Maiden, Mother, Crone

The fates like to play with scissors

The fates like to play with scissors (Photo credit: shellgreenier)

A few weeks ago I read an article that referenced Germaine Greer and crone culture. If you’re unfamiliar with her, Germaine Greer is an academic, a journalist; a feminist and a powerhouse in the women’s movement. I didn’t remember hearing that term before (though I’m sure I must have, perhaps I was busy weaving flowers in my hair while I read The Female Eunich), but I fell in love with it, fascinated, and because I’m certifiable a curious gal, I’ve been doing some research in my free moments. Crone culture. Imagine, an enlightened world that might choose to see older women, post menopausal (gasp) women, not as impotent and invisible beings, but as valued and valuable members of society. Possible? Is it even possible for us to see ourselves in that light?

And what does it mean to be a crone? Is it pure biology? Age? Children’s age? Fatigue? Wear and tear? Cause let me jussay, this vehicle is only middle aged, but its got a lot of mileage. Is 40 really the new 30, and 50 the new 40? Why does it have to be, why can’t it just be fine to be 40 and 50?

For the average first world woman, there’s quite a bit of time, 20-40 years, in between our roles as Mother (Lachesis, if you’re into Greek mythology) and death: the Crone (Atropos) role. Is it possible to embrace that phase and use it as the period of fertility for the mind and soul, instead of spending the first half pining for our prior roles and the second half waiting to die?  Is it realistic to think about using this time to deepen connections and understanding, broaden our world when we’re still fully occupied with getting by?

As I think, I’m thinking of women like myself, on the fringe. Women whose adult worth has been not just tied but knotted with wife-ing (whether you stayed a wife or not) and mothering. Women who have jobs–paid or unpaid–but not careers, who don’t have initials after their name to proclaim their continued relevance. I don’t pretend women of privilege don’t face some of the same issues, after all, they’re still women, but I think it’s different; easier to remain relevant for a longer period of time when you’re respected in a field of study, know you still have quite a bit to say that’s worth being heard, can purchase the right clothes, cosmetics, surgeries to present yourself the way you wish to be seen.

Copper-Boiler-for-Distilling-Brandy__15665

Copper-Boiler-for-Distilling-Brandy__15665 (Photo credit: Public Domain Photos)

I make no judgement about that last bit, by the way. If I had the money and freedom, I think I’d have a little tweaking done at this point in my life.  Not to attract or please anyone but myself. For me. Can that be distilled, separated from the society I live in which dictates what is or is not attractive? Probably not.

There is a difference in how women of different socioeconomic brackets see themselves and present themselves. When I was at that lit bar the other night, I was chatting with a woman, another friend of the friend I was there to hear. She asked if I was a writer and I said, “Well, I’m a wannabe.” With great confidence, she told me not to say that; if I write, I’m a writer. I’m not so sure. Do I write? Yes. Do I have skill and talent? Maybe, I think so. But I’m a pretty good cook, too. I’ve left restaurants wishing I had stayed home and eaten my own sauce. But I certainly wouldn’t identify myself as a chef.  Even as I argue for recognition, I question my validity.

Imagine a crone culture. A culture that valued women as they age; saw experience, caregiving, and connectedness as valid alternatives to degrees earned for 30 year old, forgotten lessons. What if those experiences could be used for opportunities?

Maybe, though. Maybe. Maybe in my imaginary world where crones are empowered.  Instead of being reduced we are a reduction–as in cooking. Thickened and intensified, adding richness and bringing the individual components of the dish together.

Hecate's Wheel, the symbol used by Hecatines, ...

Hecate’s Wheel, the symbol used by Hecatines, Dianics and Aquarians. It is a representation of the Goddess and of her three aspects: the maiden, the mother and the crone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

47 comments

  1. I love the thought of myself as a (cooking) reduction. It’s perfect. What’s to stop us from starting our own grass roots crone society? Maybe a little too idealistic on my part?

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    1. 🙂 Glad you like the analogy, tells me I’m not the only crazy one 😉

      There have been (are) “crone” societies, but everything I’ve read shows them to be a membership of women who are already walking in with a history of empowerment. I don’t know if it’s too idealistic for those of us who are on the fringe, or even working class, but I’d love to work on figuring it out. ❤

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  2. It seems as if the first hurdle we would have to overcome to accomplish this would be our own (mis)perceptions of ourselves & what we can be.

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  3. I got stuck on Atropos and wandered off in different directions… One of the three Fates that severs life… Kinda the antithesis of Mother, interesting. Atropine, poison. Atrophy, hardening, aging, wasting away. Hmmmmm. The role of Woman has always been a bit conflicted, eh?

