The One Who Knows
|Art by Jo Jayson|
“The old one, The One Who Knows, is within us. She thrives in the deepest soul-psyche of women, the ancient and vital wild Self. Her home is that place in time where the spirit of women and the spirit of wolf meet – the space where mind and instincts mingle, where a woman’s deep life funds her mundane life. It is the point where the I and the Thou kiss, the place where, in all spirit, women run with the wolves.
This old woman stands between the worlds of rationality and mythos. She is the knucklebone on which these two worlds turn...”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’
Now as Samhain draws near in the Northern Hemisphere we dive into the time of the Crone and she comes to us with great wisdom.
The stories of old tell us to honour the Crone, The One Who Knows, she who stands guard by the well of abundance, wisdom and transformation. The Crone is an aspect of the Triple Goddess – Maiden, Mother, Crone – Birth, Death, Rebirth.
In the old Irish story “The Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Mugmedon” the Crone appears guarding a well. In order to obtain water from the well the sons must give the hag a kiss. The first four sons are repelled by the old hag and refuse to kiss her, but Niall gave her a kiss and watched in amazement as the old woman transformed into a beautiful young maiden. And so he was given access to the waters of the well and the land blossomed in abundance.
Maiden Mother Crone
The transformation of the old crone into a young maiden is a common motif in many of the old Celtic sagas and is related the Celtic mythology of the union of the God and Goddess during Samhain, thus birthing the New Year into being and ensuring the prosperity of the land. The Goddesses were believed to be connected to the land, sacred groves, springs and wells.
Also here in Scandinavia, the Triple Goddess symbol – Maiden, Mother, Crone – can be found in the old sagas. In Swedish there is a word for old women – kärring – that originally meant “loved one.” The word kär means love. Today the word has lost its original meaning and is instead used in a rather degrading tone towards elderly women. When the patriarchal power took over society, the wisdom of the crone – kärringen – was lost. People were valued in terms of how “useful” they were and only middle-aged men had any power. Old women could no longer work or produce offspring so they were seen as “worthless” and there are stories about how the elderly were pushed off the cliff “ättestupet”.
There are stories about ancient times when young women went to stay with the grandmothers to learn from their great well of wisdom. These young maids were later “rescued” by the brave knights and forced into marriage.
Today the wisdom of the Crone is awakening and the time of the Grandmothers is returning!
Often, when I gather with my sisters in a circle, I see the grandmother spirits standing in the circle behind us, looking on with love. They are so happy that we are finally beginning to wake up and return to our roots. It may look like total madness on earth, but I believe that it is in this chaos that something new will be born.
Turning around I faced the Crone and looked into her eyes. She took my hands and gave me a big, toothless smile.
“Good work, my daughter,” she said. “Be proud. You are braver than you know!”
“Will she be back to haunt me again?”
“She will find you again, of course,” said Crone, chuckling. “But her power over you is slackening. You are beginning to find your own power, and that is something she doesn’t stand a chance against.”
“What is my power?”
“Yours is the power of seeing. Truly seeing. It might not sound like much, but it is in the light of seeing, and becoming conscious, that all true power is born. And that, my dear, is a power beyond the fighting force of any warrior.”
“Thank you for helping me.”
“There is always help, my daughter. Never forget that.”
For a moment, we stood and held hands, looking into each other’s eyes. There was so much love in her hands, and I felt it flowing up my arms and into my heart.
I sensed it was time to go. Time to go back into the world again.
Walking away, I felt lighter. I felt the power she was talking about, awakening within me, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
- From my story Wisdom of the Crone recently published in WITCH magazine.