This is the first column that I wrote for SageWoman magazine, published in the Autumn edition 1995, under the title “Crone Eyes, Crone Heart.” Little did I know then that the column would continue for another 20 years!
For I was only 54 years old in 1995. And though I would still agree with everything I said there now, I also realize that the aging process, at least for me, has not been continuous, nor even discontinuous, but instead, manifests mysteriously inside me via daily, even hourly meditations during which I connect dots through great leaps of time and space, all based upon nodes which I identify in the flow of my own experience.
The “recapitulation project” that I have recently embarked upon, sharing hundreds of my old essays on this blog under the header AK Reader, activates, it seems, not just my own constantly shifting memories of past experiences and their continuous recalibration, but activates others as well who read these essays, especially women of crone age. In these essays, I demonstrate one way of summing up one’s own life — a long and complex process — juicy as hell and no regrets.
Yes, these are the years of integration for me. Already half way through Saturn’s third 30 year cycle, I am gathering all that I have done and been into larger and larger meaningful wholes.
For age does matter; I realize now, at 75, that it matters a great deal. There is much that I recognize now that younger women just don’t, and can’t. How could they? The ability to give meaning to events depends in part on how long we have lived. For this determines the length of the cycle that we CAN contemplate, in order to give that cycle (an always provisional!) meaning. What is so wondrous about thinking in astrological terms is that I’m always aware of the relativity of planetary cycles; and of course, the longer the cycle, the larger, the more profound the meaning we can assign it!
But be that as it may, there’s not much else this decidedly older crone would quibble with, as I address my younger self.
So Who Is Crone, Anyway?
by Ann Kreilkamp
I publish the Crone Chronicles magazine. Besides publishing SageWoman, Anne Niven’s firm is also the printer for Crone Chronicles. So we have spent some time together on the phone over the past few years.
Yes, I am one of those “phone friends” Anne talked about in her editorial in the last (Spring 1995) issue of this magazine. She said some of these friendships did not survive meeting in person. Will ours? I feel it will, as her candor in her editorial writing approaches my own. I’ve always said that I don’t trust anyone until they show me their shadow and I see how they (and we) work with it. Now that Anne has let us know of her shadow side — not trusting women — I begin to truly trust her!
Anne has invited me to do a column for SageWoman, saying that many of her readers wish for something “heavy.” “Oh,” I think. “Is that how my work is experienced?” And though she said I didn’t have to use the word “crone” in the column’s title, the phrase “Crone Eyes” came in and stayed there, refusing to be dislodged. And yet it bothered me. Something was missing. What?
Now, as I write this first column, the words “Crone Heart” quietly steal in and take their place beside the other. “Yes,” I think, “both.” I want those eyes and that heart. Heart informing Eyes. Eyes yielding to Heart. The two together. Fused. So, for me, the goal of these essays will be to forge the inner marriage of eyes and heart that I, for one, believe the Crone to embody. I pray this column will be of value to you, dear reader, as well.
Several days ago I was on the phone with a woman who is interested in becoming Editor of Crone Chronicles. “But I have to warn you,” she said, “I am not a crone. I’m coming into crone, but I’m not there yet.”
“What does that mean?”
“I haven’t stopped bleeding yet.”
“Well, this group of women that I know told me that I wasn’t a crone. That I can’t join them because I haven’t gone through menopause.”
My first response to this exchange is that the feelings it brings up remind me of high school. The clichés we used to form. The snobbery. Who was in and who was out. No wonder we women don’t trust each other!
And it also reminds me of the beginning of the feminist movement, back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, when women, in order to identify with each other, had to polarize and hate men. When I thought about the woman on the phone and her situation this way, more as a sociologist would, I could feel compassion for both her and the women who exclude her. Whenever something begins to assert itself in a new way, it must separate out from the mass in order to feel its own self as real. Just like a two-year-old, when he or she needs for the first time to step outside Mom’s aura, there is a (hopefully short) period when the child is fiercely and even belligerently nay-saying. The child is in a certain “stage” or “phase,” we say, and “this too will pass.”
Likewise here. Whenever some women assume they know what “crone” is and use that definition to exclude others, I assume that these women, like children, are still not secure enough in themselves to not have to define things so neatly.
Later, when I thought about that phone conversation again, it occurred to me that the other women are right; she is not a crone, and not because they are crones and she isn’t. Rather, the real reason she is not a crone yet is that she believed what they said about her! She allowed an outside source to tell her who or what she is.
