Here’s an example of some good words gone bad: Crone, hag, and witch once were positive words for old women. Crone comes from crown, indicating wisdom emanating from the head; hag comes from hagio meaning holy; and witch comes from wit meaning wise. Crones, hags, and witches frequently were leaders, midwives and healers in their communities. (From the website Crones Counsel https://www.cronescounsel.org, an organization dedicated to claiming the archetype of Crone through the creation of gatherings that honor and advance the aging woman’s value to society.)
The word “crone” is making a return these days, signifying an older woman known for her wisdom, compassion, sense of humor, and downright spunk. In her book Crones Don’t Whine, author Jean Shinoda Bolen has introduced us to being “juicy crones” which, she says, is about inner development not outward appearance. A crone, says Bolen, “has a sense of truly being herself, can express what she knows and feels, and take action when need be. She has learned to trust herself and to know what she knows.”
Today’s crones are quietly gathering in small circles, meeting, these days by Zoom, for morning coffee or late-afternoon wine. They help each other make decisions, carry burdens, and share joys. There does not have to be an agenda or a reason to gather.
Crones groups start with a couple of friends who want some really good traveling companions for the journey then ask a few others to join them – 6 to 8 is a good number. This is not the time to rescue friends who need fixing or worry about who will be offended if they are not in “the inner circle.” These should be friends who are spiritually committed and mature, who will hold your soul tenderly but honestly, who will encourage you in your vision but burst your infatuated-with-yourself bubble when need be. They will love you through the hard questions they ask and encourage you to ask yourself.
It is important for the crones group to meet regularly, not just “as needed.” Early morning for coffee or late afternoon for wine are good times. There is typically not an agenda for the group, but one of the best conversation-starting questions is the one Ralph Waldo Emerson asked his friends when they met: “What has become clear to you since we last met?”
It is helpful to read two books, both by Jean Shinoda Bolen: Crones Don’t Whine and Goddesses in Older Women, particularly the chapter on Circles of Wisewomen. (See It’s All About the Book for publishing information.)
If you want to know more about starting a crones group, email Marjorie George at firstname.lastname@example.org.