The Goddess–IV, The Crone
The third aspect of the Goddess is that of the Crone. With the exception of Neo-pagan practitioners, Goddess worshipers and others the Crone has become, or been made to be the most feared aspect of the Goddess. This is mainly because of the Crone’s function which is death. In primitive and ancient societies this function was called the mother’s curse, and became known as the Crone’s curse.
“The purpose of the Crone’s curse was to doom the sacrificial victim inevitably, so no guilt would occur to those who actually shed his lifeblood. He was already ‘dead’ once the Mother pronounced his fate, so killing him was not real killing…The Markandaya Purana said there was nothing anywhere ‘that can dispel the curse of those who have been cursed by a mother.'”
This curse alone with its destruction ability is the Destroyer aspect of the Goddess. The fear of this aspect arises within people of modern societies because the aspect of the Destroyer has been misrepresented or guised as sinister. There is nothing sinister about the Crone’s curse when fully understood. Again, the function of the curse dates back to ancient times when women thought they were the sole propagators of life. When they thought they had the full authority to produce life, and they thought they had, or were given, the authority to destroy it.
When comparing this analogy to the Goddess, the Crone’s function as destroyer of life becomes natural rather than sinister. Within her aspects as Virgin and Mother, the Goddess is the giver or bearer of life and the nourisher and protector of life. Since life ends, the function of the Crone is natural and necessary too. In most, if not all, female-oriented religions of nature there are cyclic patterns ruled by karmic balance. Everything which develops has a decline. “There could be no dawn without dusk, no spring without fall, no planting without harvest, no birth without death. The Goddess never wasted her substance without recycling. Every living form served as nourishment for other forms. Every blossom fed on organic rot. Everything has its day in the sun, then gave place to others, which made use of its dying.”
The Crone’s curse which is often called the doomsday curses or myths are found in countries as widely separated as India and Scandinavia. The origins of some of the myths date to prehistoric times. Psychologists claim deeper meanings lie within these myths than just primitive eschatology. These meanings are being discovered as belonging to the collective unconsciousness. “For example, the body and world stand for each other so consistently in the mythological mode that every tale of doomsday can be seen to allegorize the terrifying dissolution of the self in death, while every creation demonstrably presents a buried memory of birth. Both are inextricably entwined with the image of the Mother.”
The Triple Goddess in her three aspects, Virgin, Mother, and Crone, can be considered a representation of humankind’s life cycle: birth, life (or maturity), and death. This is the natural life cycle. The Neo-pagans, however, extend this cycle into multiple cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. This is the reason that most Neo-pagan, especially those in witchcraft, believe in reincarnation. In rituals such as Drawing Down the Moon, the high priestess may stand in the pentacle position with her arms and legs outstretched symbolizing the birth and rebirth cycle. The priestess may take several stances of this position within the magic circle to emphasize multiple birth and rebirth cycles.
To the Neo-pagans, as well as many others, the concept of reincarnation or the birth and rebirth cycle is natural because it is prevalently seen in nature. One grand example are the annual seasons: in the spring everything buds to take on new growth; seeds are planted and germinate; flowers and trees grow and bear fruit in late spring and summer, different crops are harvested; in the fall other crops are harvested, while dead growth is cut away and burned off; and then during winter many things seem to die, but in early spring this cycle begins repeating itself again.
This was the thought concept of the ancient matriarchal and agricultural cultures. Every facet of life evolved around the yearly seasons. This is principally why these cultures were worshippers of the Goddess. Their thought concepts were cyclic like the seasons.
When societies began changing from matriarchal to patriarchal cultures a different thought concept was produced: a shift from cyclic to linear. This change principally brought about by two things. The first, as previously mentioned, was in the thought concept from cyclic to linear. Coinciding with this was the advancement of the patriarchal religions such as Jainism,
Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Manichaenism. About this time man begun thinking of his life in the terms of a straight line; as from birth to death. Death assumed the concept of the “final end.” To some men it meant extinction or obliteration. Added to this came the Christian concepts of heaven and hell. Men now almost had given up the cyclic idea of birth and rebirth, the thought of extinction of their lives seemed intolerable to them, so it was easy for the eternal life concept of heaven or hell to clasp hold of them. Once they held these concepts they were in the control of the Christian Church that made every effort possible to eradicate the Goddess.
Those who have done any study of witchcraft and paganism surely know the road which the Church took in it’s pursuit to destroy the world of the Goddess. The means used become only too clear at just the mention of the Inquisition and the witch mania which produced the hunts and burnings. The ironical part of this whole series of tragic episodes is that the Church called herself the “Holy Mother Church.” Never is it known that the Goddess needlessly killed her children the way the Church has.
