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, October 31, 2020

Is the Witchy Crone Born or Made?


It’s Halloween.  The witching time of year.  The witch is a character, an archetype, and an epitaph. Starting in the middle ages as a healer, she later became associated with the devil; and either burned at the stake or hung, when identified. Women outliers were most often accused.  Single women, widows, and other women on the margins of society were especially targeted.

Over time, the witch became a universal archetype, closely associated with the crone. Both are portrayed as old and ugly.  Both are clever and, at times, cunning.  What distinguishes them is not magic-making or flying on broomsticks, but on the crone’s desire to serve as a mentor or guide for those who are found worthy.  These are the young heroes-in-training, usually, orphans lost in a world in which they have no value.  The line between the witch and the crone is rarely clear.

Yet a question remains.  Is the witch born or made? Is she the product of trauma, a wrong that remained un-righted, a solitary weakness in character, or was her fate destined?  It’s the back story we never hear of a witch woman we never truly know.  If that story was told perhaps our view of her would change.  Perhaps we would see her in a new light, a light of understanding and compassion.  And in doing so perhaps women today could also stop judging themselves against a single measure of perfection – the archetype of the princess.  The princess is the antithesis of the witch.  She is meek, well mannered, and beautiful.  She never is “too smart,” or “too gifted.”  She knows her place and only rarely moves beyond her assigned role.   

The witch in folk tales, however, is no sissy.  Smart and skilled, she causes chaos, places curses, and sometimes eats small children for dinner. She is no one to be crossed.  Accordingly, many women today would do just about anything to avoid being called her name (or some variation thereof!).  But is the witch beyond redemption?  Is she always the evil antagonist or is there a reason for her madness?

The poem that follows is one of these backstories.  It’s the story of a woman who became a witch only after she lost her love.  Many years later, as an old, old, woman (perhaps even a crone), she crafts a spell to begin again.

Magick Spell for Lost Love


“Double, double toil and trouble….”

I cast this spell in the darkest night; the moon is full, owl, and wolf share my plight.

“Fire burn and caldron bubble…”

The words I speak brand my heart, I set my intention and release the dark arts,

“Fillet of a fenny snake…”

for an incantation truly meant to find lost love and heal laments.

“In the caldron boil and bake…”

No visage reflects on my mirror shard, nor fortune fated on a Tarot card.

Eye of Newt and toe of frog…”

My power lost, so freely given; in spurts and sputters, and without reason.

“Wool of bat and tongue of dog...”

“Nose too long and hair too straight,” poisoned thoughts that suffocate.

“Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting…”

Potions of hibiscus and rose hips fail against the sin of self-betrayal.

“Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing…”

The raven gives its warning cry, as I mark a pentagram in the sky.

“For a charm of powerful trouble…”

My skill grew less, my anger rose, as I recalled my troubled woes.

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble…”

No one can put me in my place, say I am less, or make me wait.

“Double, double toil and trouble…”

Send me to trial, or burn at stake, release me from this awful hate,

Fire burn and caldron bubble…”

that strips my skill and leaves me bare, forget and forgive, not ensnare.

“Cool it with a baboon’s blood…” (And let me remember how to love.)

My power comes from deep within, this magick’s in my very skin.

“Then the charm is firm and good…”

Love is stronger than the night, it gives me strength, so I take flight.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Book Review - "Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Grimm Fairy Tale" by Andrea Blyth



Blyth crafted her small book around the Grimm folktale of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” (also known as “The Shoes that Were Danced to Pieces”).  It’s the tale of 12 sisters who sneak off at night to dance with the fairies. Each day they return with their shoes worn out.  The King imprisons them and proclaims that any man who can uncover the mystery can marry one of his daughters. If the suitor fails, then it’s off with the head!  The sisters drug the men so they can’t be followed. But a soldier (with help from an old woman) finally solves the puzzle.  The story ends with him marrying the older sister. 

This is where Blyth’s prose poems pick up the tale. For each sister she creatively envisions her life after the bliss and intoxication of the otherworld.  She weaves stories of rage and guilt, addiction, and mayhem. Ultimately, it is the tale of women who experienced freedom only to be later confined as the property of men. (And yes, there is a feminist cast to her prose.)  I’m sure each reader will have a favorite sister with her over the top solution to living a life no longer of her own choosing.

Each story is filled with poetic ideas, and beautiful imagery. Each story answers the question of what happens after “happily ever after.” Best of all, Blyth includes “Author’s Notes” that discuss her thoughts on the folktale and how she came to her retelling.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Book Review - "Tales of the Night Sky: Revealing the Mythologies and Folklore behind the Constellations" by Robin Kerrod

 At the "Wise Crone Cottage" blog and podcast, I focus on stories from the oral tradition, both folktales and mythologies. It is my goal to share these stories so they won't be forgotten.  In support of this goal, I've started writing book reviews of new works on these topics. You can find them on "Goodreads" and "NetGalley."  They will also be posted here.

 Tales of the Night Sky by Robin Kerod

Tales of the Night Sky: Revealing the Mythologies and Folklore behind the Constellations by Robin Kerrod, (London: Quarto Pub., 2020), is a fun mix of science and folklore.  Filled with beautiful illustrations, this book also includes an 18” x 24” constellation wall map.  Each section discusses a specific element of cosmology – “The Universe,” “Patterns in the Sky,” “Around the Constellations,” and “Wandering Stars” (the ancient Greek term for planets).  Written for a young audience, each entry focuses on a specific constellation or planet discussing its history, science, mythology, and folklore (including astrological interpretations).  History and science from early thought (in which the sun rotates around the earth) to Copernicus is included; and ancient stories from Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology provided.  All topics are addressed in a clear and simple format often on only a single page. For example, the entry on the Constellation of Cancer includes several stories from Greek mythology in which the crab fights with Hercules during his battle with a hydra.  It also provides early folklore on the “swarm of stars,” found on the center star, Praesepe, which is called the “beehive cluster.” Some entries also provide a brief astronomy discussion. The associated illustration shows the star chart and the ancient depiction of the Cancer constellation.  A glossary is included. For both teachers and storytellers, this book contains the perfect blend of science, history, and folklore to create an entertaining and educational story or introductory lesson plan.