There is something about ‘Old Crones’.
From our childhood, we have always seen them in a mystical light. Wether they are witches, or the spiritual head of our tribe, there is something about them. Pagan. Vibrant. Raw. Powerful.
The thousands of years of misogamy, compounds that essence. Old women were something to be feared; something alien and nonconformist. If you think back a few hundred years, then any woman older than her forty’s was something unusual. In childbirth, hard work or violence, the life expectancy was short. If you hit your mid forties, then you had battled, won and should be replaced by something more compliant.
Now that being forty, is now the new thirty, (and probably no more than mid twenties), then its hard to translate this mythical creature into ourselves. However, its probably more relevant than ever.
The era of the internet has changed how we view ourselves and others. Our pre-conceptions of what we have achieved and who we are gets diluted somehow. We become a homeopathic essence of what we should be. We view ourselves compared to tens-of-thousands, instead of the hundreds we would have done a hundred years ago. Our world is much smaller and it seems to make us minuscule. Instead of seeing ourselves through our village, we see ourselves through the stars and wonder why we fail to be the goddess people think we should be.
It is a strange week for me. Today, would have been my Dad’s seventy-first birthday. He died just over two years ago and it still cuts me to the quick. Next week I am forty-five. I compare myself to my parents -or even some of my friends-, and I feel a baby. I still blast the radio in the car to the songs I sang to in my bedroom when I was a teenager, and I casually forget that was thirty years ago. Even my -soon to be- teenage son, doesn’t deflate the idea that I still feel like a teenager inside.
Yet, I look in the mirror and I see the grey hairs which I lovingly collate. I joke to my husband that parts of my body are going southwards quicker than others. I contemplate the peri-menopausal sweats and dread when the real thing may come along. Physically, everything about me seems to be going outwards: all in opposite directions; all with no idea where the rest of me is going.
I saw on a page post on my Facebook wall, a link to a site interviewing the next Doctor Who on their costume. It mentioned the designer Roy Holman, and I smiled. I remembered when he came up to me during a Doctor Who convention and said how he loved my outfit. Then I smiled even more, because I reiterate in my head… “HE CAME UP TO ME”. Out of thousands of people there, he admired my costume. I looked back at the photos, just after and chastised myself, because frankly after a couple of years of practise, that costume was rubbish. I berated to myself, “I could do so much better now”. Then, I smiled and let it go. I remembered… “He came up to me”.
Last week, I decided to try a spiritual ritual of “smudging the house”. Over the summer, my herb patch had become overgrown with sage. Instead of ditching it, I cut it down, bound it with lavender, and dried it. On the morning, after the coldest night of the year, I insanely opened all of the windows, and lit my dried sage. I went through the house letting the smoke drift -hoping the smoke alarms didn’t go off- and internally chanted to myself that I was clearing out the old and letting in the new.
I am not a religious person — I would only just call myself spiritual. I am not sure why I did this, but after the last couple of years I felt it couldn’t hurt. In those moments, I became almost pagan-like. Apart from the fact I was in my PJ’s, I had a kid shouting at me that he didn’t like the smell, and I kept wondering if the police would be called because the house smelt rather dodgy straight afterwards, I would be no different from the old crone from five-hundred years ago.
Yes, in todays terms I am not old. Heck, forty-five is probably just entering middle-age. Doctors would probably expect me to live into my eighties or nineties. But, I still embody the old crone. As far as reproduction-years are concerned I am on my way-out. My hair has an equal amount of grey, and my breasts are closer to my belly-button than my chin. I have experiences, I have knowledge and I have confidence. That is why women were vilified as “Crones”, because we embody all of those traits. That is as scary now, as it was then. Women are NOT allowed to be wise and knowing. We were meant to be fertile and bonny. If we were old and said our minds, then we were discarded. Nothing has changed except our lifespan.
Some would say, I am letting myself go. (Yes, they are probably men). I don’t dye my hair. I have become accepting of my expanding waistline. I do not cover my scars and blemishes. They say this because they fear the alternate explanation. I know more than them. I care less on what they think. I understand myself and my worth more than anyone. I look up to no-one and I am comfortable with everyone. I pass my knowledge where I can. I do not cower; I fight back and I fight back hard. I am a force to be reckoned with.
That is my red-wine infused realisation (isn’t all insight meant to be driven by some type of hallucinogen?). I am an old crone — but that’s not a bad thing. I am wise, and wrinkled, and opinionated. I don’t dismiss what is unknown, but keep an open mind. I give my knowledge freely and expect nothing in return. I cannot give new life, but that doesn’t stop me nurturing. I am more than my reproductive organs and others opinion of me. I also know, that I do not need to be forty-five to achieve this. I could be fifteen, or twenty, or over thirty. Being an old crone is not an age but an attitude.
I suppose as well as glorying in my new found confidence, I am just wondering why it took me so long to get to the party.