The story of how I came to publish the award-winning Crone Chronicles, A Journal of Conscious Aging (1989-2001) is connected to the story of how I used to talk to female astrology clients about the Ancient Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother, Crone. Even now, nearly 20 years later, while this culture appreciates the first two cycles, it tries to ignore or deny the third, that of Crone, which I identified, in astrological terms, as she who lives in the mysterious realms BEYOND SATURN.
by Ann Kreilkamp
This essay was first published in Crone Chronicles #39, Summer Solstice 1999.
The Link between Astrology and Crone
I have been a student of astrology for over 25 years, and have been publishing Crone Chronicles for over ten years. And yet I have long noticed that people see me in terms of either one or the other. Some who have known me as an “astrologer” are surprised and disappointed that I stopped astrological consultations to devote myself to Crone. And some who know me as “Crone Chronicles founder, publisher, editor” puzzle over my interest in astrology. To me, however, the two are linked, have always been linked.
Notice how both subjects are taboo in mainstream culture — astrology for hundreds of years, Crone for thousands. This shared disreputable status is a clue to their connection. Thousands of years ago, Astrology was Queen of the Sciences and Crone, the 3rd aspect of the Triple Goddess, was the old wisewoman of the tribe.
I would like to expand our understanding of Astrology, Crone and their connection, by subsuming them both into the abstract idea of infinite Space. Here, Astrology (including astronomy) studies Space as the context of Earth’s heavenly home. Following the old Hermetic maxim, “As above, so below,” Astrology notices patterns linking planetary cycles in the solar system to human behavior on Earth. On the other hand, we might say that Crone, is, ultimately, Space. Her love is all-encompassing, nothing escapes her notice or her compassion.
Within the rubric of Space, we might speak of Astrology as the mind and Crone as the heart of the Whole, of the All, the One. And We, who seek the One, can do so either through the mind or the heart or both. The two work in complementary fashion, to incorporate expanding portions of space/time.
When we view Astrology as the mind and Crone as the heart then we can consider Astrology as that which structures the consciousness of Crone as a series of developmental stages. What follows is a brief outline of this idea, showing how mastery in Astrology launches us into the mystery of Crone.
Astrology Structures Crone Consciousness
Let us begin with a cosmological idea, that the universe is continuously expanding. Under this assumption, the universe has no circumference and its center is everywhere. In other words, you — and everyone and everything else in the universe — are standing in the exact center of the universe.
Notice here how we have instantly focused in from the macro to the micro, illustrating “As Above, So Below.” Notice how, in fact, the two are one: the center of yourself is the center of the universe.
Now think of yourself, centered, and standing on Earth, at the center of a series of concentric rings or spheres. The rings represent the orbits of the planets which appear to surround Earth; and the spheres are the spaces those planets circumscribe. Each of these rings or spheres can be seen and felt as a dimension of awareness gathered gradually, through time — the time it takes for a planet to complete one full cycle. Thus, the meaning of any planet is its cycle.
(This understanding, that the meaning of any planet is its cycle, was my “eureka” moment one day two years after I had begun to study astrology. Once I had grasped this idea, the structure of astrology fell into place. No longer was I confused; no longer did I think myself crazy for being so fascinated with what others, including my major professor in graduate school where I studied philosophy, called “such nonsense.” From the moment I grokked this simple equation, I began to use the astrological “ephemeris” (which has tables of the daily motions of the planets through the years) to research my own life. This research is the single most valuable project I have ever worked on. It helps me to more fully comprehend what I have experienced, and to direct and amplify my own continuing evolutionary process. So though this essay may seem abstract, believe me, to put its theories into practice has been life-changing.)
If the meaning of any planet is its cycle, then we do not fully comprehend a particular dimension of awareness until we have completed that planet’s cycle by unfolding that particular arc of experience. By studying the experiential processes we undergo as planets traverse their courses through time we sense the profound meaning of the old cliché, “learning from experience.” Thus, the older we grow, the greater our experience and the larger the dimensions of awareness we can encompass.
Notice I say “can encompass,” not that we will access larger dimensions. The alternative is to repeatedly experience planetary cycles by repeatedly running around in circles. We call these small and large repetitions habits, patterns, and addictions. To the extent to which we are not conscious of our experiences as cyclical, these cycles tend to rule our lives. Either nothing new ever happens (where our cycles are experienced as always the same), or way too much is happening (where instead of experiencing the rhythmic cyclical nature of experiences, we sense only chaos). As a result we become bored (or frantic), depressed (or hysterical nervous wrecks); in either case, our system tends towards degeneration, which if unchecked, freezes us in place; we end up stuck, diseased.
On the other hand, if we consciously process, i.e., work to integrate the meaning of the first cycle of any planet, that cycle becomes the foundation for the next, and the second the foundation for the third, etc. Rather than running around in circles we are launched into the trajectory of a spiral. Since we learn from each repeating cycle, then the cycle which follows it is experienced differently. We are more conscious of the energy of the planet, how it works; so that each time it cycles through we can work with it in a way that is more and more creative, less and less destructive. Our interest, curiosity, even fascination is continuously aroused. We both sense the newness and wonder of the world and we feel the security of experiencing change as channeled within the rhythmic structure of ever-recurring, ever-renewing cycles.
In short, life can be experienced as an interpenetrating series of ever-widening cycles of different lengths and incorporating different dimensions. Our understanding of these dimensions and their interpenetration begins at birth and expands slowly, over time, as the cycles play themselves out in our lives.
