When I was 60, a group of women gathered to create a croning ritual for me and two others. I was past maidenhood, past mothering my two children, so at the time, I did feel I was entering a new phase– something that Sherry Anderson in her book, Ripening Time, describes as a time where women ask, “Is there a map? I need a map for the new territory I’m moving into.” (p.3) But even then, as I was too was looking for that map, I didn’t exactly feel like CRONE named this phase. It felt differently to me. One with more vitality the name of Crone.
This past week, I came across some writings that challenge these old archetypes of maid, mother and crone as outdated, coming from a time when 1)women had fewer options without birth control and 2) women didn’t live as long (before antibiotics and other advances in medical care.) We have 20 to 30 more years than our foremothers to live and create on this planet! This alone is an astounding fact. What is this new time for? Instead of comparing the Divine Feminine as a companion trinity to the Masculine Father, Son and Holy Spirit, women writers began questioning whether it wasn’t more true that we have 4 seasons just as in nature, or 4 phases just as the moon, a feminine symbol.
That phase, just between Mother and Crone, new writers have called Queen. Others also describe it as Keeper, High Priestess, Heroine. But all point to the time of a woman having a phase of life to become true unto themselves, rather than mothering children (and possibly husbands too:) A time to ask new questions or to have time to search for answers to the old ones. This new archetype of Queen resonates most strongly to me, not as perhaps the traditional secular understanding of Queen, but Queen as one who is sovereign unto herself, and in doing so, heals herself and also the world. This is the time of my life in which I now reside. There is an internal sense of being regal and noble, not in the sense of being arrogant and somehow above others in any way; it is being Queen, being a Sovereign–free, autonomous, not subject to the rule of other. Being a Queen means my sense of authority returns to my Self. My ego, culture, society, family conditioning begin to take a lower place in my way of moving in the world. I begin to touch back in with the Source that dwells within me, that deep connection to True Nature or as I have also known it, the Christ Within. It also means feeling real again, a return to who I was when created, and in using my power in ways that empower others–yes, like listening. Like a listening life. Like a life of living with questions and being so every present to what is actually happening in my immediate experience.
In that same book, Ripening Time (p. 76), Sherry Anderson tells the story of Rose and the Wise Elder. It’s a story best told in its entirety, but too long for this blog. In its essence, it is about a woman who wakes at age 50 with a question no one has an answer to. She is advised to travel to see a Wise Elder who lives seven days distant by walking. But when she arrives, she is told the Elder is not seeing anyone this year. She is on silent retreat and Rose is advised to go home. But she insists in at least seeing where the Wise Elder lives. There she sees a young boy leave a basket of food for the Wise Elder and Rose, so desperate for an answer to her question, waits until the Wise Elder opens the door for the basket of food, and then hurls herself through the door to plead for that answer. The first time she asks, the Wise Elder slaps her across the cheek! And when Rose persists and asks again, the Wise Elder slaps her across the other cheek and throws her out the door. Rose is furious. Rather than wise, the Elder is stupid and cruel. But as Rose stomps down the hill, she is met by a woman who is ascending. She hears her story and then says, “I think I know why she slapped you. She slapped you the first time because you assumed that questions had to have answers. And she slapped you the second time because you were willing to trade your precious question for somebody else’s answer!”
This time of being a Queen is a time to stop searching for answers outside myself and also to have the noble maturity to live with those questions.
I was telling all this to one of the women who was ‘croned’ with me and she too agreed that she hadn’t exactly felt like a crone at the time. “But, Marcia,” she said, “do you remember? The women made us all crowns to wear!”