The Crone

Excerpt from an interview with

Marion Woodman

– Conscious Femininity

The feminine in many guides like the Black Madonna and the Crone is erupting in individuals….

The Crone

…I want to say one other thing about the feminine because the feminine always comes in threes: mythologically there are the three graces, the three Norns, the three wyrd sisters. We have talked about Mother and Virgin. The third is the Crone, she is the woman who has gone through her crossroads. The crossroads represents a place where consciousness is crossed by the unconscious in other words, a place where you have to surrender your ego will to a higher will. The Crone has gone though one crossroads after another. She has reached a place of surrender where her ego demands are no longer relevant. This is the positive side of the Crone. She is a surrendered instrument and therefore detached.

Detachment doesn’t mean indifference. It means she has been there. She has suffered, but she can draw back from the suffering. A conscious person in the presence of an unconscious person’s pain may suffer more than the unconscious person. So, it’s not that she doesn’t suffer. It’s not that she’s indifferent or withdrawn. She’s right there, totally present. She’s got nothing to lose. She can be who she is and live with the straight, flat-out, naked truth. Therefore the Crone acts as a tuning fork in an environment because she is so real herself. She rings a true tone. People are brought into harmony with that tuning, so it’s very releasing. People can respond to their own true tone. The Crone can afford to be honest. She’s not playing games anymore. She brings people into that soul space where all outer conflicts dissolve and they can experience their own essence.

CB: As I listen to this, I imagine a journey to that stage involves an enormous amount of sacrifice. I think it’s risky to go to that stage.

MW: It is risky.

CB: Usually, when we think of the Crone, she has a negative image—unlovable, for example

MW: The silly old woman at the end of town, the hag

CB: The crazy lady.

MW: Of course, in a selfish narcissistic society this kind of femininity does look crazy, unless you’re in real trouble and you want somebody who understands and who is empathic and has no desire for power.

She has nothing to lose. Who she is cannot be taken away from her. She has no investment in ego. Therefore, there is no power operating. She’s the kind of person you can honestly talk to, profoundly trust. She has no reason to persuade you to do anything or be anything other than who you are.

She’s a perfect mirror for a person. You talk to her and she’ll mirror you right back. I don’t mean to idealize her. I know there is a negative side to the Crone, but your own tuning fork will tell you whether she’s lived through her own crossroads. If she hasn’t, don’t trust her. She’ll be into power. Another quality of a mature Crone is a developed masculinity.

CB: In what sense?

MW: I would think of her masculinity as being very discerning, with no sentimentality. She would be able to cut with a well-honed sword. She would be able to see what is no longer essential to life, a relationship, for example, that has become destructive. She would perceive it, see through to the heart of it, and cut where necessary, but cut with love. I always envision her wielding a golden sword with a silver handle. All the perceptivity of gold, but handled with the love of silver. The masculine and feminine together. She has the kind of wisdom that takes life with a grain of salt, smiles at the divine comedy.

I have known four or five Crones, two of them men. I have gone to them when I thought I couldn’t go any further. Their love was palpable. No advice. Simply being, saying almost nothing. I knew I was totally seen and totally understood. They could constellate my own inner healer because they could see me as I am.

CB: The condition of the Crone is truthfulness. The fact that there are no illusions creates a container. You can be naked. This is healing.

MW: Exactly. When you are naked, the truth sets you free no matter how awful it is. She’s willing to be naked, too. Now we come back to the Black Madonna. Real love happens when embodied soul meets embodied soul. Not in spirit, not in that disembodied world where we want to be perfect, but in life, when we’re changing the diapers of someone we love who is dying of cancer, swabbing their lips, when we’re doing things we didn’t think we could do, when we’re stripped of all prideful. Our friend is stripped; we are stripped. There is no false modesty. We are stripped of everything that is unreal and the two of us are there together. I can’t even put it into words. Where soul meets soul, that’s love.

It hasn’t got anything to do with what generally passes for love in our culture. That’s just neurotic need. This other is a power that comes through a finely tuned instrument, a container strong enough to receive it. It opens your heart. A real Crone can bring you into touch with that.

I knew an old man, a fabulous Crone, who saved my life. E.A. Bennet, whom I write about in my books, was an eighty-year-old analyst. He could put me in touch with my feelings when I, who was so smart and rational, couldn’t feel anything. He would just sit there and feel for me until I got the message. Tears would start to run down my face, not because I was sad, but because I recognized myself. I was picking up my own feeling from him. Then I realized what I really do value. He could perceive the feeling values I had lost touch with.

I think such people will be incredibly important in the future.