    Back to your points…
    I like your point re how we define ourselves and fight the aging process and WHY do we feel the need to do this? We should be perfectly fine with 40. And 50. And whatever. 40 is just about upon me and it sure won’t be the new 30 for me- what is that supposed to even mean, anyway? if it was, it would mean 30 was the new 20 and I knew nothing when I was 20. With years come some stuff I’d give back if I could, but those years are the only way to garner the life experience and memories and other things that make us who we are.

    I do wish I could feel more respected for what I have, though. That life experience and whatnot has come at a dear cost, one that is not recognized by a large percentage of society. My intelligence, my capabilities and who I am is not deemed of much value by many of today’s standards. And yes, I question my own validity as well. But- if we don’t question our own validity maybe fewer other people will as well.

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    1. Heh. Many, many reasons you and I are friends, SnapIn. The tangent you followed is one originally included in this post, then decided it was too much for one, I’ll save it for another day when I’m feeling reflective. 🙂

      I also agree 100%, I don’t want to go backwards, for many reasons. Going backwards won’t, unfortunately, enable us to give back or redo what we wish could be/have been different–because we still wouldn’t know what we know now.

      I think we do need to ask these questions though, about our validity, our value, and explore the answers, because maybe then we will be able to move forward, and say yes, we do deserve respect, acknowledgement, and validation.

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  4. Mrs. Fringe, your post served as a great reminder to women of all ages. In a strange way, it gave us permission to be comfortable in our own skin.Your hypothetical illustration of a culture valuing “women as they age and saw connectedness as valid alternatives to degrees earned,” really spoke to me.

    For years, I have hid in my husband’s shadow. He’s the breadwinner, with initials I might add, and I’m just a wife, just a mom. That’s it. There was never any added value to my title, to my position in life.

    I still struggle to find validation as a stay at home mom, but I am taking it one baby step at a time.

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    1. I’m glad the post spoke to you. When I was younger, and my kids were younger, these questions came up, but it was easier to keep them in the shadows, because I absolutely believed in the value of being a SAHM, saw and felt the rewards every day, even as I felt the frustrations. Now the questions are fiercer and louder as I journey into the next stage of my life.

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  5. Love this.. Love love love 🙂 I prefer wise woman to crone. I think it does exist in every society. Where all that matters always has, within the circles each crone holds together. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world and woman to woman that wisdom is acknowledged. But most of all within herself. The wise women years ( not that I am there yet…) are all about journeying in and finding that fearful nugget of self worth and finally letting it gleam and grow, a throwing off the shackles of expectation and limitation to reallly live these ebbing years. As our female hormones wane so does our desire to please everyone but ourselves. The time is now for we might not have a later.
    So much of perceived society is fake, the media, politics, super models, silly blonde bimbos, none of that reallly matters, they are playing at life. It will always be woman at life’s centre.
    I know only too well the feelings of struggling to feel worthy as a stay at home mum, it took me a few years.. Maybe that is my blog post for today. A bit of empowerment for stay at home mums. I know I could have done with it.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

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    1. I do think there is a special thread from woman to woman, wisdom if you will.

      I don’t know if I see the crone/wise woman stage as journeying inward so much as drawing from within to reach further out, beyond immediate loved ones to touch others. Maybe it’s about doing so in a way that reflects that nugget of self instead of mirroring those around us. Hmmm.

      Right now I’m grateful for the interwebz, so I can think out loud and hear responses other than my own. 😛

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  6. yes.. *I don’t know if I see the crone/wise woman stage as journeying inward so much as drawing from within to reach further out, beyond immediate loved ones to touch others. Maybe it’s about doing so in a way that reflects that nugget of self instead of mirroring those around us.* … that too 🙂
    Life would be horrible without the internetwhatzit 🙂

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  7. I was very moved by this post. Yes, the word “crone” must be reclaimed and empowered. All that experience must not be lost whether it had to do with childrearing, or just knowledge of people, relationships etc. Writing is one way but there *must* be other ways in which the value of “crones” can be channelized to benefit the rest of society.

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    1. Thank you bottled worder, for taking the time to comment and your thoughtful words.

      I was surprised to find a couple of people seemed to take offense with the word crone. Language and the words we use are fluid. We can use their power and channel them in the direction we’d like, much the way we can choose to recognize the value in ourselves and experiences.

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  8. Mrs Fringe, the problem is not in the words. It’s in the perception of words. Words such as “crone,” “hag,” “slut,” “bitch,””chick” etc say more about the position of women in society than about the language/ words/ animals they are supposed to denote. Language reflects our society.

