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Monday, October 17, 2016

The Crone

October is the month when we fully welcome the season of autumn, as this month is associated with vibrant colors such as red, yellow and orange which seem to remind us in some spectacular fashion, of  the beginning of the end.  Of finality, or the proverbial "calm before the storm".  The final cutting of hay in our local fields have been completed, and bales are tucked away in the farmer's barns.  The wonderful yield of our gardens have been canned and stored.  We begin to light the fires in the hearth, and spend less time out of doors.

As the last leaves fall from the trees, we realize that the cold months of  winter lie ahead.  Yet, before the month ends, our imagination is set on fire as we begin to plan for our costumes and parties for Halloween.  

Folklore and superstitions may be most popular in October, especially as Halloween nears; and, what could be more representative of this holiday, then the old witch, also known as the crone or crone goddess?  

The crone is frequently depicted as an old woman, whose reproductive years have passed, hence giving her a supernatural quality.  She is often venerated for having deep wisdom and knowledge.  She stands for dichotomy, as it is unclear whether her intentions are for good or ill, as her character can be both accommodating and obstructive.

She is the Dark Mother Goddess, and the last aspect of the Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, Crone; and as such, represents winter, the waning of the moon, the direction of north, death and ultimately, the promise of rebirth.   Some love and revere her, others fear her.  The Crone is frequently perverted into the quintessence of evil, the Underworld and the color black, as story-tellers often use this figure to portray a villain. 

Typically, she is illustrated as the old woman stirring a steamy cauldron, and wearing a tall or pointed hat. Common descriptions of a crone are frequently negative, and may include words such as ugly, ill-tempered old woman,  user of magic or sorcery, spiteful or one who casts spells.  The opposite descriptions may include words such as powerful, wisdom, wonderful, mystical, and astrologically important. 

Nothing is more apparent, then the crone's evil depiction than in fiction, movies and television.  The hag, or crone has many faces.  She is the old woman holding the big red apple before Snow White.   She is the Sea Hag in the old cartoon Popeye; or the Three Witches (or Weird Sisters or Wayward Sisters) are characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth.  The Crone is amusingly Grandmama of The Addams Family, Samantha of Bewitched and the Wicked Witch of the West....and no, I didn't forget you Harry Potter fans, she is also Bellatrix Lestrange.  And the list goes on and on.

In Somerset, England, local folklore describe "The Woman of the Mist" appears sometimes as a crone gathering sticks; and there were reports of sightings of her as late as the 1950s.  In Ireland, she is portrayed among stacks of bones, and now the crone associated with the Wiccan Samhain. 

"An aspect of the nocturnal activity of the hag is that they are reputed to ‘ride people’ at night. The term ‘hag ridden’ is derived from the belief that the hag visits at night and sits upon the victim’s chest to produce a sensation of distress and discomfort called a nightmare. The term ‘hag’ and Old Hag’ has come to mean, in both British and north American folklore, a nightmare spirit causing in modern terms a sleep paralysis. In Persia the hag called Bakhtak (which means nightmare) also sits on upon a sleeper’s chest making them waken unable to move or breathe.There exist many tales of hags being a type of nursery bogeyman. Reference to hags is used to frighten children into being well behaved and going to sleep on time." - Source: ericwedwards.wordpress.com

During the Elizabethan Era, and up to the Renaissance, Wise Women were separated by "Black" and "White".  White Witches were those women who had an understanding of the medicinal value of plants and herbs, and were known as healers.  "Black" Witches were thought to have practiced dark magic in an effort to cause physical harm to others. 

The Crone, also called "The Queen of the Night" is also associated with spiders and spider webs.  She may be affiliated with familiars such as [black] cats, owls, crows, vultures and ravens, and with divination such as clairvoyance and "scrying".   See Vermont Deadline post "Familiars and Animal Spirits":  

In the New Age circles, the word "crone" is said to have derived from the old word for "crown", which has been suggested that "wisdom that emanates from the head like a halo."  Wikipedia disputes this by indicating that the word "crone" entered "the English language around the year 1390, deriving from the Anglo-French word carogne (an insult), itself deriving from the Old North French charogne, caroigne, meaning a disagreeable woman (literally meaning "carrion"). "

Today, while there has been a resurgence of earth-based religions, such as Wicca and Paganism, (and one may add, the fact that women live longer) the Crone is revered for being a healer and a mid-wife, and is also referred to a a "Wise Woman".     New Age and other spiritual circles conduct ceremonies, referred to as "Cronings" or "Croning Rituals", as a means of acknowledging and celebrating a milestone birthday, (usually after one has gone through menopause).  

Denise Goodwin