Cronnie Wisdom

Crone is "a phase in which you can be more authentic, more capable of making a difference in your family and in the greater world. Life gives you experience, and when you draw from it, that's true wisdom. By the time a woman is in her crone years, she is in an amazing position to be an influence. To change things for the better, to bring what she knows into a situation, to be able to say, 'Enough is enough.' You don't have to just go along with things, which is often a part of the middle years. You're often something of a loose cannon."
Jean Shinoda Bolen


Saturday, June 25, 2022

Tomes Scones and Crones by Colleen Gleason

 

Tomes Scones & Crones: A Paranormal Women’s Fiction Novel (Three Tomes Bookshop Book 1)Tomes Scones & Crones: A Paranormal Women’s Fiction Novel by Colleen Gleason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fun romp and a perfect way to escape. It's part mystery and part magic, filled with crones, witches and fictional characters. It is ultimately the story of a middle-aged librarian who inherits a magical book store and, in doing so, found her way home. The three crone characters are empowering and provide a positive expression of aging. This reader looks forward to meeting all these characters again.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 20, 2022

"I Am Not Old"


 

I am not old, she said,
I am rare.

I am the standing ovation
at the end of the play.

I am the retrospective
of my life
as art.

I am the hours
connected like dots
into good sense.

I am the fullness
of existing.

You think I am waiting to die
but I am waiting to be found.

I am a treasure,
I am a map,
these wrinkles are imprints
of my journey.

Ask me
anything.

bentlily

Image by iphotoklick from Pixabay

 


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Living the "Handmaid's Tale" - My Own Crone Story


 

The blog usually shares a folktale or fantasy story about the wise crone.  This month is an exception.  In July I turn 70, so for once I’d like to share a part of my own crone story.

I grew up in the south in the 1950s.  My Momma didn’t work outside of home.  She always wore a dress and high heels whenever she left the house.  On Sundays, we went to church.  I wore a dress with crinoline, a hat, and gloves. Her name was Mrs. Charles rather than Mrs. Minna and that’s how she signed her checks.  Her own name had disappeared with marriage. That was how it was, and she followed along without a thought.

In 1970, I was 18 and started college.  I joined what was then known as a “consciousness raising” group.  It was hosted by a professor’s wife and held in their home.  I didn’t know what to expect.  We discussed the work of Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, and Kate Millett.  I became a Second Wave Feminist, and I proudly used that name to define my beliefs and who I am. It’s a belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities.  It has nothing to do with hating men (no matter what the conservative media says).   At some point, the conversation in our group turned to abortion. At that time, women had no right to a legal abortion.  That didn’t mean abortions stopped, it just meant they went underground.  I heard horrific stories from women who had back-alley or foreign abortions.  Stories of how their uterus was perforated with a coat hanger.  Women who ended up in the hospital; some dying, others sterile.  I heard stories of abuse, of rape and incest. The women telling the stories cried.  As we listened, we cried too.

The patriarchy was strong at that time and women were seen as extensions to men rather than as autonomous.  They couldn’t make choices about their own body because they were ruled by their emotions.  The only beings truly rational were male. This practice began well before the Middle Ages when medieval law made women the chattel of their fathers, then brothers, and finally husbands. And so, it continued in this country. In 1981, federal law finally ended the legal subordination of a wife to her husband. 

We began to march with many other women to the capital in Denver.  Marching for a women’s right to choose, but for much more.  We marched for women’s right to autonomy, independence, and respect. We marched for equal opportunity. We marched in the hope that one day we would be seen as more than Eve – fallen, weak, menstruating, and ruled by emotions. I wore an ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) bracelet on my wrist, hoping and praying that women would be added to the Constitution.  If passed, women would finally have equality under the law.  But that still has not happened. Even today, the United States is not among the world's top ten countries for gender parity.  We are number 30 out of the 154 countries (and if you are wondering, Iceland comes in first!).  But finally, in 1973, Roe v. Wade was decided and a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body was assured.

