The “Wise Old Woman” archetype is found within many folktales, myths and legends. The importance of this archetype is essential to our understanding of aging and wisdom. We see examples of the deplorable treatment of our elders within these stories. We search within to discover our own discomfort with that which is not young and beautiful. We examine ourselves for times when we have marginalized others and found them invisible.
The “Wise Old Woman” archetype teaches us who we can truly be: someone who embraces both our light and our darkness, our education and our experience. She is a woman who can maneuver deftly through the mire of her culture, who can speak truthfully and is unafraid of the opinions of others. She makes the invisible visible. She shows us the worth in unlikely sources. The “Wise Old Woman” archetype continues on the journey as the unlikely hero, while providing service to others as the helper.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes may have expressed this the best when she said, “Though I myself find perils and challenges of age to be true, we must disavow the old prejudices about women and age. The true vision of the wise woman is one of bounty of love and age and wisdom. As she gathers years, like an ancient tree, she grows ever more arms, even more flowers and fruits. She is more rooted, more vast, more sheltering—developing her callings to be throughout life, maiden mother, medium, crone, elder, healer, teacher, artist, knowing woman.”