    One of the ways to resist being typecast, and hence take control of one’s own representation, and hence become active rather than passive is to use the same words from a position of power. Which you did in case of the word “crone.” I can understand why people were offended too. It’s hard to see familiar words differently when the goggles that you see them with are sort of fixed–already provided by society. But I saw your post as a way to challenge those fixed positions which is why I liked it.
    (there’s no way to write a third level comment to reply to your reply here. THat’s why I did a new comment.)

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    1. Agreed, there is power in words and labels, but we can choose to challenge the power they give, changing interpretations. Many words that had one meaning 50 years ago have a different meaning now.

      And thanks for telling me about the third level comments, I didn’t know that. 🙂

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  9. I think the main thing is that it’s our culture that refuses to see us as viable beings once we’re past a certain age. There are still cultures where older women are respected for their (our) wisdom and maturity.

    There’s also the thing of feeling, ourselves, that we are mature. I’m in a different boat really as I have never had children and because of health issues have never had a normal working life either. But what I have had is a lot of time to think and work things out and in the past few years (well, nearly over a decade now) since I hit and past menopause, I’ve felt much more comfortable within myself. And I think it’s a letting go of things that are now outdated in my life. I’m not sure all women feel like that even at when past menopause.

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    1. That’s an interesting point, how does having had or not had children influence how we feel about this stage of our lives.

      I’m captured by your phrase, “letting go of things that are now outdated in my life.” I like it, and I think it’s going to be in my mind over the next several days.

      I agree there is a certain comfort that comes from reaching this age and stage. Now to walk the line between accepting that comfort without feeling and becoming stagnant.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment 🙂

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  10. Lovely (and yes, you ARE a writer – published even, if you will allow yourself to fully embrace the reality that you PUBLISH a blog.) Looking through the many comments that follow your post, it seems to me that your writing inspires an active (and interesting) community.

    In my experience, the world pretty much values us at the level at which we value ourselves. Owning all our colors may feel like a radical act, but it really isn’t. It’s a process that begins with a shift in commitment to Self, and IMHO, the most important work we will ever do, modeling self-acceptance for our [collective] daughters.

    FYI: I linked this post as related content to “Awakening in Wisdom” – my birthday post this year, discussing my thoughts on the cloak of the Crone. Take a look – I think you’ll relate. Check out some of the other “relateds” too. The times they are a-changing!

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, SCAC, MCC
    – ADD Coaching Field co-founder –
    (blogs: ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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    1. Thanks so much, for reading, commenting, and linking 🙂
      I will check out your post and Awakening in Wisdom. I agree, how the world perceives us has much to do with how we perceive ourselves.

      I feel blessed here in Fringeland, it’s definitely a growing community, and the replies and conversations posted enrich each post.

      I hope you’ll come again and join us, Madelyn!

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      1. hmmmm . . . maybe I needed to start at the bottom of my notifications list and work UP???? Now that I’ve reached THIS comment, it feels like “old news” since we’ve already communicated on some LATER comments.

        (funny aside: I had temporarily misplaced my strongest glasses, so was using an older pair – a tad fuzzy – and misread “replies and conversations” as “recipes and conversations” — “WHAT?! This is a cooking blog — how did I miss that?” was my immediate thought.

        Fortunately some remaining sanity prompted me to look for a better pair of “eyes” – and I have been chuckling to myself ever since as my creative ADD brain “vamps” on how recipes, cooking and “Fringeland” might be connected.

        Like a bad kid’s song stuck in your head, I have now infected YOU with the “recipe virus” – shut the door while you giggle or they may think you have finally gone off the reservation.

        xx,
        mgh

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        1. Bwahaha, we’re on the same page tonight–I’ve been looking at a new cookbook, and was thoroughly inspired by an article I read in The New Yorker this afternoon, about Yotam Ottolenghi, by Jane Kramer.

          I don’t have ADD, but anyone who knows me and/or follows this blog knows my brain makes some, umm, interesting leaps and turns.
          🙂

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  11. I LOVE the comments in this thread.

    I cannot BELIEVE that you wise and wonderful women would *ever* have a moment’s doubt about your value in the universe – look at how you express yourselves, what you consider worth expressing – etc. etc. (now ME, I have doubts because . . . . yada, yada,yada)

    And there is the crux of our problem – perhaps, even, by some perfection of divine design. We NEED each other to be the wind beneath each other’s wings, to be the containers into which we can safely pour our doubts and fears, to take advantage of the group-mind when our own takes a vacation.

    RE: credentials – two quick[ish] stories:

    #1- back in the dark ages, when the coaching field was in its infancy, many of us (some who have been featured on Oprah, even) were taking our first baby steps together in small classes in what was then a brand new “teleclass” format. To help us link voices to Spirits in the absence of faces and bodies, we spent time “introducing” ourselves: so and so, Ph.D, yada,yada – including a voice with a MSU credential, one SV.

