The following are notes I took and musings I wrote while studying and meditating about the crone, and my Croning, during my Crone's retreat last March. (Some notes are fragments of direct quotes from my sources, which I do not have in front of me right now -- my apologies to the authors! I shall edit this post to add a list of my references when I can find them.) :
I like to research the etymologies of words like Crone. It helps me to get a sense of what the word used to mean, as opposed to the meanings attached to it now. I'm into reclaiming.
I found two different (very!) ideas regarding the word "crone". One was that it comes from a root meaning "carrion" and referred to a shriveled up old woman. The other asserts that it derives from a root meaning "crowned".
Guess which one I prefer...!
hag: Greek root: hagia - holy or saintly, as in Hagia Sophia ; Anglo-Saxon root: "a prophetess or witch" (witch and hag are synonymous, modernly, with "an ugly old woman, especially a vicious or malicious one"
hag: origin of hag = witch or fury, with no negative connotation in the word witch. Rather (per above source) hag in the original meaning (c.1225) is one of the magic words for which there is no male form, suggesting its original meaning was close to "diviner, soothsayer... Woman of prophetic and oracular powers... village wise woman."
Before patriarchy, in other epochs and cultures, ...old women were believed to have special spiritual capacities. In goddess cultures, ...to be considered a prophetess or sorceress, a witch or hag, was to be revered. Before the advent of patriarchal Confusionism in 200 BCE, the Chinese character Wu (later translated as "witch") meant "woman shaman," and a Wu was the revered intermediary between the natural and supernatural world; in the West, until the early Middle Ages before the Inquisition, hag meant "sacred knowledge" and witches were seen as healers.
Old: "having lived many years" (Webster)
Short term memory does not necessarily deteriorate with age.
Recent research ascribes the slowing down of recall to the fact that human brains in time become loaded with so much information that it takes longer to sort through the data.
William Sadler, sociologist: Our culture identifies aging with the D words: decline, disease, dependency, depression, and decrepitude. Sally Thompson adds denial.
These associations are falsehoods, unsupported by the evidence!
The beliefs of an elder about old age become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Consideration of chronological age as a factor in human aging is ... A fairly recent development. People did not keep track or know their own age until around the seventeenth century, when the growing impetus to quantify and find norms for everything became important. Most of the historical records of Western civilization, based on extant philosophical writings from past civilizations, indicate human life was characterized in three or four ages that denoted the rise and fall of physical power -- growth, maturity, stasis, and decline.
...homage was given to the elders for their wisdom.
Etymology of old in Old English manuscripts: eald meant trustworthy and venerable. The Indo-European, Gothic, Old Norse, and Old English roots of the word meant to nourish -- something old means fully nourished, grown-up, matured -- whereas today, with contemporary usage, old has a quantitative -- number of years -- connotation.
Jungians Bruce Baker and Jane Wheelwright identified seven steps (or psychological-spiritual tasks) for the journey into old age:
1. The reality of death is accepted. (Normally occurs in late fifties or early sixties.) Death is nature's expert advice to get plenty of life.
2. Reflection and review of the sum of one's life.
3. Accepting the reality that our lives have finite limits. (Certain experiences/goals are unattainable. Allows one to focus total attention and energy not only on what is attainable, but also on what is one's truest concern.)
4. Letting go of the dominance of the ego (those dependable self-concepts and habits which have allowed one to interact successfully and productively with society.)
5. Encountering and honoring the True Self. (Jungians distinguish the true Self from the ego-driven "false self" [persona] that is oriented to the outside world, and associated with the illusion that we are separate from other people and from the natural world. The true Self is realized when the conscious personality connects with the all-inclusive voice from the depths of one's being. The thoughts of the true Self center on creativity, inspiration, sharing, caring, forgiveness, gratitude, love, and the actualization of potential. Jung saw the true Self as "God within."
6. Recognizing and acknowledging that the Self is God within.
7. The engagement of unused potentials. The unleashing and encouragement of one's creativity that may have been stifled or restricted since childhood by a strong ego and a need to conform to outside pressures, or ...lack of time. Creation through play.
Paraphrase: The Wise Elder is not a person endowed with free will who seeks her or his own end, but an individual who allows the Divine/her innermost Divine Self to realize its purposes through the true Self. As a human being he or she may have moods and wills and personal aims, but the wise elder is human in a higher/deeper sense -- he or she is "collective elder," a vehicle and molder of the unconscious psychic life of humankind.
We belong to something far greater than self or culture. In old age, our task is to tap into our part of the Great Something, the Divine Whole, through conscious awareness, the expansion of a narrow, culturally framed view of reality -- and to become our divine part of that Divine Whole. Listen to and act upon "messages from God". Be our part of the eternal cycle of life.
"Caught in the eternal cycle of life, now approaching old age, I do not despair, but rejoice with the knowledge of the continual rebirth of life through eternity. I am a part of the cycle, gifted with consciousness that gives me awareness of myself as an individual entity in this particular place and time. Though I have a specific name, a separate shape, and a particular history, I am part of a larger truth with eternal existence. ...as I continue on this uncharted path into old age, my greatest hope is that through vigilant awareness I receive glimmers of my connections with the unfathomable mysteries of life.
The following are some of my own thoughts, reflecting upon my studies. The use of the word "growth" as a desired positive hit a nerve, clearly:
I do not want continued growth of mind, body and spirit.
My body has grown enough. In fact, it has grown too much, and could use some shrinkage. I desire health, and greater strength, flexibility, and functionality of my body, while recognizing that there are good and appropriate limits to each of these physical qualities.
Growth of mind? Well, here, perhaps yes. We humans use so little of the potentials of our brains that there may be little practical limit to our potential growth in mental functioning. Although there do seem to be trade-offs. For example, as we fill our brain/mind with increasing knowledge and experience, our speed of recall declines slightly, simply because there is so much more data to sort through. Yet I love learning, and have no desire to stop increasing in knowledge. Therefore, I simply wish to continue to learn, and for my mind and intellect to continue to function well. If my mind's functioning continues to improve over time, well, that would be a wonderful bonus.
But even more important to me than my mind and intellectual functioning is my wisdom, a related but somewhat different thing. I do not think there is such a thing as too much Wisdom. There is a connection between Wisdom and the Divine, and the Divine is without limit. Perhaps the key to true wisdom is knowing one's divine part of the Divine Whole. It is important to remember that no individual is possessed of all wisdom; It is important to seek always to become ever more wise. But is this growing in wisdom, or deepening?
Likewise with spirit. I am that part of the Divine Whole that I am. Through my participation in the Divine All That Is, I participate in the limitlessness of Divinity. Yet my spirit, my true Self, is its own part of the Divine Whole. It is not the task of my true Self/spirit to acrete unto itSelf the true Selves of other divine parts of the Divine Whole. We are One through our participation in the Divine Whole, and there is sublime ecstasy in experiencing our Wholeness, our Oneness -- yet we are also Many, and therein also is sublime ecstasy and Divine Truth, and the Divine Calling that is our essential part of the Divine Whole, here and now. Therefore I do not seek to grow, but rather to deepen in spirit, in connection of my true divine Self to the Divine Whole.
I am old; I am full of life. I am getting older, with each passing moment becoming ever more full of life. Wisdom is the overflowing of this fullness -- wisdom and joy.