Picture By K. Mitch Hodge on Unplash
‘Dear brave souls, I warmly invite you to come be at the fireside with me and the Dangerous Old Woman and the Power of the Crone.
Who is the Crone? She is the most dangerous, the most radical, the most revolutionary woman in existence. Whether in fairy tales or consensual reality, the old one goes where she wants to and acts as she wishes; she lives as she chooses. And this is all as it should be. And no one can stop her. Nor ought they try.’
– Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés
I’d like to have a conversation with you. As always, before writing, I tune in intuitively with what organically wants to emerge. I need to train the muscle of self-trust and inspiration, even when I am not in the mood!
I am in the process of moving home, and there is a lot to do. I am surrounded by boxes!
But nevertheless, today, I want to speak about why the world urgently needs radical wise, wild women and why it needs you.
As women, we must step up and become an active part of the transformational process that we need collectively.
Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes speaks of the dangerous old women. Women who are dangerous to the status quo. Dangerous to the tyrannical powers that be. Women who are protectors of life experience the sacredness and interconnectedness of all life. These women are radical, wise, wild, bold, soulful, expressive, generous, sensual, kind, and creative. They feel their ‘ecological’ self as an expression of Mother Earth.
If you, like me, long to be the kind of older woman who can hold strong amid the storm, I invite you to embark on this journey today with me while you read these words.
The world needs us to become this kind of woman – although, likely, you and I never saw such a woman when we were growing up because of the wounds inflicted on the feminine or cultural expectations that kept women small, controlled and powerless.
But, perhaps, secretly, like me, you yearned for her, and you knew intuitively that she was alive inside you. You felt her in your bones.
You may have caught glimpses in your imagination, dreams, movies and books and maybe in your crazy aunts.
If you are reading this letter, you probably long to contribute to healing the community around you while also taking good care of yourself.
You know that there is a lot to be done for future generations, our other-than-human kin, and the state of our world.
If you are a reader of my content, I imagine you want to leave the world a better place, spreading joy, love, kindness, beauty, and creativity. This is a time when so much help is needed!
And now that you are at this massive threshold of midlife, you are refining your priorities, and new steps and actions need to be taken.
You can also sense that this time of your life is preparing you for greater inner and outer work. You may have been preparing for this for a very long time, for a lifetime!
The time may be ripe for diving into the oceanic and mysterious depths of your being, harvesting your medicine and embracing your inner healer.
But even if you already worked very hard to be where you are, and if you can hear ‘your call’ that inspires you and get over your fear and do it, usually these times of transition and initiation come with big questions. ‘Will I make it during this storm?’ ‘What am I becoming?’ ‘What will I create in the next chapter of my life?’
Sometimes these questions keep me awake at night. I know that the process of transformation and shedding old skin is not linear; we are also facing collective chaos and upheavals. Sometimes I still fall into the imposter syndrome, and I wonder, who am I to offer my gifts to the world? Then, I try to remind myself of the bigger picture and that we are all in this mess together. Deep down, I hope my words can inspire you! And I take solace in the fact that many of you are engaging with my writings.
The world is in turmoil.
As humans, we screwed up big time.
Now we need to reorientate to be able to create a new society.
We collectively feel that something needs to change, shift or die to preserve life and evolve.
This is an initiation for all humanity. It comes with a hefty price, heartaches, and tragedies.
To be in the unknown is uncomfortable. We cannot choose what is happening. But we can determine how we are with one another and what new narrative we want to create.
So this big crisis also calls many people to wake up, stand up, be of service, and be kinder to themselves and one another.
People are singing, dancing and finding creative ways to connect to themselves, each other and Life at large.
History demonstrates that significant changes always occur through a crisis. We learnt that crisis – also borough forward the immense capacity of humanity to adapt to circumstances and to dream anew. We may be growing into the next stage of maturity, where we realise the fragility of our ecosystem and of our life, so we better take care of it. These thoughts are not an invitation to carry the world’s weight on your shoulders. They are meant to open up a conversation about what truly moves you and matters to you in these times of distress.