I’ve heard variants on this same story many times in the past few years. In fact, I even got the same charge leveled at me yesterday by a dear friend of mine who is 20 years younger, and who, when I was lamenting my own lack of “real crone friends” locally, was furious with me for leaving her out! Saying I’m becoming snobbish and arrogant in making age the determinant, and refusing, therefore, to take her seriously.
At some level, she was right. I am an “ageist.” And despite her 33 years, there is Crone in her, especially when her six-planets-in-Aquarius personality speaks and acts from that startling, even shocking, intuitive Self. On the other hand, she is not Crone, not really, not yet. “Imagine what I will be like 20 years from now!” she challenges me, eyes blazing. “Whew!” A glimpse of that phenomenon flashes through, and I am struck dumb with wonder.
Yes, she will be an extraordinary crone in 20 years.
Suddenly, again, another flash: this one of longing, yearning for that woman she will become, for her friendship.
So who is Crone? How old is she? And why does it matter so much? I can only barely begin to scratch the surface of these questions. And I will address only the first one here.
Whenever a woman asks me, “How old do you have to be to become Crone?” I answer, “You decide. When do you become Crone? A woman’s relationship with this archetypal energy is individual. Crone is the woman who knows who she is as a unique being, no matter what others think.”
Yet there have been many attempts to answer this question for others. The most common is the idea that the life stage of Crone begins with menopause. Another is my own: the idea that Crone begins when we face and embrace our own hidden or shadow self. Another attempt locates Crone as the “third Saturn cycle” in astrology, which begins around the age of 60.
Yet we all know little girls who seem to be born Crone, and who then find it difficult to relate to the usual preoccupations of childhood. And we all carry in our psyches certain role models in society whose genius and whose fame lies in part in the fact that they seemed Crone from the beginning. I think of Eleanor Roosevelt here, and George Sand, Gertrude Stein, the Canadian artist Emily Carr.
And we all know too that, in our society, most women, as they grow older do not become Crone. Quite the opposite. Rather than growing wise in spirit and strong in heart, they fall into Alzheimer’s and other forms of senility.
So when do we become Crone? There is no consensus on this question. I hope there never will be. I hope we keep this question alive, and do not get stopped by answers. For if Crone has anything to teach us, it is that we know little, that our categories limit us to seeing what we expect to see.
The more I ponder the question, the more I sense that Crone means all of the above, and none. That She is, yes, of course, a stage of life, which I enter more and more as I grow older. But Crone is not confined to a stage. She is not dependent upon the chronological age of my body. She has always been the wise one within, and She is more evident some times than others. When I am full of desire, attached to what I want, Crone recedes. When I feel centered within, full, lacking nothing, there She is.
I do sense I am more and more coming into Crone. That she is another country, foreign to the one I learned to inhabit. But that she has always been there, underneath, cool, restful, at peace. And fierce, decisive, disciplined! Crone enjoys paradox. Crone expands perspective.
More and more I am coming into Crone. I will always be coming into Crone. I will always be coming into this new country. She is the Ancient One, Beloved. She is Truth. She is Justice. She is Clearseeing. Compassionate. She is the Beyond, the Paradise Within, the Holy Grail.
Crone is changeable. She is a coyote, continuously shifting places and identities in order to remain beyond categories.
Above all else, Crone is a dynamic process. When I look back over my 52 years, I see that this process is not smooth and continuous, that it proceeds by leaps and plateaus. I associate my continuous croning process with developmental stages, all loosely correlated with, but not confined to, the aging process within my own body.
When I contemplate my body — seeing my skin grow dry, thin, wrinkled, over time; watching my hair gradually thin and turn gray; noticing that I no longer bound out of bed in the morning, bursting with energy, but instead open to the new day slowly, subtly — when I notice these small and insidious changes I am faced with mortality. Here the face of Crone looms into view mocking — and yet, I trust Her! I trust Her with my life and my death.
Crone contemplates and celebrates the cycles of Life and Death, of Time and Space, the ceaseless flow from one into the other. And when I remember Her this way, I naturally see Her as teacher of astrology, interpreter of the larger heavenly cycles to which our own selves and cells are attuned.
So do not be surprised if there are times when I talk astrology in this column. Besides my long term fascination with Crone, I have been also a professional astrologer for 21 years. (And, in case you’re wondering, before that I reared two boy-children and received a doctorate in philosophy from Boston University, studying dead white men’s ideas.)
For me, Crone and astrology are deeply connected. Both deal with our experience of cycles of all kinds, and how this experience changes us. Both deal with change. Both, ultimately, teach us that fusion between eye and heart that I seek in this column, and in my life.