PHOTO ESSAY: Crones Counsel XXII

I write this on day four of the 22nd nomadic annual five day event called Crones Counsel, this year held in St. George, Utah, where 136 women, most of them self-identified as either crones, cronettes, or crones-in-training, plus five or six daughters of crones, one 35-year-old single mother of twins who needs mothering from us, and at least 15 honored elders in their 80s and 90s, including one sprite who is probably everybody’s absolute favorite, Enid, almost 92, sitting here, in her usual pose of astonishment, after our Ceremony at Snow Canyon yesterday, with Rita, who routinely tells the best crone stories I’ve ever ever heard, on her left.

Enid and Rita

Enid will be conducting our annual Crone Follies tonight, when all sorts of acts, both individual and group, will have us in stitches and probably wetting our old lady pants. One of the characteristics that I’ve notice about the frequency field of “Crone” is a certain hilarious ribald intensity, fully in evidence around here. For example, yesterday, at the crone story time — normally sacred, or sorrowful, or vulnerable, or deeply, personally meaningful in some other way, the usual tone of the 90 minute session with which we start each morning, listening to each other’s stories of loss and love and miracle. That is, until yesterday morning, when one crone brought out an apron that she bought in Italy, and posed.

nude apron

At the canyon ceremony yesterday, out to which we paraded in what someone called “akin to a funeral procession” (Death, dying, deathing, a distinct theme this year), first we were smudged by two beautiful goddesses (there’s my traveling sister Joan on the left, looking back);

smudge line 2 smudge line

then passed by a table where we picked up a little bag that contained sand and a rock;

altar with sand:rock bagsthen found our places and waited for the ceremony to begin.


The woman sitting next to me, one of the honored elders in their 80s and 90s we were set to honor, wore a cap that flashes in the light. “Yes, it has lots of bling,” she responded matter-of-factly, when I admired it.


Over and over again, startled by women who look a certain way on the outside, and then, I discover, are outrageously individual on the inside. This is always true about Crones Counsel, always true of women who used to say they are “claiming Crone” and are now, as Susan Ann, the current “Crone Mother” (i.e., President of the Crones Counsel board) notes, we are “being Crone.” Yes. After 22 years. It’s time.

Having not attended for three or four years, I was astounded at how ripe is now this gathering that I “co-founded,” which means, in this case, that I, the publisher of Crone Chronicles (1989-2001), in 1992 invited Shauna Adix, founder of one of the first women centers in the country at the University of Utah, to take on the job of creating a gathering of and for older women who wanted to investigate the meaning of the archetype Crone and set its unique tone. She gathered five of her friends around a round table and together they called the first Crones Counsel into manifestation, where I lived, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. All I had to do was find and work with the hotel venue, which I did.

Apparently the seed that was planted in late 1993 put down roots and sprouted, and is now flourishing. Because 22 years later, it is strong and vibrant, having integrated its own shadow material over the years. The tone of sacred intent, heart-shared vulnerability, utter honesty, and deeply held values of trust, kindness, love, and truth, still prevail. Thousands of women have been impacted over the years, encouraging them to not only value this stage of life in a culture that worships youth, but to use their unique gifts and experience to benefit the world around them.

At the ceremony yesterday, first we bowed to the four directions, plus Mother Earth and Father Sky.

invoking the EastIMG_1366Then began the actual ceremony where we honored each of the ages, women from various decades of life coming to the center to pour their sand into a big bowl, beginning with the younger ones — here’s crones in their 60s lined up —

those in their 60sand ending with the elders, each of whom got up and took the microphone to tell us something that she has learned from her long experience in life.

Here’s one of the elders, 89 years old, tall, straight, and serene in her gratitude and honoring of life. A woman sitting next to me, who knows her at home, whispered, “She just recently began to age.”

%22she just recently began to age%22


After they had all finished, we stood before them to energize them with our love. The two in red hats are elders.

honoring elders

Kaye, who had been one of the original five women at the round table in Salt Lake City 22 years ago, then got up to speak about Crone. What is Crone, when does one become crone, the questions that many women ask. She went through several ways of looking at Crone: the third cycle of Saturn, menopause, other developmental markers, and ended up with seeing crone as a process: we are always coming into Crone, never finished. She is larger than any of our conceptions of her, and embodying her is both gift and challenge.