While I never had an abortion, I held the hands of young women who made that choice.  These were women too young to raise a child – single, alone and without the resources to do so.  These were married woman whose husbands refused to parent any child and gave them the ultimate ultimatum.   These were the women who didn’t have the income, didn’t have the support, the health care, the childcare to raise a child. Contrary to the way some portray it, these decisions were not capricious and not the result of irresponsible behavior.  Abortion was not used as “birth control.”

This is a moral decision but not one the state should be involved in making.  The moment in which a child is independent and viable of its mother is clear – birth.  Prior to that, we struggle with conflicting philosophy, theories, and precepts.  When does life occur?  Whose life predominates: the life that is here or the life that might be?  There is one person and only one person who should decide and that’s the mother.  She decides after consultation with her doctor, decides after consultation with her family and friends.  She does not need input from the U.S. Supreme Court, the church, or any other group unless she seeks it herself. She is not a child and should not be treated as one. Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes, "The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.”

For the U.S. Supreme Court to remove a fundamental right that women have had for over 50 years simply to pander to a conservative minority is obscene.  It has been 50 years since I marched.  My daughters and nieces must face it all again.  Our fight didn't matter. Sadly, it may be the start of our real life “Handmaid’s Tale.” So again I cry for what is and for what may be.

I am eternally grateful that my father, who was a feminist, believed I could do and be anything I wanted and that it was always only a woman’s right to choose.

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Embracing the Wise Old Woman Archetype

I'm really excited about this class I created for SoulatPlay. It's about the Wise Old Woman archetype and conscious aging. It's filled with stories, psychological insights and tools for inner work. The class is online and you can go at your own pace. But there is also an opportunity to join in Zoom discussions. I hope some of you are able to join us.


 

The Crone's Answer to Book Banning!

As you might well imagine, the wise crone loves to exhume old stories and bring them back to life. She is against any censorship of ideas and especially book banning and book burning which to her is the tantamount sin and punishable by meeting Baba Yaga! Margaret Atwood (the most prophetic of wise crones) shows us that "powerful words can never be extinguished."




Monday, April 25, 2022

"The Thread of Fate" - the Greek Moirai

 



As dawn meets the new day, the chamber is finally still.  For after a long and labored night, a child is born.  Not just any child, of course.  This one is a princess: all pink and chubby, soft, and cuddly, the perfect expression of baby-ness.  There is much rejoicing throughout the kingdom.  All her fairy tale life lies before her. Or so we might think, at least until the fairies arrive to give the child a blessing. In “Sleeping Beauty,” the baby receives both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing of beauty, intelligence, and grace and a curse that prophecies an early death.

The word fairy comes from the Latin word for fate.  These are creatures who meddle in the affairs of humans. But these fairies are a poor excuse for the Greek goddesses who determined the course of every life at birth.  These are not fairies but Fates.   They were called the Moirai: three powerful and independent sisters who plotted each person’s life course.  They determined the fate of humanity by marking two points in time – birth and death.  At birth what gifts are given to this child?  What curses? How would the child be touched by good and evil?  How long would this life be? The Moirai work in secret to answer these questions.

The character and nature of the Moirai is thought to be different depending upon the author.  I’ll try to consolidate what is known. The word Moirai means “parts” or “shares.”  Although some argue that these goddesses were ugly, deformed old women; others depict them as the maiden, mother, and crone.  Either way, their duties were the same. Dressed in white vestments, each goddess was allotted a different task.  Klotho was the youngest.  She was “the spinner” who spun the thread of life. She is depicted with either a spindle or a roll representing the book of fate. She sings of the things that are.

Lakhesis was a woman and the “apportion-er of lots.”  She was the one who measured the thread and sings of things that were. Lakhesis was represented as holding a staff pointing to the horoscope on a globe.

Atropos is the crone. Her name means “she who cannot be turned.”  Atropos is the oldest, the smallest, and the most powerful of the three. She carries a pair of scales, a sundial, or a cutting tool. She is the one who breaks or cuts the thread when life is to come to an end. She sings of things that are to be.