Our culture pathologises becoming older.
In our contemporary society, we institutionalise older people and put death away.
We are bombarded by endless advertisements about ageless creams, beauty products and Peter Pan syndrome.
Old folks are considered useless.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes the Crone as a cruel or ugly old woman. It also reports an example, saying that ‘films also explore witches of middle age, mining that taboo territory when women transform from Mother to Crone, reaching a period of their lives when society at large rejects them for no longer being fertile or desirable. – Time, 13 Oct. 2022.’
The Crone Archetype lives within each of us.
Baba Yaga is described as an ugly character in Eastern European traditions. In Slavic Folkore, there are many tales about her.
It seems that ‘baba’ means grandmother or old woman.
She lives deep in the woods, and in some stories, she eats children; in others, she helps heroes fulfil their tasks.
Generally, also in Western countries, Baba Yaga represents the archetype of the old woman whose body is disgusting and repelling.
And we know how much stigma there is about women ageing bodies!
Baba Yaga lives out of society and follows her rules. She does not care if she is liked or admired and is entirely comfortable with her witchiness.
Therefore, she is also seen as a symbol of power, freedom and emancipation.
Some scholars believe Baba Yaga represents Mother Earth (as in some tales, she rules the Elements). But others think she embodies the Goddess of Death or even the trickster archetype! Fascinating, isn’t it?
Jung suggested that in myths, sometimes the trickster symbolises one’s shadow, the qualities one represses and rejects in oneself.
The Crone, in general, is also connected to the Triple Goddess. It is the evolution after the cycle of the Maiden and the Mother.
She is the wise elder aspect of the Goddess. She represents the post-childbearing years of life and is associated with Autumn and Winter, sunset and night. It rules ageing and endings, death and rebirth, transformations, visions, dreams, prophecy, wisdom, animal communication, clairvoyance, shadow-work, subconscious life and inner guidance.
Although feared as an archetype for millennia, the Crone tells us that death is part of natural life rhythms. She reminds us that time is not linear and moves in spirals, circles and cycles. That life and death dance together in eternity.
The Crone is often represented by goddesses associated with the underworld, magic and liminality, such as the Greek Hecate and the Celtic Cerridwen.
Last but not least, the Crone archetype is also connected to the wise women and midwives persecuted as witches in the middle ages.
The world urgently needs radical, wise, wild women!
‘Older women are important promoters of social and planetary change; the passage of birthing ourselves can take years; our perspective is turned inwards; we travel towards a new form that we don’t know yet. We can look at changes in peri-menopause and menopause as messages from our psyche. The Crone is a woman who embodies the wisdom of transformation and shares it with the world; maturity means to be intimate with all parts of ourselves, including the unconscious.’
– Cathy Skipper
The radical wise, wild woman is one with the natural world.
She is ‘ensouled’.
She is elemental.
She is untamed.
She taps into her inner knowing, deep wisdom, in a journey full of mystery.
I love the word radical. It comes from ‘radicalis’, in Latin, which means ‘originating in the ground or root’.
In the seventeen century, the figurative meaning was ‘going to the origin, essential.’ Therefore, being radical points to the possibility of fully landing into our bodies and reclaiming our essence. Often this expression is misused as it may mean being an extremist of some kind.
Our ancestors would honour women in the second stage of their life. Elders would be wisdom keepers and life protectors.
Older women used to have a role in communities, one of which was to accompany the younger women in this unfolding process of becoming.
One of my mentors, Colin Campbell, a traditional African doctor and sangoma, once told me a powerful story. He said that in tribal contexts and communities, old women would have a significant role, which sometimes was also full of mystery and secrets. They would become the guardians of the granaries. In other words, they would protect and administer the food supply upon which the survival of the tribe depended on. The community would rely on their wisdom, power and authority.
