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

Sunday, October 17, 2021

“The Legend of India Mariana” – An Argentinian Folktale


In this land, there once lived an old native woman. Some say she magically showed up the first day of summer and disappeared when the autumn leaves fell.  She was a scraggly, old crone, thin and haggard.  Her skin was wrinkled, tanned, and leathered from the sun.  Her hair was long and grey.  Her eyes black as coal.  The crone’s constant companion was her dog.  He was large and wild but completely devoted to the old woman.

She dressed in long flowing clothes, brightly patterned, but torn and tattered. Over her head and shoulders, she wrapped a “rebozo” (shawl).  Most days the old woman rested under the carob trees, right by the side of the road, smoking a big cigar.  They say these trees only bloomed when she was there.

Soon the children in the neighborhood surrounded her.   She was a gifted storyteller, and the children were always eager to hear her tales.  She told the old stories of her people. Sometimes they were filled with fantasy - foxes and armadillos. But the stories they loved the best, were her stories of adventure.  These were the legends of the Huarpe Indians and of their lives, heartaches, and triumphs. Perhaps some of these were tales from her own life.  We’ll never know for sure.  Sometimes she’d sing a song she learned long ago, perhaps she even howled at the moon. She never wasted her time with adults.  The children called her “abu” for they truly felt she was their grandmother.

The old woman made her living selling “golden nuggets” that she had gathered from the “Pocito” (the San Juan providence known as the “little pit”).  Spaniards, who had conquered the land, heard the gossip that this old woman had a pit of gold.  They thought if they followed her, she would lead them to it. One dark night, she made her way deep into the forest with the Spaniards tracking her every move. But instead of finding her gold mine, they came instead upon her wild dog.  His bright red eyes shone in the darkness, reflecting the light of their torches. The dog began to pant and growl and was soon chasing after the men.  The old woman cackled joyfully. 

Sadly, that very night, there was an earthquake that filled many pits with rubble. What happened to her gold, we’ll never know.  Only one Spaniard was ever found. He was wild and crazed, rambling about a demon monster living in the forest.   His companions simply disappeared.

The people named the city “little pit” to honor the crone’s treasure, in the hope that someday, someone would find it again. But they never did. The old woman died with her secret within her.


This story has been memorialized in a local monument located in Pocito, Argentina. It depicts an old woman of indigenous origin telling stories to young children.  The children sit around her with rapt attention. So, while we see this crone depicted as a trickster, it is her role as the storyteller that is most important. Perhaps the significance of her telling would not have been important if I hadn’t discovered the history of this story. The old woman was part of the Huarpe Indian tribe - a people who were believed to be extinct in the 18th century.  The tribe was small- and overtime people moved and merged with others.  Perhaps they may even have succumbed to the plague brought over by the Spanish conquerors.  The ideas surrounding the tribes demise are many.

When your world is crumbling and dying, when your people are becoming extinct, what do you do? The crone shared her stories.  It is something women have always done. Tell the stories in the hope that it will right wrongs and make life better. Maria Tatar writes, “Curiosity, care, and philanthropy–that’s now my trio of attributes for describing the features of heroines from times past, women who paid attention to injustices, cared enough about them to right wrongs, and understood the value of being directed towards others. They engaged in a form of what Martin Hägglund calls secular faith, a belief system that recognizes the fragility of life and seeks to mend, repair, heal, and secure justice.”

This is the story of the crone. She smokes big cigars and shares the stories of her people.  These stories are filled with the history and culture she knows will soon be forgot.  She doesn’t waste her time with the adults.  They are less likely to hear and perhaps even less likely to care.  Instead she focuses on the children. It is a wise move because the stories she told kept the tribe alive long after their demise.

Today we live life on the razor's edge. Some believe we are moving toward our own extinction. There are still old women who refuse to be silent and who live their lives solely to share the stories – the stories that make a difference. May each of us tell the stories that give hope and strength for the days to come.



Sunday, October 3, 2021

Upcoming Workshoop on the Wise Old Woman/Crone Archetype


This Thursday (10/7), I'm giving a (live online) 2 hour class on the Wise Old Woman Crone archetype at SoulatPlay. Hope you can join us!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Goddess Isis as the Crone


In the last Wise Crone Cottage Podcast (S2, #11), I discussed the stories of Greek goddesses who disguised themselves as old women. But Greece is not the only culture where this has occurred, Egypt has a similar myth. It’s part of a love story between two Egyptian gods: Isis and Osiris.