Because these were goddesses of fate, they knew the course of the future.  At times, they shared this prophecy. It wasn’t their primary function for they weren’t oracles.  At times they were also seen in the company of death.  They traversed the underworld traveling with Persephone back to the earth’s surface. But they weren’t the goddess of death even though they set the date.

At the birth of each child, the Moirai spun the thread of fate. Fate as we know it is fixed but destiny is within our control. When might fate be changed to destiny?  Does free will exist in this system at all? These are questions for Greek philosophers but worthy of reflection, nonetheless.  In some writings, the Moirai were independent of the gods, and nothing could challenge fate. Other writers say Zeus was able to challenge any decision.  As time when by, the Moirai lost some power and their actions begin to be seen as more conditional.

Let’s go back to the story of “Sleeping Beauty.”  Was her fate inevitable?  The good old woman in the story said, “not knowing very well what to do in this affair, I cry out for help.”  Which is all anyone can do in moments of inevitability.  It’s true any time we feel our fate is sealed, whether it is through ancestry or genetics, or our cultural programming.  We seem caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place – the free will to follow our destiny seems less and less likely. In “Sleeping Beauty,” the king challenged fate by hiding all the spinning wheels.  But ultimately, she pricked her finger and  succumbed to a 100-year sleep. It was fate after all and there was nothing a concerned parent could do.

Yet again the wise crone is in the midst of it.  What does she know of fate and destiny?  Atropos is the one who carries the sundial and knows when time is late.  Atropos carries the scales, which are needed for balance.  She knows what to release and let go of.  The wise crone lives in a state of discernment.  Who is worthy and when?  She seeks a balance of integration.  What was, was.  What will be, will be.  She sings of things that are to be. The wise crone surrenders to life’s ebbs and flows.  Sometimes she accepts her fate – to be in a world filled with sorrow and chaos.  Sometimes she moves towards her destiny to be in service to others.

Carl Jung claimed that what is held in our unconscious is fated.  What become conscious is our destiny. The ancient Greeks  knew about fate and chose Atropos as the elder.  It takes experience and wisdom to know when to cut the thread, when to let go and when to give up. She is more than ready to release your fate if you are ready to take hold of your destiny.

Image from The three Moirai, relief, grave of Alexander von der Mark by Johann Gottfried Schadow (Old National Gallery, Berlin). 

Friday, March 4, 2022

"The Straw Bull-Calf" A Ukrainian Folk Tale


Once upon a time, there lived an Old Man and an Old Woman.  The Old Man distilled tar, while the Old Woman sat at home and spun thread.

One day the Old Woman went after the Old Man: “Old Man make me a bull-calf of straw,” she nagged.  “Make me a bull-calf of straw and smear it with tar!”

“What nonsense!  What do you want with a calf of straw?”

“Just you make it.  I know what I want it for.” 

He couldn’t talk her out of it, so the Old Man went ahead and made a bull-calf of straw and smeared it with tar.

In the morning the Old Woman took along some hemp and the straw bull-calf to a pasture.  She seated herself beside a mound and began to spin, repeating the while: “Graze on grass, my pretty calf, while I sit and spin some thread!”  She kept spinning until she dozed off.

Meanwhile, a bear ran out of the dark forest, out of the dark woods, and ran into the bull-calf.

“Who are you?” he growled. “Tell me quick!”

“I’m a bull-calf, and I’m small, made of straw and smeared with tar.”

“If you’re made of straw and smeared with tar,” said the bear, “give me some tar to patch my torn side!”

The bull-calf was silent, so the bear sank his teeth into him to tear some tar away.  He kept rearing and tearing at him until his teeth got quite stuck and he couldn’t get them free.  He jerked this way and that, but nothing doing!  So he dragged that bull-calf goodness knows how far away.

When the Old Woman awoke, she found the bull-calf gone. “Woe Is me!” she cried.  “Where is my bull-calf?  Perhaps he has gone home already.”  She grabbed up her spinning and ran home.  In the yard she looked – and there was a bear dragging her bull-calf around the place.

“Old Man come out!” she called.  “Our bull-calf has brought home a bear!”

