Honoring our wise women for the contributions of knowledge and wisdom is a tradition that has been lost over time. This ceremony acknowledges that our elders are our wisdom-keepers.
A Croning or Veneration of Wise Elders Ceremony
A Croning is a celebration which formally recognizes that a woman has achieved the status of crone, elder or wise woman. Criteria for being recognized as a crone:
- Having reached the age of fifty, or
- Having gone through menopause, or
- Having become a grandmother, or
- Having decided, for a reason deemed right by the woman herself, that it is now appropriate to claim this status.
Leader: (turning to the woman on her left and taking the woman’s right hand in her left) say “From hand to hand, the circle is cast.” This woman takes the hand of the next woman repeats “From hand to hand the circle is cast” Repeat around circle until all are holding hands.
Leader: And so we are gathered, welcome to our Croning Ceremony.
Let go of hands and invites the elements to be present: (Turn to the director associated with each element as you invite these forces to be present.)
Leader turns towards the East: Hail to the spirits of the East, the element of Air. East is the direction of the mind. It is the direction of beginnings and usually associated with the Maiden, but elders also have new beginnings in our lives: perhaps we have new jobs, new loves, new challenges or accomplishments. Our minds are filled with knowledge and wisdom from a lifetime of experiences.
Leader: Hail to the spirits of the South, the element of Fire. South is the direction of creativity, passion, and transformation. It is traditionally associated with the Mother, those who are in the summer of life. But Crones, although our child-bearing days may be over, or though we may have chosen not to have children, nevertheless are overflowing with creativity and passion.
Leader: Hail to the spirits of the West, the element of Water. West is the direction of the emotions, and is usually associated with the autumn of life. Crones have learned perspective and judgment, however we still feel deep emotions: righteous anger against the injustices of the world, love for our families and friends, sadness for the precious things that have passed out of our lives.
Leader: Hail to the spirits of the North, the element of Earth. This direction belongs to the Crone. North is the direction of solidity, of groundedness, of Winter with its introspection, and of Death: we mourn the death of loved ones and contemplate our own approaching ends.
Centre: where we are gathered in the spirit of community, may each and everyone of you feel welcomed and supported and held in the love of our gathering tonight. Blessed be.
Leader: Perhaps some of you have asked “What is a Croning?” Those who follow the Wiccan path believe that the Goddess resides within each woman. The “Holy Trinity” of the Goddess, and of each woman, are the three main phases of our lives.
- Maiden — the time of our lives prior to menarche, of learning and preparation.
- Mother — the childbearing years, whether we bear children or not.
- Crone — the time after menopause, after 50, or upon becoming a grandmother.
Some traditions truly honor women, and each phase of our lives is cause for all to celebrate. Some North American indigenous peoples call this last phase of our lives “entering the Grandmothers’ Lodge.” Wiccans call it “Crone.”
Tonight we reclaim what is ours. Tonight we remember respect for our elder sisters. Tonight we reclaim the word CRONE through our veneration of our wise women ceremony.
Let me tell you a little about the venerated crone…
In a world that worships at the altar of youth it can be hard to stand up and be proud to be an elder. As women we are healers and teachers. In early societies we were the wisdom keepers, we helped women in labour to bring new life into the world and we journeyed with members of our tribe on their deathbeds. The Crone was the post-menopausal woman who enjoyed a special, revered status. The elder woman was viewed as a font of wisdom, law, healing skills, and moral leadership; her presence and leadership were treasured at every significant ceremony. The wise women was venerated for her knowledge acquired over a long life. She assisted at each personal occasion from birth to death.
The Crone’s title was related to the word crown and she represented the power of the ancient tribal matriarch who made the moral and legal decisions for her subjects and descendants. It was the medieval metamorphosis of the wise woman into the witch that changed the word Crone from a compliment to an insult and established the stereotype of malevolent old womanhood that continues to haunt elder women today. ~ Barbara Walker, The Crone
This ceremony invites us to think back to a time when reaching the status of Crone was a major milestone. A positive life affirming time that was full of joy and celebration. Our ancestors had much shorter life expectancy so to become an elder was a significant achievement. Now is the time to reclaim the title of Crone in a positive way, and see it as a time to joyfully welcome one’s position as an elder within our community.
The word crone is derived from the word cronus (time) and it means the wisdom gained through life long experiences. Krone also means crown. To become a crowned crone then, acknowledges that you are a wise woman who has transformed the fruits of her experience into a profound understanding of life and the ways of the world. The wise crone thus becomes the resource of wisdom for her people and a source of inspiration for her circle of cronies and friends.
For a long time, to be called a crone was an insult. The very word implied a wrinkled, hunchbacked old woman, unwanted and thwarted by society. Women who had reached an advanced age were dismissed as useless hags.
I invite you to embraced the Crone stage from the moment you experience your first hot flash otherwise known as a power surge. Menarche or the onset of menstruation is recognised by a special ceremony for the young girl in which she is admitted to the circle of women (see Menarche ceremony). And now at the other end of the spectrum, it was believed that when a woman stopped menstruating, she kept her wise blood inside her and increased her wisdom. Elderwomen were, therefore, revered and honoured. The Croning Ceremony aims to provide a ritualized acknowledgement and celebration of a woman’s move forward into her Cronehood and wisdom. It doesn’t matter whether you have only just started the menopause or whether it happened several years ago: what matters is that you want to mark this rite of passage.
We could perhaps define The crone as a woman that is gracefully adapting to the process of aging. She inspires others. She is comfortable in her own skin and with her spirituality. Her intuitive and creative powers are pronounced. But what really sets the crone apart is that she embodies a passion to explore meaning in her life; and she exemplifies an unselfish willingness to share her honesty, knowledge, wisdom, love, and compassion.