In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Isis was the child of Geb, the god of the earth, and Nut, the goddess of the sky.  Isis is usually depicted with huge sheltering wings. She is a healing and nurturing goddess, teaching women to grind corn, spin, and weave.  She also shares her ability to cure illness. Isis married one of her brothers, the god Osiris, and the pair ruled the world.  On a side note, incest was common in Greek and Egyptian mythology, and this story was no exception.

All goes well until, Osiris is murdered by his jealous, younger brother Set.  He is placed in a chest and thrown into the Nile River. Isis searches desperately throughout the land. She finally finds the casket. It is now lodged in a tree in Byblos. The king and queen of the city saw the tree at the shoreline.  Attracted by its beauty and the sweet scent of Osiris’ body, the queen asked that the tree be cut down and brought to the court .  There it served as the central pillar.

Isis, now disguised as an old woman, befriends the queen’s handmaidens. They assist her in becoming the nursemaid to the young princes.  Isis is especially fond of one boy and seeks to make him immortal. This entailed holding him nightly in a mystical fire to burn away his mortally.  One night, the queen caught the old woman in the act.  Horrified she cursed the crone and sought to remove her from the court.  Isis then threw off her disguise, revealing herself as a goddess.  The queen and the king begged for her mercy, offering her anything to spare them.  Isis asked for the pillar in the courtyard which was then given to her.

Isis brings Osiris’s corpse back to Egypt and hides it in a swamp. Osiris is revived, but rather than being the “Lord of the Living,” he now becomes “Lord of the Dead.”  Seth finds the body, cuts it into 14 pieces and scatters each around the country. The story continues with Isis gathering the pieces of Osiris’s body and later healing him.

Our focus, however, is not on the story of a distraught consort, it is instead the story of the wise crone.  In fact, this story also became part of the Greek goddess, Demeter’s life.  In each tale, the goddess disguises herself as an old woman who cares for a young prince. Each goddess attempts to give the infant immortality by placing him over a fire.  Each are discovered before being able to complete the task.

The connection between these two goddesses (which some believed to be one and the same) was identified by the Classical Greek historian Herodotus.  It is obvious that the myth of the goddess Isis impacted the storyline of the Greek goddess Demeter. For the character of Isis was well formed prior to the development of Greek mythology.  Isis gained prominence during the pre-Greek, Mycenaean world. Obviously, these two groups of people connected at some time and these stories spread when that occurred.

Both Isis and Demeter are strong and powerful goddesses.  Both are grieving for the loss of a loved one and are on a journey to find healing (for Isis it’s bringing Osiris back to life, and for Demeter it’s retrieving Persephone from the underworld).  In each story, there is a connection with nature, the growing of crops, seasons of the year, rebirth and resurrection. The stories merge with the appearance of the old woman.  Isis becomes an old woman in an effort to obtain the coffin of Osiris.  Demeter has renounced her life in Olympus to live on the earth.  She is seeking a new life and a distraction from her grief.  Caring for the king’s son helps both goddesses to channel their need to nurture in a more productive way.  Each developed loving feelings toward the infant and sought to give him the gift of immortality.  It is the highest gift these goddesses can bestow on human child.

But why transform into an old woman at all? What does Isis gain in becoming one?  Remember this part of the story was so important that it is found in two different cultures.  For both Isis and Demeter, embodying the crone gave them the opportunity to care for a child. In doing so, they represent the Divine Mother – loving and caring the weakest and most vulnerable. When viewed as the crone, they are found to be wise, mature, and safe.  But as soon as they are caught in their ritual, they become the goddess again, filled with mystery and frightening capriciousness.

In each of these myths, we discover our role model for the crone.  The crone has the power of the elder.  She may be the grandmother, the Divine Mother, Mother Earth, Kali, or Baba Yaga.  She has the power of knowledge and experience.  Hers is a power beneath the surface, running underground and waiting for an opportunity to be of service.  But just like an Egyptian goddess, each of us is waiting for the great reveal.  Surprise!  The old woman you just dismissed, the old woman you just chastised and so rudely ignored, has power beyond measure.  It’s the power of experience.  It’s the power of wisdom.  It’s the power of compassion and of history.

It’s long been time to awaken the archetype of the crone within each one of us!