There is a story in the beautiful book ‘Reclaiming Wild Soul’ by Mary R. Thompson that speaks about the health of caribou in the Arctic circle. The presence of old animals contributes to the overall balance of the herd, and it affects its physical and emotional health. The young ones and pregnant females are much calmer when they are around! And caribou play a vital role in the ecosystem of the Artic; their droppings add nitrogen to the soil, and their behaviour affects plants’ life and vegetation.
I recently read something powerful by The Rite of Passage Council. This non-profit organisation supports personal growth through eco-psychology, healing and ritual. They say:
‘Crone was an old hag. The word hag is derived from the root word “hagia”, which means holy in Greek and once mirrored high respect for older wise, or holy women. The term “hagiology” still refers to the study of holy matters or of saints, however, the word hag no longer carries the same meaning as “Holy Woman” as originally intended. In Ancient Greek, she became Hecate, the Crone or Hag as queen of the dead, incarnate on earth in a series of wise women or high priestesses.
There was a time many moons ago when a woman was revered and celebrated as she entered the blood rite of menopause, often considered to be around mid-fifty in age. In many ancient cultures, Crones are the medicine women, healers and guides within the village holding a designation of honour and respect. With the “wise blood” of their wombs retained, the Crone is seen as being one with the magical and visionary properties which embolden her dance around the wheel of life.
There is often a newfound confidence amongst many women who were once more reserved after having passed over that threshold. The reward women allow themselves is their lack of restraint, their need for approval is lessened. The Crone no longer cares what anyone thinks or says about them, and their voices grow louder, direct and true. The Crone uses her wisdom which comes from reflecting on all of her previous life stages and experiences, as transformative justice. The Crone helps us through transitions, drawing us inward during difficult times. She brings meaning to the shadow side of us that dies and comes to life again, just as the dark moon turns new once again. The Crone symbolises the cycle of life (birth-life-death) that is present in the human experience and in all creation.’
I also want to add that in our contemporary culture, we speak a lot about being our masters and finding the truth inside us, which is beautiful and life-affirming. But on the other hand, we dismiss that it is essential to have elders, as they challenge us, make us accountable and pass on their knowledge to the younger generation. They accompany us in our initiatory processes, as we are not meant to walk through these doors alone.
We need to become the elders we have been dreaming of!
‘If you weep, the Crone will move closer to you. Laugh, and she wants to hear the joke. Dance, and she wants to dance with you and in you. She has help for the hurt and for the one poisoned by bitterness. She can pull the thorn from the breast, and tattoo your scars with flowering boughs. This is the power of the Crone, ready to assist each of us to fulfil the callings of the souls on this earth—with verve, with style, with critical insights, with wisdom, and with love.’
– Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Here are some premises to embrace the radical wise, wild woman within you!
It is not too late.
Many women walk around under the spell of ‘too late’ and never start anything precious to their hearts.
You may think you cannot create a new project because you are old or cannot be talented at your age; if you had any talent, you should have pursued it when you were younger. But in reality, many people began significant projects, became accomplished artists, explored their creativity or simply bloomed in the second half of their life.
You have wisdom, self-knowledge and the possibility to concentrate on what matters to you and let go of bs.
I consider myself a late bloomer. In the past, it costed me to accept it (especially when comparing myself to others). Still, I know what I offer is rooted in true life experience. So hey, if you are struggling with this and fear that time is clocking, I hear ya!
Welcome uncomfortable emotions.
You don’t have to be nice or happy all the time. You can befriend yourself and your unwanted guests.
By midlife, you have met uncomfortable experiences, loss, disappointment, sadness, uncertainty, anger, and grief, often considered lower, negative, or evidence of failure.
You need to see these as a door into becoming your best friend and embracing more profound wisdom, compassion, kindness and humanity.
Repressed emotions lead to dis-ease: your sensitive body-heart-mind-soul system may shout at you and call for your attention.
Your soul needs expression.