The Old Man ran out, tore the bear loose, and threw him into the cellar.

Long before dawn the next day the Old Woman again took her spinning and the bull-calf to the pasture.  She seated herself beside a mound, spun thread, and kept intoning: “Graze on grass, my pretty calf, while I sit and spin some thread.”  She kept spinning until she dozed off.

Meanwhile, a grey wolf ran out of the dark forest, out of the dark woods, and ran up to the bull-calf: “Who are you? Tell me quick!”

“I’m a bull-calf, and I’m small, made of straw and smeared with tar.”

“If you are smeared with tar,” said the wolf, “give me some to patch my side where the dogs have torn my hide.”

“Go ahead, take it!”

The wolf at once sank his teeth into the bull-calf side, intending to tear some tar off for himself.  He sank his fangs in, but he couldn’t get them out.  He kept backing off, dragging the bull-calf with him.  Oh, he had a time with it!

When the Old Woman awoke, the bull-calf was nowhere to be seen.  “He has probably gone home,” she thought and went to the house.  There she saw the wolf dragging the bull-calf around.  She ran and told the Old Man, who threw the wolf, too, into the cellar.

On the third day the Old Woman took the bull-calf to pasture again.  She seated herself beside a mound and fell asleep.  A fox ran up.

“Who are you?” asked the fox.

“I am a bull-calf, and I’m small, made of straw and smeared with tar.”

“Give me some tar to patch up my side, dear fellow. Cursed hounds almost tore the hide off me”

“Take it!”

The fox too sank his teeth in and couldn’t get them out.  The Old Woman told the Old Man, and he threw the fox into the cellar as well.  After that, they also caught a fleet-footed hare.

When there was a whole collection of animals, the Old Man seated himself over the hatch in the cellar and began to whet his knife. 

“Old Man, why are you sharpening your knife?” asked the bear.

“To skin you with, and make winter coats out of your hide for the Old Woman and me”

“Please don’t butcher me, dear Old man.  Let me go and I’ll bring you loads of honey.”

“See that you do!”

And then he set the bear free.  Then he sat over the hatch again and continued whetting his knife.

The wolf asked him: “Why are you sharpening the knife, Old Man?”

“To take off your hide and make me a warm cap for the winter.”

“Please don’t butcher me, dear Old Man, and I’ll drive a whole flock of sheep into your yard.”

“Don’t fail, now!”  And he let the wolf go.  He sat down and began to whet his knife again. 

The fox stuck his sly muzzle out and asked: “Tell me, Old Man, if you please, why are you sharpening the knife?”

“Fox fur is fine for a fur collar and trimming,” he replied, “and I intend to take yours.”

“Dear Old Man, don’t take my hide off and I’ll bring you geese and hens galore.”

“See that you do!” And he turned the fox loose.  Only the hare remained.  The Old Man kept on whetting his knife.  The hare asked him why, and he answered: “The fur of a hare is soft and warm.  I’ll make myself a pair of mittens and a fur cap for winter.”

“Please don’t kill me, dear Old Man, and I’ll bring you ribbons and earrings and fine necklaces, only let me go free!”  The Old Man release him as well.

They self the night through, and in the morning just before dawn, there was a rat-tat-tat at the door.  The Old Woman woke up: “Old Man!” she cried.  “Old Man, something’s knocking on our door, go and see what it is!”

The Old Man opened the door – and there was the bear with a whole hive of honey.  The Old Man put the honey away and had just got into bed again when there was another rap! rap! At the door.  He went out and found that the wolf had driven a whole flock of sheep into the yard.  Soon after that, the fox brought geese and chickens and fowl of all sorts.  And the hare fetched a pile of ribbons, earrings, and fine necklaces.

The Old Man was glad, and the Old Woman was glad. They lived in good health for many a year and never had cause to shed a tear.

The story starts with the Old Man and the Old Woman.  They seem to have no children and are both hard-working.  One day the Old Woman asks the Old Man to make a bull-calf from straw and tar. The request seems a bit random.  As the story progresses, we might guess that she is tired of working so hard.  We have no evidence that she is a fool, so she must have a plan.  When she asks the Old Man to make a bull-calf of straw, he argues with her. “Why do you want this?”  he asks. “How silly!”