Cycles of Life
When we are born, we experience what psychologist William James called a “buzzing, booming confusion.” Since everything is totally new, nothing makes any sense. After only one month, the chaotic emotions of the newborn settle down and become more predictable. A mother knows, by her baby’s differentiated cries and expressions, what the baby needs. The Moon’s cycle represents that early nurturing (or the lack of it); it symbolizes our mother, our infantile, needy, vulnerable aspect, our Inner Child.
By the time of the first birthday, three more cycles have completed themselves for the first time: Venus (the child’s likes and dislikes); Mercury (thinking and using language); and the Sun, which returns after exactly one year, transforming the baby into a toddler and releasing the essential nature.
Between the ages of 18 months and two years Mars completes its first cycle, kicking in the temper tantrums of “the terrible twos.” For a while only three words count: “no!” “me!” and “mine!” The child’s first attempt at independence, at separating out from Mother, is of course, rude, awkward and trying.
The above cycles — Moon, Sun, Venus, Mercury and Mars — are personal; they establish our preferences, quirks, ways of moving through and connecting with our personal world. The next two cycles are social, connecting us to the larger cultural world: Jupiter’s cycle is 12 years; Saturn’s between 28 and 30 years.
At Jupiter’s first return, around the age of 12, the child separates out from the parental world to embrace the values of peers and peer pressure. Life opens up; Jupiter cycles are experienced as cycles of opportunity. There are some unusual children who even discover the seed of their adult life’s trajectory at this early age.
By the time of the first Saturn return, somewhere between the ages of 28 and 30, we are hit with a rude awakening. For what looked so expansive at 12, or even 24 (the second Jupiter return) begins to feel rigid and closed. We sense a heaviness, even depression, and feel locked in, cramped, critical of the way we have been living. We recognize that we have been obeying rules and roles other people have set (or, we have been rebelling against them), and that what we thought was reality was actually brainwashing. The determination to change that, to decide for ourselves what rules and roles to keep and what to discard, how to live and who to become, is the challenge of the second 28-30 year cycle of Saturn.
Remember: each cycle of any planet has the capacity of being experienced as new, while rooted in reflection upon the experience of the cycle before it. This turns successive cycles into spirals, symbolizing endless growth. The alternative is repeating oneself; small cycles as small habits, larger cycles as larger patterns — of work, relationships, addictions of all kinds. At any point in any cycle, we can break from repetition, but the most potent time for breakthrough is when cycles return to their natal places.
The challenge of the second cycle of Saturn is to individuate as a unique being, establish our own goals and fulfill them over time. Notice how this contrasts with the usual experience of the second Saturn cycle — a desperate search for the elixir of eternal youth. We want to remain, or at least appear to be “under-30.” Why? Because our culture progressively devalues us — especially women — as we grow older. To fully accept the challenge of Saturn’s second cycle is to break from cultural conditioning and establish our own values.
The second return of Saturn to its own natal place occurs between the ages of 56 and 60. Some women see this return as the official beginning of the Crone years (though others have other definitions — menopause, retirement, etc.) If we see Crone as beginning with the second Saturn Return, then that cycle would ideally last 30 years — to 90. What lies beyond that? Very few of us know.
If Saturn’s second cycle is lived with awareness, then the third cycle offers a new challenge again. No longer must we prove ourselves by establishing a unique identity. No longer do we have to become anything, for we already are. Ambition no longer motivates; ego begins the process of integrating into soul. The passion of youth transforms into the compassion of one who has seen it all and done it all. No human experience is foreign; judgments dissolve. We know about life now; we recognize just what will change and what won’t, and how very very long any significant change does take. We honor patience and endurance, qualities that youth does not, as the essential connecting glue of community. The Elder or Crone or Wise One, having completed the work of building the ego, can now reflect the gifts gained from his or her experience back to others, through example.
The mastery of Saturn is achieved at the end of its cycle, as usual; and mastery is another word for especially the planet Saturn; Saturn’s gifts have to do with discipline, character and integrity — all of which are distilled over very long periods of time from lived experience which has been fully integrated.
Saturn is the final dimension of awareness we can fully encompass unless we live to be 84 years old, when the planet Uranus completes its first cycle. Beyond Uranus lie two more planets that we know of: Neptune (165 years) and Pluto (248 years). For most of us, the cycle of Uranus, and certainly those of Neptune and Pluto, are longer than our lifetimes. Therefore we do not and cannot understand them. These cycles encompass dimensions larger than life, and are capable of plunging us into genius and shock (Uranus); artistic and mystical vision (Neptune); magic, miraculous healing and transformation (Pluto). The extent that we work to fully incorporate our experiences of smaller planetary cycles is the extent to which we can absorb and channel the extraordinary energies of these “outer planet” cycles without falling ill — physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually.
Thus, the discipline involved in mastering the lessons of Saturn opens us to Mystery. For the one who has mastered the human world, who knows how to predict the future through understanding how things work, also recognizes how mysterious things really are. That our capacity to control events is minimal. For there are dimensions beyond our understanding which we will never, ever comprehend. These glimpses into the vastness of Space nudge us into humility, a place from which we always know how little we know, how much we have to learn.
As our trajectories spiral through the dimensions represented by these cycles we are launched into experiences that remain forever unfinished, undefined, uncontrolled. Our relationship to them can only be that of surrender. We are but a mote in the Goddess’s eye.