Crossing the threshold into Cronehood can be a major event in a woman’s life. It’s a celebration of all that you’ve learned, and all that you will come to know in the future. For many women, it’s a time to make new commitments and vows. This third cycle of your life is the one in which you become an Elder. The word Crone should now be a word of power for you, so celebrate it. You’ve earned it.
(You can have a curtain of silver ribbon and crystal beads for each women to be venerated to walk through when it is their turn. There can be one for each woman with their name on it and it can be given as a gift at the end of the ceremony.)
(Some women may be present who feel they are ready to enter the Crone phase of their lives, but others may not – there is no pressure to participate.)
Each woman who is croned will have an opportunity to name herself and to say whatever is in her heart to the women gathered.
Leader: “I call ________into the circle of light.”[Woman receives the shawl of respect as she enters the circle. She goes into the circle and stands facing the altar.]
Leader: “What is your first name?”
WOMAN: “I am ___________.”
Leader: “You are ___________.”
GROUP IN UNISON: “This woman is ___________.”
Leader: “What is the first name of your mother?”
WOMAN: “My mother’s name is ___________.”
Leader: “So, you are ____________, daughter of _______________.”
GROUP: “This woman is ______________, daughter of ____________.”
Leader: “Is there anything you would like to share with us this evening?”
WOMAN: [Makes brief statement of whatever is in her heart to say.]
Leader: “________would like to share something she feels or knows about _____________, daughter of ____________”
Leader: “In the company of these women gathered—seen and unseen—and to whom you are daughter, mother, sister, lover, friend, I present you this flower to symbolize the beauty of your life. We welcome you, _______________, venerated Crone among women.”
GROUP: “This wise woman’s name is ________________. Blessings upon her.”[Crone remains in circle until next Crone approaches, then places the shawl on her and returns to her seat.]
Charge of the Crone[New Crones gather in the center of the circle and read Starhawk’s poem in unison.]
“I am the beauty of the dark moon and the dark earth beneath your feet. I am repose in the evening of your life. I am the skin and bones of your existence. I am she who is weathered by time, aged to perfection. I am midwife to the dying, promise of transition and rebirth in the cycle of life and death and life again. All acts of birthing and dying are my rituals.
“I am the darkness you fear and welcome. I am the freedom to express your essence. I am the courage to cast aside the opinions of others as you live life according to your own plan, in tune with your own truth. I am the wisdom that can guide the world.
“I am the energy of the old, the knowledge of when to end, of when to cut the cord. I was with you at your birthing and I will be with you to ease the transition of your dying into the world beyond.”
Presentation of Crone Jewels (These can be purchased at a rock shop for about $1 each)
Leader: “Amethyst has long been credited with special magic, believed to have powers of protection, healing, and enhancement of mental powers and wit, valued as a stone of spirituality and peace. It is associated especially with the Crone. We wish to present each of the honorees with her own Crone jewel as a token of her status as Crone.”[Stones presented by Leader]
Toast to the New Crones (Have a sparkling drink here)
Leader: “Let us now toast the new Crones.”
Group Chant: “The earth, the air, the fire, the water, return, return, return, return.”
The Charge of the Crone – Starhawk
I am the Queen of Magick and the dark of the Moon, hidden in the deepest night. I am the mystery of the Otherworlds and the fear that coils about your heart in the times of your trials. I am the soul of nature that gives form to the universe; it is I who awaits you at the end of the spiral dance. Most ancient among gods and mortals, let my worship be within the heart that has truly tasted life, for behold all acts of magick and art are my pleasure and my greatest ritual is love itself. Therefore let there be beauty in your strength, compassion in your wrath, power in your humility, and discipline balanced through mirth and reverence.
You who seek to remove my veil and behold my true face, know that all your questing and efforts are for nothing, and all your lust and desires shall avail you not at all. For unless you know my mystery, look wherever you will, it will elude you, For behold, I have ever been with you, from the very beginning, the comforting hand that nurtured you in the dawn of life, and the loving embrace that awaits you at the end of each life, for I am that which is attained at the end of the dance, and I am the womb of new beginnings, as yet unimagined and unknown.
Leader: “Spirits of the North, element of Earth, we bid you farewell. Thank you for joining us here tonight to honor these Wise Women.”
Leader: “Spirits of the West, element of Water, we bid you farewell. Thank you for joining us here tonight to honor these Venerable Elders.”
Leader: “Spirits of the South, element of Fire, we bid you farewell. Thank you for joining us here tonight to honor these Wise Women.”
Leader: “Spirits of the East, element of Air, we bid you farewell. Thank you for joining us here tonight to honor these Crones.”
Leader: “The circle is open, but never broken. Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again. Blessed be.”
Things that you can incorporate:
- A table with photos of female relatives and friends who have inspired you such as Rosa Parks, Burmese opposition politician Suu Kyi, Mother Teresa. Billie Jean King, Benazir Bhutto, Michelle Obama, Florence Nightingale, Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, British scientist Marie Stopes, Angela Merkel the Chancellor of German, Helena Rubinstein, George Sand, or Indira Gandhi.
- A celebratory meal
- A symbol of the passage into Cronehood — entering through a curtain or tunnel, crossing a ceremonial threshold
- An exchange of gifts or blessings (a Croning basket filled with chocolates and herbal tea) – every one brings something to put in basket – each choose something.
- Take on a new name – share meaningful names
- A time to renew commitments, take vows.
- You can ask guests to bring something that symbolizes an achievement or important milestone in your life. Items can be display on a table. Make sure to have signs with the women’s names on them so everyone knows who brought which items.