It is suggested that this rejection or annihilation of the Crone has hidden psychological undertones. Men sought to vanish both the kind of death that the Crone presented and her control as well. The thought of the Crone having the control of Atropos the Cutter, the old-woman third of the Greek trinity of Fates or Moerae, snipping the thread of every life with her inexorable scissors was intolerable. In a patriarchal world a feminine figure with such enormous power could not be withstood.
There is a long history of mistreatment and torture of elderly women. During the 16th century the physician Johann Weyer was strongly reprimanded for even suggesting that “…executed witches were really harmless old women who confessed to impossible crimes only because they were driven mad by unendurable tortures.” As a rule such women were in the circumstances of trying to live along, independent of male or ecclesiastical control, and being poor.
In 1711 Joseph Addison reported “that when an old woman became dependent on the charity of the parish she was ‘generally turned into a witch’ and legally terminated.”
In contrast, in pre-Christian Europe elderly women were in charge of religious rites at which omens were read for the entire community. In the Goddess temples of the Middle East and Egypt they were doctors, midwifes, surgeons, and advisors on health care, bringing up children, and sexuality. They officiated at ceremonies, were scribes for sacred books and vital records. They were teachers of the young.
Seldom are elderly women teachers of the young today, in fact, they are seldom given any consideration at all. Present day societies seldom see them or want them seen. Emphasis is on youth, beauty and sexuality. The young woman is the ideal. Society gives the elderly woman her pension chec while she sits by her television set being contented. Most are because society and the Church has decreed this an appropriate life style for them. After 65, if not long before most women feel they have served of their lives, only death awaits them. Many fail to recognize that their minds and bodies are still growing. Aging is a growth process, if not there would be no adulthood; becoming elderly is the next step in the process.
Many are eager to lay the total blame of this misguidance of the elderly women on men. It must be admitted men do share a large part of the guilt; until recently women have been denied a major part in ecclesiastical life, in governmental and commercial sections of society as well; but, elderly women share some of the guilt too, there are those who just sit down accepting their fate while forgetting they can still think and act.
It has previously been mentioned that we currently live in troubled, if not, perilous times. Our religious, social and governmental institutions seem unable to rid us of the dangerous situations which we find ourselves in. For many it seem time to turn to the Goddess for help. This also may be true for the elderly, both women and men. As long as people breath the Crone has not cut that string yet! The time to start is now. How to start is by reading articles such as this one. Information is a twofold tool: it is food for the brain–mind food, and it will provide courses of action.
It has been noted that the Western cultures as a whole have not been prepared for the function of the Crone. This is very true, people tend to think that death as something which happens to others, not them. They are used to seeing death depicted and glamorized on the television and movie screen. This makes it impersonal. This is why so many are unprepared for death.
And, those who are prepared for death seem to be so in an almost selfish way. Most think there are only two alternatives after death: heaven or hell. Heaven is the good place where all want to go. The Churches set down the rules as how to get there, and most people ritualistically follow them. One of these rules is that the person should love and help his neighbor along the path to heaven too, but like the others this rule has became a ritual too.
An example of this is seen within the current patriarchal religions themselves. They assume they provide comfort by denying the reality of dying. The ministers administer the properly prescribed rites, with the gestures, over the dying person and say the appropriate words, and then leave. The dying person is then left along, usually dying in a hospital or convalescent home. Seldom does anyone sit with the person to give comfort, to help them in their sickness and loneliness. Elderly women used to do this, minister to the sick and dying, hold and comfort them, lovingly wipe up the blood and mess. Now all of this is done by professionals. After death the body is shipped off to the mortuaries. At the funeral family and friends see the body in the most pleasant condition as possible. The person looks asleep, not dead.
Society has tried to deny death in all possible ways. This is the purpose of the heaven and hell concepts; the immortal soul lives on for eternity. This is not a denial of the immortality of the soul. Even many pagans believe in other planes of life besides the physical one on earth, and in reincarnation. However, currently many people are attempting to make some sense of an after life. At a funeral this author heard a Protestant minister say the person’s mission in this life had been accomplished, so God called the person for better things to do. This would seem to indicate even some Christians are getting tired of a “do-nothing” heaven.
Many worshipping the Goddess have no fear of death. They realize the Crone’s function is natural in the birth-death-rebirth cycle which they see throughout nature. To many death is the going home to the embrace of a loving Grandmother. The mother of the Christian Mother of God, Mary, name was Anna which comes close to Diana. So, even in Christianity there is also a grandmother-representation of the Crone.
Many think Christian men prefer the idea of an eternal hell to the thought of nonexistence. Perhaps they are right. No one knows with certainty, but with a belief in the birth-death-rebirth cycle one is sure of the type of life he might look forward to when being born again of the Virgin, and having a Mother. A.G.H.