The image of the Maiden/Mother/Crone is ancient,
and its origins are unclear. Egyptian? Celtic? A reflection of the phases of the moon and the female cycle? Reportedly, the Celtic triskele was a pagan symbol representing the three-faced goddess: the young virgin, the fruitful mother, and the wise grandmother. Until Christian missionaries appropriated the symbol to represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Wicca, Neo-Paganism, and New Age practices still recognize the three-faced goddess in the triskele. I am of Celtic descent and a practicing Catholic, so I’m good with either story. Please enjoy the elegant triskele at upper left and celebrate it as you will, if for no other reason than its lovely geometry. My intention is neither to justify nor debate religious symbols, but rather to apply the symbolic phases of a woman’s life to…well, real life.
In other words, what does it mean to be an old lady in America?
We are a society that recognizes Maidens and Mothers.
Look at the magazines and talk shows that celebrate celebrity (or don’t look at them, if you find them as absurd as I do). Miss Flavor of the Month makes her red carpet debut. A year or two later, rumors are flying about “the bump.” Then a soft focus photo spread of mother and child prompts us to pay for the privilege of saying “Awww,” as we purchase the magazine containing said photo spread and all the ads surrounding it.
Kardashians. Case closed.
I recently saw a woman’s magazine in a drug store with a cover headline blaring, “Look Your Best at 20, 30, and Beyond!”
“Beyond”? Have I already moved into the Great Beyond?
Did Buzz Lightyear write that headline?
I picked up the magazine to see what tips there were for those of us who were “beyond.” Alas, I was already beyond “beyond.” The world is flat, the edge is 40, and I have fallen off. Well, at least that’s their take on it. My take? They limit their marketing to Maidens and young Mothers. I have been promoted to Crone. Gorgeous, glowing, grateful Crone.
It’s good to be the Crone!
Unlike the mythical crone, the Twentifirst Century Crone isn’t merely defined by age or reproductive status. She’s also achieved, often by battling great odds, her self-awareness and self-liberation. A Crone isn’t someone who sees old age as the final glide into “beyond.” A true Crone gears up and gets busy for the next phase of life because she knows she has much needed experience to share.
See if you recognize yourself in some of the attributes of Cronedom:
- You appreciate younger women as individuals who can challenge you and whom you can mentor, rather than resenting them as competition for men’s attention.
- You finally have realistic body expectations. Your weight is an arbitrary number on a chart, and as long as you’re healthy and fit and as pain-free as possible, you’re happy. Wrinkles? They’re just the map of your life.
- You’re not a slave to fashion trends. The fashion industry exists to make a select few rich, often at the expense of the most vulnerable. If someone buys you a designer bag for you birthday, you’re cool with that, but you’d be just as excited over a cute dress from a thrift shop that benefits a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
- You don’t chase after political trends or impromptu causes. You know who you are and what you believe. The pendulum will swing with time, and if it doesn’t swing in a way that suits you, you use your voice and vote.
- As proud as you may be of your career, you balance work with fun. Just plain old fun.
- You’d cut off your right arm before you’d give an infant an iPad for a baby sitter, but nothing can stop you from Skyping with the grandchild who lives on the other side of the country.
- You’re willing to surprise yourself by trying new things without fear of failure or other people’s scorn.
- You’ve learned that the best part of having time or money is the freedom to give them away to the people and projects that touch your heart.(And you’re not squeamish about wiping a child’s runny nose with a dollar bill if that’s all you have in your pocket.)
- You’ve known a wide enough variety of good people to realize that God lives in many different houses.
- It becomes easier and easier to empathize and forgive rather than judge and condemn. After half a century or more, you’ve seen that everybody has some freaky paintings in their closets – including yourself. It takes less energy to trust than to doubt.
- You’re done being a people pleaser – especially a man pleaser. If there’s a man in your life, you honor his wisdom and intelligence, but you don’t let him define your identity. Dress to turn him on? If that’s your thing, go for it! Dress for his approval? Oh, honey – that’s so Pat Nixon.
- You know tattoos can be emotionally healing as well as physically beautiful.
- Your “No,” doesn’t need to be justified, and you’re not afraid to say, “I’ve made a mistake,” or “I changed my mind.”
- Your treasures aren’t jewels or antiques – they’re the friends who’ve stood with you and by you for decades, even when you made unwise choices in romance or business. Especially when you made unwise choices. They’re the ones you call first when something awful or awesome happens. Or you make another unwise choice.
- If your life choices and circumstances have made it so, you have lived long enough to see your children’s children. Just as my daughter benefited from the energy of my Mother phase, my grandson will benefit from my calmer, more attentive Crone years.
Feeling pretty pleased with yourself, aren’t you?
Yes, pleased. Very pleased. But not in a smug, self-congratulatory manner. You – I – we are celebrating our liberation from the unrealistic body image, the unnatural sexual image, the image-over-content facade that is still – still – force fed to women. Oh, it’s good to be a Crone!
For your consideration:
- Maya Angelou – the patron saint of Crones
- Jane Goodall – the queen of Crones
- Gabby Giffords – the martyred Crone
- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – our nation’s Jewish mother Crone
- Joan Rivers – broke down barriers, blazed trails, butchered her face out of insecurity. Boderline Crone.
- Oprah – puts herself on the cover of every issue of her magazine. Every. Cover. Not a Crone.
- Hoda and Kathie Lee – super cute, but definitely not Crones.
- My friend Cheryle who only looks in the mirror to make funny faces or smile at herself – one of my Crone-models.
Tell us what makes you a Crone?
How do you describe your life as a Crone? When and how did you realize that you had been liberated into the Crone phase? Who is your Crone-model? Where do you see the greatest needs for Crone wisdom in the life of our country, and what can we do to fill those needs?
What are you doing as a grandmother to create a more nurturing environment for those who will someday replace us?
We’re old ladies, right? Who’s going to listen to us? Well, we start by listening to each other. We pool Grandmother Wisdom to bring attention to matters of substance rather than false values of consumerism. And we act. Not rashly or with hostility, but confidently and with loving energy. We will not be assigned to “beyond.”
Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, said, “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”
Please chime in with your opinions and experiences by visiting the Talk to Nana page and leaving a comment.
Do you know how many of us there are? Millions!!!
We are the grandmothers.
We are a force to be reckoned with.
We will not go quietly.