The Old Woman doesn’t explain, and she doesn’t justify or defend her request.  Even so, she is insistent. It isn’t until the Old Woman takes the calf to the pasture that we see magic afoot. She chants, “Graze on grass, my pretty calf, while I sit and spin some thread!”  That doesn’t seem to be much of an incantation, but as we soon see, it most certainly is.  In fact, magical practice was widespread in both Russia and the Ukraine. Scholars can document the spells and rituals practitioners used in the past. In the Ukraine, women were most often the practitioner. (For more see, Witchcraft & Ukraine: 1000-1900, edited by Valerie A. Kirelson and Christine E. Worobec. Ithica, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 2021). Worobec writes, “Living at the mercy of the environment, exploitative classes and the state, peasants in the preindustrial world had a wealth of beliefs and practices that explained their circumstances, provided them with safeguards against adversity, and enabled them to counteract the calamities that befell them…. [Further] it permitted weaker members of village communities to take advantage of the powers that their culture ascribed to witches and sorcerers.”  But why was the object of her magic the bull? To the peasant, having a bull meant prosperity.  When you had a bull, you had the potential for breeding.  To make a straw bull-calf symbolized the prosperity that was to come.

The calf comes to life and engages with the animals one by one.  Each one wants some of his tar to patch their skin.  But when they try to take it, they get stuck.  This scene is reminiscent of the African-American tale of “Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby.” In that story, Br’er Fox makes a tar baby catch Br’er Rabbit.  Br’er Rabbit strikes the tar baby because he won’t speak to him.  The more he fights the tar baby the more he gets stuck.  Such is the same for these animals. They get stuck and then flail around with the straw bull-calf as they try to get it off. The Old Woman alerts the Old Man telling him the "bull-calf has brought the animal home." He captures each animal and puts them in the cellar.

This happens four times: first to the bear, then to the wolf, fox, and hare.  (“[T]he best-known wild animals in Ukraine are in fact the fox, the wolf, the bear and the hare.” Lintur, Petro, “A Survey of Ukrainian Folktales.” Occasional Research Repts. 56. Edmonton: Canadian Inst. Ukrainian Studies Press, 1994.) Each gets stuck to the straw bull-calf, then captured by the Old Man and thrown into the cellar.  And that is where they stay until the Old Man is ready to kill them for their hides.  In a surprising development, the animals promise to bring gifts to the couple in exchange for their lives. The Old Man kindly agrees, the animals are released, and true to their word. They bring honey, sheep, geese, chickens, and fowl to the couple.  The Old Woman is also brought ribbons, earrings, and a fine necklace. 

The Old Woman in this story can perform magic. Why she hasn’t done so before, we don’t know.  Maybe she has.  Maybe she didn’t have the skill until now. All we know for certain is that circumstances have now aligned so that her “magic” brings forth the desired result - that is, the desire for more prosperity.  Lintur held, “that since wealth was a desired goal in animal tales and in tales of magic, these genres come from a time when there was still no private ownership, of the means of production and no class differentiation.” (Lintur, Petro, “A Survey of Ukrainian Folktales.”)  As we see, these tales always contain the history and culture of the people.

This wise crone is patient. She is clever.  She waits until the time is “right” before making her move. She is not influenced by the opinions of others.  She won’t take her husband’s “no” for an answer.  Neither is she cruel or mean to him.  She is simply persistent and insistent.  Her husband follows her lead (as he probably has for many a year).  And with all the threats of skinning these animals, none die or are harmed.  They are released.  In exchange for this kindness, the Old Man and the Wise Old Woman receive all they need to live simply and happily for the rest of their days. The moral of the story is: Keep learning for you are never too old to learn a new skill! Especially if that skill is magic!”

The Straw Bull-Calf: Ukrainian Folk Tale, trans. by John Weir. Kiev : Veselka Publishers, 1976. 

Illustrator (above), P. Repkin.