Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Walking with the Crone
Menopause, the final phase of womanhood has been mischaracterized, misdiagnosed, mistreated and misunderstood for centuries. Long held to be an inevitable feminine pathology by a misogynistic medical community, the greatest impact of the process was seen in my mother’s day to be upon the male partner of the menopausal female. After all, hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and most importantly loss of libido was, and in some ways still is, perceived to be a terrible ordeal for men living with women living with menopause.
The research that was never done before on this exclusively feminine experience has suddenly in the last decade or so begun to lurch forward with all the apparent precision and deliberation of an L.A. car chase. Women are inundated with myriad herbal preparations, questionable science and conflicting medical information. There even appears to be a Viagra for women. All of this is touted to get women painlessly and youthfully though the Change of Life, as my mother’s generation euphemistically called it.
Notwithstanding all of this, no one seems interested in knowing the nature of the change beyond its physical ramifications. What beside the loss of skin contractility, joint mobility, the gaining of weight and increased risk of breast and colon cancer should concern women as they ride the tide of menopause? Some Pagans believe that menopause is a time of deep spiritual awakening. Perhaps one of the reasons that the phenomenon of menopause has been so hideously ignored and treated as disease by men and women alike is that the spiritual aspects have never been considered a matter of public discourse.
In the Old Religion, Witchcraft, as in many other Pagan groups the phases of a woman’s life are seen to progress through Maidenhood (childhood and adolescence), Motherhood (the child bearing years) and Cronehood (the years following menopause). These phases are analogous to the waxing, full and waning moon and to the aspects of the Goddess - Maiden, Mother and Crone.
The Crone is the wise woman, the grandmother in some traditions. She is midwife, healer, and fearless in the face of death. Her profound and ever evolving wisdom gives her a grace and dignity that transcends youth and physical beauty. Her rich intuition and deep understanding of others makes her leader and follower, queen and commoner, Goddess and worshiper. She understands the paradox because she dwells close to the source and is free of infantile sexual politics and petty social concerns.
This blessed state cannot be bought, sold, taken or given away. One is not born with this beauty of mind and spirit – it must be earned. This is the product of life and experience, because you cannot be where you have never been. Finally, this is a great cause for celebration.
When a woman puts on the black and purple at the time of her Croning she is acknowledging the privilege of owning her womanhood. She holds her hands up to the Divinity of her heart and whispers a prayer of thanks for all she has been, all she is and all she will be. This is true power and a far cry from disease.