Midlife is an opportunity to dance with paradoxes and polarities. Your ability to embrace more joy rests in the heart’s capacity to feel the pain.
You, personally, matter.
We are all different and unique creatures, like trees in a forest or flowers in a meadow. Your fragrance, colours, textures, and individual characteristics contribute to the ecosystem’s health, balance, vibrancy, and diversity. Even when you don’t think about it or if you believe that it is not like this.
Your contribution matters.
You have much more power than you think. Your thoughts, prayers, intentions, words and actions impact those around you.
Your songs matter.
Your inner and outer dance matter. Every little action does, and it makes a difference, whether you believe it or not, whether you see its effects with your physical eyes or not.
Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? It describes a process in which an action or change that does not seem important has a tremendous impact, especially in other places or around the world. How cool is that? I love it!
The journey is dynamic and not linear.
It is messy. It is tender. It requires gentle holding ( of all your parts, of your inner child, too!), intimacy, and kindness.
So many times, I fell for this one. I thought I should have arrived somewhere after many years of ceremonies, intense practices or therapy. I should have understood this by now. I should have healed that. I should be ‘fixed’. And then I would become harsh or impatient with myself. But the truth is that we keep revisiting the same place; it is the same, but always different and ever-changing. Every time there are new learnings, perspectives, and understandings.
This is what the call of the radical wise, wild woman may sound like…she may invite you to:
– Welcome midlife as a sacred time and an initiation.
– Release limiting beliefs, old habits, co-dependency patterns, addictions and coping mechanisms.
– Become curious about your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual states, even when unpleasant.
– Avoid to take yourself too seriously.
– Let go of multitasking and learn more about what your body needs moment by moment.
– Learn to stay open amid chaos and uncertainty.
– Tap into the natural cycles of life, death and rebirth, so you can rise like a phoenix from your ashes.
– Pause, slow down, reflect and go inside and honour your inner process.
– Strip away the clutter and dismantle old structures.
– Turn down things that don’t nourish you and are not aligned with your path.
– Honour your needs and stop putting others first.
– Cherish relationships and intimate connections with those not afraid of the bad, the ugly, the despair and all edgy things.
– Learn how to become your inner mother and father and love your inner child unconditionally.
– Connect to the land, the elements around you and reclaim your kinship with all life.
– Make space to feel grief and loss (i.e. the dreams that never came to life), so you can give birth to the new.
– Embrace holy anger that allows you to say no, draw boundaries and free repressed energy.
– Explore the dark and reclaim your unconscious, hidden, buried, rejected, disowned, and banned pieces & parts.
– Embrace self-acceptance and self-care.
– Trust your medicine, and the capacity of your system to strive towards health and wholeness.
– Reach out for help when you need it.
– Dance like crazy, howl to the moon, and sing with the birds!
‘What makes an elder, a heartfelt spirit, a clear mind, a talented heart, one who is young while old and old while young, an activist for the Soul? Is it formulae, schemas, lexicons? It could be. But also, and often more so, I think it is very much like the flowering of the trees in the forest, as we gather more years: we struggle and stride onward in our better-learned ways to give out even more seeds for a new life, and to blossom wildly in so doing for self and others.’ —Clarissa Pinkola Estés
So dearest ones, that’s it for today. Please comment below and let me know how this lands. I always love to hear back from you.
I am now enrolling for the Radical Wise Wild Women Circle. I hope you can join us!
It’s an intimate seven-week online journey to support women to navigate midlife in a dignified, liberating and empowering way so they can radically embrace themselves and the natural wild intelligence and wisdom of this life cycle.
You may know I am a contributor to the Crone Anthology: Women Speak about Menopause Initiation. You can buy the book here.
Please join us on the Midlife Soul Sisters FB Group.
We are having a series of exciting live conversations, from how plants can support us during midlife transition, to the Fool’s journey, childless midlife, trauma and much more. You can find the recordings in the group.