Let’s play a numbers game. I was born in 1957. I am 57 years old today. Two of my grandparents were born in 1900, so they were 57 when I was born. I have zero children, therefore zero grandchildren. Yet I have reached grandmother age. What does this mean?
I am indebted to my friend Mary Ann Mhina, who recently published a beautiful book of interviews with older women, Listening to our Grandmothers, for her take on elder wisdom and for introducing me to Alice Walker’s poem, Calling All Grandmothers:
I call on all Grand Mothers
on the planet
and take your place
in the leadership
of the world
This stirred my soul. Even though I don’t have my own children to nurture and guide, this rallying cry gives me permission to take my hard-earned 57 years of wisdom out into the world. How might I be able to make an impact in my cronehood in a culture that worships youth?
Let’s pause for a moment to consider the word crone. Some dictionaries define it as meaning “an ugly, cantankerous old woman”. Crones appear in many fairytales and myths – hook-nosed harridans who cast evil spells and get up to no good.
But dig a little deeper, past the accumulated misogyny of centuries, and you’ll find its root in female power. The crone is part of the Triple Goddess tradition that depicts the three ages of a woman’s development: from birth to virginal maiden; then wife and mother; and finally elder – wise woman, crone.
This is the type of crone I don’t mind hooking up with: a font of wisdom who was widely recognised for her knowledge and spirituality. In many older cultures she became known as a hag – not a gnarly old witch but a wise one, revered elder of the circle.
The word crone actually derives from crown – the highest spiritual chakra, the wisdom of the divine.
Entering into grandmother energy, into cronehood, is a coming of age that is not celebrated in our culture. It is hidden away, swept under the carpet, dismissed and ignored.
But I feel its power. No longer at the mercy of hormones and menses, I am free to be my true self and connect more deeply with my inner world. There is a feeling of liberation, a sense of calm and sharply honed intuition. I can hear that still, small voice within.
Like an old cat, I have a grey whisker that reminds me I am reaching the upper levels of middle age. But the grandmothers are calling me to leadership.
I am 57 years old today. I embrace my inner crone and my outer hag. I’m comfortable in my own, slightly less elastic skin. I’m beginning to like this grandmother age.