significant point in the astrological world.

In all cases, the rite of passage carries individual meaning. For Linda Sanda, the ceremony acknowledged the troubled waters she had crossed in her life. For Sandra Bury, 61, who had hercroning at 56, it was a celebration of old age. For Maureen Barton-Wicks, 53, of Des Moines, it was a way to publicly commit her life to God and acknowledge her wisdom.

"I wanted to say to the world, `I'm proud of who I am, and I claim the crone in me,' '' Barton-Wicks says.

For these three women, preparation was intense. Each spent months reading, writing and reviewing events in her life. Bury, a Des Moines school counselor, says the power of the croning ceremony was more in writing it than going through it.

For Barton-Wicks, reliving various events "was horrendous,'' she recalls. What's more, it was hard work. She revised her ceremony seven times before she was satisfied.

Barton-Wicks had her croning during the regular Sunday service at her church. No meal or celebration followed. "To me, it's a sacred ceremony. It's not a birthday party. That was enough for me,'' she says.

Bury's ceremony, held at the church with a few relatives and friends, took about 15 minutes and didn't cost anything. A former harp teacher, Bury wrote a chant that everyone sang. She brought objects from home that had been important in her life.

Sanda, who directs community education programs for the West Des Moines public schools, wanted a celebration in addition to a ceremony. She sent invitations and had a buffet supper in her home.

She had been a nun for 13 years, and she says she struggled for years with feelings of inadequacy, uncertainty about her relationship with God and the desire to marry and have children. Now she's married to a former priest and the mother of two. She says the croning ceremony felt like a coming out after years of trauma.

What does a woman gain from a croning ceremony?

Five years after Bury had hers, she feels vigorous and joyful about her age. "Right now, I'm thinking about what my next careers will be. I hear people talk about feeling burned out. But I'm just getting started,'' she says.

Two years after Barton-Wicks' ceremony, she is studying to be a minister. "I'm allowing myself to be led by spirit, rather than ego. And today, I appreciate my fears. They're only trying to protect me,'' she says. As a bonus, she says, "I no longer feel life is too short or I am too old.''

Since Sanda's ceremony a year ago, life has been richer and more joyful. "I've had some real healing experiences. I still get mad at things. I have a teen-age son who's challenging. But I know he can teach me.''

And what's even more important, she says: "Instead of feeling as though I'm fighting life, I feel as though I'm one with life.''


Books aimed at enriching the spirit

For more information about crone rituals or women and aging, here are some books suggested by Linda Bacon of Morning Light Books and Tape in Des Moines:

Jubilee Time: Celebrating Women, Spirit and the Advent of Age by Maria Harris (Bantam, $22.95).

On Women Turning 50: Celebrating Mid-Life Discoveries by Cathleen Rountree (HarperSanFrancisco, $14).

Roads Home: Seven Pathways to Midlife Wisdom, Kathryn Cramer (William Morrow, $22).

Woman Heal Thyself: An Ancient Healing System for Contemporary Women by Jeanne Elizabeth Blum (Charles Tuttle, $24.95).

Women at the Edge of Two Worlds: The Spiritual Journey Through Menopause by Lynn V. Andrews (Harper Perennial, $22).

A Woman's Book of Rituals and Celebrations by Barbara Aringer (New World Library, $11.95).


By Melinda Voss, The Des Moines Register

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