    MONTHS later, somebody actually got up the guts to say, essentially, “I’m sorry, but I don’t really know what all these “initials” stand for – could we take a minute for that?”

    Long story short – after SV was asked what MSU represented, there was a beat before he said, with a twinkle in his voice, “‘Make sh** up'” – everybody else had initials and I wanted some too.”

    THAT, my new friends, was Sandy Vilas, who purchased Coach University from coaching field founder Thomas Leonard – and has built it into one of the largest Coach Training Organizations in a field now practically over-run with same (among many other accomplishments,) Attitude is all!

    #2 – my dear friend and colleague [recently deceased] Kate Kelly (co-author of one of the “bibles” of the ADD universe and authentically credentialled with advanced nursing degrees, having worked as a psych-nurse), loved to use “Kate Kelly, NCW” (which stands for “No Credentials Whatsoever”) — hoping to have a “Sandy” moment herself, but nobody ever asked HER!

    #3 (yeah, I can’t count) The ONLY reason I always string my credentials (etc) behind my name is branding and “marketing,” since I work with doctors and shrinks in the “neuro” fields. It opens doors to collegial resources that might otherwise take more time and energy to develop.

    NOBODY has ever asked (or would be interested in hearing) what they represent, btw. Not ONCE in 20 years. I might just as well have put “NCW, MSU” after my name — so if you feel “less than” without initials, grab THOSE.

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, SCAC, MCC
    – ADD Coaching Field co-founder –
    (blogs: ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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    1. LOVE these stories! One of the things I found most interesting from this post was that several women (in the Mother stage) took it as a “dis,” putting down the choice to stay home with their children. Not the intent of the piece, but it illustrated for me how sensitive we are at different stages, questioning our choices isn’t a new feature to cronedom, but an ongoing process.

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      1. Thanks for the reminder of sensitivities and the innate understanding that “put down” was NOT what I intended on any level.

        My abject apologies to anyone who felt disrespected (including those who’ve worked hard to obtain the credentials they cite and about which they are justifiably proud).

        My intent was to *validate* choice, not the opposite.

        The anecdotes were intended to point out how silly, really, that it is to discount our power to move forward from the background of ANY pathway, hoping to reframe the lack of credentials in particular.

        The reactions you cite point out and underscore how little support (and acknowledgment of the importance of) the roles of women in society have received. We are ALL so ready to defend, because we have been so often discounted.

        My bias is to cast “blame” on making capitalist imperatives more “valuable” than the growth and development of society itself (but that doesn’t make it so.)

        At the risk of adding fuel to the fire, MOM is a pretty darned valuable credential! Arguably, *the* most important (and difficult) job on the planet — amazing skills prep for just about anyplace you’d go once the kids fly the nest, if you think about it objectively.

        You probably won’t get far by using that on a resume, unfortunately — which may explain the disproportionate rise of women in the SOHO fields (more than what is currently viewed as a desire to be home with the kids while they are younger.)

        xx,
        mgh

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        1. “The reactions you cite point out and underscore how little support (and acknowledgment of the importance of) the roles of women in society have received. We are ALL so ready to defend, because we have been so often discounted.”

          That paragraph speaks volumes, and crystalizes my thoughts. And yes, parenting, particularly mothering, is devalued and disrespected in our society–as are children–other than as consumers. I have another post that touches on this. I’ll come back and link it.

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          1. I can’t see it really changing until women themselves change. And by that I mean that we make it a POINT to stand up for each other, affirming the value of our roles and our choices.

            I am not one who has attracted the “devisiveness” many report — at least not to my face 🙂 — my girlfriends and close female colleagues are pretty darned supportive on just about any level you could imagine — and I wouldn’t have made it without them.

            Somehow, even women that other women complain are “gossipy” (or worse) understand not to do that in our company – and we stick up for them too.

            I can’t claim any conscious attempt to set up that kind of community, so I have no advice to offer there. But I can’t help but feel that if ALL women had the support of other women, the male attitudes that devalue our contributions would have no choice but to fall in line.

            What a wonderful world we could create if we were ALL valued and affirmed!
            xx,
            mgh

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  12. You are a writer, You entertain me always! a Little OT but I can relate. see I have this problem with cooking. I have entered cooking competitions. I can cook ANYTHING. its second nature to me. The problem is that I am not a trained chef. I have no credentials. Where do I fit in?

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    1. Thank you, Susan. It’s true, life changes are much more difficult for those of us who are over 12 😉 and don’t have the credentials. Blah!
      Mebbe we need to start a literary cafe 🙂

      Like

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