Later, at our dinner that night, I happened to be sitting at the same table with Kaye, and whispered in her ear my favorite definition of Crone, “She who eats her own shadow.” I.e., she who takes back her projections each time she finds them, she who integrates all the stuff that she doesn’t like about herself, over and over again, to become whole. You might call this “individuation,” the Jungian interpretation of Crone.

The afternoon ceremony, ended with a beautiful song that I can no longer remember the name of, one of many sung with and to each other during these four days. Here’s Joan, my traveling sister, helping to bring the song to a close.


Afterwards, we all hobnobbed some more until carpooling in the “funeral procession” back to the Abbey Inn/Best Western Hotel.

Dorothy from Massachusetts, with whom I talked about her practice, as an ordained minister, of holding crone ceremonies for women at the point where they have completed their 13th Moon without bleeding (one definition of the actual end of menopause), wanted her picture taken with me. Okay.

13 moon lady 2

Two elder crones talk — the one on the left came to my workshop this afternoon in the same kind of outfit that she wears here. I swear, she looks like a Republican! But you wouldn’t believe what comes out of this wonderful woman’s mouth. Having grown up Mormon, she calls herself and her husband, “missionaries, for universal values.”


two elders talking

Well, I’d better wrap this up so I won’t be late for the Crone Follies. Aaah. One more set of pictures, of Patricia, who decided to get tattoos of falling leaves on her 75th birthday in honor of this part of her life. Once again, amazing.

big tattoo


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0 Responses to PHOTO ESSAY: Crones Counsel XXII

  1. laurabruno says:

    Not like, LOVE this post! Great to see the Crone so alive and well, even though that sounds like a paradox. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  2. Mari Braveheart-Dances says:

    I cannot think of any event I would rather attend. You did women a great service 22 years ago by starting this wonderful Crone’s Council. Thank you for sharing this. It is beyond wonderful.

  3. rose day says:

    Ann, I am beginning to believe that some women are born Crone and as you pointed out Crone
    manifests in all manner imaginable. Thanks for sharing yet again another of your incredibly high
    energy endeavors!

  4. Susan McElroy says:

    I’m there in spirit! Maybe next time I’ll be there in person. What a wonderful event!

  5. Michael Stauffer I would like to let everyone know who was involved with the gathering what a wonderful job they did. Susan Ann loves all of you and gives her all to insure that all that attend have a sacred experience.

  6. druidwoman says:

    Nice capture of another delightful Crones gathering…. Loved it and seeing you again!

  7. I love that Tricia shows us her marvelous tatoos. They are beautiful, Tricia.

  8. elderwoman says:

    Thank you Ann. I’m trying to stay out of the air as much as possible these days, because of all the carbon. But as I do every year, I wished I was there sharing that wonderful Crone vibe with you all again. Hugs to you!

  9. mARTa Q says:

    Thanks Ann for sharing your experiences and photos with us all. It was truly a very special Crones Counsel that I will carry with me till the next one … perhaps in Mt. Shasta, CA!

  10. Kaya says:

    Crones Counsel has enriched my life for 16 years now.. Doing ceremony by the red rock was the best! Our eldest was 95 and going strong.. I remember last year she was still fly fishing, and playing tennis.. She looked incredibly good this year , especially when she was line dancing! This is how I’d like to age….. still very full of life… and the stories and words of advice by these women are so precious!

  11. Tricia Layden says:

    Gorgeous essay! Just for the record the tattoo was for my 75th, not my 70th ????

  12. mARTa Q says:

    Our eldest elder (the tall straight standing one) is 95! You go Alice!

  13. What a beautiful essay, Susan Ann! Makes me miss everyone so much more. I am turning 73 on Dec. 24th (goddess willing) and am in a kind of shock about what I look like, having lost my hair to chemo. And if you knew me, you knew that my bright white wavy hair was one of my hallmarks. As we reach the extremes of life — very young, very old, very fat, very thin — we seem to lose our individuality. So a bunch of old women sometimes look very much alike, and I think that frightened me more than anything about aging — losing my individuality. But you mentioned in your essay how surprised you always were to discover that women were so much more than they appeared to be. And I remember that the first place I experienced that surprise was at a Crones Counsel many years ago. I send my love to everyone!

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